The four of us were sitting at the table in my galley playing CU. Arr and I sat across from each other with Jake at one end and Kayo at the other. The huge dar-dolf had his chin lying on the table top just a few inches from the bowl of red raspberry goo chews. He was slobbering in anticipation of Arr or my next tossed goodie. Arr flicked him a chew high over his head. He lunged up to catch it. When he came down his butt hit the metal cabinet behind him making a loud bang as the door struck hard on its hinges. The galley really wasn’t big enough for three people and a dar-dolf.
“Stop spoiling him, Arr. He’s not going to be worth shit if you keep it up,” Jake said, in an exasperated tone.
“You’re making a pet out of him. He didn’t even growl at 3su when we came aboard.”
“He’s met her,” Arr defended Kayo. “He knows she’s a friend.”
“Kayo! Down!” Jake ordered.
The dar-dolf’s head slipped below the edge of the table and came to rest on Arr’s foot under the table. He might not be worth a thing for Jake, but I was sure he would kill for Arr and his supply of goo chews.
Arr reached over with his napkin and wiped the table top of Kayo’s drool. I saw him deftly palm a goo chew on his way back to his lap. He handed it to Kayo under the table.
“Don’t think I didn’t see that,” Jake said. He met the kids smile with a resigned shake of his head. “Play – it’s your turn.”
Arr dropped two chips on the pile in the middle of the table and then added a third. “CU,” he said and the play passed to me.
I tossed in three and added another to sweeten the pot. “CU,” I said.
Jake didn’t even look at his cards. They lay face down on the table in front of him. He threw four chips in the pot and raised another two. “CU”
Arr stared at Jake for the length of a long slow breath. Jake stared back. The pause in the game grew. I felt like I was in one of Jake’s favorite old westerns, in the middle of a showdown. Their eyes were locked.
Arr shoved the remainder of his pile of chips to the middle of the table. “CU,” he said with a satisfied smile.
“Not fair. You’re cheating,” Jake said and threw in his cards. “I fold.”
I am sure I had a look of puzzlement on my face. It wasn’t even his turn and he had given up. Jake was known in our circle of friends as one of the best and luckiest CU players in the verse.
“Tell her what you’re doing,” Jake said to his partner.
“I’m not cheating,” Arr assured me. “Jake just doesn’t like it because I can read him, unlike his regular competition.”
“Damn it. He can hear my heart rate,” Jake explained. “I can control my expressions, but damn if I can control my heart rate.”
Arr smiled. Kayo had lifted his head to lay it on Arr’s knee and the henu leisurely stroked it. “I can’t help it if I have good hearing.”
“You can’t pass the hours playing CU with Arr on a boring job unless you’re willing to lose your pay before you even collect it.”
“Must come in handy when you’re listening for the approaching enemy though,” I commented.
“Must admit, it is good to have him around then,” Jake admitted with a smile. “I just got to remember not to play CU with him.”
“I’ll suggest something else next time,” I said as I rose from my chair. “Let’s go watch a vid. I picked up a copy of “High Noon” off the NET for you Jake.”
Jake grinned like a kid. “I knew I liked riding with you.” He stood and threw his arm around my shoulders.
“Let’s go.” He looked back at Arr. “Come on kid. You are going to see one of the best westerns ever made tonight.”
“What’s a western?” Arr asked. I knew some of his background and his culture didn’t include vids, much less westerns.
Jake just rolled his eyes at me like ‘what am I going to do with him.’ “You’ll see,” he said. “Put the goo chews away so Kayo can’t get into them.”
Arr came to his feet, unfolding like a lithe cat. He stretched and then picked up the bowl and put it in the cupboard, but slipped Kayo one last treat.
“I saw that,” Jake said over his shoulder without turning around.
Arr just patted Kayo’s head and followed along behind.