Dan kicked his son Mark’s bed. Mark barely moved.
“Come on Sluggo. Rise and shine. You know it’s four o’clock? I thought you were out.”
Mark turned toward the wall and pulled his blanket over his head. “I can’t go out.”
“Are you sick? Get up. The day’s wasting. Did you forget it’s game day?”
Mark mumbled through the covers, “Oh boy! Video games!”
“Actually, we’re going low tech tonight. Board games. Try it. You’ll like it. And clean up your room. I’ll be in my office.”
A while later, Mark shuffled into the kitchen where his mother, Miriam bustled about. The delicious aroma of freshly baked cookies drew him there.
He reached for one of the fresh cookies cooling on the pan.
“Ouch!” Mark pulled his hand back more in surprise than pain. “You hit me!”
Miriam smiled as she held up the spatula like a weapon. “I barely touched you. Just keeping the flies off.”
Mark scowled. “I should turn you in for child abuse.”
“But then who’d make you cookies?” She untied her apron.
“Come on. Just one?”
“You know the rules, Mark. No sweets before dinner. You haven’t eaten all day.”
“What’s for dinner?”
“We’re getting the new special, ‘Shelter in Place Pizza’ delivered from Arpeggio’s.”
“What’s it got?”
“The ad says it has ‘double everything, plus!’ It should last a week, even with your appetite.”
“But what’s on it?”
“I don’t remember, but in the picture, a kid like you is struggling to eat a slice stacked precariously high. And there’s some little kids trying to catch the stuff falling off of it with their plates. And a couple dogs are scrambling for what the kids miss.”
“But what’s on it?”
“It would be easier to list what’s not on it.”
Mark rolled his eyes. His line of questioning led nowhere. “When do we eat?”
The doorbell rang.
Miriam said, “Now.” She went to the front door and opened it.
Nick, Mark’s friend from school stood there.
“Oh, hi Nick. You don’t happen to have a pizza on you?”
“Nope. No pizza, Mrs. Quilty.”
“That’s too bad. You here to see Mark?”
“I’m sorry I can’t let you in. You know we’re supposed to be sheltering in place?”
“Yeah. I thought I’d stop by and say hello, anyway.”
Mark spoke up from the hallway. “Hi, Nick.”
Miriam interjected, “I can give you some fresh-baked cookies though. Mark, go grab one of the little bags tied shut with red ribbon.”
Mark brought a bag of cookies and gave it to his mother. Miriam offered it to Nick.
“Thanks, Mrs. Quilty.” Mark and Nick both waved good-bye and laughed at the absurd situation.
The pizza delivery guy passed Nick on the sidewalk. He carried an extra thick pizza box.
When the family finished dinner Mark cleared the table and sneaked some cookies. Dan set up the game.
Mark looked at the game. “Monopoly? Aren’t players required to receive Social Security? I don’t think I’m qualified.”
“You’ll be fine, Mark. I know it doesn’t promise the body count you are accustomed to, but you might enjoy it. Let it tap into your inner-greedy bastard.”
Mark cocked his head and smiled at the prospect. “I’m banker!”
Miriam came to the table with a plate of her cookies. “Now you can have one.”
Mark grabbed three. “For starters.”
Miriam dealt the property deeds to the three of them.
“Mom! You’re doing it wrong.”
“No, I’m not.”
“The rules say we’re supposed to buy what we land on.”
“This saves time though. It’s the way we always did it.”
Dan said, “Not as if we’re in any hurry. We could be here for weeks.”
“Playing it that way, I can guarantee it.”
“I never saw stacking the deck in the rules, Mom. You just happened to get all four railroads? Did you even shuffle them?”
“I didn’t cheat, Mark. No one likes the railroads anyway.”
Dan said, “I like them if I have them.”
“I’m the banker. We need to start over.”
Miriam gave in. “I can’t believe we can’t agree on how to play a game that’s been around for generations.”
“When in doubt, follow the rules, Mom.”
“Yes, dear one. I taught you well.”
They started playing and had each rolled the dice when the doorbell rang.
Mark opened the door to Marie, his girlfriend. She looked great.
“Wow! Hi! I didn’t know you were coming over…”
They went through a dance of whether to hug or not.
Embarrassed, Mark pulled back. “I guess we… social…”
Marie ignored him and gave him a warm hug. Mark responded in kind. But they didn’t kiss.
“I’m sorry, Marie. I’d invite you in but my Mom says…”
“Come in, Marie. You are always welcome here.” Miriam called from behind Mark. “I need an ally to keep these guys from ganging up on me.”
Unsure, Marie looked at Mark and he took her arm.
Marie sat and Miriam brought a bowl of multi-flavored gummy bears to the table. “Your favorites,” she said.
Mark and Marie played a gentle game of tug-o-war with the bowl.
“What happened to all the orange gummies, Mom?”
“Oh, did I eat them all? They remind me so much of the orange sticks I loved when I was your age.”
“That’s not fair. No hoarding, Mom.”
“It’s not hoarding if I eat them.”
Marie said, “Doesn’t it come under the ‘snooze you lose’ rule?”
“Thank you, Marie. I’m happy you’re here.”
Dan examined a hotel piece. “What’s happening in there? What are you doing?”
Mark and Marie shared a furtive glance.
Mark cleared his throat. “Let’s play the game. Pick a piece, Marie.”
“But she doesn’t have any properties.”
“I don’t want to stop the game. I’ll just go.”
“No, stay. We can work something out. We could each give you two of our properties so you get an even break.”
“You’d actually donate your slummy properties to me? Thanks, Mark.” He smiled as she nudged him with her elbow. Mark nudged her back.
Miriam said, “How about we each sell half our properties back to the bank. Marie can choose a few amongst them and the rest are available to anyone who lands on them?”
Dan said, “Or we could start over. We only just started. Make it easy.”
It didn’t take much to reorganize. Marie picked the little dog for her piece. Mark gave Marie an allotment of play money and let her roll the dice.
Mark said, “I just realized. Why are there no schools in this game? Or hospitals? Is there no thought for future generations?”
Dan said, “It isn’t reality, Mark. When they invented the game making money was a dream. Life’s rules were different then.”
They each took turns and moved around the board.
Marie said, “That’s really true. My Uncle used to talk about his escape from Hungary in the fifties. He and a friend were about to cross the frontier one night when some soldiers stopped them.”
“They were by a cemetery. The soldiers laughed and told my Uncle and his friend to go ahead and run if they thought they could make it.”
“They had to run through a cemetery in the dark?”
“With the soldiers laughing and shooting behind them. Can you imagine? Just to gain some freedom?”
Marie rolled the dice and her piece landed on Boardwalk.
“I’ll buy it,” she said.