25 Playing Your Cards Right

“Mrs. James?” said Pansy.

“Hmm?” was her absent-minded reply. After the all clear from the fire department, they were sitting together at the table, knitting. Mrs. James deciphered a pattern, Lee worked a scarf, and the girls practised simple squares for bean-bags to stuff for playing catch. A game for two. Chapter 25 Playing Your Cards Right

“Next, can we make something to play with Mullins?”

“I could teach you how to crochet a simple chain. That would give you a string for him to chase. He likes that.”

“Especially underneath doors, ” agreed Pansy. “If you hide on one side of the door and push the string under to the other side then he really chases it.”

“Do you know how many cats are in our building?” wondered Poppy.

“We don’t keep track of them, the same as we do the residents, so I’m not sure.  Mullins, Oblio, and Sticks, you already know. The Cabots have two, Bona and Vista. Gervase might know a few more.”

“Maybe we should put a string under every front door and shake it to see if there’s a cat there.” Lee suggested.

“And what about dogs?” asked Poppy.

“Once again, no list. There’s Rosie, and Pocano…”

“Wait, did you just say Pinocchio?” asked Poppy.

“No, not Pinocchio.” Mrs. James had been reading that story to them. “Pocano is a bloodhound type dog, I believe….” She was interrupted by a knock at the door.

“It’s Earnest, Mrs James.”

“Ah, it’s Mr. Arbuthnot. Go open the door, would you please, Lee?”

“Hello, everyone. All busy, I see.”

Mullins, 'Mull', Mrs. James' cat

Mullins, ‘Mull’, Mrs. James’ cat

“Oh, Mr. Arbuthnot, Mrs. James said you know a lot of games. For kids I mean, not cats. We’re going to make some strings for cat toys but we want you to tell us some we can play ourselves. Please.” Pansy remembered to add this.

“Yes, well let me see. One of my favorites is a card game but it takes a special deck and I haven’t had one since I moved here. But it seems to me that you might be able to make your own deck.”

“We like to draw…our mother teaches us. What’s the game?”

“It’s called Happy Families. It’s somewhat like a Go Fish card game but it’s a lot trickier. It combines tongue twisters with remembering the rules of speaking the words, and with etiquette, which I see you already practice.” He nodded approvingly at Pansy.

“What would we need to make a deck?” Mrs. James had never drawn anything very well, only designed hats.

“You need the regular number of cards, that is 52, or thirteen sets of four cards each. Each set of four cards is a family. There’s a father – called a Mr., a wife – called a Mrs., a son – called a Master, and a daughter – called a Miss. Each father is named by his occupation. You could have Mr. Brick, the Builder, for example. His wife becomes Mrs. Brick, the Builder’s wife, the son Master Brick, the Builder’s son. And what would the daughter be, then?”

“Miss Brick, the Builder’s daughter.”

“Well done. You’ve got it in one.” Mr. Arbuthnot beamed. “The object of the game is to collect all four members of each family. On your turn, you ask for the cards you are missing. But, and this is important, you must follow exactly the correct way of asking for a card or you forfeit your turn. The fun comes in trying to say the names quickly while remembering the rules of asking and replying. So what you must draw,” he said, turning to Mrs. James, “is the side of the card that shows the family members, however you wish to do that. Put it up in the top left corner of the card, so it’s visible as you hold the cards in your hands to play.”

“I suppose some light cardboard would do, and we could wax paper the cards like one does autumn leaves, to make them easier to handle.”

“Mrs. James said she has a list of the people here.” said Poppy. “But not the dogs and cats.” Pansy added, in a disappointed tone.

“Could we use the POPS families?”asked Lee.

“Well, I don’t see why not. It would be a good way for you to learn their names. It is a bit old-fashioned, because you must start with the father who is working, not the wife, but it is just a game. What do you say, Mrs. James?”

“If you play with us and show us how it’s done, I’m sure we’d be delighted.”

“Let’s make a list of who we know and what they do.”  Lee began to write a list, complete with occupations.

1 – Mr. Arbuthnot, the Curator

2 – Mr. Richard, the Concierge

3 – Mr. Mendel, the Coach

4 – Mr. James, the Radio Repairman

5 – Mr. Pardoe, the Past President

6 – Mr. Knopupik, the Journalist

7 – Mr. Steinhardt, the Philanthropist

8 – Mr. Hazell, the Wholesaler

9 – Mr. Cabot, the Importer

10 – Mr. Karon, the Ferryman

11 – Mr. Benjamin, the Deli Owner

“We’re two short, Mrs. James. Did Mr. James really fix radios?”

“It wasn’t his main job, no. He did have a radio workshop in the basement, with an area stairs entrance for his customers. I just thought it would be a lovely tongue-twister. How about including Miss Doyle, and making her a man instead? After all, she does tease other people about their names. We could call her Mr. Doyle, the Motivational Speaker.”

“That’s way too hard to say.”

“How about just Cheerleader?” suggested Mr. Arbuthnot.

“Good.  12 – Mr. Doyle, the Cheerleader. Now, one more name. Quite a collection of people so far. Interesting, just like this building.” said Mrs. James. “How about Mr. R.M., the RealtorMan? He sold me this unit and I often see him around.”

“That is an easy one…let’s do it!” said Lee. 13 – Mr. R.M., the RealtorMan. “Okay, so what’s next. Mr. Arbuthnot?”

“Think of a illustration for each occupation. An example might be a yard sign for Mr. R.M. Maybe each of you take a few families. Draw the picture four times, once on each card for that family. Then add on the names.”

“Tell us those rules, please, so I can write them down, too.” said Lee.

“It will make more sense when we actually play and we will play very slowly, at first. Best if you simply listen for now. It goes something like this, after the cards are dealt out. We’ll assume there are two players to begin. Player 1 must already have in his hand at least one member of the family he asks for. Let’s say he has the Mr. R.M. the RealtorMan card and wants to collect the rest of that family.”

“Player 1 asks Player 2: “Have you Miss R. M., the RealtorMan’s daughter?”

“If Player 2 has the card he must give it to Player 1 and Player 1 must reply, “Thank you.”

“And have you Mrs. R.M., the RealtorMan’s wife?” And so on. Player 1 asks until Player 2 doesn’t hold the requested card. When Player 2 does not have the card, he replies: “Not at home.” In this case, Player 1 picks up a new card from the pile. The turn passes to Player 2. Understand, so far?”

“Sort of. Keep going.”

“All right. So next, Player 2 tries to collect the Karon family. He asks Player 1, “Have you Mrs. Karon, the Ferryman’s Wife?” and so on. When you have collected a complete family of four, on your turn you lay down those cards and say “That’s the so and so family.”

“Oh, we don’t have the So-and-So’s on our list, do we?” joked Lee.