—   Hey, do you have six cards there? Luc demands, peering at Georges’ hand.

—   Pipe down, you’ll wake Gavin, says Fiona. It’s after midnight.

—   Just what you dealt me, says Georges. What are you sayin’?

—   Nothing. Just thought you had an extra one. No harm done.

The competitiveness between Georges and Luc goes back to when they were in school together — kindergarten to grade eight — in Portage du Fort. When the cards come out, they both know it’s best to have their wives around to keep the wrangling in check.

—   You want another drink? asks Luc. Fee’s mom gave me a nice bottle of single malt, Glenfiddich.

—   Don’t you think we should stick to wine? asks Fiona. Here, have a devilled egg*.

—   No harm in a little nightcap, Georges says.

—   Well, let’s finish the game first, says Anne. Watcha got, Fee?

—   Full House: Sixes and a pair of Jacks.

—   Jesus, you pummelled me, says Georges. You could’ve raised again you know.

Fee shrugs, neatly stacking her red chips.

—   Will you look at the snow out there, says Georges.

—   Finally, says Fiona. It’s been so icy this week. I felt like a granny, all worried that I’d fall and break a hip.

The others laugh.

—   At least it hasn’t been too cold, says Luc as he pours them each a dram of Scotch.

—   Cold enough, says Georges.

The men habitually take opposite sides, no matter what the topic.

—   This is nothing, says Luc. You hardly need a toque.

—   Yeah well, I bet you wouldn’t go out starkers, says Georges.

—   You’re on. How much?

—   Five.

—   No way, counters Luc. A hundred.

—   Fifty if you run around the house.

—   You’re on.

Luc begins unbuttoning his shirt.

—   You’re crazy, says Fiona.

She knows better than to try to stop him. Besides, she wants to see if he’ll do it.

—   And you’ll freeze your nuts, says Fiona.

—   A new way to get blue balls, says Luc.

Luc steps out of his jeans but keeps his back discreetly turned. Fiona wonders if Anne’s shocked by the sight of his skinny butt. Probably not; she is a doctor after all. Fiona grabs her coat.

—   I’ll cheer you on, she says.

Georges grabs his too.

—   I’ll make sure there’s no cheating, he says.

Luc opens the back door and a swirl of snow falls into the kitchen.

—   Here I go. Weeeee.

Luc’s feet hit the ice and he sprints down the back steps, through the side gate and disappears around the side of the house. Georges’ big form lopes after him, trying to keep up. The women hear Luc yipping it up on the street.

—   I hope he doesn’t wake the neighbours, Fiona says.

—   It’ll be all over before they can even twitch the curtains, says Anne.

Luc slides around the side of the house, roars up the stairs and dashes into the house.

—   Fifty bucks! Fork it over buddy! He yells, slipping on his pants. Man that was friggin’ cold.

Georges counts out the bills.

—   Tu as perdre le nord**, he says.

—   Look at your feet! says Fiona. They’re blue, and they’re cut from the ice.

—   Worth every penny, says Luc, pulling on his socks.

*Devilishly good devilled eggs

1 dozen hardboiled eggs
Mayonnaise to moisten
1 teaspoon vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon prepared mustard
¼ onion, finely chopped
½ cup finely chopped parsley
½ teaspoon olive oil

  1. Crack eggs while still warm and peel under running cold water (usually the shells come off easily this way).
  2. Cut eggs in half lengthwise and scoop out yolk with a teaspoon.
  3. Mash yolk and all other ingredients, adding enough mayo to moisten.
  4. Fill each half egg with the yolk mixture. Garnish with a sprinkle of paprika.
  5. Arrange on a serving plate with sprigs of parsley.

Thanks to Pat Whiting for this recipe.

**Literally, you’re losing the North; figuratively, you’re losing it, you’re crazy.