By Tom Sloper

August 24, 2003

Column #116

American mah-jongg (2003 NMJL card). Esther rolled the dice. "Five." She counted five from the right end, but with the rack being right there by the tiles, she couldn't get a grip on the short wall. She decided it would be easier to push the whole wall out into the middle of the table, then pull back the five. With her right hand, she grasped tiles and rack together, and with both hands she pushed the wall out, then pulled back.

Unfortunately, as often happens with this type of pullback maneuver, there hadn't been enough slack between the tiles being pulled back and the rest of the wall. So pulling back the five stacks pulled back the top row of tiles with it. Avalanche!

"Oy." Esther tried to start repairing the damage, but Wesley calmly said, "Just leave it. We'll get'em." Esther flustered, "I'm such a klutz!" She quickly pulled back the rack and slid the short five-stack wall to the left, butting them up against the rack's end plate. "Pretty smooth, Esther!" she chided herself, as she reached to get her four tiles from the ruins of the wall.

Soon the other players had sorted out their tiles from the jumble, and the deal progressed into unbroken wall. All was right again with the world. Until Esther looked at her tiles.

Twos and sevens. "Ucchh," she kvetched. First a botched wall serve, then these. She began by considering evens versus odds, lows versus highs. Odds looked better, so that's how she started the Charleston. By the end of the Charleston she had the right to kvetch, "Not a single tile!"

As the picking progressed, Esther kept getting winds. West was her particular nemesis. She got three of them. But despite all the troubles the world dealt her this hand, she started making a little progress.

The wall in front of Nora was shrinking too quickly, though, and Wesley had two pungs of flowers showing.

He didn't have any kongs of numbers showing, though, and no wind was completely dead, so it was likely that he was doing the 2003 NEWS hand. Which meant it might be dangerous to throw the W or the 2C. As the wall in front of Nora shrank to a few stacks, Esther perceived that she wasn't going to be able to make her kong of sevens. So she dogged. She threw her joker and her 7C. With the last tile gone from Nora's wall, Esther threw in her hand and started telling what she'd been doing.

The other players were oddly not throwing in, and not joining the postmortem, Esther finally noticed. "You're dead," Wesley told her. "There's still some wall left." He pointed.

Esther looked down and to her shock, there, at the left end of her rack, were five stacks of tiles. She'd forgotten that she'd pushed them to the left after botching the initial serve.

"Probably wasn't a good idea to put those at the left end of the rack like that," Wesley observed.

Esther pushed out her wall, then got up to freshen her snack plate as the others played out the wall.

It was a wall game after all. Wesley had been waiting for a soap. "Were you looking for this? I just picked it," Sophia gloated.

Coming back to the table and helping wash the tiles, Esther asked about her mistake. "So the last short wall should be at the right side of the rack?"

Wesley nodded, "Yes. That way they're in plain sight."

Nora chimed in, "Don't worry, dear. I've done that, too. Live and learn. Whose deal is it?"

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Copyright 2003 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved.