Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Kamikaze Clue

As summer vacation rages on my defenses weaken enough that my children were recently able to exact a promise from me to play a game before dinner. As soon as the words were out of my mouth I knew I’d walked into their trap and it meant one thing: Clue—or rather what I now call Kamikaze Clue—partly because it’s crazy and unpredictable but mostly because playing with my sweet children is enough to make one suicidal.

Imagine four kids plus one mother sitting around the board on the floor. Lillian (age 3) insists on participating despite her complete ignorance of deductive reasoning skills and chooses her piece: Mr. Green, her favorite color. She plays along in that whole “taking turns” scenario but doesn’t really play, she just rolls the die, happily exclaiming on every cast, “OOOOH! SIX!” She then proceeds to viciously stomp Mr. Green over the furniture and walls of the Conservatory—incidentally NOBODY knows what that is, what are they conserving? Plants? Air?

Grace (age 11) plays fine, her problem is her pronunciation. While she was learning to read she thought it was a Lead (rhyming with feed) Pipe and wasn’t been able to get her brain out of that groove however many times we corrected. In the spirit of family solidarity we gave up the fight, and called it the Leed pipe, which seeped into our every-day English till my children now couldn’t possibly pronounce it correctly.

Grace has a long history with American’s favorite mystery board game, on her ninth birthday she threw a Clue-themed party where each girl came dressed as her favorite Clue character. That meant fifteen Miss Scarlets, Grace being the lone hold-out for Mrs. Peacock (she liked the hat, plus she said something about Miss Scarlet being scary, whatever THAT was about).

They played a couple games and the problems developed when they wanted to know how the weapons worked. One little girl wanted to know how one “did it” with a rope. A second sweet little girl decided to show off her vast forensic knowledge by saying, “You wrap it around someone’s neck and pull them.”

That fired their imaginations and soon they wanted to know about the possibilities of a candlestick fatality. I tried to make it sound as benign as possible by saying offhand, “Oh, it’s used to bonk someone on the head.” (Can you imagine actually using the verb to bonk in a sentence?)

To which that same little girl with the vivid knowledge of ropes jumped in again and said helpfully, “You could also use it to light a fire on someone.”

Great. I figured I’d get at least three calls from irate parents wanting to know what had gone on at the party, what had I taught their daughters, then demanding money for therapy. I won’t go into what the girls thought one could do with a wrench . . .

But to continue with the present, Grace knows how to play. No, the problems center on David (age 6) and Spencer (age 8), there’s trouble whenever they play.

First, they fight over who gets to be Miss Scarlet, something that really worried my husband until I explained Miss Scarlet always goes first. WHEW! He was thinkin’ there were some issues there.

Second, they try to sneak extra information out of unsuspecting victims—we’re all onto them and it rarely works, but sometimes Grace will fall in their trap. Observe.

Spencer: I think it was Professor Plum [his criminal of choice] in the Study with the Revolver. You have any of those Grace?

Grace: Nope.

Spencer: Oh! I mean the Library!

Grace: Nope. [Then it hits her.] HEY! You can’t do that!

It just gets worse from there. For example, Spencer might throw out a suggestion and say, “I think it was Mrs. White in the Ballroom with the Wrench.” It might be my turn to show him any applicable cards disproving his theory. If I show him the Wrench card he’s guaranteed to say something like, “I thought I knew what the weapon was!” or he might turn to David and say in a not-so-subtle whisper, “I thought YOU had the Wrench!” or any number of things that would give away the card.

Every time this happens I sigh and once again go over the problems of revealing other players’ information. Trouble is, HE doesn’t see a problem. HE’S having fun. It’s YOU that has the problem Mom.

Each time I add another item to the long list of Things You’re Not Supposed To Say While Playing Clue (such as, “Do I have the Knife? Oh! Yea! I thought I’d already shown you that one!”) they come up with something new, thinking they’re soooooooo secretive, that NOBODY can tell what they’re thinking. Well, that’s partially true.

If someone asks David about Mrs. White in the Ballroom with the Wrench and he says, “No I don’t have any of those,” it invokes the obligatory ritual of asking, "Are you SURE?" two or three times before anyone feels safe with that piece of info. This isn’t some silly precaution, we have been known to get to the end of the game only to discover during the final, climactic criminal revelation that David had not noticed he did, after all, hold the Lounge card.

So you see, just when I think I’m about to get through a turn without someone saying something to give my cards away or ruin the game, my boys will slip something in and leave me for dead. For example:

Mom: I think it was Mister Mustard [we never call him Colonel, Mister sounds much more appropriate] in the Kitchen with the Leed Pipe. David, do you have any of those cards?

David: [Pause] No.

Mom: Are you sure?

David: [Pause] Yup.

Mom: Are you REALLY sure? Better check again.

David: [Leaning forward to squint at the board] OH! I thought you said the Candlestick!

That’s how our sorry game stands: Lillian is busy hoppin’ it up in the Conservatory and getting a great roll every time, David can’t quite figure out the logic of the game and Spencer hasn’t got the secretive element mastered enough to keep his—or my—information quiet.

Therefore Grace wins by process of elimination, she’s the only person with the slightest chance of winning, though Spencer and David certainly make it difficult for her.

They figured out fairly early on that whenever they make a suggestion for the crime, that that character piece gets taken to that particular room. So, if Spencer arrives in the Hall to make a suggestion, he grabs the rope, looks slyly at Grace’s and says, “Miss Peacock! In the Hall with the Rope!” Just to hear Grace squeal, “MOM! He’s doing it again!” Her piece is then dragged to the Hall as the suspect. It gets very frustrating for her—in fact murder as a theme isn’t far from the truth—because David in particular doesn’t care if he wins so long as he can pull Grace away from wherever she’s trying to go. If he can thwart her at every turn, drag her around the board as a hostage, never allowing her to go anywhere by her own free will, then his work is done and hey, he’s having fun! Wherever the boys move, Grace knows sooner or later they’ll start getting their kicks dragging her piece from room to room and she’ll be doomed, her only hope is to figure out who did it before they get to that point.

And THAT, my dear friends, is why we call it Kamikaze Clue.

Well, that, and the fact that on this last game when no one was looking, Lillian put the tiny revolver in her mouth and swallowed. At least it wasn't the pipe, or I'd be worried about leed poisoning.


Anonymous said...

Friday 3:30 and it's finally time for my weekly "scribbit" fix! It keeps me close to my grandkids a.n.d their parents. by the way. The Kamikaze Clue story was wonderful. Can't wait for your description of....I'd say Suicidal Scrabble...but I think Homicide fits better, but it isn't alliterative. Love to all MOM M XOXOXO

Anonymous said...

I love your stories. Their so entertaining. I look forward to the next story.