SOCIAL DISTANCING, Chapter 4: In Which I Play Board Games With A Cat

 
By Liz McLeod
Your House Manager
 
“Now just a minute,” I wailed. “’Zyzzyx’ isn’t a word! You can’t play that!” I got up and flipped thru the enormous hardbound edition of Webster’s Second New International sitting atop the bookcase. “Nope, no such thing as ‘zyzzyx!’ Get it off the board there, it’s not a legitimate word.”
 
Miss Carol T. Cat glared back at me from across the board. Her eyes narrowed, and she assumed even more of an air of superiority than usual. “Zyzzyx,” she stated in calm and measured tones that sound to those not fluent in her tongue like the sqeaking of a rusty swivel chair, “is the name of an unincorporated village in the Mojave desert in California, formerly known as the site of the Zyzzyx Mineral Springs and Health Spa. Of course, to look at you, one would reasonably understand why you are unfamiliar with such a place.”
 
“Hah!” I retorted, feeling my dudgeon grow that much higher. “You can’t use proper names in Scrabble! It’s against the rules. Lookit – right there on the box cover, it’s printed right out. Don’t try to pull your funny stuff with me, you  ridiculous fat barrel cat.”
 
Miss Carol emitted a snort that fairly dripped with derision. After wiping the derision off her chin with a swipe of her furry paw, she tossed back her head and again addressed me. “How old is this copy of the game?”
 
I consulted the box lid and read aloud the tiny type. “Copyright 1948, P&M Corporation.”
 
“I might have thought as much,” my feline companion sniffed. “I think you’ll find, my friend, that the Official Rules of Scrabble were changed in 2010 to permit and encourage the use of proper names as valid for play. You may look it up on the internet if you doubt me. Really, you must learn to keep up.”
 
I wasn’t about to give her the satisfaction. I swept all the tiles off the board, including her – her – TRIPLE WORD SCORE for “Zyzzyx,” – and stood up in a huff, storming away to stew in private.
 
It went like this all weekend. With nothing else to do and nowhere else to go, I was reduced to playing board games with my cat. We tried them all. Monopoly fell by the boards early, after she misinterpreted my statement that “landing on Free Parking takes the kitty.” We tried Sorry, the “Slide Pursuit Game,” but she decided sliding her own voluminous avoirdupois across the board was more stimulating that actually manipulating the pawns. Parcheesi  fell short when she batted the dice into a furnace register when a turn went against her. “Jeopardy” was no fun – not only did she never miss, she also corrected the information in the question book four times. Every game we played, every game we tried, left me more frustrated and her more smugly superior. I couldn’t stand it.
 
Finally there were only two games left. Chess I discarded immediately. I know she’s been playing chess-by-mail for years with this Russian Blue cat, and I’d never even get the game set up before she declared checkmate. The only other option was “Major League Baseball – You Are The Manager!,” a game using special dice and encoded cards to reproduce the actual performance of real ballplayers. The most recent edition available reflected the 1970 season, but anything is better than nothing. Or so I thought, until, after four innings, Miss Carol, managing the Baltimore Orioles, held a 15-0 lead over my woebegone Red Sox. I threw the card representing my pitcher down on the table in disgust. “Sonny Siebert!” I growled. “Who ever told you you could pitch.” And Miss Carol, in full Earl Weaver mode, just gazed inscrutably across the field at me, her expression offering the imperturbability of one who knows that Frank Robinson is in the on-deck circle. As she extended her paw again for the dice, I “accidentally” spilled my drink on the table, flushing the cards and dice away in a sudden rushing torrent. “Game called,” I snapped, “on account of rain.”
 
Miss Carol just glared at me,  and turned to lick her behind in a marked manner.  
 
She knows I’ll be back. She knows there’ll be more games. Because what else do I have to do and where else do I have to go?
 
This crisis better end soon. I can hear her in the kitchen right now, shuffling a deck of cards. She’s a demon at gin rummy, and I can’t afford to lose any more.
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