“Dada Does Dominoes” by Glenda Reed
Washy is so drunk he’s unable to hide his cheating. After slamming down a legal play, he attempts to slip a second domino near my end of the table. His fingers fumble the delicate procedure. I look to Raz, but he’s studying his own hand too closely to notice. Not wanting to leave the errant domino squatting for long, I snatch it up, “No you don’t,” and hand it back to Washy.
“Ah, tryin’ to cheat again?” Raz says as he and Kool Aid shake their heads.
Before coming to the islands I hadn’t played much dominoes, and when I had, never took the game seriously. In the Caribbean players mean business. Money exchanges hands amongst players as well as spectators during betting games in South Caicos, though tonight we’re playing for pride.
George, the captain of the sailboat I’m hitching a ride on, is three sailors deep in conversation on the bar’s balcony, while at the domino table I only just begin to understand that strategy has something to do with counting. “How many of each number are there?” I ask.
“Seven,” Raz says. “Now that one’s catchin’ on.” And laughing, adds, “Watch out boys.”
I’m not sure how to use this information. Mindful of the five six-dotted dominoes currently resting on the table, I play the double six in my hand to make sure I can play it at all.
Kool Aid knocks on the table to pass. Raz looks at me and winks. These Caribbean men accept me more than my fellow American sailors on the balcony whose interest in me is inversely proportional to their age; the older the man, the less he cares what I have to say. Rather than fight to be heard in a conversation about rough passages and anchorages with bad holding, I lay down a domino without reproof, accepted at the table just for my willingness to play.
After shuffling and reshuffling his hand, Raz triumphantly slams down his play, popping dominoes into the air and scattering the long backbone of our board. Kool Aid and I straighten the table. While we all wait for sauced-up Washy to put two and four together, Raz leans back and says to me, “Y’know, all the people around here have two names, but nobody goes by their government name.”
As an outsider, I’m not sure I should ask, but Raz offered. “What’s your government name?”
“Terraz. That’s Jaime,” Raz nods to Washy, “and Clarence,” he says in Kool Aid’s direction.
Washy draws a tile from the boneyard. I scan the open ends of the board for a play. “What would my second name be?”
“I dunno.” Raz consults the four dominoes standing on-edge before him. “I know. I have an aunt named Glenda we call Dada. That’s you, Dada.”
For the rest of the night it’s, “Good one Dada,” and, “Come on, Dada.”
Tomorrow I’ll help George sail across the shallow waters of the Caicos Bank but I won’t tell him my name.
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Glenda Reed Artist Statement:
Glenda Reed is a writer, artist and adventurer. Her writing has received funding from the Jerome
Foundation, the McKnight Foundation, and the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund among others.
Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Creative Nonfiction and The Best Travel
Writing. Reed is also a winner of The Moth StorySlam. She is currently working on a memoir
about hitchhiking around the world on sailboats. A version of this story was originally published
in the February 2015 issue of Word Riot.