Read the Book In-Progress:


♠ ♥ ♣ ♦

“Regularity should be observed in dealing, and no party should receive from the dealer,
in any round, more than the number of cards given to the eldest hand.”

The American Hoyle

♥ ♠ ♦ ♣

What might life’of been like if none of it had ever happened?

Emjay Womack Wood-Yoder could not imagine. They could only play Pretend.

“Pick it up,” Will ordered Dog.

Dog chuckled. “Clubs it is,” he said, taking the King into his hand and replacing it with something unknown, downturned on top of the kitty. Dog set the stack to the side, ready now for the first round to start.

Emjay met their dad’s gaze with raised eyebrows. “I lead right?”

Dog nodded. “Left of the dealer leads,” he said with an air of good-natured challenge.

Emjay considered their five-card hand, looking over each one carefully before deciding what to play. It wasn’t a bad deal, not by a longshot. But whatever they led would set the bar for this trick all four that came after it. They knew Will always said to count on your partner to win at least one. A team only needed to take three tricks to score. Emjay bet their brother had at least two in-hand, prob’ly even more, since he’d named trump.

Emjay held back their grin and plucked the Ace of Spades from their hand, placing it upturned in the center of the circle table.

“Your turn, Mom,” Emjay said like it was nothing, hiding the butterflies.

Bird, wearing a perfect euchre face, laid a Ten of Clubs alongside the Ace that was led.

“You have to follow suit,” Emjay reminded her.

“Only if I can follow suit,” their mom said.

Emjay went back to staring at their own hand.

Will played a Queen of Spades and gave Emjay a sideways grin as if to say, Cheer up, this is only the beginning.

Then Dog tossed a King of Spades on the table, and Bird hooted in victory. She gathered the four cards in the middle and pulled them in a single stack to her side of the table.

“Your lead,” Will told their mother.

Bird considered her four-card hand with care. Most fokes didn’t dare to look at the cards for so long, preferring to keep the game moving. But this, Emjay knew, was part of Bird’s strategy. She liked to make others sit and simmer while she considered – or at least while she pretended to.

After a few moments, Bird led with a Queen of Hearts.

“Sorry Mom,” Will said, following up with a Nine of Clubs.

Dog exhaled long and slow out his nose. “Tick-for-tack,” he sighed in a resigned way, spinning a Ten of Hearts into play.

Emjay threw an Ace of Hearts on the table too hard, and it sailed across the tabletop and fell into Will’s lap. He picked it up and pulled the rest of the cards toward him. Without a moment’s hesitation, he drew a card from his hand and slapped it on the woodgrain.

The Jack of Clubs.

“Knew ya had to have the Right,” Dog said, shaking his head.

Emjay grinned over the table at Will, and he smirked back – Their dad tended to get real competitive, especially when it was something silly, like a card game. Out of Dog’s hand came the card he’d been made to pick up at the start the round: He laid a King of Clubs alongside the Bower and waited for Emjay to play next.

Frowning, they set the card down nice and easy this time: an Ace of Clubs.

“Dealt our daughter three Aces, Dog,” Bird said over her hand.

“Lotta good they did me.” Emjay meant to sound light-hearted, but they were just about as competitive as their father was.

Bird threw off-suit with a Nine of Diamonds.

Emjay hadn’t been playing euchre long, but they’d watched others at it for as long as they could remember. While Will pulled their second-won trick to the side, Emjay thumbed their pocket to fiddle with the silver-starfish shooter stashed there.

A King of Diamonds was led.

Dog went with a Jack of Diamonds next. “Be a different story if we’d called it Red,” he said, smirking at Bird over the one card left in-hand.

Emjay played a Ten of Diamonds, hoping Bird couldn’t top a King.

She could.

“I’ll take that!” Bird declared, putting an Ace of Diamonds face-up for half-a-second before sweeping the trick beside the first one she’d won. Then she led a Jack of Hearts.

Will followed-suit with the King. Dog gave his son a look, and then without breaking eye-contact, played a Queen of Clubs.

“I think that’s a Euchre,” Dog bragged.

“Fat chance!” Emjay laughed. All three players turned and stared wide-eyed as Emjay flourished a Jack of Spades.

“Stopper!” Will cheered. He pushed the trick to his sibling, who gathered it up, cheeks a little pink with pride at the surprise win. It was Emjay’s favorite card of them all, even if it was only the Left – they didn’t care. Something about the Jack of Spades helped Emjay find their strength.

“I was saving it,” they said in a self-satisfied way.

“Good choice,” Bird praised. “Okay! Your turn to deal Mily.”

Everyone stared hard at Bird except for Emjay, who buried their face in their lap. Their mom realized her mistake at once and was all-apology.

“Honey I – I’m so sorry I – ”

“It’s okay Mom,” Emjay said. Even though it hurt, it also intensified the self-satisfied feeling brought on by the appearance of the Left Bower. No matter what anybody said, everyone thought of Emjay as the same person they’d always known. It was a huge comfort to know that for sure.

Besides – Emjay was done running. They would never put their parents through that worry ever ever again, they’d promised.

To break the awkward silence that followed, Will added a point to the scorecards.

Emjay shuffled the twenty-four card deck. Once they felt it was mixed-up enough, they slid it to the right and offered it to Dog to cut if he wanted.

He tapped the top card with two fingers, which Emjay knew was a way of saying, Pass.

Three-then-two, they thought to jog their reflexes, doling out the cards in two rounds going clockwise: Three to Mom, two to Will, three to Dad, two to Me – Two to Mom, three to Will, two to Dad, three to Me.

Bird, Will, and Dog gathered the cards they were dealt and fanned them out. Emjay turned the top card of what was leftover face-up before looking at their own hand.

A Nine of Spades was optioned.

Bird passed fast. Will was just as quick, knocking on the table, staring hard at his hand. Dog pondered the Nine for a while, looking back and forth between his cards and the kitty like he was at an impasse. “Pick it up,” he said, sounding confident in whatever it was he’d been considering.

Emjay fought grinding their teeth. I wanted to call it, they thought, staring at a Jack of Clubs in their hand, impressed that they’d somehow landed the Left Bower again. Picking up the Nine of Spades, Emjay traded it with a Nine of Clubs, hiding the card with their palm and leaving it facedown on the pile so no one could see.

“Your lead Mom,” Emjay said, oozing encouragement so Bird would know she was forgiven for dropping the Dead Name.

Bird’s eyes were shiny when she smiled. She forewent her usual time-consuming consideration and led with a Nine of Diamonds.

Emjay thought it was odd to lead with such a weak card, but Bird and Dog had played euchre forever so, Emjay let it go. Will made a tut-tut with his tongue and responded with an Ace of Spades.

“Alright,” Dog raved, casting his Ace of Diamonds into the mix.

Emjay had no choice but to follow-suit with a King. Will took the trick grinning and played an Ace of Hearts to start the next bid.

“Sorry bout’cha!” Dog commented while laying a Ten of Spades beside the Ace.

Emjay had to follow-suit again and gave up another King – Hearts this time. Bird returned to stalling, looking at her cards so long that Dog, her own partner, coughed as if to remind her, Trick’s mine already. Bird was a lover of drama. She rolled her eyes and, oh-so-slowly, scooted a Ten of Diamonds out to the center.

Dog led with the Right Bower.

Deciding to try a trick out of Bird’s book, Emjay held their hand very close to their eyes and considered all three cards carefully, letting it go on quite a long time. Will was the one to interrupt the charade this time.

“Just play your lowest card,” he said. “Everyone knows you can’t top that Jack.”

“I know how to play,” Emjay snarked back. “I was just deciding what to get rid of.”

Will made a face like they were a total idiot.

“What!” Emjay exclaimed, hurrying to play the Nine of Spades in their hand.

“No table-talk, remember?” Bird giggled, dishing out a King of Spades.

Then Emjay got it. Delaying that particular play had basically told everybody that their whole hand was Spades. Heat crawled up Emjay’s neck to their cheeks as Will tossed out a Ten of Hearts and fixed his sister with forewarning stare. Be smart, it seemed to say – Quite a tone-shift from the last bid, when he’d been totally forgiving of Emjay’s tenderfooted euchre play.

Dog started the next bid with a King of Clubs. Emjay smirked, plucking the trump Queen from their hand and sliding it out to meet the King with their index finger. Evidently, Bird had to play what was led, so out came a Queen of Clubs – and Will, looking a little less stressed, went with a Jack of Hearts.

Sparing Will the narrow-eyed look they wanted to shoot back, Emjay turned to Dog instead and said, “Two tricks each. My lead?”

“You bet,” Dog said with a twinkle in his eye that told Emjay he found their brother’s ruffled feathers as funny as the kids had found his.

“You asked for it,” Emjay said, and with a flourish exactly like the previous hand, presented the Jack of Clubs for all to see.

Will’s smile grew wider than ever. “Okay, okay, my bad Emjay. I won’t doubt you again! You euchred’m!”

Bird, Will, and Dog threw their last cards at Bird without giving Emjay enough time to see what they were. It didn’t matter – the Left Bower was the strongest card left in the round, and they all knew it.

While their mother shuffled the deck, Will added two more points to his and Emjay’s scorecards.

The game went on for quite a few rounds, and Dog and Bird did gain some ground. The kids’ and parents’ teams were neck-and-neck, both sides having found their way to six – Each just four points off from and winning.

“Loner Range,” Dog said when he took three out of five tricks to tie the game.

♣ ♣ ♦ ♦

♣ ♣ ♦ ♦

♣ ♣ ♦ ♦

It was Will’s turn to deal. He clucked his tongue and shuffled the cards bridge-style. He pointed his eyes at the ceiling, tapping the cards even and sharing them in the usual pattern, clockwise three-then-two. When all four players had five cards each, Emjay scooped their hand up and absorbed the hand –

It was all Nines and Tens.

Emjay peeked at the expressions of the other three, but their faces gave nothing away. Fighting the urge to sight-see, their eyes travelled to the upturned card: It was a Jack of Diamonds.

No way, Emjay thought, declaring, “Farmer’s hand!” before their dad had said whether he wanted Will to pick up the Jack or passed.

“You’re kidding,” Bird breathed.

“I’m not,” Emjay pressed. Fanning the cards wide, Emjay laid the hand down flat so their family could see the truth.

“Well I’ll be darn’d,” Dog said.

“Cards in,” Will exhaled, tossing his own into the center.

Everyone followed suit, Emjay sliding their hand to the throw-in heap and gathering the rest into a neat pile before pushing them in Dog’s direction.

“I like that rule,” Emjay commented while Dog took to reshuffling the deck.

“That’s a Diana rule,” Dog said, mixing the cards hand-over-hand. “Try call’n that over in Purchase, you’ll be tossed right outta the game.”

“How do you know?” Will asked.

“Your dad was thrown out of a tournament for trying his hoosier tricks,” Bird answered. “Isn’t that right Dog?”

He grinned back in that humbled way that meant Dog had a story on the brain. “We’re not playing that hilljack crap!” He quoted, tone dripping judgment. “This is a one-strike club ya Hoosier, so don’t come back!”

Emjay’s eyes grew. “They really said that to you?”

“Oh yes,” Dog said laughing. “They take their Euchre real serious out West.” Once he’d finished reshuffling, Dog slid the deck his son’s way. Will made a cut four cards from the bottom and slapped the smaller half on top. Then Dog dealt again.

“Well why’d they call you ‘Hoosier’ like that?” Emjay asked.

“Like they were call’n me a name you mean?”


“We like to call ourselves Hoosiers here,” Dog said with a shrug. “But someplaces, I guess, hoosier means th’same thing as Redneck.”

“Well that’s mean,” Emjay said. They crossed their arms, not quite sure why it was so bothersome.

“Language is funny,” Bird said forgivingly. “Some words are universal, and some have regional meanings. Hoosier is a term of unity and identity for us. But, people in other places might not know we call ourselves that. It means something else to them.”

Bird always had a way of explaining things that made sense to Emjay. But in this case, they didn’t like understanding.

“So if I call myself a Hoosier someplace else,” Emjay said slowly while Dog dealt. “People won’t know I’m saying I’m from Diana? They’ll just think I’m saying I’m a redneck?”

“Most likely,” their dad said. “But you know what’chya mean, and that’s all that matters. Just don’t call someone else a Hoosier if they’re not from Diana.”

“Well I wouldn’t,” Emjay said indignantly. “Because if they don’t live in Diana, they’re not a Hoosier.”

“Sounds like your definition is clear enough,” Will said, inspecting his hand.

Emjay shrugged. The others were now all looking at their cards, ready to get back to playing the game.

Dog turned over the top card and revealed a Nine of Diamonds.

“Pass,” Emjay said.

A knock from Bird.

“Pick it up,” Will said at once. “I’m going alone.”

Emjay was stunned. “What does that mean?”

“Remember when Dad said Longer Range?”


“Well, that means if I take all five tricks by myself, we get four points instead of two,” Will explained. “And we win the game.”

“I didn’t know that!”

“That’s a universal rule,” Bird said, wearing a bemused look like maybe she was impressed. “My lead. Let’s see what you’ve got, William.”

“Well what do I do?” Emjay asked before anyone had moved.

“You lay your hand facedown,” Dog said.

“I don’t get to play at all?”

“Not this time,” Will said. “It’s part of the game.”

Emjay felt left out but wanted to see how ‘Going Alone’ went, so they just said, “Okay,” and put their cards facedown on the table like their dad had said to.

Bird led with a Jack of Hearts.

Will smiled sideways so big his right eye squinted. Then he played a Jack of Diamonds.

“Worth a shot,” Dog said to Bird, tossing a King of Spades into the fray.

Will took the trick and then did something strange: He laid all four cards he had left in his hand on the table in one go: A Ten of Diamonds, a Queen of Hearts, a King of Hearts, and an Ace of Hearts.

“You yank’n my chain?” Dog interrogated, grinning greatbig. “Farmer’s hand followed up by go’n alone? What are the chances of that?” His eyes found Bird’s on the last question – both of them seemed to think it was really funny.

“Just have good luck I guess,” Will said.

“So we won?” Emjay asked just as Will moved to make the scorecards say so.

♣ ♣ ♣ ♣

♣ ♣ ♣ ♣

♣ ♣

“We sure did! Want to play again?”


Emjay and Will turned to look at Bird, who was suddenly pink in the cheeks. Then they swivelled their heads to look at Dog, who was tapping the deck straight even though it was already as square as it could possibly be.

“We have some news to share with you,” Bird went on more evenly. Her face lit up, and she looked back-and-forth between the two kids faces without saying anything else.

Emjay got a funny feeling.

“Good news,” Dog added.

The parents stared at each other, smiling. Will and Emjay met each others’ gazes a few times, appraising the situation while they waited for either Dog or Bird to get on with it.

“What is it?” Emjay finally asked for the two of them.

“Well,” Bird said, taking a deep breath. “Will, Mil – Emjay – you’re going to be Big Siblings soon.”

Emjay met their mom’s eyes and was surprised to see that they were shiny again – but this time it looked like joy.

“You’re having a baby!” Emjay cried.

“Yes!” Bird cheered. She looked relieved by her daughter’s warmth. “I am. Not for a few more months though. Your little sibling still has quite a bit of growing to do.” Bird patted her belly with two hands. “I know there’s been a lot of change lately, but, I hope this is one we can all be excited about.”

“Of course we’re excited Mom!” Will almost shouted. He looked at Emjay, making sure they really felt the same way and, seeing that they did, went on and asked, “Is it a boy or a girl?”

“It’s a girl!” Emjay shouted.

“Well, we don’t know for sure yet,” Bird giggled.

“I do!”

Bird’s mouth squirmed, a question on her lips held back by her very wide smile.

“You think so?” Dog said.

Emjay saw it all flash before their eyes – Novah! She’s coming! She’s coming in March! – A head full of black hair with white-frosted ends, a little girl swaddled tight in a yellow blanket, sleeping through a blizzard while Bird snored in the bed beside her.

“I know so! March Ninth!” Emjay asserted. Their mind was racing with excitement. It wasn’t a dream! It was real! It wasn’t pretend! Little Novie is real!

{ So it’s true!

“Can – Can I tell the twins?” Emjay asked, wanting to talk about it at once since E already heard the news.

Bird was blinking rapidly. “Soon,” she responded, cocking her head to the side like she might be confused. “My…” Bird shared her bewilderment with Dog across the table, who stared back seeming equally at a loss for words. “My due date is March Eleventh.”

“Well she’ll come sooner!” Emjay said.

“Well if the baby’s a girl,” Dog said. “We think her name will be – ”

“Novah!” Emjay revealed. “Her name is Novah!”

“How did you know…” Bird blinked a few more times and then set Will with an asking stare, but her son was clearly just as astonished as Dog and Bird were.

That struck Emjay dumb for a few moments. The big grin froze on their face, gaze hopping from face to face to face… Oh. There was no other way to explain – It was time.

Emjay had to come clean.

“I’ll tell you everything,” they said. “But first you have to answer one question.”

Bird, Dog, and Will exchanged looks. Then all three turned to Emjay with the most bewildered expressions any of them had ever worn. For only a second, Emjay was torn.

Then they took a deep breath.

{ Are you seriously about to –

“What are queeries?”

* * * * *

/ n o t a r e

Dick, W. B. (1874) The American Hoyle; or, Gentleman’s hand-book of games. [New York, Dick & Fitzgerald] [Pdf] Retrieved from the Library of Congress,

© Kailey Ann

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