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By Tom Sloper

February 19, The Year Of The Dog
Column #254

American mah-jongg (2005 NMJL card). As we left our players last time, they had agreed to adopt a special hand just for the Chinese New Year.

1911 and 1949 (dates from modern Chinese history), with pungs of E (since China is in the Far East) and R (chung, the national symbol of China). Value: a whole dollar. Sophia, who'd initially objected to the special one-night hand, thought she might be close when she finished the Charleston.

She had passed away the 4B early on, but, thankfully, it had come back. She didn't have a complete 1911, but the craks were close. She didn't have a 1949, but the bams or the dots could go that way. Her first pick was 9D, discarding 8D. The mah-jongg gods knew a good opportunity to deal up some irony when they saw one. So they threw everything they could at poor Sophia that night. First she drew 5C. Visions of 13579 #1 danced in her head. But she threw it back. Next she picked 3B. She remembered passing one of those away during the Charleston, and now 13579 #2 renewed its own taunting dance. She threw it back. Oh those mah-jongg gods! Soon she was looking at 5C, then 3D. Both went back onto the table, her blood boiling a little hotter with each throw. Then the gods turned merciful. A joker. (She threw 3C.) Then followed several junk picks in a row. Then she got 4D. She had her 1949, so the 4B was expendable. Then Wes threw E. Esther went, "Oooh!" Sophia agonized but decided not to reveal too much just yet. The mah-jongg gods "rewarded" her with another 1B. She looked on the table for 1Cs and 1Bs. None of either.

She had to choose. The others were showing signs of impatience. She threw 9B, from loyalty to the firstcomers, the craks. Esther threw E, thanking Wes. That's when Sophia went for it, causing some hubbub. She threw 1B, and next picked another joker.

She threw 1B and was waiting for 1C. Sophia suffered through several agonizing junk picks, and as it turned out, the last tile from the wall was her 1C. The mah-jongg gods had let her win, extracting every ounce of pleasure they could along the way.


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© 2006 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved.