George- The Reason I was An Honest Loan Shark

I can’t remember the guy’s last name. He was a tall, rangy boy from Georgia whose name was probably given to him in honor of his home state.

He was “country” all the way, and everybody considered him naive, to put it nicely, but he personally thought himself to be the smartest of all marines.

George meant well, but he was genetically gifted with the kind of personality you love to hate. This made me tend to pity him, but I liked to see him get “nailed” from time to time.

We were playing on the deck of the ship, down in the hold, hiding from any Petty Officers or NCOs, a game of Acey Deucey. George’s time came up, and the dealer threw an ace, and then, wonderful luck for George, another Ace, which could be called “high” next to the “low” of the other Ace. Anything in the deck, except a third Ace, made George a winner of $250.00(which was still a good bit of money in the early 70s).

George bet on the whole pot. “Wait” said the dealer, “do you have enough money to cover the pot if you lose?”

George smirked. He was bad about smirking, which pissed off a lot of people. “Hell yes” he said, throwing down what was $250.00 after the dealer counted it.

George then started bragging. “Looks like I’m gonna take you guys for some money tonight”. Then he started laughing for good measure, and everybody was hoping for that third Ace to turn up.

The dealer threw the third card, and the third Ace hit the floor, right on top of the other two. George’s eyes bugged out, and I figured he was near a heart attack. Most of the guys cheered. He then cut loose with a string of cuss words that were pretty creative for a country boy like himself. Strangely, he never thought to question the integrity of the dealer, who happened to be me. That was what bothered me about George. He was an arrogant ass, but he trusted people. He just couldn’t learn to watch his mouth.

On that same float, George decided to push his luck again. On Thursday nights, we could gather in the dining hall and watch NFL games that had been played the Sunday before. As I said, I always had access to inside info on who won and who lost, and the info was generally kept secret for betting purposes.

This was truly a game for betting, assuming no one knew the outcome. The Miami Dolphins, who had recently won the Super Bowl a few seasons before, still guided by Don Shula and pretty much the same gang, were playing the LA Rams, an up-and-coming bunch coached by Chuck Knox.

LA had a good team, but still no team measured up to the Dolphins consistently. LA had a good defense, but Griese could take apart defenses. LA had a good passing quarterback in James Harris, but he was still inexperienced. Miami jumped ahead in the first quarter.

George looked at me and said ” You wanna bet on LA?”

“Why not?” I said, shrugging.

Miami scored another TD in the second quarter, and a third TD in the third quarter. George was full of smirks, as usual. “You wanna double that bet?” he asked. ‘Might as well” I answered.

Then a strange thing happened. LA suddenyl came to life. Harris thrrew a bomb, which was caught and carried to the end zone. The score was 21-7, most of the fourth quarter left.

George winced, but he was trying to prove his confidence. He smiled at me and asked “Still wanna raise the bet?”

“Sure”.

Miami then managed a drive that ended in a field goal. Now it was 24-7, and George relaxed. “Let’s just bet an even $200” he said, “You’re not scared are you?” He didn’t really believe I would, but I did.

Then the kick return specialist exploded for a touchdown on the kickoff and it was suddenly 24-14. Still plenty of time, and LA was only 10 points down. George was looking uneasy.

Miami began moving the ball toward the end zone, and it was looking good. Then Greise threw a rare interception, which was run to the 20 yard line of Miami. Three plays later, it was 24-21, still good time left.

I smiled at George. “Wanna double the bet?” I asked. George was visibly sweating. “No, I’ll stay where I am”.

Miami was stopped, and LA went into its “2 minute drill”. Harris was throwing precision passes, threading the needle, and Miami couldn’t stop him. Less than a minute left, and LA was sitting on the 15 yard line of Miami. Harris threaded a needle to the end zone with two men covering the receiver, who caught it by some miracle, and suddenly it was 28-24, LA.

That was the final score. Several marines were gathered, not so much from the game, but from my reaction to the game. Most of them knew that I had access to inside information, and I was a terrible poker player, because I only bet on a sure thing. When George raised the stakes and I accepted, they knew LA would win. But George, that poor ol’ country boy just couldn’t learn.

Now, they were watching me, and they were watchng George, who was sadly counting out $200.00 in my hand. I knew even they were beginning to feel sorry for the brute.

I handed him back the money. He stared at me. “You won fair and square” he said.

“No, I didn’t”.

“Why not?”

“I knew how it would end before the game started. I always know the score, but I never tell anyone. Part of my deal with one of the guys in communications”.

“You cheated!”

“No. You’re getting your money back. I just wanted to teach you, be careful with your money. That stuff don’t grow on trees”.

“Actually it does. Its made from paper, and paper is made from trees.”.

“You wanna give it back to me?”

“No”.

“I want everybody to know, I’m honest. I don’t deliberately cheat anybody. I stick to the deals we make, and I want you to know you can trust me. You take care of me, I take care of you”.

Maybe George learned. He stayed pretty quiet the rest of the float.

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