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MAD BRIDGE 12: Whistlin' Dixie

Peggy Olson was puzzled. The woman sitting on her left...she looked and sounded just like a character out of one of her favorite movies. It wasn't proper to ask total strangers about their personal lives, but try as she might, she couldn't resist.

"Excuse me," she stammered, entirely out of character with the assertive, confident modern woman she was trying to become. "but you seem awfully familiar, right out of..."

The Southern-sounding woman in the flowing skirt stopped her mid-sentence. "Of the movies, you mean. Of course! Great balls of fire, you're in Hollywood, Chile."

She extended a dainty hand. "I'm so pleased to meet you. You can call me Scarlett. That's Rhett over there," she said, gesturing at her partner.

Peggy resisted the impulse to curtsy. And the touch of the other woman's fingers was soft, the skin smooth like a child's. Clearly Scarlett, if that was really her name, had never done the ironing or washed dishes.

After an exchange of handshakes all around, the cards were removed from the next board.

Southern Belle
Don Draper
Southern Gent
Peggy Olson
6NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0

Peggy and Don had talked briefly about some of the sophisticated bidding systems that were making the rounds, like the Schenken Big Club and some Asian invention they called Precision, but had decided to stick to standard methods. Peggy opened 2, followed Don's response of 2 with 2NT, and then denied a four-card major in response to partner's Stayman inquiry. Don -- perhaps remembering the opponents' defensive slip on the previous hand, realizing that they had at least 31 big ones, showed hisfaith in the abilities of his protege sitting across the table, and pushed directly to the aggressive 6NT.

With Peggy as declarer, Scarlett found herself in the unwelcome position of being on lead. Like any proper Southern belle, she'd been brought up to believe that taking a position, except perhaps at the side of a handsome gentleman at the altar, was not a ladylike thing to do. Shuffling through her cards, she ended up pulling out a small diamond and putting it on the table.

Peggy frowned slightly on seeing dummy, then lifted her gaze to Draper with a kind of What Have You Gotten Me Into look. Finally, she took K and straightened slightly. "Jack of spades please," she said, letting it ride when the "Eastern" Southern gent did not cover.

Scarlett found herself in a dilemma once again. There seemed to be no good reason for holding up the A, and a diamond back looked safe enough. And so it was. Peggy won that with the ace, cashed the A and K (just in case, she disclosed later, she got lucky and dropped the doubleton Q), and played the 7 from her hand.

Dear Ashley, her first beau who had taught Scarlett the rudiments of the game, used to say that the key to proper defense was to figure out what declarer held and what he, or she as was the case here and now, was trying to do. Partly out of respect for Ashley, partly to avoid another ever-so ungentlemanly icy frown from Rhett like the one when he discovered her failure to unblock on the previous hand, she began to count Peggy's points.

"Let's see," she thought, wondering why she'd gotten herself into this fix when she could have insisted on taking in the rays at Malibu, "declarer's bid indicates 22 or 23 points. She's already shown 11, in the aces of diamonds and clubs and the K, her spade play indicates that she has the K but not the queen, and she must have the Q-J. That's 17. She probably doesn't have the Q, so she's got to have the K-Q. Her reply to partner's 2 ask indicates that she does not have four hearts or 4 spades, so...."

Suddenly, everything came clear. That Carpetbagger woman, she was lookin' for an extra entry to dummy, planning to finesse the T so she could both take the spade finesse, capturing partner's Q to three in the process, and reenter dummy with the heart ace to enjoy that last established spade.

"No Northerner, woman or man, is going to enjoy themselves at the Southern belle's expense," thought Scarlett, smiling sweetly in Peggy's direction as she placed the J on the table. She had to hold back a giggle of near-joy as she saw that Yankee woman's expression of disappointment at being denied the vital extra entry to dummy.

After that, it was all over quickly. Peggy Olson won dummy's A and played the 10 -- "just in case," she was to say later. When that wasn't covered, Peggy conceded one down.

Scarlett stifled a rebel yell of triumph, knowing that no lady could possibly do that. She only smiled demurely in response to Rhett's broad grin.

She was still bubbling with excitement as they left the table. "Darlin', I think I'm finally getting the hang of this game. The Open Pairs is tomorrow, then there's the Teams, and after that we could go on, maybe become Life Masters...."

Her partner's bored expression stopped Scarlett in her tracks. "Oh darlin', you're not interested."

Rhett looked her straight in the eye. "Frankly my dear," he said, "I don't give a damn."

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