Monday, April 12, 2010

I'll Give You a Four-Letter Word...

Tis that day of week again, and I'm sure I'm not the only one with a severe case of the Mondays. And, since I had such fun regaling all you lovely people with tales of my brief but colorful career in private investigation, I thought I'd keep the Monday Funday streak alive with an ode to the two things I love most: competition and the written word.

I grew up in the midwest, and as anyone from Farmland, USA will tell you, there's only so much TV that can be watched during the arctic blast that is winter. Many a cold blustery night during my youth was spent around the dining room table playing games with the family. Board games, card games, dice...games that were a mish-mash of all three. If it was something that had a clear-cut winner, we played it, and we all had our eyes on the prize. Yes, my family is a blood-thirsty lot, myself included.

As I'm sure you have surmised by this point, my favorite game to play is the incomparable SCRABBLE. Yes, I am that girl. My grandmother introduced me to the game when I was young, and as I grew older, our battles went from quiet and friendly to all out war. Grandma even kept a notebook that had all the scores of all our games inside (along with any seven-letter words we'd played during each game).

One such Sunday afternoon, Grandma and I were in the midst of a rather aggressive run of games. (Now, this is where I'd change names to something like Hot Pants or Gladys Gimme to protect the innocent, but as you will soon realize, Grandma needs no protection and she definitely is NO innocent.) We'd already played four games and were tied 2-2. So of course, we had to play the rubber. We couldn't end the day without having a winner.

We were neck and neck - within 20 points of each other - when about 3/4 of the way through the game, I was studying the letters on my tile board. I had a seven letter word! Now, as anyone the tiniest bit familiar with Scrabble will tell you, it takes nothing short of a miracle the caliber of God and his angels to pull off a seven-letter word so late in the game. There just isn't room left.

But, I was going to do it, damn it. I would play my word, and I would pull into the lead. I was hunched over the board, my face mere inches away, searching for the one spot that my word would fit when I saw...

"Grandma!" I shouted. My head whipped up and I pinned her with a frigid glare. "What is this?" I demanded, thumping the board for emphasis.

Undaunted in the face of my formidable wrath, she leaned forward to have a look at what had gotten my panties into a particularly heinous bunch. She smiled and nodded. "I played that," she told me proudly. As if I didn't already know that.

"ASLO?" I shrieked, thumping the board again.

Still smiling beneignly, she continued nodding. "Yes, I played that."

"That's not a word!"

She heaved out an exasperated sigh. "Of course it is."

"No, it isn't." I spun the board around to face her and tapped each individual letter. "A-S-L-O is not a word!"

Her grin faded as she leaned over the board to have a closer look at her handy-work. After a long moment of tense silence, she lifted her gaze to meet mine. "Oh," she murmured.

Victory was mine. I'd caught her cheating fair and square. I leaned back in my seat, pondering how best to cut her to shreds.

"Well, it's too late now." She declared briskly. "You should have caught it."

My mouth fell open. Did she really just say...? "You cheated!" I sputtered indignantly.

"Of course, I didn't. It's not my fault you didn't catch my mistake. There's no changing it now." When I just sat there, stewing in my own juices, she smiled winningly at me. "It's your turn."

As the great card prophet once said, "A card laid is a card played." I had no choice but to continue playing. No, I hadn't caught Grandma's deception. And, yes, she did end up winning that day. It's a sad day when you realize that your Grandma is a cheater, cheater, pumpkin eater. It's a day I know I'll never forget.

Life lesson learned from this episode: In Scrabble - as in love and war - all is fair. Trust no one, for the person you least expect to stab you in the back will weild the sharpest blade. Thanks for that lesson, Grandma!