Standing over Mama’s left shoulder, I put my hand – wide open like a five – on my heart. She finally plays her card, turns to me and says, “What do you need?”
“Umm…” I look down at my swimsuit and then at my bare feet on the sandy linoleum floor. “Umm, can I make a pizza?”
“No, we’re having sandwiches for lunch. If you need a snack, look on the counter. There’s plenty there.”
Daddy gives me the approving nod I seek as I walk the short skip to the kitchen counter. Granddaddy’s open floor plan allows me to easily keep up with the card table banter. The beach house has five basic rooms: on the left there are two bedrooms, a single and a double, that share a bathroom; the right side is exactly the same; and in the middle is a big room with couches and recliners front left, card table front right, a large, sturdy dining table in the back right and the kitchen with an island in the back left.
Wimbledon games are playing on the sole television. Steffi Graf is so strong. “Yes!” I shout as she hits another ace.
“What’s the score?” Uncle Stanley asks. His back is to the screen in their four person Canasta game: boys versus girls.
“She’s up 4-0 in the first set,” I reply.
I move from the couch area back over to the card table – this time behind Aunt Susie. I carefully pull on my earring – again opening my hand wide to show five after the earring pull.
Daddy – who has graciously put on a t-shirt this morning – takes a swig of his Miller High Life and then taps his cigarettes. I shake my head “no” and then exaggerate looking upward. Daddy smokes Kool Filter Kings.
Then Daddy crosses his legs and touches his foot. I say, “Hey this one time…”
“Ok. Go watch tennis. Let us play,” Daddy says. Then he gives me a wink before I turn around and lean against the couch looking back at the tennis match.
“Steffi won the first set,” I announce as I work my way back over to Mama’s side of the table.
I watch them laying out their runs and complaining about discards. I can already see that Mama and Aunt Susie aren’t gonna fare well this round. Still cloaked in their bathrobes, they may look like the frazzled young mothers they are – my siblings and cousins a tangled wad of one to four-year-olds on the floor of the big room – but they are also wicked smart. That’s not to say that the bachelor-looking pair of men in their boxers and undershirts aren’t smart, too, but the girls are outmatched by the extent of cheating going on today.
Normally, I’m out on my own: swimming, digging for sand dollars or meeting new people on this quiet little remote beach called Alligator Point. Today, though, it’s ugly outside, and I quickly grew tired of playing in the warm rain. I love tennis, and even though they won’t let me play cards with them, I do what I can. Plus, it’s where Daddy and I do our best bonding.
“What time are we eating lunch?” I ask Mama.
Daddy coughs, taps his chest and then puts his hand back on his cigarettes. I look to Mama and her cards for answers. “Not long,” she says. “Didn’t you just get a snack?”
I nod a “yes” but with my eyes on Daddy. I also take a minute to scratch my foot and look back to his cigarettes.
Daddy pushes away one card and chooses another. When it gets back around to him, he lays down a ton of points and goes out.
“What?” Mama says.
“That was too quick,” Aunt Susie says in that voice she uses when she suspects one of us kids have gotten into something we shouldn’t have.
“That’s how it’s done ladies. Count ‘em up – or down – as the case may be!” Uncle Stanley says with pride as he gets up for another beer. “Time for another cold one. Bubba?”
“Yep,” Daddy replies, and I get the coveted smile of appreciation before he gets back to counting out points.