I previously mentioned that this summer brought the end of an era to my neighborhood card game. The traitorous couple ( said with the utmost in humor ) that moved to Arizona was in town recently, and the visit promised both a dinner involving all 4 couples and a 4-hour all-male card game. I looked forward to both as soon as I knew of them.
The dinner, held two houses from mine, was splendid. I enjoyed seeing the transplanted couple. The food was very good, the atmosphere warm and amiable. Ellie, still recovering from the exhaustion of caring for Loretta and in the throes if a nasty cold and worse cough, was not in attendance. Because of her absence, I told the story of Ellie, us and Loretta's cancer. It was the first time I told the whole story to this audience, ( We didn’t talk a great deal when playing cards – we’re four men, after all -- and Loretta had died after the breakup of the game.) and the wives knew only what their husbands might have told them, which I suspected wasn’t much. They were quite caring and understanding about the situation. Pre dinner talk moved to the topic of life in Arizona, the move and related things.
When we sat down to dinner, ( corn bread and wheat buns, both a green and a fruit salad, ham, scalloped potatoes ) the hostess, suggesting she'd make a care package for Ellie, asked if Ellie likes ham.
"It's one of her favorites," I told her.
"Wonderful. I'll package that up. Don't leave without it." As if I could.
The meal was wonderful; the conversation included many follow-up caring inquiries into our life of the last year and dealing with both Loretta's estate and caring for her cats. I went home with both a care package and a heart full of gladness for our caring neighbors. And, of course, an eager anticipation of the next day's card game.
The game was a reprise of our monthly competition. We drew for partners, our special option rule was in effect, and we were scheduled for four hours. The singular difference was we were playing during daylight. I drew the new Arizona resident for my partner, and that pleased me; we shared a level of communication I did not share with the others.
We got off to a bad start; before my chair was warm, we had played just two hands but lost our first game. Before I got up for my first serving of snacks, we were down three to nothing. Luck was against us; when we bid, bad things happened. When we bid nulo ( this is a hand in which the bidding team intends to take no tricks ), we'd find big cards in the middle, and small cards in the opposing team's hands. When bidding high, we'd find the opposite. Soon enough it was five or six to nothing.
My partner is a very rational man, but he got up and, for good luck, walked around his chair twice; naturally, that made no difference. Not being superstitious, I got up and, somewhat desperate, walked around the table. That was equally (in)effective. Finally, I changed the pen I was using to keep score. Almost immediately our luck changed.
But not that much. I would love to tell you we started making no-trump hands, and setting them when they bid ... but I'd be lying. Our luck did change, but not that dramatically, and the 4-hour game ended, mercifully, with the score 9-3 (or, 3-9 if my team's score is mentioned first). We got up from our seats and thanked our host. My neighbor went to pick up his wife to drive up north, and my partner and I went outside.
"It was good seeing you again!" we said practically simultaneously. We hugged--a little awkwardly. ( Well, I’m not actually sure we hugged, but if we did I am sure it was awkward. ) He climbed into the car he had borrowed from his son and drove off; I walked home.
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