Bob Mackinnon

Love Letter from Huntsville

Dear James:

We miss you, Betsy and me, both. We miss London, too. Good, old, cold, crazy and damp London with all its quaint customs. Remember that funny little man in the big hat who carved the lamb? We all thought he was French but it turned out he was English with an unbelievable cockney accent. Those were great days….and nights!!

Yesterday we arrived in Dallas and were driven around topless downtown. The Caddie was topless, not us, Silly. Texan men are tall and handsome and show you lots of straight teeth when they greet you, but they make me feel like the only hamburger at a dog show. I like suave and they don’t have it, not like you, James, who is very suave.

This morning we flew in Daddy’s Lear Jet to Huntsville where the prison is to play a match against the Texas All Stars, a team made up of male inmates, who compete against prisoners in maximum security facilities in other states. The rivalries are quite intense with Oklahoma Lifers being the current champions, I understand.

Before the game we were introduced by the guard (Elmer, who was the fattest man I have ever seen in a uniform) to our opponents, two men wearing numbers across their chests, one called Mike, kinda dreamy and handsome, like Davy Crockett, and the other Sonny, sorta bald and wrinkled, like Sam Houston. Eat your heart out, Truman Capote.

‘Do you play often against women?’ I asked pleasantly enough as they were looking at us rather suspiciously. Imagine that! They were suspicious of us!

‘Not often,’ says the short one called Sonny (104375). ‘They play us sometimes, but women don’t show enough initiative. Did Bonny Parker ever rob a bank on her own? No. Have you ever heard of a female prison break? No. They settle in and make friends with the guards and tell them everything hoping to get themselves a little time off for good behaviour.’

‘I once broke out of a county jail with a woman,’ says Mike (106783). ‘We had a fast getaway car filled with gas, fresh plates, a good head-start, some cash, and we were burnin’ it across the flatlands before the sun come up, when she says she’s got to go pee. So I says, I’ll stop the car and you can pee at the side of the road. And she says, no, there might be rattlers out there in the dark, and we have to stop at the next roadside café. So we keep going and she holds out until sixty miles later we come to this 24-hour café where we stop. I order a cup of coffee, but she takes so long I decide, hell, I might as well have breakfast. So we had breakfast and guess what, the cops arrest us in the parking lot. You know what she did? While I was having my coffee, she phoned her mother to tell her not to worry she was safe, and said where we were. That’s women for you.’

‘Hey, take the responsibility and stop bitching about your girlfriend,’ says Betsy. ‘You made the mistakes. First, you should have stopped the car right away and ordered her to get out and either pee or start walking. Second, you’re the one who decided to stop at the café, not taking into account that it’s a daughter’s duty to keep in touch with her mom who’s bound to be worried.’

‘Absolutely!’ I chirped in. ‘Those may not be the sound of wedding bells in the background, but police sirens are totally major for sure.’

‘Be The Man’ says Betsy. ‘Treat your women right and the dancers will dance, the singers will sing. I don’t know about Texas, but that’s how it works in Chermany.’

‘Can’t we cut out the fuckin’ song-and-dance and get on with the game?’ asks Sonny.

‘Just a reminder, Boys,’ says the guard, ‘this is Friday so there’s demerit points for every time you use the F-word. The demerits will be doubled if you use the F-word in front of our guests here.’

‘I hereby officially protest,‘ says Sonny. ‘First: the F-word is not word, because it’s not found in Webster’s Dictionary and it’s not in the Bible, either. Second: this is a clear violation of our right to Freedom of Speech.’

‘What are you, a fuckin’ lawyer?’ asks the guard. ‘The Warden has been clear on the point – it’s one of his ten commandments. Even Charlton Heston hisself can’t change them. So that’s 4 demerits for you, 1-0-4-3-7-5. I am adding blasphemes to the list although it ain’t Sunday yet.’

‘Jesus Christ!’ exclaims Sonny.

‘Two more,’ says Elmer, writing it down.

We had what looked like a shaky result coming out of the box.

 
None
North
N
Me
A105
954
AQ974
73
 
W
Mike
Q9764
8
1065
A652
 
E
Sonny
J832
KQ103
J82
J4
 
S
Betsy
K
AJ762
K3
KQ1098
 
 
W
Mike
N
Me
E
Sonny
S
Betsy
Pass
Pass
1
Pass
2
Pass
3
Pass
3
Pass
3NT

Select (you can triple-click it) and over-write this text below the diagram.

Maybe Sonny’s criticism about women not showing initiative applies to me. I prefer to bid out my hand and let my partner decide the best contract from her side. So I just bid where my points were and she decided on 3NT. Mike led the 6 won by Betsy with the king. She ran the diamonds, pitching hearts then the K, winning, and a low club losing to the stiff jack, holding herself to 9 tricks. Of course, Sonny had to gloat over the result.

‘See that, Mike: 6NT is cold. I can lead a heart, but you can never get in to cash your winner. I bet Frank and Larry get there.’

Golly! 6NT on 26 HCPs? Are these guys Italians, or what? I thought.

‘I’d like to meet these Larry and Frank,’ says Betsy.

‘Take my word for it, Miss,’ says the guard, ‘you really don’t.’

Later we found out Frank and Larry were in 4, going down on the bad trump split. So my aversion to weak 3-card raises and preference for 3NT were justified yet again. 10 IMPs for the good guys.

Betsy was still fuming when this hand came up soon after. They tell us, there’s no right bid with an 8-card suit, so as usual she went for the max. The lead was the Q followed by 7, to the A, followed by the J.

 
N-S
East
N
Me
10963
A1087
A652
9
 
W
Mike
Q7
96532
J1073
108
 
E
Sonny
AKJ52
KJ4
K94
75
 
S
Betsy
84
Q
Q8
AKQJ6432
 
W
Mike
N
Me
E
Sonny
S
Betsy
1
5
Pass
Pass
Pass

Betsy ruffed with the A and could count 10 tricks off the top, one short of game. She starts playing off a string of trumps and Sonny’s face gets all red and he starts blowing through his nose, so Betsy catches on that something is up. She stops to think. With nothing to lose and something to gain, she plays off all but one of the trumps to this 4-card ending with 104375 still to play

 
N-S
East
N
Dummy (Me)
10
A10
A
 
W
Mike
6
J107
 
E
Sonny
K
KJ
K9
 
S
Betsy
Q
Q8
2
 

He throws the 9, so Betsy plays a diamond to the A dropping his K and setting up the Q for her 11th trick. You’d think they would congratulate her on her triple squeeze, but this Sonny character starts whining about his partner’s defence.

‘What knucklehead defence was that!’ he practically screams.

‘Why did you play the 5 on my Q? I thought you had 6 spades.’

‘That wasn’t count that was The Obvious Switch Signal asking for a diamond.’

‘Why a diamond? You’re the knucklehead. Just play bridge.’

‘Whoa,’ intervenes Elmer. ‘Boys, the game is cold after any spade lead. Tighten up your inner defences and stop acting like assholes in front of these nice, young ladies. Pardon my language, Ladies. Remember without discipline and teamwork, we can’t ever hope to beat them Okees.’

It turns out this Sonny is a bit of a blank cartridge, and after some more good results I tried to lighten the atmosphere. ‘What do you guys do for fun when you’re not playing bridge?’ I ask.

‘I play backgammon with Billy Crapshoot who is teachin’ me the finer points,’ says Sonny sourly. “I’ve got 5 years left to break even.’

“And at the rate he’s losing money, to pay it back we’ll have to rob a big bank as soon as we gets released,’ adds his pal.

‘Is there any weed around these parts?’ asks Betsy sweetly.

‘There’s ragweed galore in the desert,’ Sonny informs us, ‘if you can get to it.’

‘Do you smoke it or chew it?’ inquires Betsy hopefully.

‘Stay away from ragweed, as it really f-f-f-f-messes up your brain. The wetbacks use it a lot,’ says Mike.

‘They get high even on cactus juice, but Mexico has never won anything in their whole history, so who needs it?’ says Sonny dismissively.

‘They won the Battle of the Alamo, I believe,’ Betsy reminds them.

Well, that pretty well wore out our welcome and even Elmer finally got hostile. So they cut it short and as punishment we never got the tour of the execution facilities, thank God for that. I enclose a Polaroid snapshot of Betsy and me and the rest of the team in front of the Sam Houston memorial.

 

I really miss you, and I hope there is one of your letters, or two or three, in my postal box when I get back to New York next week.

LYFH (Love, Your Friend, Heidi)

PS We won! It wasn’t even close. As Daddy says, the smart ones don’t get caught and the rich ones don’t get convicted! (He’s joking, I think.)

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