Saturday, October 22, 2016

The Sound Of One Hand Playing

Mostly what I remember is the arm of the couch in my parents' basement. It was covered in short brown faux fur, and it was where I sat as I laid out endless games of Klonkide solitaire. This was the game I was taught by my mother, and I watched over her shoulder for many years, kibitzing about the red three on the black four until she finally hushed me and sent me away. As a middle child and a bit of a misanthrope, I took comfort in the endless repetition and patterns of the game. The summer that I spent waiting for my high school sweetheart to finish her day's work and I could go and pick her up, I sat there on that couch and played all those red threes on black fours. I flipped and dealt and flipped and dealt and every so often I came up a winner. All cards turned over. Never satisfied, I shuffled the deck and started over again. The next one would be the last.
Years later, when I discovered that my mother had solitaire on the computer she used to run her bookkeeping business, I used most any opportunity to sit down in front of that machine and play until my eyes got sore and my clicking finger got weak. There was still a huge advantage to not having to manipulate the physical deck of cards, which only exacerbated my interest in that one more game. It was about this time that a childhood friend of mine discovered my compulsive interest in solitaire. This was the guy for whom everything was a bet, a wager to see who could win this or that innocuous challenge. He wanted to sign me up for a trip to Vegas where I could beat the odds and bring home beaucoup bucks. I believe at the time he was even offering to stake me, seeing me as a good bet. I had put in the hours, after all.
That never happened. But when I did get my own computer, I found Freecell and didn't look back. Sure, I spent a few anxious moments exploring the time sink of Minesweeper  , but if I was going to play an obscure game of mild chance, I was going to go with a classic. Or at least one that gave me a reminder of those afternoons spent staring at the arm of the couch in the basement.
Now I am running Windows 10. Microsoft has seen fit to include their deluxe assortment of electronic versions of that arm of the couch. Now, much to my wife's periodic dismay, I can be found in those odd hours of the day that can't contain work or real enthusiasm staring at the various permutations of fifty-two cards. Some of them are face up, some of them face down. The trick is to unravel the knot that keeps them that way. I am bringing order to chaos. No wonder I enjoy solitaire so very much.

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