Idyllic Hearts

I learned to play Hearts from Scep’s mom, who is a magical card-playing wizard. This is because when she lived abroad in Tanganyika, her expat circle involved many, many evenings of card parties. When I lived abroad in Yantai, my expat circle involved many many evenings of drinking and so I am extremely skilled at — well, anyway, she is an amazing Hearts player.

I spent some summers in high school and college at their island in Canada, playing a lot of Hearts by kerosene lamp. (Scep’s mom, after her expat adventures, considered electricity in the summer house to be a cute luxury item.) Scep and his whole family are pretty serious card sharks, actually. You play a perfectly good move, and someone giggles, and sure enough, you’re getting stuck with the queen next hand. Sometimes the entire table goes silent as everyone does the math to see if the player with 21 points is an unlucky idiot or a genius about to run.

Sounds like an idyllic way to spend summers, now that I am describing it. There was also that night when a bat flew in the window (screens are cute luxury items, too) and we all silently conspired to keep it secret from one guest who was desperately afraid of bats. Hearts is a pretty good game if you want to learn to read faces, is what I’m saying.

This is the beach that you have to drive to, but my Dad likes it better than the one you can walk to.

This is the beach that you have to drive to, but my dad likes it better than the ones you can walk to.

When I was visiting my parents last weekend, we had a game after dinner. The parsonage has a small breakfast nook, under a window like a triptych, which Google tells me is called a bay window. My mom challenged everyone to a game of Hearts, and then proceeded to ask repeatedly how many points the queen is worth, so I am a little suspicious that she just wanted us all to use her new tavern chairs and look out the cool window. I’m just saying.

I’m alright at Hearts. I can’t count cards so I mostly play by watching what suits other players have finished, while trying to eliminate a suit from my hand. And I throw myself on my sword by picking up a trick if I’m pretty sure someone’s going to run, but then I’m afraid that it looks like a mistake so I have to announce that I am doing this intentionally.  But since my family all use the ol’ discard-hearts-as-fast-as-possible strategy (… and usually by discarding highest-to-lowest, by suit, making it super easy to tell what they’ve finished!), I pulled into the lead.

My family didn’t change up their strategies to beat me , but they did discover that they could hand me three bizarre card choices at the beginning of each round to make me wonder what kind of crazy strategy they were using… when of course they were really just messing with me.

Hearts is a good game, is what I’m saying.

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