My first foray into the Tipsy Lit Prompted challenge, this week’s piece is about family game night. Enjoy, and remember – feedback always appreciated here at manuscripts & marginalia!
Note: Word count is 482, right under the 500-word max.
“We should have done this years ago,” Michael says. He wades out of the sea of stained, warped cardboard boxes, long forgotten by anything other than dust.
Julie hands him a bottle of water and surveys the basement. It’s a sad monument to their mother, who would have kept it in order, would’ve forced Dad to give away things outgrown and unused.
Sweat beads on Julie’s arms and drowsy fatigue rolls over her. She is exhausted, but not from the funeral – from the decades that preceded it, always on edge and uncertain how long their father’s tenuous grip on life might hold.
Sensations of gratitude and loss bubble to the surface of her consciousness, and although Julie has been preparing for this for most of her adult life, she’s not ready to confront it. She opens the closest box and begins to rifle through it.
“Jeez,” Michael says as he peers in, “are those just pieces of board games?”
“It’s like someone poured the rec room closet into this box,” Julie says.
“Oh my gosh,” Michael’s voice takes on that edge of childhood wonder and elation. He pulls out a rubberbanded stack of bent cards. The colors have faded, but Julie recognizes the massive deck she and Michael designed one particularly rainy summer.
After excavating several layers of instruction manuals and game pieces, Julie unearths the flimsy cardboard painted with garish patterns and undisciplined shapes.
“Go Fish Yourself,” Julie laughs. She remembers how fun this game was, how she looked forward to playing it every week – up until she didn’t, when gossip became her game strategy and thick, sweet-scented lip gloss won you a better prize than picking the ice cream flavor Mom got at Kingman’s Sundries.
“Do you still remember how to play?” Michael asks. “I mean, it’s Tuesday. It seems wrong to ignore it.”
“I think so,” Julie replies. “Let’s show the kids.”
When they get upstairs, Julie’s husband is trying to goad their youngest daughter into giving up a dirty dish towel she found buried in the pantry.
“It’s a magic blanket for a princess,” Callie wails.
“Sorry, sorry, I turned my back for one minute,” John says. He stares at Julie and her younger brother, dusty and sweaty and grinning like fools.
“We need to take a break,” Michael glances over at the other children, sitting motionless and maudlin on an ancient plaid couch. Julie places the cardboard on the kitchen table and she and Michael sit down.
“Do you want to be the Warden?” Julie asks. “I think you should. I’d be better as the Teller.”
They don’t talk about taking the roles their parents would play, or why they must. The transition to “survived by” is made easier with heavy-handed paint jobs and the low-grade fever of competition.
“Hey kids, come play a game with your Mom and Uncle Mike,” John calls.
Julie begins to deal.