Chapter 16
A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers & Passersby

Lou Vargo

The Sucker

You can learn a lot from a poker game

I was 18 and about to be the first Vargo to leave Detroit for any reason other than war, thanks to a student loan, a Pell grant, and the gift of an academic probation program that gave kids like me one semester to prove our scholarly worth or go back to wherever it was we came from. I felt so smart.

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What does it mean to go where you don’t belong?

We’re driving up to Marquette, a college town in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula for the beginning of my freshman year, something no other Vargo has ever done in the history of the Vargos. As we drive, I grow more ashamed with each passing mile marker. My father is old and we are poor and I am 18, trying to reinvent myself in a place I’ve never known.

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