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Random memories of Shannon 1: Monopoly vs. cat

January 31, 2012

Simon, it had to be said, was getting on in years.  In his senescence he could not jump as well as he used to, and while petting him was not yet  like fondling a hairy bag of knuckles, he was distinctively leaner than he had been.  He couldn’t retract his front claws very well, either, so one Sunday afternoon he got them stuck in the new carpet just inside Shannon’s bedroom door.  Being a equanimous cat, he accepted this turn of events with dignity and settled down for a nap.

Unfortunately for Simon and his plan (insofar as any feline can be said to be capable of such a thing), his gracefully-endured ignominy had been witnessed by two men in their early twenties so utterly bored out of their minds they had even briefly entertained the concept of playing Monopoly.  This option, previously rejected on the solid grounds that the only thing more boring than Monopoly is Monopoly with only two players, was resuscitated when my brother and I saw  the possibility of a third, unwilling participant.

(At this point, I would like to point out that Simon the cat is long gone.  So for those of you properly horrified at the coming tale of animal abuse, it is many years too late to call the Humane Society.)

In the blink of my mind’s eye (for in my memory the board and pieces materialize as if conjured), we laid the game out in front of the unprotesting animal and dealt out cash for all three of us.  (My brother was banker, and chose the boot; as always, I insisted having the racing car as my champion.  It goes faster, you see.)  I explained to my brother the idea I’d had to make our three-handed game possible: every time a decision was called for by the player not capable of such a thing, the physical consequences of the two options would be presented to him on either side of his head, in his peripheral vision.  Whichever he inclined to first would indicate his choice.

(An aside: I do not think I have played a thousand different games in my life, but I would be surprised if it was far south of five hundred.  While I am not an incisive critic of games by any means, I have had experience with many different forms, with different varieties, many with mechanics simple and powerful enough to engage disparate mental faculties in a nuanced synthesis of cognition.  Monopoly is not one of these games.  In fact, and here I think I can speak with some authority, and while the game has some misguided defendersMonopoly fucking sucks.

Monopoly fucking sucks not because it is too random – Snakes and Ladders is a fine game for young children, who can play with adults on equal terms.  But Monopoly seems determined to draw the tedium out, with steel tongs if necessary.  The  decisions one makes in the game are either ultimately irrelevant or one option is so transparently superior the choice is not really one all.  In conclusion: Monopoly should not be inflicted on children or any other beings sentient enough to have attention spans.  This, fortunately, did not include our cat, and my brother and I were of course inflicting this suffering upon ourselves.)

My brother and I play Monopoly (when we are so inclined, i.e., almost never) fairly straight.  That is, we do not use any house rules, with the sole exception that unpurchased properties are not auctioned by the bank.  Being possessed of fingers and not, at any rate, completely ensnared in the broadloom, we did the various small duties the game demands – make change, roll the dice, move his token (dog) – on Simon’s behalf.  When he landed on a property he could afford to purchase, we would offer the money from his own till on one side and the representing deed on the other.  (Later, my we would suggest tactics like buying houses or mortgaging properties to raise cash.)  What thoughts went through his mind, if any, we were not privy to, but in all cases he would eventually deign to sniff, contemplate or nod at one or the other.  During this process my brother and I would discuss Simon’s grasp of the situation, his acumen, his possible long-term strategy.

It soon became clear he was pulling ahead.  In fact, cleaning our clocks, from the face and hands all the way down to the tiniest internal cog.

(Another aside: I wish to clarify the previous aside.  I dislike playing Monopoly intensely, and this has nothing to do with the fact that my brother and I had been taken to school by a goddamned cat – a cat still renowned in family lore for his mindfogging stupidity, so stupid that, when finished feeding and presumably satiated, you could pick him up, pet him a few times, put him back down again and he would immediately recommence eating – no fewer than seven times in a row.)

The game, like most games of Monopoly, gradually petered out as it became clear that even in collusion my brother and I had little chance of overtaking our ostensibly evolutionary inferior.  We conceded that sizable forebrains and opposable thumbs had not enabled us to prevail, that the loss was not necessarily due to pure chance, and that we had been beaten fair and square.

The cat and my brother are both now long dead: in Simon’s case, painful arthritis that made him unable to jump up to get his food made it necessary to put him down; my brother, unfortunately, was all too able to jump into the implacable waters of Niagara Falls.  But for a while, we played Monopoly, and managed to even have fun doing it.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. January 31, 2012 8:19 pm

    Though it might look like a finished piece, this is really a draft. There simply isn’t enough Shannon in it. It started more as a stylistic exercise, but as an essay it lacks real heft.

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