The Older Brother's Guide to Cheating at Monopoly | Amorak Huey
The year of the divorce, all springflood and tornado warning,
Cahaba River swollen beyond reason or containment,
Happy Hollow Road washed out and we were trapped:
ten days of our parents barely able to look at each other.
Chores and games were all we had—once the animals were fed
we rolled dice, dealt cards, kept score in too-convenient metaphors:
Life, Careers, Clue, Battleship, Risk. But looking back I find
little narrative, less rhyme scheme
as the lyricism of my parents' love story unraveled,
my brother and I too young to see beyond our own skin,
our hunger for predictability. We didn't have TV until a year later
in our father's apartment so we weren't yet in the thrall
of The A-Team, Knight Rider, CHiPs—every episode
beginning with an implausible car wreck, vehicles in a pile
with no one injured who couldn't be pulled free by Ponch or Jon.
Our heroes lived on baseball cards, everything we needed
to know about their life stories in neat columns of numbers on the back.
It all comes together so obviously, doesn't it? I am older now
than my parents then, with kids of my own who ask only
for every instant of my attention—not one thing more—
so I sense the sacrifice they made when at last
we talked them into joining us for Monopoly.
We bought, sold, bartered, mortgaged, developed, took second prize
in beauty contest after beauty contest. We passed Go,
collected our due, went directly to jail, took rides on the Reading
in this game that refused to end, not even
when the rain stopped and they fixed the road.
My parents had enough, but we would not quit.,
Eventually they divided their properties between us,
returned to the dismantling of their marriage,
but my brother and I were committed to see it through.
I'd like to tell you how it ended, to persuade you
the way things turned out meant something about capitalism,
about the nature of human affairs—but I don't recall. I'm sure I won,
appointing myself banker and stacking the deck in my favor,
for which I should now apologize, but to whom? For what?
What I do know: it hardly rained those dusty deadgrass months,
we escaped our house gone silent, built a fort in the woods—
dug a hole ten feet square, four feet deep, covered it with pine boughs,
told no one of its existence. We were working against a deadline,
a season that had stretched endlessly in front of us
growing shorter by the day and so much to learn about architecture.
"The Older Brother's Guide to Cheating at Monopoly" originally appeared in the Winter 2013 issue of FRiGG Magazine and can be found in Boom Box (Sundress Publications 2019).