Four Hearts Under a Table 2007

Captain Blackjack sat across from Lieutenant Canasta. As was their Tuesday custom, they sat down to play bridge against their opponents, Sergeant Whist and Lieutenant Poker. The four suitably seated, Sergeant Whist dealt the cards. Something was afoul.

“Something is afoul,” said Sergeant Whist.

“Indeed, afoul,” said Lieutenant Poker.

“One might say amiss,” said Lieutenant Canasta.

Sergeant Whist jumped onto the table, to a conclusion.

“A card is missing,” he proclaimed.

“Indeed, a card is missing,” said Lieutenant Poker.

“Did you take the card?” asked Captain Blackjack.

“No, sir,” said Sergeant Whist.

He sat back down.

“I certainly didn’t take the card,” theorized Captain Blackjack, “and since you didn’t take the card, I can only conclude that one of the other players did just that.”

“Indeed, just that,” said Lieutenant Poker.

Captain Blackjack reached across the table, to a conclusion.

“So you took the card?” he said.

“No, sir, you’ve asked me already,” said Sergeant Whist.

Captain Blackjack reached in a different direction.

“I am referring to Lieutenant Poker. His words were positively damning,” he said.

“Indeed, damning,” said Lieutenant Poker.

“He admits it,” said Sergeant Whist.

Lieutenant Canasta grasped, with his right hand, a conclusion.

“Perhaps, gentlemen, Lieutenant Poker is merely uttering the word .indeed’ followed by an extract of the previous sentence,” he explained.

“Why would he do such a thing?” wondered Sergeant Whist.

“Who knows?” said Captain Blackjack.

“We could ask him,” suggested Sergeant Whist.

“Indeed, ask him,” said Lieutenant Poker.

“Regardless of the reason,” continued Lieutenant Canasta, “I suspect he has not taken the card. I assure you that neither have I. Given that pertinent information, we must conclude that the card is missing of its own accord.”

“How can you be worried about such trivial matters? We must first find out why Lieutenant Poker is merely uttering the word .indeed’ followed by an extract of the previous sentence,” declared Captain Blackjack.

“Indeed, followed by an extract of the previous sentence,” said Lieutenant Poker.

“I think the matter will be cleared up if we find the missing card,” said Lieutenant Canasta.

“How can a card be missing of its own accord?” asked Sergeant Whist.

Captain Blackjack, Lieutenant Canasta, and Sergeant Whist all crashed together, into a conclusion.

“It ran away!” they exclaimed.

“Indeed, they exclaimed,” said Lieutenant Poker.

“It appears that Lieutenant Poker has taken the meaning of .the previous sentence’ far too literally,” noted Captain Blackjack. “Still, we must find that card if we are to play on.”

“Words are very interesting when used in that way,” mused Sergeant Whist. “How did he know, for instance, that we are merely fictional characters in a story?”

“Perhaps he has read the story,” said Lieutenant Canasta. “It is unfortunate that he is speaking in this way, for then he could at least tell us the ending.”

“I agree that it would be nice to get that nastiness over with,” said Sergeant Whist.

Captain Blackjack took charge, of a conclusion.

“If you were a card, where would you run off to?” he said.

“Indeed, you were a card,” said Lieutenant Poker, but this time no one heard him.

“Perhaps to frolic with other cards,” ventured Sergeant Poker.

“But we have the other fifty-one cards,” said Captain Blackjack.

“Not the jokers,” said Sergeant Poker.

“No respectable card would want to be seen with them,” said Lieutenant Canasta. “I think we must first determine exactly which card is missing.”

It didn’t take long.

“Indeed, not long at all,” said Lieutenant Poker.

“Aha! Our previous theories were wrong,” said Lieutenant Canasta.

“You mean there isn’t a card missing?” said Captain Blackjack.

“I am referring to Lieutenant Poker’s condition,” said Lieutenant Canasta.

“How irrelevant!—we are identifying the missing card,” said Captain Blackjack.

“But we’ve already done that,” said Lieutenant Canasta.

“Well what card is missing, then?” said Captain Blackjack.

“I don’t recall,” said Sergeant Whist.

“Alas,” said Captain Blackjack.

“Indeed, a lass,” said Lieutenant Poker.

“Hold on! We haven’t considered the case that our original count was wrong,” said Captain Blackjack. “I count thirteen in my hand.”

“I have thirteen cards,” said Lieutenant Canasta.

“As do I,” said Sergeant Whist. “Still, the card could be missing from Lieutenant Poker’s hand. If only we knew whether he had twelve cards or thirteen.”

“Indeed, twelve,” said Lieutenant Poker.

“Well, that was convenient,” appreciated Captain Blackjack. He was now worth double.

“Perhaps we could resolve the simpler matter of Lieutenant Poker,” said Lieutenant Canasta.

“His condition seems incurable,” said Sergeant Whist.

“Was he ever like this before?” asked Captain Blackjack.

“No, never,” said Lieutenant Canasta.

“Indeed, hardly ever,” said Lieutenant Poker.

“It must be destiny that forces our hand to contain one card fewer, and seeks to disrupt our peaceful play,” said Sergeant Whist. “We can always try to spit in its face, of course. That always fails, but it just might work in our case.”

“Why?” inquired Lieutenant Canasta.

“Why not?” Sergeant Whist countered.

“All too true,” said Captain Blackjack. “We may never know where that card lies. It could be in any sort of shady place. Instead, let us play the first game of bridge with fifty-one cards!”

“And they did,” said Lieutenant Poker.