It was bad enough that they’d crashed our wedding.
Well, not exactly our wedding. They were invited to that.
Right. It was the two days before, all the preparations at my parents’ place. That’s what they crashed.
Mike said there weren’t any rooms available at the hotel.
Which, if it was even true, meant that they had tried to book, like, that day.
No one visits that corner of the world unless they have family there. Even with the sixty people—
Sixty-four people coming to the wedding from out of town, that would leave, like, three quarters of the hotel empty.
What you have to understand is my mom is really sensitive about things going off plan—
Like, really sensitive.
Super super sensitive.
But Mike and Lisa just drove up with all their stuff and parked on the grass right where the tent was going to go.
Where later that day the people put the tent.
It had rained and so their shitty little Civic left these two deep ruts in the lawn.
Which you probably remember because the flower girl stumbled on them during the ceremony.
Which sent rose petals everywhere and totally cracked Mike up.
Glad somebody thought it was funny. But here’s the thing. Mike and Lisa were pretty good bridge players and we would play bridge with them every week or so back in Toronto. They knew that my mom and dad played, right, because when I taught them to play, I talked about how that’s where I learned and that’s where the way we bid came from and all that. So, like, while my mom was worried about how to ask them to move the car and where they were going to sleep, Mike was already, in that big voice of his, like, “Bridge tonight?”
So the other thing you need to know is that my mother-in-law is, like, really into coincidence and the universe as this magical place that engineers random events—good or bad—to tell her, to tell people, things.
Have you seen that Amy Schumer skit with Bill Nye? It’s just like that.
If you haven’t seen it, you should. Hilarious.
OK. My dad hates cell phones—
Even though he has one—
For when he’s on call.
Yeah. So, like two years ago—before the wedding and Mike and Lisa crashing the family home—
—the last time we played bridge with your parents—
—we were playing and Dad has this rule about not picking up the phone when you are, like, playing bridge or eating dinner. Stuff like that. But my cell phone kept ringing. Then their home phone was ringing. Eventually, my mom decided to pick it up.
While your dad was trying a small-slam.
Yeah, like a six spades.
Hearts, wasn’t it?
Spades, I think. A hard contract.
Like, one of the hardest.
But my brother was in trouble.
Well, not actually. But on the phone they say he’s dead. He’s found some chef who, like, smuggled in some fugu.
Fugu is the Japanese for blowfish.
Have you read The Serpent and The Rainbow by Wade Davis?
You should. It’s really interesting.
Like, John Carpenter made it into a movie.
Wes Craven. The point is, you get paralyzed, but your brain is active. This is with fugu poisoning. The book and the movie are about zombies in Haiti.
But it’s related.
Yeah. So, the way people die from blowfish poisoning is that they suffocate because they stop being able to breathe.
Like the muscles that make you breathe, they stop working. You can survive, though. But you look dead.
OK, so we drove down to Toronto, to the hospital.
Without finishing the hand.
Obviously. The doctor there—at the hospital—knows my dad from med school. My brother’s boyfriend is there.
He’s the one who explained about the fugu.
He wouldn’t say where they got it, though.
Like who served him.
Right. But we’ve both read that Wade Davis book and we’re like, He might still be alive. He might survive it.
Real heroic, right? But, we didn’t tell this to Mike and Lisa, about my brother surviving.
We did explain, though, how we hadn’t played bridge since that night.
Which was because my mom thought that the universe, by killing my brother—
—for about a day—
—was trying to say not to play bridge.
Like the universe cares.
Why didn’t we explain to Mike and Lisa about your brother being still alive?
I guess I thought it was evident, maybe.
Yeah. Like they would have heard if your brother had died.
I don’t know. How did they even react?
Oh, Mike was going like, Man, and, Oh my God, and swiping his hand down his face.
How did we not figure it out?
I feel like I sort of knew he didn’t get it.
Maybe I thought it was funny.
I don’t remember.
Anyway, we wait for my mom and dad to go to bed and we get out the bridge decks. We deal out our first hands.
And you’ve got a great hand.
So great. Mike and I are partners.
And you call a six heart.
Spade, but whatever. The point is that my phone—
Which is behind Mike—
It starts ringing and I’m playing this hand so I ignore it at first. But it keeps ringing and I’m like, Mike, can you pick that up? Tell them I’ll call them back.
So Mike says, Hello? then turns this shade of grey that is, like, scary.
I thought we were going to have to take him to the hospital.
It’s my brother on the phone, calling to say that his bus has just arrived in town, could someone please pick him up. And by the way, what’s wrong with Mike?
We didn’t expect him—
—until the next day.
But Mike thought he was dead, so that’s what was wrong with Mike.
We didn’t play bridge the rest of their visit, though.
Well, we were doing wedding stuff.
But Mike and Lisa didn’t even ask.
No. I did finish that hand though. I made it.
Yeah? I don’t remember that, but sure.
I did make it. Come on.
That’s not the point of the story.
Toronto, May-June 2015
Emoji sequence: Emma Sheppard
Story: Lee Sheppard