We never played for money and, unlike other games with other players whose backs stiffen and hearts close, a hand of cards with him was based on the notion that the real game, the real fun, was in playing with luck herself. “She likes a warm room,” he would say.
At certain points there was a song. As he arranged his hand: ‘I, who have nothing’. If I picked up something he wanted: ‘Safe in the arms of Jesus’. And if I won: ‘But most of all I love you cos you’re you’. But there was one card – discarded, ignored or long-awaited – that prompted a song he’d only heard me sing and tilted the game towards sweet surrealism: ‘The ace of spades, the ace of spades’. He sang it so earnestly, his Doric inflection making each word ring…
We invented variations on the theme: Jimmy Rummy for a set of 4 and a run of 5; Lynne Rummy for two runs of 5; and Slim Rummy for two sets of 4 and a run of 3. These were big hands but this was how I learned that things come good to those who keep singing.
© Shona Main 2010