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  • MY MOTHER and my father (may they both rest in peace) saw eye-to-eye on many things.

    The game of bridge was not one of them. Mom lived and breathed diamonds, clubs, spades, hearts, jacks, queens, kings, aces, bids, trumps, tricks, dummies, rubbers and all that arcana. Dad much preferred to spend evenings pottering about in his basement woodworking shop, fashioning things and soothing his soul with recordings of Mozart, Chopin, Verdi, Rossini and their classical colleagues on the big old Victrola turntable. I remember well the music visiting my youthful ears by way of the heating ducts as I drifted between waking and slumber, and the sense of comfort it imparted.

    One of the crosses Dad bore more or less bravely was Mom’s series of monthly evening Bridge Club meetings at our home. On these occasions, five or six couples of bridge enthusiasts invaded and Dad was temporarily barred from woodworking and music to take a seat at one of the card tables in the living room. He volunteered as often as possible for the role of Dummy – he declared he was naturally suited (no pun) for it.

    Another feature of Mom’s bridge soirées was the Large Expert Mercenary Grand Master Bridge Coach Lady, who came as a voice of Serious Bridge crying in the wilderness of the Uninitiated. I remember her name well, but for sound legal reasons I will not disclose it. Dad said she reminded him, as she drifted from table to table looking over players’ shoulders and offering “suggestions” sotto voce, of a battleship maneuvering in a flotilla of minesweepers. Dad was a Navy man and he thought that way.

    In some of those years, my two younger brothers shared a bedroom on the top floor of the house with a large flock of white mice. (School biology project, you see). On one Bridge Club evening, while Dad was faithfully performing his role as Dummy, he quietly excused himself to go up and tuck the boys in for the night. When he returned, he carried himself in a slightly – barely noticeable – peculiar way and had a slightly – barely noticeable – quizzical look on his face.

    After he took his seat, and the proceedings had resumed, Dad raised his hand and motioned the Bridge Expert Lady to come take a peek over his shoulder at his cards. Just as she did so, one of my brothers’ little red-eyed rodents popped his (or her; who knows?) pink twitching-whiskers nose out of his shirt pocket and all hell broke loose.

    While all the serious bridge addicts strove to calm the Bridge Expert Lady down, Dad took advantage of the commotion to sneak back upstairs, put the mouse back into its cage, and return to the scene of the crime with what he probably thought was an innocent look on his face.

    The Bridge Club broke early, and rather frostily, that evening, and Dad slept with Chopin, Mozart, et al., on the couch in the basement for several days. While he was thus in exile, he made his wife a charming little box of polished black walnut the exact size and shape to hold a deck of cards, and thus gained re-admission to the above-ground regions of the house. By then, he really needed a shower and a change of clothes.

    Just think about that if you’re ever inclined to underestimate the power (for good or for ill) of the Mighty Mouse.
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