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Irish pt. XLVI


The day before the match we head over to the Starbucks on Rosecrans. Me, YoYo, Larry, Desireee, and Ramona.

We meet a big black Denali at the Starbucks. We board the Denali. Our driver is a large woman of indeterminate ethnicity. Could be Samoan, could be N/A. Either way she doesn't have much to say. She concentrates on driving.

The skies are blue. Larry is texting on his phone. YoYo does a crossword. Desiree reads a Sue Grafton. Ramona and I sit and watch the scenery roll by.

We get to the casino. Some clouds have appeared in the sky.

We check in, are shown to our suite. We are the first guests to ever use this room. In fact the casino has only been open for a week or two.

"Jesus!" says Larry. "I remember when these guys started out. They were just a couple of double wides out in the desert."

"Who knew running a casino would be a money maker?" says Desiree.

"Guess Trump didn't get the memo," says YoYo.

"I'm going for a swim," I say. There's a huge turquoise pool spread out below our balcony.

Desiree says, "I'm hungry. Anybody want room service?"

"Geez Desiree! You know what room service costs? Can't we just go down to the free buffet in the casino?" says Larry.

"Oh Larry, my little penny pincher," says Desiree.

"Not all of us grew up in La Jolla," says Larry.

There's a little more banter but YoYo and I are out the door and down to the pool.

But now clouds are really rolling in.

"Looks like rain," I say. I dip into the pool. The pool is heated and huge. I swim underwater for what seem like miles before I have to come up for air, still ten yards from the wall.

When my head breaks the surface I look over and see YoYo scrolling on her phone. The sky has grown quite dark.

I do an easy breaststroke back to YoYo. "C'mon in, the water is lovely," I say.

"I don't want to mess up my hair," says YoYo. "Weatherman says we gonna get hit with a monsoon, this afternoon. Hardest rain since 1992!"

Just then there's a crack of thunder. Now the lifeguards start to clear the pool.

YoYo and I get out and head back through the casino. I spot Larry and Desiree. I guess ol' Larry talked Desiree out of ordering room service.

Back in the suite Ramona is Skyping with Pete Moss.

We get back to the suite. Ramona is still skyping with Pete Moss. Larry and Desiree show up, loaded with food.

"C'mon Ramona, hang up on that bum already. You got a big match in a couple of hours. Have some food. We got shrimp cocktail for you."

After a convoluted goodbye, Ramon does cut the connection. Then we all dig in.

"So, how you feel about this match?" says Larry.

Ramona shrugs. "Another day, another match," says Ramona.

"Have you done any homework at all?" says Larry.

"I guess Joe Bap is a kid. He's memorized the Scrabble dictionary or something," says Ramona. "He knows 1400 two letter words, so he's probably pretty good at combos and plays solid defense. I think his last match He blocked his opponent from scoring any triple word scores at all."

"So you have done some research," says Larry.

"I am a professional, Larry," says Ramona. She pops a shrimp, dripping with cocktail sauce, into her mouth.

Just then rain spatters on the balcony.

"Here it comes," I say.

Except it doesn't. The spatter stops. The air is heavy and crackles. But the clouds don't let loose.

We all get changed into the clothes we're wearing for the match. We head down to the site where the match will take place.

It's a ballroom a floor up from the main casino. There's a few dozen people milling about. There's a few rows of chairs for spectators. Some official looking desks. The green table with a Scrabble board. A scoreboard. Some AV gear.

Ramona sits down for an interview with someone from the Scrabblero website. Larry and Desiree confer with the casino officials.

Spectators start filling the seats. The AV gear comes to life. The tech fiddles with the lights. He wants the place mostly dark, with a pool of light around the Scrabble players.

There's no windows in the ballroom. There's four double doors along one wall. These doors open onto a hallway, the opposite side of which is a glass wall. It's so storm dark that lights are on in the hall. But it's still not raining, not even spitting.

"This is just like San Diego," says Ramona. "Watch, it will build up for hours and then rain a little for a minute, then clear up in a heartbeat."

'That's OK with me," says YoYo.

A knot of Buddhist monks in a saffron robes enter the room. They make their way to the officials table. Much conferring ensues.

"What's going on?" says YoYo. She checks her phone. "Match is due to start in 5 minutes. Which one of those bald headed dudes is Joe Bap?"

"You know what he looks like?" I ask. YoYo holds up a pic on her phone. YoYo and I mosey around the pack of short orange clad monks.

Apparently only one of them speaks English. He will talk to the casino people, then report back to his clique. There will be much conferring among the monks, then the translator will talk to the casino guys again.

"Will the Scrabbleros please take their seats," announces an announcer.

"Playin the east side, will be....Ramona Darby of San Diego, California" says the announcer. There's a scattering of applause. Ramona bows and takes her seat. She smiles for the camera.

"Aaaand....From Bangkok, Thailand, playing the west side of the table, will be...Jooooee Bap!"

Nothing happens. Except a commotion breaks out by the official table.

"Wow, looks like Joe Bap may be a no show," I say toYoYo.

But then Joe Bap does show. Escorted by two stern looking Thai gentlemen, wearing suits and ties, not monks robes.

They escort him right up to the Scrabble table and sit him down.

"Let the match begin!" crows the announcer.

The two dozen or so spectators clap politely.

And then there's a terrific crack of lightning. Seems right outside the building. And the clouds let loose. Dumping a furious ocean in 45 seconds. There's another crack of lightening. The lights dim. It rains even harder. The lights cut out altogether.

There's confusion in the hall. Noise of chairs scraping, people cursing. Something gets knocked over and hits the floor with a crash.

The lights come back up. The rain roars outside. The lights go back out.

I don't know how long the lights are out for. Maybe a few minutes. Finally they come back up for good.

Now it's total confusion in the ballroom. The Scrabble table has been knocked over. The spectators and casino people and the players entourages are mixed higgledy-piggledy in the room.

Joe Bap is nowhere to be found, after things begin to get a little more organized.

"I demand a forfeit," yells Larry. A heated discussion breaks out at the official table. The monks chattering away in Thai. Larry yelling about forfeit. Desiree trying to calm him down.

Ramona appears next to YoYo and I.

"Never been to a tournament like this," says Ramona.

Then the rain stops, suddenly as it began.

Desiree makes her way over to us.

"Maybe you should take Ramona back up to the suite. It's gonna take a while to sort this out," she says.