Friday 31st August: The Mahjong Mulligan?

Having found the Mulligan such a convivial companion on the golf course, I begin to think that he ought to take up mahjong, or at least keep the players company. I believe he may actually have put in an appearance or two at tonight’s game. He certainly seems to have taken a shine to David who was in full tile toppling, forgetful fumble-bumble form in the early stages of the evening. It must have been old Mulligan who saved his bacon, for at no point was he forced to eat a “Chombo” sandwich. On two occasions in quick succession he found himself with only two tiles, which is not actually a “Chombo” as such, but it does have the inconvenience of preventing you from completing a hand without drawing two tiles at once from the wall, a feat of dexterity well beyond a fumbler-bumbler, so don’t even think about trying it… The potential “Chombo” that was not forced home was when David cast out a tile, then forgot that he had done so and cast out a second, probably assuming that play had come back around to him again – the mind is quite capable of that type of peculiar and precipitous “looping the loop”, such that it becomes incomprehensible to grasp how the brain can cope with the notion of keeping track of time and duration atall, especially when the person whose pate it occupies is busy attempting to gorge himself and play simultaneously. Durée et simultanéité are puzzling affairs at the best of times, as old Bergson was apt to point out. How on earth am I supposed to count the clock that tells the time and all that sort of thing when I can’t even tell how much time has – if indeed any at all has, elapsed between one point and another? What, pray tell me Master Blake, is the difference between eternity and a grain of sand in an egg timer? Am I my brother’s time keeper? How can I tell (apart from by paying attention) whether or not all the other players have played their tiles when I am trying to enjoy my fried rice and miso soup at the same time as I am attempting to play the game?

Anyway, when it was pointed out to David that he had discarded a second tile, he swiftly whipped it back into his hand (with a dexterity that suggests he might succeed in that old two-tiles-in-one-go trick) and looked a bit sheepish. Fortunately, Kenyon, sat to David’s right, had not played his tile… [Was he actually involved in that part of the game? -Ed. [[Er, I dunno, now you come to mention it. – DH.]]] and so no Chombo was declared, which to my mind, is coming as close to declaring a Mahjong Mulligan as you are likely to get in an honest evening’s play.

The remarkable thing about it is that by the end of the game David was the only winner. Looking back upon it now, we have to bear in mind that Kenyon had been drinking the afternoon away and all the cola in America could not restore him to his accustomed sobriety that evening. Jaime had also been indulging to some extent when David rolled into Kemby’s a solid thirty or forty minutes later than the rest and was nicely teed up by virtue of hitting happy hour and knocking back two beers for the price of one (and paying through the nose for a pre-Kodama starter of soup and bread). Noda, too, had been at the sauce, it seemed. Emerging from his earlier stupor, David was able to play with a cheerful flexibility, as when he and Kenyon were commenting on his hand (while Kenyon sat out). It looked like it might head towards a bamboo forest, until David threw out the unattached 9-Bamboo tile and said to Kenyon “You wouldn’t’ve done that would you?”

– No, I certainly wouldn’t, said Kenyon.

It looked as if Kenyon’s path would have been the sounder when another 9-Bamboo appeared in David’s hand and was promtly discarded. It now consisted of an Iipeiko set and three sets of pairs plus two odd tiles; but when David drew a 5-Coins and kept it and threw the 8-Coins Kenyon thought he’d really lost the plot as it seemed to break up the potential of the attached 7-7-8 series. However, he got it when Jaime threw out the red 5-Coins and David promptly declared “Ron – Chiitoi… etc.” A double run of three can serve just as well for Chiitoi as for Iipeiko!

Well, whatever the circumstances, the evening had a pleasant buzz to it as the four of us had not played together for a while, Noda having gone a golfing in Ireland with his chums, and Kenyon having returned to America.

– So how was the golf in Ireland Mr Noda?

– Very good, beautiful courses – but very difficult. The rough is really long grass. The caddies had a special skill, which is, they can find the ball very easily even when it is completely hidden by long grass… Our chauffeur’s English was very difficult for me to understand at first.

– Do you realize, Mr Noda, that the annual per-capita income in Ireland is higher today than it is in Japan?

– I didn’t know, but everything was very expensive.

Having run out of fascinating facts to dispense about the state of contemporary Ireland that might be easily comprehendible to the oriental mind, I returned my attention to the game to find that we were half way through the second game and Noda had built up a huge lead and emptied my tray!

At the beginning of the third, David’s request that we abide by convention and change seats was outvoted by Jaime and Kenyon, and Noda acquiesced in their wish, as you would when your seat has just yielded a +73 crop!

It turned out, however, that David’s seat, despite that setback, was favoured by the gods. At least, it was favoured by the gods until the end of the third game, when we finally changed seats and Jaime took David’s former seat. It transpired that David’s luck was of the mobile sort and it fled with him and pitched its tent where David set up his camp in Noda’s former seat and spent the rest of the evening waxing valiant in fight and turning to flight the armies of the aliens in his behalf.

David +35, -56, +39, +39, +36 = +93
Noda -17, +73, +5, -8, +15 = +68
Kenyon -6, -6, -6, +4, +3 = -11
Jaime -12, -11, -38, -35, -54 = -150

The result puts David back on top, with Noda now +46 and Jaime down to third on +91.

David Hurley