CRIBBAGE ANYONE?

Joan Stephens


For once the tunnel world could look forward to a lazy, laid back weekend. There were no major calamities, no pipes to repair, and no new chambers to be made. When he learned that there were no pressing duties for the weekend, Vincent had invited Catherine to spend the weekend Below.

Now he was half-seated on his bed, reclining against the headboard with Catherine snuggled warmly against him. He had been reading to her but sensed a slight restlessness in her, a vague discontent. Laying the open book on his stomach, he stopped reading. Silence descended as he waited for her to speak.

"Vincent, do you know how to play cribbage?"

Her question was not what he had expected. "No, I donít think I do. Why? Are you weary of hearing me read to you?"

She sat up abruptly. "Oh god no, Vincent, I love to hear you read. Itís just that itís much more romantic when you do it at night, and I guess I just need to do something that keeps my mind active, thatís fun."

"I see. Iíve always played chess with Father although I do play bridge."

"But not cribbage? Oh Vincent, itís so much fun. I can remember the games we had when my father and I went to the lake cabin. Weíd usually have them on Saturday after we had cleaned the cabin, and it really got to be cutthroat as my Dad and I were pretty evenly matched. We spent many wonderful hours together over a cribbage board. Want me to teach you?"

"If it would give you pleasure, there is nothing I would rather do."

Flinging her arms around his neck, she hugged him happily. "Good! But we need a cribbage board."

"I think Old Sam has one."

***********

When he returned, Catherine had cleared a space on his writing table. They sat across from one another, loving opponents. She had found a deck of cards in the table drawer. "Do you play solitaire?" she asked.

"Not often. Iím usually too busy."

"I know a lot of solitaire games other than the usual one. Iíll show you some of them someday." Grinning up at him, she riffled the cards noisily. He jumped and she giggled, "Sorry."

Tilting his head, he stated, "No, youíre not really." And he actually winked at her.

Giggling even more as she winked back, she shuffled the deck. "Now the point of the game is to win, of course. The way to do this is to rack up the most points." She dealt out six cards face-up to each of them. Placing a single card on the table, she set the deck down. "Ok, cut the deck." After he did, she turned over the top card of the remaining cards. She motioned for him to replace the cards he had cut up then put the card she had taken on the top of the deck. "This card is used with both of our hands." He nodded his understanding. "The single card face down on the table becomes part of the crib when we discard two cards out of our hands and belongs to the dealer," she continued. Then she proceeded to explain the point system and how to peg. "Ready?" He nodded again. "Ok," she said, "weíll play this game with the cards face up." After the game, which Catherine won, she asked, "Do you think you can play now?"

"Oh, I think so, Catherine, you are an excellent teacher. I think I understand the intricacies of the game," he answered with a twinkle in his eyes.

Laughing and giggling, they played several games with Vincent improving with every game until he was able to hold his own and beat her twice.

"Having fun?" Catherine asked.

"Yes, this is a very stimulating game. Fast, but it makes you think. Itís very enjoyable."

"I knew youíd like it," she enthused.

"Whatís all this giggling and carrying on in here?" Father asked, entering.

Vincent sat back in his chair and raised a set of merry eyes to his father. "Catherine is teaching me to play cribbage."

"My heavens, I havenít played cribbage in years," Father said, delightedly. "I used to play it quite often in my college days. I used to play with Pascal senior all the time."

"Why didnít you teach me to play?" Vincent asked.

"I was more interested in chess when you were old enough to play," the older man stated. "Ah well, you have a much lovelier instructor."

"Now that you mention it, I heartily agree," the younger man quipped.

Modestly, Catherine blushed.

"Well, Iíll leave you two to your game," Father said and discreetly withdrew.

Catherine turned to the man she loved and, pointing a finger at him, said, "Ok, Vincent, Iíve been easy on you so far but not anymore. Prepare yourself for a battle."

"Oh, so youíve been easy on me, have you? Well, I just happen to think that I can beat you."

"Wanna bet?"

"A wager but I have nothing to bet with."

"Oh, I wouldnít be too sure of that."

"What would you bet?" he asked.

"Iíll fix dinner for you, and yes, I can cook. Iíve just never had the time."

"All right, but what have I to wager?"

Catherine glanced at him through her bangs and boldly offered, "A kiss."

"A kiss? Surely you would enjoy a meal fixed by William."

She shook her head adamantly. "If I win, I want a kiss."

Well aware of her stubborn streak, he gave in graciously and agreed.

She thrust her hand across the table. "Deal?"

"Deal!" He solemnly shook her hand.

***************

This game was played with absolute seriousness. Still, they had fun and played as best they could. At last, Catherine pegged the points in her crib and announced gleefully, "15 - 2, 15 - 4, and a 10 point double run makes 14 and Iím out." With a flourish, she pegged the last point. Giving him a wicked grin, she said, "You owe me, Vincent; I won. Itís time to pay up."

"Now, Catherine? Canít it wait until I walk you home?"

Reluctant to wait until later and wanting it right now, she said, "Nope. I want my kiss now."

Slowly and determinedly he climbed to his feet, came around the table, and lifted her to her feet. He pulled her close, and cupping her face in his hands, he lowered his lips to hers. Just before capturing her mouth in their first kiss, he whispered, "I let you win."

Fini