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Faded Pictures from a Life: The Gambler

The Gambler


An older brother of one of our Junior High group worked his way into our “gang.” It was not hard for him as we were somewhat in awe of his forceful personality. He was that “bad influence” that every boy needs growing up. Gambling was the first vice I remember him introducing to us, poker of various types with five card draw as the favorite and bewildering variations on wild cards. I came from of a family of very little game playing that I can recall so this was very new to me. It was low stakes poker of nickels, dimes and quarters, but as I had few of those coins it was meaningful to me. I broke even usually but also lost the little I had sometimes.

The second vice he illuminated for us was pool. There was a dingy pool establishment in the town and we became frequent visitors. As always, I was a middle ground player neither good nor bad. I did enjoy it more than poker. It was more of a visual game, the table, the balls, the color, it appealed to the budding artist in me. But it was again a wagering game and I had little to wager. With the experience of cards and pool I learned I was not a gambling person. It seemed clear to me that person of meager means could not win gambling. As I have been of meager means all my life it is a lesson that has served me well.

The third and most dangerous vice the brother introduced us to was alcohol. He had older friends who could purchase the elicit elixir for us. Beer, wine, and even some hard liquor found its way to us, not in large quantities but enough to strike our interest and give us that mysterious high we had heard about. It was the beginning of the fascination and desire that was to come to full fruition in High School.

As someone steeped in rudimentary Baptist theology I knew all these vices to be sinful. I was nevertheless a 14 year old looking for material enlightenment in the sensual world and my spiritual interest faded into my past.

The Gambler, acrylic on shuen paper, 12″ x 9″, 2021, Mark W McGinnis

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