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I shot my bridge partner

"I Shot My Bridge Partner" is the name of a mystery novel I have not read and will not read because it could have been written by various bridge partners I had before they retired my jersey some years ago. Bridge players do not take the game casually, but I did. Not good. One famous bridge player, Kelley Hwang, among the winners of the Grand National Teams Championship a few years ago, tells that he started playing because his marriage was rocky, so he and his wife started to play bridge in search of an activity they could do together. Later he said, "now I don't have that wife any more, but I still have bridge." Another expert, Stephannie Russo, commented that the game is immensely stressful on personal relationships and that, "my ex-husband and I met playing bridge, then we un-met playing bridge. But he remains my favorite person to play with. In fact, being divorced has greatly improved our bridge relationship."

When I came to town with my new wife, Eartha (she wasn't known as Eartha in those days), got a job and entered the world of adults, a group of guys formed a bridge club and invited me to join. This was a good group of guys, not sharks exactly, but some of them were quite serious about the game and very good. I was never much of a game player -- the only games I ever tried that didn't require athletic skill or physical exertion were checkers, Trivial Pursuit and golf. Suddenly, there I was, playing bridge with serious players -- all except Sam. Sam and I learned some of the fundamentals of the game, but none of the finer points. We just weren't that interested. So, whoever got Sam or me for a partner was probably in for a discouraging evening of competition, but when Sam and I were partners, there was no discouragement, we just laughed and had a good time together while the hotshots rolled up the score.

But a consistently poor player can spoil the fun for the dedicated players. Eventually, after a decade of playing like a rookie, I had to face the fact that while I liked the other guys in the group, we never talked about anything but cards, and for me it was no fun -- never had been. That's when my jersey was retired and my bridge career was over. Sam and I didn't get to see much of one another after that, but when we did bump into one another, we always shared a few chuckles about our bridge playing days.

Our friend, Marion, is a serious bridge player and a very good one. Years ago when she left to play with her friends, her son, Casey, about five at the time, asked a little kid's question: "Does it hurt when you play bridge?" Casey had played bridge himself, but when his bridges collapsed, which they all did eventually, sometimes one of the kids got hurt.

Yes Casey, sometimes it hurts to play the kind of bridge grown-ups play. Players get harsh advice from disappointed partners, barracudas eat small fry, personal relationships are stressed, sometimes feelings get hurt, sometimes husbands and wives get divorced, sometimes players scream at one another, and maybe, just maybe, a player might shoot his partner. But they keep playing bridge because it's fun. If you want to develop your mind and memory, bridge may be a good game for you, but if you want to develop your sense of humor, try Charades.