We got along well and had a decent game, although not a great one. Early in the session I was declarer in a hand that seemed to have no particularly unusual dangers, but the result was gruesome. I got slaughtered. I made a note of the board number so I could check the results at the end of the night and learn whether my partner and I had made a bidding mistake, or whether I had played the hand badly, or just what the scoop was.
We finished the last round early and I hunted down the board. A sixtyish woman was playing the hand in exactly the same contract, and her opponents were hacking her to death. I stood behind her and watched. She sensed that someone was behind her, turned around, looked up at me, and said, "Hi, sweetie. They've got me by the ying-yang. (Yes, I know it's yin and yang, but that's what she said.) And so I met Dolly, who is turning over in her grave at the thought of being called "Dolly."
It turned out that the slaughters we had undergone were a "normal" result for that hand, which was an aberration if ever there was one. Our bidding and play had been "normal," and no one did any better.
Dolly and I became bridge partners for the next year or so. She was one of the two best bridge players I have ever been partnered with. She would cut your throat for an overtrick, and found overtricks where most players didn't even think to look, and she defended more tenaciously than General McAuliffe at Bastogne (well, Google it then).
She was a widow and used to her independence, and could be crusty but was generally an entertaining person.
We played together for a year, perhaps a little more, and then I was sent to Vietnam. Thirteen months later I was assigned to Fort Huachuca, Arizona, but a couple of stops were necessary prior to reporting. My car was stored in Corpus Christi, and I retrieved that. It was a 1966 Fiat Spider, a convertible with five forward gears on the floor. It got 40 miles per gallon, but had no acceleration and was not the most comfortable car for a long drive, which I was about to undertake as I planned to drive to Massachusetts for a thirty day leave.
Dolly invited me for a home cooked dinner, my first in more than a year, and it was wonderful. She had a brand new Chevy and a sister in Washington, D.C., and I talked her into making the drive across the country with me - in her car. I bribed her with promises to play at local bridge clubs along the way (we had a national bridge club directory). In the event, we only played once as the drive took just a couple of days. We played at a club in Mississippi, where we were surrounded by friendly people (we came in first).
Several trip-related incidents come to mind:
- At some point the eastbound Interstate was under repair and we were shunted over to the westbound side, two lanes, one now temporarily eastbound. After a few minutes we encountered an uphill climb. Halfway up, I saw a truck cresting the hill and coming toward us and a car trying to pass it in our lane. We - and that's pretty much everyone on the road - were doing 65 mph and there was no chance he would get past the truck, get behind the truck, or atomize before we met. I went right over the embankment, driving on grass, dodging construction equipment (I do not recall any workmen being present), and braking a little at a time, and was soon able to get back up to the road. By that time we were well on the other side of the hill and I will never know whether that moron killed himself or anyone else.
Dolly lit a cigarette and never said a word.
- We needed gas and were on a long stretch of highway with no oases. When it began to look critical I got off the highway and onto the access road, hoping to find a gas station. In a heavily wooded stretch we came across a shack - literally, a shack - with two gas pumps in front of it. I pulled up to the pumps and out came a big, pot-bellied, middle-aged man in overalls. He walked to the front of our car, stopped, looked at the license plate, walked to the back of the car, stopped, looked at the license plate, and walked back to my window.
"You want gas?"
"We don't sell gas."
I speculate that sometime during the preceding hundred years someone from Texas had done something to someone from Mississippi, and it had never been forgotten or forgiven.
Still on the access road, we finally found a gas station that sold gas, even to Texans. I stopped in front of the pumps and Dolly bounded out of the car and headed for the rest rooms. When we were on our way again she said, "That was the filthiest rest room I've ever been in."
"What did you do?"
"Honey, some women are standers and some women are sitters."
- We stopped briefly in Maryland so I could see my brother Billy, who was in the Navy. I introduced Dolly and Billy, and immediately heard:
Dolly: "You're too fat."
Billy: "You're too old."
That charming exchange ensured that my reacquaintance with my brother was brief, and we were soon on our way again.