Poker!

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Poker!  (1931) 
by Zora Neale Hurston
[Transcriber's Note: This play transcribed from an original manuscript.

There are pencilled notations possibly by Ms. Hurston herself. These pencilled edits have been transcribed as *[Handwritten: (text)]]

Copyright 1931 by Zora *[Handwritten: Neale] Hurston


POKER!




Time--Present

Place--New York

Cast of characters--
   Nunkie
   Too-Sweet
   Peckerwood
   Black Baby
   Sack Daddy
   Tush Hawg
   Aunt Dilsey

SCENE--

     A shabby front room in a shotgun house.

     A door covered by dingy portieres upstage C. Small panel
     window in side Wall L. Plain centre table with chairs drawn up
     about it. Gaudy calendars on wall. Battered piano against wall
     R. Kerosene lamp with reflector against wall on either side of
     room.

     At rise of curtain NUNKIE is at piano playing.... Others at
     table with small stacks of chips before each man. TUSH HAWG is
     seated at table so that he faces audience. He is expertly
     riffing the cards ... looks over his shoulder and speaks to
     NUNKIE.


TUSH HAWG
Come on here, Nunkie--and take a hand! You're holding up the game. You
been woofin' round here about the poker you can play--now do it!

NUNKIE
Yeah, I plays poker. I plays the piano and Gawd knows I plays the devil.
I'm Uncle Bob with a wooden leg!*[Handwritten: Last sentence crossed out
in pencil in manuscript.]

BLACK BABY
Aw, you can be had! Come on and get in the game! My
britches is cryin' for your money! Come on, don't give
the healer no trouble!*[Handwritten: last sentence crossed out in pencil]

NUNKIE
Soon as I play the deck I'm comin' and take you alls money! Don' rush
me.

 Ace means the first time that I met you
 Duece means there was nobody there but us two
 Trey means the third party--Charlie was his name
 Four spot means the fourth time you tried that same old game--
Five spot means five years you played me for a clown
Six spot means six feet of earth when the deal goes down
Now I'm holding the seven spot for each day of the week
Eight means eight hours that she Sheba-ed with your Sheik--
Nine spot means nine hours that I work hard every day--
Ten spot means tenth of every month I brought you home my pay--
The Jack is three-card Charlie who played me for a goat
The Queen, that's my pretty Mama, also trying to cut my throat--
The King stands for Sweet Papa Nunkie and he's goin' to wear the crown,
So be careful you all ain't broke when the deal goes down!
                              (He laughs--X'es to table, bringing
                              piano stool for seat)

TUSH HAWG
Aw now, brother, two dollars for your seat before you try to sit in this
game.

NUNKIE
                              (Laughs sheepishly--puts money
                              down--TUSH HAWG pushes stack of chips
                              toward him. Bus.)
I didn't put it down because I knew you all goin' to be puttin' it right
back in my pocket.

BECKERWOOD
Aw, Y'all go ahead and play.
                              (to TUSH HAWG)
Deal!
                              (TUSH HAWG begins to deal for draw
                              poker. The game gets tense. SACK
                              DADDY is first man at TUSH's left--he
                              throws back three cards and is dealt
                              three more)

SACK DADDY
My luck sure is rotten! My gal must be cheatin' on me. I ain't had a
pair since John Henry had a hammer!

BLACK BABY
                              (Drawing three new cards)
You might be fooling the rest with the cryin' you're doin' but I'm
squattin' for you! You're cryin' worse than cryin' Emma!

TOO-SWEET
                              (Studying his three new cards)
                              (Sings)
When yo' cards gets lucky, oh Partner, you oughter be in a rollin' game.

  • [Handwritten: get you foot offa my chair etc]


AUNT DILSEY
                              (Enters through portieres--stands and
                              looks disapprovingly)
You all oughter be ashamed of yourself, gamblin' and carryin' on like
this!

BLACK BABY
Aw, this ain't no harm, Aunt Dilsey! You go on back to bed and git your
night's rest.

AUNT DILSEY
No harm! I know all about these no-harm sins! If you don't stop this
card playin', all of you all goin' to die and go to Hell.
                              (Shakes warning finger--exits through
                              portieres--while she is talking the
                              men have been hiding cards out of
                              their hands and pulling aces out of
                              sleeves and vest pockets and
                              shoes--it is done quickly, one does
                              not see the other do it)

NUNKIE
                              (Shoving a chip forward)
A dollar!

SACK DADDY
Raise you two!

BLACK BABY
I don't like to strain with nobody but it's goin' to cost you five. Come
on, you shag-nags! This hand I got is enough to pull a country man into
town. *[Handwritten: Last sentence crossed through in pencil.]

TOO-SWEET
You all act like you're spuddin'! Bet some money! Put your money where
your mouth is *[Handwritten: els my fist where yo mouf is.]

TUSH HAWG
Twenty-five dollars to keep my company! Dog-gone, I'm spreadin' my
knots!

SACK DADDY
And I bet you a fat man I'll take your money--I call you.
                              (Turns up his cards--he has four aces
                              and king)

TUSH HAWG
                              (showing his cards)
Youse a liar! I ain't dealt you no aces. Don't try to carry the Pam-Pam
to me 'cause I'll gently chain-gang for you!

SACK DADDY
Oh yeah! I ain't goin' to fit no jail for you and nobody else. I'm to
get me a green club and season it over your head. Then I'll give my case
to Miss Bush and let Mother Green stand my bond! I got deal them aces!

NUNKIE
That's a lie! Both of you is lyin'! Lyin' like the cross-ties from New
York to Key West! How can you all hold aces when I got four? Somebody is
goin' to West hell before midnight!

BECKERWOOD
Don't you woof at Tush Hawg. If you do I'm goin' to bust hell wide open
with a man!

BLACK BABY
                              (Pulls out razor--Bus.)
My chop-axe tells me I got the only clean aces they is on this table!
Before I'll leave you all rob me outa my money, I'm goin' to die it off!

TOO-SWEET
I promised the devil one man and I'm goin' to give him five!
                              (Draws gun)

TUSH HAWG
Don't draw your bosom on me! God sent me a pistol and I'm goin' to send
him a man!
                              (FIRES. Bus. for all)

AUNT DILSEY
                              (Enters after shooting bus. Stands.
                              Bus. drops to chair)
They wouldn't lissen--
                              (Looks men over--Bus.)
It sure is goin' to be a whole lot tougher in hell now!




CURTAIN

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was legally published within the United States (or the United Nations Headquarters in New York subject to Section 7 of the United States Headquarters Agreement) before 1964, and copyright was not renewed.
For Class A renewals records (books only) published between 1923 and 1963, check the Stanford Copyright Renewal Database and the Rutgers copyright renewal records.
For other renewal records of publications between 1922 - 1950 see the Pennsylvania copyright records scans.
For all records since 1978, search the U.S. Copyright Office records.

The author died in 1960, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 50 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.


Works published in 1931 would have had to renew their copyright in either 1958 or 1959, i.e. at least 27 years after it was first published / registered but not later than 31 December(31 December) in the 28th year. As it was not renewed, it entered the public domain on 1 January 1960(1 January 1960).