Aelwyn settled up with the taxi driver and walked steadily into the village hall. He enjoyed his weekly bridge game. His wife of five and a half decades had died last year, and apart from Sunday lunch with his son’s family, this was his favourite outing.
He had loved Kath deeply, but she had never been his ideal partner for the game – being often a step behind his reasoning – and he had long ago learned not to carry out postmortems on bidding or play. She was aware of her limitations, and any criticism would have further damaged her confidence. Aelwyn had partnered her with love, patience and understanding, in cards as he did in life, and she would play with no-one else.
It was different when Aelwyn partnered Geoffrey. From the first, despite more than twenty years difference in age, they had an intuitive connection: they thought alike, and when dummy’s hand was laid out the bidder could always see his partner’s logic. When they failed it was usually bad luck in the fall of the cards: they had a calm examination of what had gone wrong, and each agreed that they would have bid and played the hand as the other had. More often, though, they won.
Aelwyn felt the familiar tingle of anticipation as he turned over his cards, and held them close to examine them. Not bad, there might be something on here…Geoffrey was clearly very strong in spades, his own Q-10-6-2 could support that…soon they had arrived at six spades, and Aelwyn laid out his hand with his usual quiet assurance.
One of the opposing pair let out a small grunt, and there was a long moment when the three players all stared at the thirteen cards on the table. Finally, with a tiny shake of his head, Geoffrey took the black queen out from under the ten of spades and placed it under the six of clubs.
Aelwyn stared closely at the rogue card and put his hand to his forehead.
“Don’t worry about it Aelwyn” said Geoffrey. “These things happen.”
Not to me, thought Aelwyn. Not until now.
He sat and watched their opponents clinically take advantage of his mistake. Geoffrey fell one trick short. Perfect bidding, almost.
On his journey home, the taxi driver tried to make small talk, but Aelwyn was in his own thoughts. At 89, he now felt truly old. Old and useless. He knew he had played his last game of bridge. When he reached home he was soon asleep in his armchair.