The first light of morning was creeping through the windows of the Big House on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, but 'Chelle was already awake. And she had something on her mind.
“Bar baby, get up. We've got a problem.” She put her hand on her sleeping husband's shoulder and gave a gentle shake.
“What is it hun?” he asked, trying to shake the sleep out his eyes. “More trouble in the Middle East, is that Ahmadwhatever'shisname starting trouble again? Another banking crisis in Europe? Derrick Rose get hurt?”
'Chelle pouted. “Worse than that. W and Laura are coming tonight, and we haven't planned any entertainment. The admin staff tells me that Johnny Cash or Ferlin Husky aren't available anymore. Conversation with W and Laura is a non-starter, we have nothing in common. I'm not interested in cattle, oil, and low taxes for the rich. Besides, when I mention the organic garden, he brings up his his Longhorns.”
Bar furrowed his brow, focusing his full attention. He had his best professorial face on when he looked up. “Don't they play bridge?
“Yes we can!” 'Chelle's face brightened. “Too bad you don't have that good of an idea more often, when you're talking to some dudes in Congress.”
A few hours later, after a Family Dining room menu that included the chef's famous Tex-Mex fajitas (a holdover from the previous tenants), organic black-eye-peas and collard greens under glass, and 'Chelle's favorite fries brought in from the Mac shop down the street, the two couples retired to one of the sitting rooms, where a card table had been set up. W headed straight for the West seat till his wife grabbed his arm and whispered in his ear. “She would prefer not to be East,” he said to his host. “Maybe we could be West and South?”
“I don't think that's possible,” said Bar. “We'd both prefer to sit opposite our wives."
Another whispered conversation between the guests, at the end of which Laura stood on tiptoe to gently kiss W's cheek. “She'll be East,” he said, turning to Bar and 'Chelle. Then he added, almost reflectively, “You know, marriage is not a dictatorship. But if it was, as I've said before (ed. in December 2000) it would be a heck of a lot easier, just as long as I'm the dictator.”
After an uneasy chuckle, 'Chelle picked up one of the two decks of cards that had been placed on the table – one with the Presidential Seal on a red background, the other identical except that the background was blue. She held one pack out in W's direction. “You'll notice, I'm sure, that I have chosen the blue deck; you and Laura certainly prefer the other pack.”
“Glad you didn't do it the other way, baby,” Bar muttered, half under his breath. “That would be picked up by the folks who call me a socialist or something...”
Bar opened 1♦ in the North seat, and he and his wife quickly reached 6♣.
'Chelle was less than patient as she waited for her left-hand opponent to lead. “W? It's your turn,” she said.
“I'd prefer you to call me Mr. President,” he replied. “Everyone else does.”
The normally quiet Laura sat up straight. “Honey, they can't do that. Like it or not, you're not the only Mr. President around here.”
W nodded, studied his hand for a while and led a cautious trump. Here is the full layout (courtesy of the White House Press Office):
“Thank you baby,” said 'Chelle as she studied the dummy. Then she let the club run around to her hand, and immediately fired a heart toward dummy.
W reached into his pocket. What emerged was out a red iPhone.
“You've picked a strange moment to call, honey,” said Laura. “Who are you trying to call?”
“Condi,” said W. “She usually gives me good advice. And if she isn't around, I'll ask Karl, my roving adviser, for his opinion.”
“Condi is probably teaching a seminar at Stanford,” replied W's left-hand opponent. “And I've been told that Karl has his mitts on another project. 'Fraid you'll have to be on your own, sir.”
W had a notion that the heart was a singleton. If so, perhaps he should win the ace. But what would he do next?
It took a few more seconds for the realization to sink in: Rising with the ace was exactly what 'Chelle wanted, because it would establish three heart winners, appropriate parking places for any losers. Even health care reform was better than that. W played low, partly out of spite.
Winning the ♥K, declarer next played off the ♥Q, discarding a diamond from hand. W could see no reason to hold up now; aces were made to take kings or queens, weren't they? He thought about a diamond return, but that did not seem very promising. A diamond might mark the finesse for declarer. A spade seemed safe so that is what W played to the 10, jack, and ace.
Now 'Chelle won the ♣A in dummy, cashed the ♦A, ruffed a diamond, and drew trumps. In the end there was a spade to lose, so she was one down.
“Brilliant defense,” Bar said, giving his best imitation of Law Prof. Kingsfield in that famous 1970s TV series, “The Paper Chase.” “Finding the spade return to break up a squeeze."
W looked puzzled, so 'Chelle laid out the cards. "If you return a diamond, declarer goes up with the ace, ruffs an diamond, returns to dummy with the club ace, ruffs a second diamond and runs the clubs. Here's the position on the last trump."
"The ♠2 is discarded from dummy, and a spade is played to the king. East has no problem with either of these two tricks, but the ♥J finishes him. He has to discard either a spade, establishing the long card in hand, or a diamond, making the jack in dummy high. A heart return creates the same squeeze, in a different sequence, but the spade return kills the entry back to hand needed for the squeeze. You have a talent for the game; you'd go far if you'd concentrate on bridge instead of watching so many baseball games or fishing.”
W blushed. “Shucks, I didn't do nothin',” he said, shrugging his shoulders. “'Bout the only thing was t'sit tight and let things develop on their own. If things happened to go wrong, I would always have the option of blaming the dealer for giving me such a lousy hand, or saying that someone else was responsible.”
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