Greenville, NC – Pop culture says most of us have an "inner child" inside us that never grows up. This inner child splashes in puddles, hits others with the kickball, hoards dolls and wants to race downhill on a skateboard.
If most everyone else has an inner child, I have an inner card shark. Beneath my grown-up exterior lies an ice-cream loving card player who needs a nap. If you deal me a hand, I'd better win. Or I'll kick you.
I got to be an 8-year-old card shark naturally enough playing cards with my father. Back in the day, he made the circuit of smoky back rooms where glasses of Scotch sat on tables like amber paperweights, surrounded by decks of cards and dollar bills.
Do you think we played ordinary kid games like Go Fish or Old Maid? No way. Dad and I played Rummy. Gin Rummy.
Don't confuse Gin Rummy with ordinary Rummy. That Rummy is a gentle game for friends, and to focus on winning is almost impolite.
No, Gin Rummy is not a friendly game. The goal is to match your cards into sets, as fast as possible and declare yourself the winner. And then mock your opponent until he cries.
Dad and I played just as tough as he did with his slick, poker-faced friends. He never gave me a break and when I made a mistake, I lost. I loved it - loved the fast play, the high stakes and the sheer blood lust of playing for keeps.
His advice included gems like, You'll never win waiting on four of a kind. Better hold onto pairs and match them into threes to go out faster. Or, Don't hold your high cards, cause they count against you when you lose, and It's better to get three of a kind than try for straights..
But his favorite was A card laid is a card played. Just say that during a family Rummy game.
Sometimes my husband and I pull out the cards for a nice game of two-handed solitaire. Every once in a while we play Rummy - the friendly version.
The teeth and claws come out, and I get a bloodthirsty look. I clutch the cards and shuffle violently. Greg looks at me, and instead of his wife, sees the Inner Card Shark leering at him.
"On second thought," he'll say, "let's just watch a movie."