July 09, 2021

“We all sit down at the card table...”

 An excerpt from “Trouble and Strife,” by Johanne Levesque

Friday, December 12th, 1930 (Bridge day)

I love Fridays.  Today happens to be an unseasonably mild day in December and I take advantage of it.  I hang the rugs over the clothesline to beat the dust out of them.  Friday is the day that I tidy up the house.  I rush to do so before 10 a.m. as it’s also the day I host the bridge game.  It’s an easy day for me as I never cook dinner; I always get fish and chips from a local restaurant.

            I place a dark blue linen cloth on the kitchen table.  For a centrepiece, I choose a flat mirror plateau holding green grapes and tawny pears.

            Wilma is the first guest to arrive.  She has short, deeply set wavy red hair worn to the chin and a fair complexion spotted with freckles.  I hug Wilma’s diminutive body then I take her coat and the tiny sandwiches she has brought.  We sit on the edge of the sofa sipping tea.

            “You haven’t cleared your sidewalk.  Lawrence says that the city will charge you two cents per food front if it’s not cleared,” she says as she twirls her hair like a little girl.  She talks like a little girl too.  Everything she says is regurgitated from what her husband told her.  Sometimes I would like to shake her and ask her what she really thinks, but I fear she would have nothing to say…

            “I know, but Eugene has been so busy lately.  To tell you the truth I’m glad.  If the city charges us, it gives work to the unemployed.  I think it’s a great idea.  Eugene doesn’t agree of course, but it’s up to him.”

            Phyllis is the next one to arrive.  Her dress is slim, simple and elegant, the hemline well below the knee.  She looks and acts like a pillar of virtue.  I personally find her quite boring.  Her long hair is wrapped in a bun at the base of her neck, which accentuates her impeccable posture.  She has brought chocolate cake.

            Wilma looks at her watch, then looks at me with those beautiful, penetrating green eyes of hers.  “Eleanor always arrives late.  It’s very insensitive of her,” she says as she twirls her hair.

            It is uncharacteristic of Wilma to complain.  She is usually so very calm and composed, but some things bother her and tardiness is one of them.  In fact, Eleanor has many faults that Wilma cannot tolerate—especially her lack of tact and her poor choice of language, but she is willing to overlook each one of them when they play bridge because Eleanor is her partner and she always outwits the opposing team.

            After we drink a second cup of tea, Eleanor finally arrives wearing an azure blue silk velvet turban with a rhinestone pin in the front and a matching blue dress.  Her eyebrows are plucked to a fine line and drawn in with a pencil.  She’s the only woman in the group who colours her hair.  She always looks immaculately groomed and elegant.  She’s also the only woman in the group with no children.

            She is a woman of leisure who has travelled the world over.  Her calendar is full of hair appointments, manicures, massages and lunches.  Gerald is a very successful lawyer, and she came into the marriage with a hefty inheritance.

            Her face is flushed, “Sorry I’m late, ladies.  Gerald is such a dimwit, he forgot today’s Friday and I had to call him to come pick me up.”  She gives me a bottle of sherry.  “For you, my dear,” she says as she kisses the air by my cheeks, so as not to mess up her makeup.

            She never brings homemade goodies.  She told Gerald when she married him, “If you think you have wed a cook, you are quite wrong.  Our wedding, my dear, only means more business for the delicatessen.”

            I thank her as I hang up her coat.  We all sit down at the card table…

If you liked this excerpt from Trouble and Strife, you can buy the book at any of the following links:

Austin Macauley Publishers™ (my publisher)
Barnes & Noble