Su Lum: Slumming
August 26, 2009
My granddaughter Riley is off to college next Thursday so she, her mom Skye and aunt Hillery came over last Sunday for a final get-together. When the four of us convene, we always get out the cards and commence playing bridge.
I used to play bridge often, but could never keep track of the cards well enough to be excellent at it, a deficiency exacerbated by time and the concomitant loss of a big chunk of my brain cells.
We taught Riley to play at an early age, commandeering her into marathon games in the days when we were back East visiting my ailing mother. We’d sit in my mother’s room while she dozed, working jigsaw puzzles or playing Bridge but on hand whenever she woke up.
Hillery plays a lot in Leadville, with a group of sharp-as-tacks old ladies; Skye is willing but doesn’t get much practice; Riley could do without it but is a good sport about it; I’m always up for it and our games are very, very casual, with more table talk than card play.
We have a placemat-sized laminated cheat sheet and the discussion goes something like this:
“One no trump.”
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“Hand me the sheet.”
“That must mean SHE has a helluva good hand, too!”
After consulting the sheet, “I’m going to say three spades.”
“I haven’t had a decent hand all afternoon.”
“What do you say to three spades?”
“Hand me the sheet.”
We end up in four spades and Skye makes a grand slam (all the tricks).
“Anyone want wine?”
“Pass the chips.”
At one point Skye was playing an especially difficult hand, Hillery and I were talking and interrupting her concentration, which she brought to our attention by hissing at us to shut up.
“Sssssssssst. Sssssssssssssst! SSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSST!!”
We duly shut up, play resumed for a few seconds, then I suddenly blurted out: “UVULA!” and Hillery responded: “EPIGLOTTIS!”
You probably had to be there, but the expression on Skye’s face was a priceless combination of rage at the interruption and total puzzlement at the incongruity of those two words coming out of nowhere.
Of course there was a back story. That morning Hillery, calling from Leadville, had said that what sounded like a bad cold was really (we all hoped) a reaction to inhaling cleaning powders without wearing a mask. I replied that I knew someone who had inhaled Comet while cleaning a bathtub, and that thing, you know, that thing that hangs like a narrow U in the back of your throat, had swollen up.
I’d forgotten the word “uvula,” a common occurrence in my dotage (just you wait!). Hillery said, “You mean epiglottis?” and I didn’t think that was right, but we both knew what body part we were talking about and the conversation went no further until, hours later, Skye was trying to make her contract and in the silence following her “Sssssssssst!” the word “UVULA” came flying out of the depths of my brain’s lost computer files and Hillery, knowing exactly what I meant, said, “EPIGLOTTIS.”
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