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MAD BRIDGE I: Memories of Childhood

 

Roger Sterling rushed into his partner's office early, before Draper had washed down the day's 12th cigarette with his eighth shot of Canadian Club. “Don, we've got competition,” he said, trying to hide his agitation.

Draper looked up from the little black booklet he'd been studying. “Pour yourself a drink and tell me what's going on. Judging by your agitation, make it a double.”

Sterling walked over to the bar. “Haven't we been together long enough for you to know that I always take doubles?” he said. “This warrants a triple.” “You can have a quadruple if you'll just tell me,” said Draper, visibly frustrated.

“I heard it on the elevator. One of the guys from McCann mentioned a new alliance, something like Kranyak, Wolpert, Bathurst, Dwyer, Weinstein, and Levin. I've never heard of them, but he seemed to think that they were really dangerous, mostly new young stars and some seasoned veterans.”

Draper picked up the phone. “Allison, get me Michael Ginsburg.” He didn't much like the young copywriter, but this might be his area of expertise.While they waited, Draper and Sterling puffed another ciggie and tossed down one more double.

Draper was quick off the mark when Ginsburg walked in. “Mike,” he said, trying to sound friendly, “do you know anything about a new firm? Two of the partners are called Weinstein and Levin?"

Rubbing his scraggly beard in puzzlement, Ginsburg breathed deeply as he tried to figure out what was going on. “Levin and Weinstein? Never heard of them in advertising, but there's a very successful bridge partnership with those names.”

Sterling's visage brightened. “That makes sense,” he said though the haze of cigarette smoke and alcohol fumes. “The McCann guy said partnership, but I never dreamed of bridge.”

The silver-haired senior partner turned to Draper. “Did you also play bridge in college, Don? ”Draper tried to avert Sterling's gaze. “Well, Roger, you could say that I dabbled in the game when I was younger.” (He'd picked up lunch money playing auction, whist and klabiash with some of the girls and their clients while growing up at his aunt's house.)

“Then I'm sure we can have a foursome,” said Sterling. “Maybe Peggy Olson picked up the game at Queens College, or wherever she went to night school. And Bert Cooper; we can use his office, if you don't mind playing in your stocking feet.” Draper nodded. “Or Pete Cooper. He probably played the game at Dartmouth, where they're better at cards than football.”

Just after 2 p.m. Sterling slipped into Draper's office, where a card table had been set up. “Who's coming?” he asked. “I understand Pete is out with a client, and Bert certainly wouldn't come down here to play.” “I got Joan Holloway, after I discovered that bridge is another one of her formidable assets.” He grinned knowingly at Sterling. “You'll partner her, OK? And I'll take Peggy, who you always call my protege.”

One of the first deals gave Draper a chance to exercise some of the skill he'd picked up as a teenager from Emmy Lou, one of his auntie's girls.

Peggy
QJ54
QJ965
74
J6
Sterling
A1072
1074
AKQ2
84
Draper
K86
K832
65
A952
Joan
93
A
J10983
KQ1073
D

The contract was 6, reached after Joan (South), who even in the conservative 60s tried to be ahead of her times, opened her weakish two-suiter with 1. Her rebid of 2 stimulated her partner as much as her décolletage; with his sterling trump support, Roger was unstoppable till they had reached the diamond slam.

The lead of a spade, dummy's first-bid suit, would have sent the contract to oblivion right away. But Peggy, not long beyond the secretarial pool and understandably cautious; led from the top of her broken heart sequence, even though that reminded her of her brief fling with one of the account execs. Joan immediately saw that she was in with a chance if the club ace was right. So after taking the A she entered dummy with a diamond and led a small club.

When Draper, in the East seat, played low without a flicker, as he always managed to do in crucial meetings with prospective clients, Joan won the K in hand, drew trumps ending in dummy, and tried another club. Low again from dead-pan Don.

The options raced like a runaway Brooklyn Express under the flame-red Holloway locks. Maybe Draper didn't have the ace at all? Had Peggy Olson, the Irish former secretary, learned that ducking an ace sometimes worked on Bridge Night at her church in Queens or Brooklyn or Passaic, wherever it was she came from? And where, oh where, was that J?

Joan's final decision was the wrong one. When the 10 lost to Peggy's j it was no longer possible to make the hand. Joan ruffed Peggy's heart return and tried a third club, but there was still a spade to lose.

Roger Sterling (North) was true to form.  “Down on the very first hand,” he whined. “You would have made it it you'd taken the Q. I thought you were better than that. But I'll drink to Don's thoughtful defense.”

Draper didn't crack a smile. But he was chuckling inside. “Roger will drink to anything,” he thought. And he remembered the advice of Emmy Lou, who considered herself an expert in taking tricks. “Don't make your play too early,” she had told him. “Better things may develop if you wait awhile.”

 

 

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