The further adventures of Stan -7
Saturday came before I knew it, and in preparation for my exciting night, I made a pineapple upside down cake, and some brownies. And I made sure we had a good selection of wines on hand as well as some beer, gin and whiskey and various mixes. You never know when you are entertaining what drinks your guests might want, and I wanted this evening to go well. I had to laugh as I suddenly remembered a party I had organised years ago. Several of my husband's colleagues and their wives had come, and one wife didn't like either beer or wine – which were the only drinks we had provided. She ended up sneaking in and searching through our kitchen cupboards, finding and drinking the
cooking sherry – the whole bottle. I don't think we invited them the next time.
I spent Saturday cleaning house and making everything perfect. I really was nervous. I wasn't offering anything more than a game of bridge, but how Mark responded to me in this very different setting from the normal bridge club, was yet to be seen. Stan went out to the pub at 7, before they arrived, and said he would be back by about 10, and was looking forward to having some of my cake.
Both cars arrived at the same time, so I had no occasion to say anything to Mark on his own, which was a great relief. He isn't known for small talk anymore than I am, but social occasions demand that you do some chatting. I'd made sure I'd studied the sports results from the afternoon, in case
I was finding it hard to find something to say.
I offered them all drinks, and surprisingly Mark said he didn't drink alcohol. He would just have a glass of water or orange juice. James and Vivian had red wine and so did I. As the bridge table was all set and ready to go, I ushered them into the room and said that as Vivian knew the system
that Mark liked to play, maybe we could start with them partnering each other, and James and I would play the system that I know well, and that he plays when his wife isn't around. That was found to be acceptable, and we agreed that we might well change partners after the first rubber.
Vivian is a better player than James, and Mark is a better player than I am, so even given the fact that the deal of the cards is random, and therefore luck has to have a part in the outcome, they quickly wiped the floor with us. Everyone seemed in very good spirits, and James and I accepted defeat with dignity. Or at least that was how it appeared, but he said. “Now I get to play with Vivian and we will see what the results of that will be.”
I refilled the glasses and Vivian and I swapped places.
So like it or not, I was now in a situation that I had worried considerably about. I have played bridge since I was a teenager, so know and love the game, but I've never had the ability or the desire to play it at the level where you analyse every card and count every one as it is played. But I knew that for Mark, this would now be a real challenge. He had beaten us, playing with Vivian, but could we beat them, with me as his partner? That would prove him better than her, and he did so want to be able to do that.
A rubber consists of two occasions on which one side gets 100 points before the other side. We had come to the state of the game when each side had won one game, and we were fighting for the last 100 points. It was just gone 10, and then our concentration was broken when the door opened and in
“Oh, Hi, Stan. Everybody, I'd like you to meet Stan. He's my lodger. Just have a seat for awhile Stan, while we finish up here, and then we'll have cake and coffee.
Stan shook hands with each in turn, and I could see Mark's face get more and more fierce. His concentration had been spoiled. He had been interrupted mid flow in the game, and now he was struggling to get back into the action. It ended up with him failing to make the vital trick at the end, and our chances of getting the third and critical game had been lost.
It was my deal next, and I inadvertently overturned a card in the process exposing its value to all.
“No matter,” said Viv.
“Oh course, it matters. Re-deal,” shouted Mark.
“Well, I suppose that is the official rule, if you want to play strickly by them,” put in James.
So I had the cards reshuffled on my left, cut on my right, and carefully dealt them out. As luck would have it, I had dealt myself a beautiful hand, and without thinking, I bid “two clubs” falling back on my old familiar pattern, rather than the “one club” opening bid that Mark's system called for. But one thing you can't do is explain your mistakes away, so we had to continue with the bidding, and when my partner “no bid,” assuming my bid meant seven clubs and less than 10 points, when in fact I had two small clubs and loads of good cards in the other suits. Since no one else bid, I had no choice but to play this disasterous round, and we went down by one trick – which wouldn't have happened if the proper end bid would have been made.
“When he realised what I had done, Mark said. “What in heaven's name were you doing? You said you could play my system, and so far you have been. Your lodger comes back and spoils my concentration, and obviously must have ruined yours too. We could have won this rubber twice over if he hadn't come in.”
“Well, I suggest that maybe we stop for now. I think we could all do with a coffee and a break,” I said. I rushed off to the kitchen, but there was virtual silence in the room behind me. Nobody knew quite how to lighten the atmosphere.
I heard James ask Stan if the pub had been crowded, and Stan said that it hadn't.
Then Mark popped his head in the kitchen and said, “I'm not bothered about coffee. I'll be off. Thanks for the game.” So I walked with him to the door, apologizing profusely for messing up the bidding system and saying that I had enjoyed the game up till then.
“Well good for you,” he said, and went out the door and we heard his car racing away down the hill.
“Jeez, what a Klutz” said James. “So uncalled for. Anybody could have made that mistake. You'd have thought he was playing for the county cup or something.”
“I'll just bring in the cake now, and the drinks. You take your coffee black, don't you James? But I think you have milk, don't you Viv?”
So ended my attempt at finding out whether I should take my flirtation with Mark to the next
When the others left Stan put his arms around me and gave me a huge hug. He said, “No way will I let you marry that man.”
“Thank goodness for that,” I said, and we both laughed until we were almost crying.
“But you know what,” he put in, “that James doesn't half fancy you. Pity he's married.”