I was just finishing the burying of another stack of bucks in the yard when my wife Efrat told me she had bought the card game Taki and said it would be the family activity on Shabbat immediately after lunch. In response I told her we had received a call from the end of the eighties and they have asked for the card game back. Efrat however insisted that Taki was making an amazing comeback and we should take part in it.
It was almost Shabbat when I returned from a business meeting with one of those New York guys (a meeting that took place out of the public eye of course). Efrat explained that the goal of the Taki Game is to get rid of all of one’s cards. Like Go Fish? Aviv asked. No, Efrat said, the object of Go Fish is to collect as many cards as possible. So it’s like what? Aviv stubbornly insisted on knowing.
It's like the Sopranos, I thought, it’s just that here it’s the cards that are gotten rid of but we get rid of bodies. Efrat kicked me. Why is it that every time you watch a few episodes of the Sopranos back to back you imagine you are one of them? It’s bit childish no? Childish, to be a member of the Mafia is childish to you? Baby, I do it in order to put food on the table and for no other reason. Whatever happens, Efrat told Aviv, the game is not like the Sopranos. It’s like Rummikub.
Like Rummikub, Yehuda wondered, but in Rummikub the cards are not from paper. The Taki cards are not made of paper either, it’s a kind of cardboard, I said. Cardboard is a kind of paper, replied Yehuda. Both of them are made from trees that are chopped down, no? I don’t know about felled trees, I said, but I do know something about how Ralphie’s head works, now that it has been severed. In any case, let’s play. I looked at the cards and I saw that I had a terrible hand so with regret I drew from the deck. Aviv started to cry.
Aviv, what is wrong, asked Efrat. It’s not fair that only daddy gets to draw from the deck, she complained. But Aviv, I told her, you have to get rid of your cards, remember? If I take from the deck I will lose. Aviv dried her tears and used a card to change the color of the run. What is a change color, I asked Efrat. It’s a special card, she explained. When you put it on top of the discarded cards it determines what color will control the next turn. Control, control, like by us the Sopranos?
Daddy, said Yehuda, maybe go outside with the ketchup and knock off a couple of people, like in that series of yours. Why with ketchup, I asked. Because you aren’t really killing people the blood is really ketchup, Yehuda explained. Ketchup, I said to Yehuda mockingly, what do we look like to you? What, asked Yehuda, you want to tell me that all that blood is not ketchup? At this point I picked Yehuda up, looked him straight in the eye and told him quietly that the truth will be hard to swallow: It’s tomato sauce, son. It’s only tomato sauce, not as tasty but it looks more like the real thing. Chanoch, Efrat scolded me, I am going to have you hospitalized in a minute, cut it out already. Plus it’s your turn. I looked at my hand and decided to lay down a 2+.
Yippee, Aviv shouted. Oh boy, I get to take two cards from the deck. Daddy because of you I win! No, you haven’t, you are going to lose, her brother Yehuda said. It’s like Rummikub. You have to get rid of all your cards.
Aviv started to cry again. So why did Daddy put this down? What, would Daddy do something bad to his daughter. Is that what you learned from your program with the ketchup? Tomato sauce, I replied, and in any case you have to learn how to lose. I don’t want to learn how to lose; I want to learn how to win. Good, I said. So don’t take two cards from the deck Meadow, I am letting it go this time.
At this point Yehuda faked some crying as he left the room. It’s not fair, he said, because she’ll win now. Besides mommy put down the card with the stop sign so I lost a turn. Okay, Anthony, I said to Yehuda, your job and that of Meadow is to collect as many cards as possible. You are ruining the game, said Carmela. At the same time I felt that the family was falling apart. That’s the problem, because for me the family is everything. It’s more than the business, like for Tony. I called a five-minute break. I am from the old school you know and I don’t mean to use modern methods to educate them.
Let’s play again suggested Efrat, after everyone had calmed down. Remember that losing cards is permitted and the game is like Rummikub. Only out of paper, said Yehuda, and including the Super Taki. What is Super Taki asked Aviv. It’s the superpower card of the game, like Superman who can fly, Spiderman who spins webs or Batman, who, well what are his super strengths anyway? He is a millionaire, I said, that is his power. Like Hesch the Jewish accountant who from time to time gives Tony good advice.
The game went on. Meadow and Anthony picked up a lot of cards. Carmela got nothing and I looked happily at them all. Chris is coming over later I knew and I was needed to go with him on another one of his jobs. I may even be gone for a few days. Tears welled up in my eyes. I love my family. Love them very much.
We have known mourning in our lives, I said to Efrat as I left. My father died of a heart attack, your father and your brother were killed during a holiday. My cousin was murdered by terrorists and my best friend died of cancer just under a year ago. Now listen to me good: I am not prepared to lose Tony as well. Efrat gave me a wide-eyed stare. Are you serious or are you just messing around? I don’t know I whispered. I have no idea.