Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Desperately Seeking Card Games

Ages ago, in this thread, I was challenged to write about Card Games and now, I know what to write about, with apologies to Megs B...

Desperately Seeking Card Games

When I was in Grade 8, our school entered a brief and troubling theatre of cruelty phase. Everywhere we looked, someone seemed to be either being bullied, dishing out some bullying, hanging around the fringes of a bullying motion, or just running from a teacher trying to give out a pink slip for bullying. It got very disconcerting, and in my unofficial role as "hands across the school" girl, the one person who truly covered all our social bases, I was dragged in one day by a passing nun and asked my thoughts on the problem. What problem I said, for my ability to not take sides had been my most valuable asset throughout my entire schooling life, and was a key part of my role. The bullying problem, said the nun, idly drumming her fingers on the desk, desperately thinking of a Jesus related metaphor to wheel into our conversation. She didn't quite overtly, later in the conversation, say that I was the school Jesus because I loved all mankind, but that was the implication, and it was left at that. Clearly, I had to be the bridge between the bullys and the bennys.

My friend Megs B, sipping on a fruit box, as she often did, was no stranger to bullying, after the rumours about her and Shane Rinner in Grade 5. She was a trusted aide, but a cruel piss taker when she needed to be. She wrote "No Y in Jesus" across one of my notebooks after I told her my mission. Still, no one liked a bully, and even if it was just a case of someone saying "your pink pen sucks", such criticisms were hurtful. So Megs B, after pondering all options, decided that the next art class would be a perfect start. We would wait until our art teacher would leave, and then we'd bridge the gap between the classes with a game of cards. Surely everyone loved cards. It would allow everyone to get to know each other, and more importantly, I'd give the credit for any decrease in bullying firmly to Megs B, since it would allow leeway to go and smoke every now and then. Everyone, as they say, was a winner.

I mentioned before in the first story about our woodwork teacher, and our art teacher, Mr McInally, was a borderline alcoholic firebrand, with a passion for colour, movement, and vodka. He had done some fearsome art installations in the 1960s, including one which basically involved him yelling at people for entering the room, yelling and yelling until he or they left. As a dedicated art lover and painter, I was very proud of whenever he liked my paintings. He also told me, in confidence, a particularly libellous story about Cher and half a pound of Dairy Milk which, for the sake of taste, I won't repeat. We bonded, but we also knew these bonds had limits. Sometimes, the class wouldn't want to paint, and it would be up to me to communicate this. "We don't feel inspired" I would say, rolling my eyes. He would be upset, but understanding of the artistic temprament, and leave the room to go to the staff room to berate punk kids, and swill vodka from a mug. When we did want to paint, he would dance around the room like a dervish, but today, no painting, no inspiration, vodka in a mug. I always felt bad doing it, but sometimes, it was important to get some space.

Megs B (and for that matter my other friend Megs Parminter, who’s grandad shot a Mexican who tried to rob his store, or something like that) was clearly the kind of person the casino was built for, and before anyone knew what was happening, we were in some kind of 1930s den of iniquity. I swear someone was smoking a cee-gar. Anyway, Megs B was front and centre, dealing cards, making up games in that ridiculous way people who can deal cards are want to do (“3 in a bed, Jokers Blind, Peruvian draw, all in, no paper clips allowed”). I nudged Megs B in the ribs and pointed to her rapidly accumulating pile of cash.

“Megs B, you know, we’re doing this to try and bond the class, it’s just for fun…” I said gently.

“You in?” was all she said, muttering darkly to herself.

I shook my head, as things began to spiral out of control. Amber Bennett lost her Cherry Ripe money and was fuming. The poor kids were crying. Even the bullies were swept aside, in Megs B’s lust for cash and success. Soon, kids were betting smocks and art supplies to try and take her down, but to no avail. Cash, smocks, lunch boxes, they piled up next to her, and it seemed as though our little bonding exercise was manipulated. It was then that Claire, who had wagged class to go and do something unspecified, swanned in, clutching a baseball cap. Everyone fell silent, as Claire spied Megs B large pile of swag, shook her head, and smiled the kind of smile I'd recognise much later as purest evil.

"Megs B, your wanted at the front desk, your mum has come to visit"

Megs B paused...she eyed Claire cooly, then looked down at her pile of cash, and back at Claire.


Claire nodded solemnly. Megs B put down her cards face down, and yelled snappily at one of the smaller kids to guard them, and sprinted off down the hall. At which point, Claire picked them up, studied them for a moment, and wandered up to Amber Bennett and casually mentioned Megs B had 2 Aces and 2 6s. A quick shuffle through the deck, and suddenly Amber was armed with a royal flush. And when Megs B came back, we casually sat around chatting as Amber wiped out Megs B, took all the prizes back, and distributed them back to those who'd lost them in the first place.

"Bastards!" said Megs B, jabbing a finger in Claire's direction.

"Now now Megs B" I said, darkly. "Remember, Jesus hated gambling..."

Oddly, Megs B wasn't happy, but bullying did stop, for we had bridged the gap between the bennys and the cool kids, since now, everyone had something to talk about - Megs Bs gambling rage became the talk of the school, putting everyone in a quiet frenzy, at least until that whole flashing incident...

And just as I predicted, I gave Megs B the credit, to the point she even gave a talk to the younger kids on bullying at the end of year. There's never any credit for bridging the social gap, just a nod and a smile, and the knowledge that you've survived, one day at a time...one day at a time...


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