Losing to Friends

“Screw you, man!” Billy exclaimed. He threw his cards across the table, scattering the chips and deck to the floor.

“Sore loser much, Billy?” Jennene asked. She punctuated the snark by tapping her cigarette against the railing.

“I don’t mind losing,” Billy said. “But that was straight out robbery! You all ganged up on me!”

“Just playing the odds,” Wallace said, picking up the components and carefully storing them back in the box. “Like we all do. Not our fault you always fall for the same traps.”

“Seriously?” Billy said. He growled, just short of a scream. “Why do I even play with you jokers?”

Carmine came up beside him and gave him a side-hug, her other hand being occupied with her brandy. “You know it’s ’cause you love us,” she said.

Billy started to pull away. Then he took a deep breath. The kind of breath that kept going just a bit past where you thought it should stop. “Alright, fine,” he said as he let it out. “You won fair and square, Wall. I call the next game, though.”

“Sure,” Wallace said. The box lid slipped neatly into place beneath his fingers. “Just name it. You know the collection as well as I do.”

“Merchants,” Billy said. The group groaned. “And this time, I call strip rules.”