Cribbage!” I declared, pulling out the board, a deck of cards, and pen and paper, “Ben and I are going to teach you. Then we can all play.”
“What makes you think I don’t know how to play cribbage?” Sage asked.
“You do?” Ben sounded surprised.
“I happen to be an excellent cribbage player,” Sage said.
“Really…because I’m what one might call a cribbage master,” Ben said.
“I bet I’ve been playing longer than you,” Sage said, and I cast my eyes his way. Was he trying to tell u something?
“I highly doubt that,” Ben said, “but I believe we’ll see the proof when I double-skunk you.”
“Clearly you’re both forgetting it’s a three-person game, and I’m ready to destroy you both,” I said.
“Deal ‘em,” Ben said.
Being a horse person, my mother was absolutely convinced she could achieve world peace if she just got the right parties together on a long enough ride. I didn’t know about that, but apparently cribbage might do the trick. I didn’t know about that, but apparently cribbage might do the trick. The three of us were pretty evenly matched, and Ben was impressed enough to ask sage how he learned to play. Turned out Sage’s parents were historians, he said, so they first taught him the precursor to cribbage, a game called noddy.
“Really?” Ben asked, his professional curiosity piqued. “Your parents were historians? Did they teach?”
“European history. In Europe,” Sage said. “Small college. They taught me a lot.”
Yep, there was the metaphorical gauntlet. I saw the gleam in Ben’s eye as he picked it up. “Interesting,” he said. “So you’d say you know a lot about European history?”
“I would say that. In fact, I believe I just did.”
Ben grinned, and immediately set out to expose Sage as an intellectual fraud. He’d ask questions to trip Sage up and test his story, things I had no idea were tests until I heard Sage’s reactions.
“So which of Shakespeare’s plays do you think was better served by the Globe Theatre: Henry VIII or Troilus and Cressida?” Ben asked, cracking his knuckles.
“Troilus and Cressida was never performed at the Globe,” Sage replied. “As for Henry VIII, the original Globe caught fire during the show and burned to the ground, so I’d say that’s the show that really brought down the house…wouldn’t you?”
“Nice…very nice.” Ben nodded. “Well done.”
It was the cerebral version of bamboo under the fingernails, and while they both tried to seem casual about their conversation, they were soon leaning forward with sweat beading on their brows. It was fascinating…and weird.
After several hours of this, Ben had to admit that he’d found a historical peer, and he gleefully involved Sage in all kinds of debates about the minutiae of eras I knew nothing about…except that I had the nagging sense I might have been there for some of them.
For his part, Sage seemed to relish talking about the past with someone who could truly appreciate the detailed anecdotes and stories he’d discovered in his “research.” By the time we started our descent to Miami, the two were leaning over my seat to chat and laugh together. On the very full flight from Miami to New York, Ben and Sage took the two seats next to each other and gabbed and giggled like middle-school girls. I sat across from them stuck next to an older woman wearing far too much perfume.