The Battle for Eighth Place

It was the Eve of the first game of the playoffs. The seventh and eighth place teams, J&B Rare and the Screwy Tuskers, were scheduled to play at 9:00 a.m. the next morning. The gauntlet was thrown when a member of the J&B team, the identity of whom is yet to be determined, was overheard to remark: “Playing the Screwy Tuskers tomorrow will be like clubbing baby seals.”

Upon hearing the remark, a plan started to come together. It’s not that I didn’t have 1000% faith in the abilities of my team to whomp the seal clubbers the next day, but a little insurance never hurts.

As it happened, Marya and I were the only Screwy Tuskers left in the bar by about 10:00. We were enjoying ourselves watching Tim Woodman, one of those adorable Gurkha Gladiators, drink his fourth or fifth bottle of wine, having been convinced that his military career was over just because he called the British Ambassador’s lovely and charming wife “the old tart.” (He claimed he was quoting the Ambassador, who asserted plausible deniability.) At any rate, Tim with several bottles of wine in him, decided that Marya and Uday Kalaan should be married. The next day. My plan, of course, was to get Alf to cough up the dowry and then I would handle the divorce the day after the wedding, ensuring that Marya would get half of the marital assets. Alf would have certainly gotten a decent rate of return on his investment.

It was when I started negotiating the dowry with Raj Kalaan that I realized that our best chance of winning the next day was to keep Raj, Bill and James in the bar all night long and to get them as drunk as possible. Somehow David had snuck out early. Hmmm.... Maybe HE’s the baby seal clubber. Anyway, I brought Raj a triple J&B Special after he asked for a single and got down to business. This man drives a hard bargain. They don’t call him colonel for nothing. By the end of the negotiations, I had managed to commit Alf to putting 12 polo ponies in Marya’s dowry. I was a little nervous about explaining all of this to Alf the next day, but I was sure he would understand that it was all for the team.

The night just kept going and we found ourselves sitting in front of the fire listening to Jon Titley’s non-stop delivery of his repertoire of mostly bad and hilariously funny jokes, discussing the precise terms for every degree of kinship in India with Sunny and Raj - in an attempt to determine exactly how I will be related to them once Marya and Uday marry, engaging in a deep and meaningful discussion with Peter Prentice about the vast and immeasurable benefits of marriage, literally holding in our poor splitting sides while James Rawbone rendered an enlightening discussion of “how to handle bowel movements on the first date” and who knows what all else went on. At some point after midnight, we realized that it had become Bill Bullard’s birthday. Sunny, having been inspired by the prospect of having Marya as a daughter-in-law, was feeling particularly spiritual and offered Billy a very special other-worldly birthday experience.

She first handed him a plate, identical to the one she held. Then she asked him to follow her movements as she slowly traced all sorts of intricate and mystical designs on her face with her fingers. This went on for several minutes and would probably have gone on longer had it not been for the giggling and obnoxious interruptions coming from the rest of the table. When they finished, Sunny’s face was as beautiful and perfect as ever, and Billy’s face was completely black. The birthday boy looked awfully cute in black.

We did manage to keep the team going nearly all night long. Finally at about 2:00 or so, Billy retired to wash his spirit-ridden face. Sunny carried Peter and Raj out of the bar, one under each arm, at exactly 3:16 and James finally stumbled out the door at about 4:30. We’re not sure where he ended up, exactly. He was mumbling something about superchicks and turtles as he left.

Unwilling to give up the battle mode, the challenge for Marya and I then became being the last team in the bar. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on the perspective) for us, our remaining competition was Jon Titley, a man who never sleeps, particularly when he is feeling “ball-bouncingly good” and Kristjan Edwards, who was feeling a little mischievous. Jon decided to set up his portable discotheque and treat us to an hour or so of eclectic music including Doris Day, protest songs, Irish pennywhistle dance music, bagpipes and African tribal music. Sometime during this musical interlude Kristjan smiled and said “how would you like to go for an elephant ride at dawn?” Marya and I, being ever the adventuresses, immediately agreed that sounded like a splendid idea. After Kristjan repeated the question 7 or 8 times Titley finally heard it and said “can I bring my music?” We had to call the “closing the bar” contest a draw, and thus began perhaps my favorite moment of the week.

I wish I could say that all of our monumental efforts paid off with a victory for the Screwy Tuskers. I will say, and I doubt that he will deny, that James Rawbone appeared to be a bit green out there on the playing field the next morning. Unfortunately, Raj Kalaan was in superb form. I guess it was the prospect of all those polo ponies. Too bad he didn’t know about Sunny’s counter-negotiations on the sidelines, it might have dampened his spirits a bit.

When we got over to the field, Raj approached Alf with the dowry proposition and poor Alf found himself in a position where he realized that he was going to have to adopt Marya in order to provide the dowry. With four daughters already, I figured one more wouldn’t be too much of a burden, but for a while it looked like the deal was off. Luckily, that prospect put Sunny in such a panic that she later agreed to lower the dowry to 5 ponies and the agreement was set. Somehow we never managed to get around to holding the ceremony, though. Too bad; I would have liked to have been related to the Kalaans.

Raj played splendidly, but so did Jean, as always. I should have felt a lot more tired than I did, but I was able to play the first chukker. My mahout wasn’t very cooperative, though, and I never seemed to be in the right place at the right time. Although we ended the chukker losing to J&B 4-1, the Screwy Tuskers delivered some tough defense to the tired and hungover J&B team.

The second chukker was not played that day, due to the second onslaught of villagers peacefully protesting the continuing annoyance of the rogue elephant. We continued the game the next morning. During this chukker, Annie scored a magnificent goal and Jean blocked every shot that Raj tried to make. Although we lost the battle for eighth place 4-2, we won the second day’s play.

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