I went out to Annapolis on a couple of Sundays ago to (wait for it....) see a play. And since Brett and Cate and Charles live on my way home, I left a message before I went into the theater, more or less inviting myself to mooch dinner off of them. Well, not "more or less." I, in fact, left a message inviting myself to mooch dinner off of them. When I emerged back into the bright sunshine* there was a message waiting for me that Cate and Charles would love to be exploited in the name of friendship.
So I headed out to visit, and Cate and I got caught up, and Cate got an advance birthday hug, and we three had a very nice dinner of home-made beef with broccoli and brown rice. Brett, alas, was not home, so I scarfed up his share in addition to my own.**
After dinner we had enough time before Charles's annual bath*** for a quick game of Monopoly. Charles and I come from slightly different Monopoly traditions but we do agree on one of the important of the traditional (if not formal) rules - that a 50 (dollar or pound depending on which of Charles's several versions we are playing) and any penalties incurred are paid into the center and the pot is scooped by whomsoever lands on Free Parking.
We vary in that Charles believes that each player begins with two houses and a hotel. I've never heard of that before, but it works out okay because as soon as Charles has acquired his first monopoly the game is on it's downward spiral, so advancing him some of the construction costs is really just a mercy for Charles's opponent (i.e., the loser. i.e., me.). I mean, how much 9-going-on-10-year-old gloating is a grown up supposed to endure?
So we set to playing and Charles rolls out the strategy that has served him so well. He buys prett' near everything he lands on, tells me the rental, tells me the rental with hotel, rubs his hands together gleefully, and in general behaves like Scrooge McDuck would after finding a quarter on the sidewalk. I am slower to purchase - got to save my cash to pay Charles all that rent - but Charles seems to hope that I am buying properties merely in order to flip them and so offers me reasonable profit if I will allow him to take that nearly worthless land off my hands, you know, more as a favor to me than anything else, really. This last would be more convincing without the gleam in his eye and the used car dealer deameanor that emerges, but what do you expect -- he's only 9. If he were able to complete cover his basic childlike greed and be a smoother huckster, it wouldn't be fun to play with him, merely frightening.
So I sell him some stuff, but not much, and watch my savings dwindle as I meet expenses (hey, just like real life!). Around time that I'm starting to feel the pinch, Charles deploys the second of his sure-fire strategies. Let's remember that Charles's father and grandfather are gamers. But even so, this kid's dice skills are amazing. Why does he always buy Boardwalk and Park Place? Because he lands on them first, of course. (Yes, naturally, I would buy them if I landed on them first. I only look like an idiot. No, I only land there after the Charles Plaza is open for business with its oily concierge smiling at me.)
Why does he get venture capital levels of cash infusions from landing on Free Parking? Because his die rolls take him there. (I'll land on Free Parking a couple of turns later and pick up the solitary 50 from the echoing vaults.)
Between his good head for business and some die rolls that are more miraculous than any crying saint's statue ever was, it's just a matter of time -- a very short matter of time -- before I lose. And then he does the Dance of Joy, sometimes recapping for me great moments from the game that I might have managed to forget. Or will manage with the help of intoxicating beverages once I'm home.
From reading this, you might think that I am only playing with Charles because I'm such a nice person who does things for children to make them happy. Not really. I'm a spinster with a cat and most of the things that deeply interest children, I don't care about at all . And I'm too selfish to spend much time pretending that I do. So the children closest to me have largely learned to take an interest in my hobbies. (The benefits to knowing me are nearly without end, as you can see.) Charles's Nintendo baseball game that he loves? Ehh, never touched it.
But I do like Monopoly and I do like Charles. And I am fascinated by playing Monopoly with him because, in general, Charles is one of the most polite, adult-aware children I know, so it is really interesting to me to see his rapacious, piratical side given free (if temporary) rein.
Maybe it's an only child thing, but he moves in between kid and adults worlds much more smoothly than a lot of other children I know and definitely better than I did at his age, when I was self-involved and oblivious (just like now). Charles and smart and funny and well-behaved and plesasant and, in my opinion, a great credit to his parents. I kind of wish they'd raised me.****
One time we were going to play, but we lingered over dinner too long and it got too late and Charles had to get ready for bed instead of do his impression of Alexander the Great across the game board. When told this, he didn't pitch a fit, he just said okay. And moved on. Again, I wish I were that well behaved.
I'll keep playing with him, but I figured that by the time he moves on to some other game, I will have lost enough money and property to him to buy up and build hotels on several nearby planets.
Charles, Landlord of Universes.
* It was a lovely day in Annapolis and I can only credit the fact that I found parking an easy walk to the theater on a street that has an ice creamery that sells ice cream that they make themselves right there that was very, very yummy, especially on an end-of-summer/beginning-of-autumn great-for-ice-cream-eating kind of day to some of cosmic, karmic thing. I'd better do something real good real soon or some bad, bad juju is coming at me.
**Though p’r’aps I may incur your blame/ The things are few/ I would not do/ In Friendship’s name!
*** Just checking to see if Cate reads this. Charles is actually a very clean child.
****Well, actually, in some ways they did. I have learned an awful from my friendship with both them and I owe them more than I can repay. I also love them both a bunch.