Carroll Dale Short

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A Pair of Dice? Paradise

By Dale Short

To say that I grew up in a strict household is an understatement.

My folks were serious churchgoers, and Job One of the church was to make sure the Devil did not sneak into our lives through our daily activities.

I figured that the Devil must have been a pretty busy guy, because there was a long list of things we were not allowed to do and the list got longer every time something new was invented.

Drugs and alcohol, of course, were forbidden. But those were just the tip of the iceberg. I was not permitted to attend high school football because there was a rumor that people there drank alcohol and bet on the games. The other works of the Devil included television, movies, any type of music except gospel music, immodest clothing on women (our church voted to withdraw from the Southern Baptist Convention when the pastor got a brochure in the mail with a picture of the SBC's summer youth camp featuring boys and girls in swimsuits at the same pool), playing cards, dice, and anything related to gambling. Checkers and dominoes somehow got a pass from this requirement, even though people could obviously bet on checkers and dominoes if they wanted to.

The gambling ban was so strict that, for Christmas one year, I got a Monopoly game with the dice removed. I have no memory of how we played Monopoly without them, and for some reason just seeing a Monopoly game bums me out till this day.

I'm one of the few people in the world who don't know how to play cards. Any kind of cards. No Uno, no Rook, nothing. Apparently Rook was invented by Parker Brothers in 1906 and was nicknamed “Missionary Poker” because it allowed Puritans and Mennonites to squeak around the no-card requirement. They did not fool the Missionary Baptists, though, as least not our group.

A co-worker many years ago invited me to his house for poker night, and because of his wife's famous homemade hors d'oeuvres and his bottomless supply of ice-cold specialty beers, I decided what the heck. He assured me that I could watch the other guys play a hand or two and sort of pick up the game by osmosis.

No such luck. Trying to internalize the rules gave me a splitting headache that required a good portion of his beer supply to counteract. I've never tried cards again. I don't know if I'm just stuck in my ways, or if my genes have been permanently tattooed, at some level below conscious thought, against Devil stuff.

Come to think of it, I guess I'm stuck in my ways, because I sure don't hold any grudges against television, movies, and skimpy clothing. Sometimes you can even see movies on television about people with skimpy clothing, which is bound to be a trifecta, whatever that means.

What brings the whole subject to mind is that I was waiting in a long supermarket line the other day and found myself staring at a rack of impulse items that included Bicycle Brand playing cards and, lo and behold, Bicycle Brand dice.

The dice were marked down from their usual price. I figured it was fate, and I got them.

The lady checking me out smiled and said, “Are you going to have a dice game tonight, hon'?”

I explained to her that I didn't know how to play dice, but that I wanted to learn because I was never allowed to own any as a child. And as the great Tom Robbins once wrote, “It's never too late to have a happy childhood.”

She got a serious look and leaned a little toward me, conspiratorially.

“You're not going to tell your momma I sold you these, are you?”

I assured her I would not.

Seven come eleven. Baby needs a pair of shoes. Fade me. Cover me. Get hot, bones.

Whatever that means.

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