Angle of Genuflection



“Oh, good one,” she commented, otherwise silent, both jealous and impressed. All three card were different in each category, which was usually the hardest one to look for; unless you were good at that kind of pattern recognition. The ones that you didn’t see immediately, really, but came about from the space between the cards and their qualities. It was a recognition of what otherwise felt like chaos, everything visually out of order.

It was then again diligently silent at the table for at least a minute. No one moving or shifting or making noises, nothing revealing about the process of the game as it was played. We were surrounded be cribbage games and our grid of cards was illuminated by third eyes beaming out light from our foreheads at a shy angle of genuflection.

“Set,” she blurted out quickly, again reaching across to pull three cards from the grid of twelve. Different shapes, different shading, same colors, same numbers; I’d seen it just as she called it.

Colin sat across from me, beer at his lap, elbow on the table, hand at his chin, struggling quietly to catch on. It was a frustrated kind of quiet, though, I could see him trying to work out a pattern and having little success.


All diamonds; different numbers, different colors, same shading, lines. The thin line patterns were my favorite if you wanted to focus on the aesthetic hierarchy rather than the logic and pattern recognition. Not that what you liked about it seemed to help all that much in real time, as the quiet race against everyone else on the grid.

We had collectively explained the method of play, although it wasn’t a card game really in which how others played help you all that much. If anything, the large group of players got in the way, the pressure of the timing and speed at which the sets were called, and even when they were explained each time, was too fast for his first game.

Kathy sat down next to me at the edge of the picnic bench. “Oh, is this Set?” she asked. “I love this game.” She noticed Colin’s lack of success and began to talk it out. “I can’t help it, I’m a teacher. So if you were one of my students I would start to talk through the strategy and offer encouragement.” Which she did. It helped a bit. As the game dwindled down eventually to the last cards remaining on the table were discussed, and the process that had been going on silently in our heads was drawn out, what had been silently happening around us partially illuminated.

Not that the annotation itself immediately imparted the skill.

That required practice, and repetition, and encouragement, or a healthy sense of competition and self-direction in the face of that easily confusing mess of colors and textures.


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