"I can't promise," I said.
We arrived at our assigned table in a card room approximately two miles long, and there were our opponents, two middle-aged, white-haired men wearing white, short-sleeved shirts and the expressions of zombies—highly intelligent zombies. They looked like they had just walked out of a poker room in a James Bond movie. They extended limp hands by way of introduction, looked at our nude deviation sheet, showed us their frightfully complex one and handed Ray a new deck of cards to shuffle. My heart began pounding.
Ray turned to one of the opponents. "Wouldn't you like to shuffle?" he said, offering the cards.
"No," the man said without looking up.
The first time Ray brought the two halves together to shuffle they didn't quite touch, and he achieved nothing. Then the whole deck squirted up in the air in a perfect two-and-a-half with a full twist in the layout position, but with his shaking hands Ray somehow caught everything on the way down. He gave the cards a couple of riffles and they merged! He had shuffled! Let people say what they want, for my money Ray Cave never stood so tall.
I saw the opponents give each other a quick look that seemed to signify something or other, but I couldn't figure out what. Ray won the cut for deal and opened the bidding with one tremulous heart, but the opposition won the auction with a bid of three diamonds. Hardly had play begun when I accidentally dropped a card on the table. "That's an exposed card!" one of the white-haired men announced. I certainly didn't think it was an original Vel�zquez, but he shook me with his pouncing attitude, and I said stupidly, "Oh, is it?"
A few leads later, after Cave had failed to show up with certain high cards, the declarer sniffed the air as though something smelled, placed his hand on the table face down, fixed Cave with a steely look and said, "Do you bid psychs?" (A psychic bid, or psych, is any utterly meaningless bid completely unjustified by the cards you hold, and if you make such crazy bids, which we didn't, you must announce your habit to the opponents in advance, which we hadn't.)
"No," Cave said.
"Well, sir," the opponent said, scaring me half to death, because I knew that the only time bridge players call you sir is when you're in trouble, "you certainly bid a psych this time!"
"I did?" said Cave, turning a cowardly ashen.