By Tom Sloper

Sunday, May 18, 2003

Column #43

American (2003 NMJL card). As the axiom goes, "the shortest distance between two points is a straight line." There's usually a Run hand that is "this year's shortest distance" to mah-jongg. On the 2003 card, that hand is Run #5. So we come to Nora's tiles.

In the first left, she got an 8B, which vindicated her previous thoughts about going for Run #5. She wanted to stop the Charleston so she could keep another hand open as well, but Sophia had already put Esther's 2nd left in her hand.

Other than the 8B she'd gotten during the first Charleston, it was an uneventful passing party. She now had a pair of 5Cs, but they were of dubious value.

Thus the picking and throwing began. On her 2nd pick Nora got 7C, which helped nicely.

Nora had a brief quandary when a 9D went out. To make Run #5, she needed a kong of those. But she'd use both Js if she took it, so she decided to pass. On her 4th pick she got 8B. A little later when Wesley threw 8B, so Nora konged it. Soon, she picked a joker.

Then, well into the last wall, a 6C finally went out. "Call."

Throwing 5D, Nora was waiting for 9D or J. Nobody else had any exposures up. Nora's exposures were nicely ambiguous. She might be doing 2468 #6 (2D 4D 6C 8B). Or she might be doing Run #5 in one of two ways: 5C 6C 7D 8B, or (of course) 6C 7C 8B 9D. Since she'd thrown 5C twice, everyone could see that 7C and 9D were the dangerous tiles as for Run #5. Regarding 2468 #6, the dangerous discards would be 2D, 4D, and 4C.

Wesley redeemed the joker from Nora's rack. Wouldn't you know it, Nora's next pick was 6C. As she discarded it, she gave Wesley a dirty look. He just picked from the wall, looking quite smug in the process. Unless that was just Nora's imagination.

Esther threw 4D. Sophia breathed, "That was brave!" and got a blank look from Esther. Esther looked at Wesley, who nodded knowingly. Esther searched the card, wanting in on the secret before she did something costly.

Nora hated being exposed.

As the wall grew shorter, there came a time when joker exposures went up, and Nora started fervently wishing for lucky picks to redeem them. After Nora threw 2D, Wesley punged it, with one joker. There was one 2D on the discard floor, but there was still one more somewhere. At first, nobody redeemed it. Along with everyone else, Nora reasoned that the last 2D must be in the wall. It was Esther who picked the 2D and redeemed it, causing groans to erupt from the other players. Now the wall was getting very short!

Sophia called a Flower discarded by Esther, and put a kong up with one joker. Nobody had a flower to redeem that, it seemed.

Soon there was only one tile left in the wall, and it was Nora's turn. Nora hoped the tile was 9D, J, or F. When she took it, she rubbed it on the tablecloth for luck...

And it was a joker!!

"I can't believe it! Look! The very last tile!"

Nora put up her hand.

Sophia showed that she'd been holding a 9D. Wesley showed one also.

A straight line may well be the shortest path. But when the line goes through sand, the walk can seem very, very long.

Click the entries in the header frame, above, to read other columns.

Copyright 2003 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved.