Keeping Score

Submitted into Contest #34 in response to: Write a story about a family game night.... view prompt



This was officially their first fight in isolation. Things were going reasonably well during days one through eight, but by day nine they started testing each other’s nerves and patience. It started with dirty dishes, well, that was the tipping point at least. Kendra was doing the dishes AGAIN, even though it was David’s responsibility. He was supposed to be taking care of the yard, bathrooms, and dishes. She did the cooking, laundry, and general tidying of the house. After two days of dirty dishes sitting in their own filth in the sink Kendra snapped and the fight began. 

“I guess I’ll just do these myself; no problem!” Kendra yelled toward the home office that David had taken over for the day. 

“I was going to do them, but I got caught up in meetings. I’m trying to make money here,” he replied through the wall. 

“Of course, I wouldn’t want to get in the way of your business,” Kendra said as she snatched a new sponge from under the sink and squeezed the last of the soap onto it. Out of soap! How could he have forgotten to get soap with yesterday’s grocery store trip? She threw the empty soap bottle into the recycling bin, the plastic bang electrifying the air in the house. She glanced out the backyard window and noticed that the grass was still knee-high. I guess he has too many meetings to do the yardwork too, she thought to herself as her eyes narrowed and her jaw clenched in annoyance. 

David sighed and rolled his head in a circle, noticing his tired shoulders. Great, this will be a fun day trapped in the house, he thought. 

They kept their distance for the rest of the day, each stewing in their frustrations about what the other person was doing (or not doing). David assumed their weekly Scrabble night would be forgotten in the fury, but at 7 p.m. he heard the sounds of cardboard unfolding on the table and the wood tiles shaking in the bag. I guess game night is still on, but this could be a disaster, he thought. 

He went first, and with some rare and ridiculous twist of luck, he was able to use all seven tiles, getting him the 50-point BINGO bonus. This never happens. Kendra’s eyes widened as she gripped the table in disbelief. A BINGO on the first turn?? Maybe I shouldn’t have set the board out tonight; maybe we should have skipped game night. This was going to be a mess, she thought. 

TORTURE was the word that started the game, giving David 58 points. They both felt it was an appropriate description for their current isolation situation. 

Kendra perked up as she saw she also had a word that worked for her mood. UNFAIR didn’t quite get her a BINGO (just 17 points) but at least she had an appropriate response. She hoped he knew this referred to his luck in the game already, the dishes, the yardwork, and the other imbalances in their relationship that the isolation was shedding light onto. 

David laid down three tiles for TEST, which was what this all felt like. Would they survive all this time together in the house for the foreseeable future? Would they pass this unreasonable test? Would she continue to test his patience? Just 6 points for that one, but he was still in the lead. 

Kendra added YARD to the board for 9 points, and waited for his response. She could see his neck muscles flex and he didn’t look up from his tiles. He knew the view into the backyard through the window behind him. He didn’t need the reminder of his housework to-do list that was stacked onto his business meetings and client tasks list. He was overwhelmed; couldn’t she see that?

AGONY was his next word, bringing in 18 points with a double word score bonus. She couldn’t help her eyes from rolling in his dramatic interpretation of what it was like to live with and play this game with her. Grow up, she thought. 

Kendra’s eyes flickered between the board and her tiles. There must be something she could do with these. This turn took longer than usual, but it didn’t inspire the friendly taunting that would normally come from David when she was this slow to find something. There was no chatter during this game as there had been last week, or the week before. Then she saw it. SILENCE. 18 points with a double word score bonus. 

And that’s what surrounded them during this game. Two people stuck in the house, frustrated with each other and their situation. 

Then David used just two tiles to add WHY to the board. With this Kendra took in a deep breath and started running through her various complaints in her head. David did the same thing, but ultimately found that he was just tired and fighting took energy he didn’t have. 

Kendra pushed back from the table and opened the fridge. She pulled out a bottle of their favorite wine, and the pop of the cork cut through the stiff air. The aroma of sweet oak, peach, and caramel floated over the table as she poured two glasses of the wine. She nudged one to his side of the table and her eyes briefly met his.

Kendra’s next word was CALGARY. This was huge. They only suspended rules and allowed proper nouns when they were in the lightest of moods, when the score didn’t matter and they just had fun with finding any words that would fit. And of course this made David remember that trip. Five years ago they visited Calgary and Banff in Canada and it was one of their most memorable experiences. The sunrise walk around Moraine Lake before the crowds poured in was breathtaking. Their Banff cabin with the fireplace and late-night talks. Their splurge on the incredible Spanish tapas dinner in Calgary. The memories flooded over both of them for a moment, and they couldn’t help but smile. 

Next David added SHOES to the board, and Kendra nearly choked on her sip of wine. She felt a giggle rise up from inside her as she knew exactly which shoes he was referring to. The ones he didn’t wear to a golf tournament as a kid. His family took the game pretty seriously and signed up both David and his older brother for a local kids’ tournament when David was about eight years old. The morning was so rushed and their parents were focused on his brother, so by the time they arrived at the tournament, David realized he had forgotten his shoes. And his clubs! Kendra laughs with glee every time he tells the story. She can just picture him barefoot, with a random collection of borrowed clubs, keeping his things in a grocery store bag, and then ultimately getting second place for his age group. This was always one of David’s favorite stories to tell and one of Kendra’s favorites to hear. He earned just 10 points with that word, but it gave them both an opportunity to sit back and enjoy the wine and ridiculous vision of his childhood golf tournament fiasco. 

Kendra’s next word was TRAIN, and they both thought of that train ride across Norway last year. The mountains, waterfalls, and forest stunned them into silence that day and that country quickly became one of their favorite places in the world. How lucky were they to see these beautiful parts of the world? It was sad to think that they didn’t know when their next trip anywhere could be, but they already had these incredible memories, that no virus could destroy. 

MAGAZINE came next, giving David 46 points with the triple letter bonus on the Z. She remembered his magazine from back in the early days of their relationship. His first business. She wasn’t sure if it was going to work out, but she still stuck by him. She thought of the late nights editing and formatting, the angry calls when people didn’t get their copies in time, the endless hunt for advertising sponsors. It was a lot of work, and of course it all collapsed when everything shifted to digital, but it worked out better for his transition to the new business anyway. The frustration of the day had clouded his memories of their past and how loyal she was during that risky venture, but now he promised himself he wouldn’t forget. 

Kendra then put down SIXFLAGS as another rule-breaking word. It didn’t matter for this game. She noted her 27 points and they both pictured that day they played hooky from work to pretend they were kids again. They raced around the park eating junk food, flying through the air on the scariest rides, and then laughing at how different the amusement park experience is for adults after they both got sick and lost their lunches in the bushes. David let out a small chuckle with a shake of his head as he remembered that day of irresponsibility. 

His next word brought the mood back down. VISIT gave him 32 points and Kendra knew he was referring to the time he spent in the hospital when they had just started dating. He was hesitant to show his vulnerable side with this person he had only been on two dates with, but ultimately he decided the company would be worth her seeing him in a sad and broken state. Her heart grew heavy as she thought back to that time, knowing how much pain he was in. She visited him every day that week, bringing in a new game or story to read each time to keep him entertained and in good spirits. That experience told David that she was someone to keep around. 

Kendra laid down three tiles for SAME. She knew he would have done the same for her and he had supported her through her difficult times as well. They both sunk down into their seats a little deeper with this and thought back to other examples of how they’ve helped each other through the tough stuff, and how many beautiful memories they’ve shared over the years. Their tight-lipped grimaces turned to easy smiles and they stopped keeping score as they continued to fill the board. 

This game didn’t need a winner. 

March 27, 2020 22:59

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Peace Nakiyemba
21:23 Apr 02, 2020

Lauren, I love your story. They had the Scrabble tiles to do all the talking for them and we still didn't miss a thing. I like the resolution too...sometimes the present can muddy a lot of things that truly matter. Great story.


Lauren Oertel
16:10 Apr 03, 2020

Thanks so much, I enjoyed yours as well!


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Kassidy Barber
07:08 Mar 30, 2020

I love the layout of this story and the progression of an entire conflict and resolution through Scrabble words. Brilliant! Such a fun read!


Lauren Oertel
18:03 Mar 30, 2020

Thank you - I'm glad you enjoyed it. :)


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