Alexandra’s cell phone battery sputtered and died while monsters shattered her world outside.
“What will I do now?” she asked.
Her grandfather looked up from his book and smiled.
“You could plug it in and let it charge.”
“That takes forever.”
“Mmmm.” he said, and went back to his book.
“There’s nothing to do,” she wailed.
“You could go outside.”
“The monsters are out there,” she said, pulling back the curtain on the window, looking up and down the street.
“Mmmm,” said the old man.
“There’s nothing to do,” she whined.
He looked up. “You could read a book.”
“Meh,” she mumbled.
He slid the bookmark into the tight crevice of the pages and closed the book. “Now let me make sure I know what you said. ‘Meh,’ I believe is a newer iteration that means ‘I’m not interested.’ So, say five years ago, you would have said ‘whatever’ and meant the same thing?”
She stared at him. Meh was written all over her face.
“Why do you always say ‘Mmmm’ like you know something I don’t?”
“Mmmm. You might find this book interesting,” he smiled. “This is a short story by John Steinbeck. Do you know who Steinbeck was?”
“Yes, he was some old guy who wrote a book about growing grapes. And stuff.”
Her grandfather stared at her and blinked his eyes at least four times. Maybe five.
“It’s a story about how people behave when the zombies are on the loose.”
“I already know how to behave. Stay inside. Social distance, six feet, all that.”
“Don’t be churlish.”
“If you had plugged in that phone, you could be finding out. That thick gray book right there in the bookcase is called a dictionary. All the words are in alphabetical order.”
She stared at him again. All over her face was churl.
Her grandfather smiled. “Would you like to play a game?”
“My phone’s dead.”
“No I mean an old-fashioned board game. In the real world. In 3D. Let’s play Monopoly.”
Alex sighed, “I always win.”
Her grandfather allowed the slightest of smiles to cross his face.
“Would you like to play a Monopoly game that’s a little more unpredictable?”
He pulled the box from the bookshelf and blew the dust from it.
“This is called Marxist Monopoly.”
They unfolded the board on the dining room table and arranged all the pieces, sorting the play money into its proper compartments.
Alex eyed the pieces and grabbed her favorite. “I’ll be the Scottie Dog, as usual. He’s my good luck piece. Do you want the top hat?”
Her grandfather’s wrinkled hand moved over the collection. “This game is a little different. I think I’ll be The Boot.”
He handed her a green twenty dollar bill, and gave himself one. “Now I’ll be the bank, but in this game, we’ll call it the Government.”
Alex rolled the dice. A two and a one. “Three! that gives me Baltic Avenue.” She stared at the price. “I only have twenty dollars.”
“Yes,” said her grandfather. “Same as the rest of us.”
“But that’s not fair!”
“Oh, I beg to differ. It’s actually extremely fair. We all got the same amount.”
“Then we should have started with more to begin with.”
“Well, in regular Monopoly, you’d be entitled to your opinion. I’m afraid that’s not the case in this game. If you don’t stop complaining, I’ll throw you in jail.”
“You can’t do that! It’s against the rules!”
“Actually, I’m the government and I am the rules. I can do that.”
Her grandfather rolled an eight, landing on Connecticut Avenue. “You see? I don’t have enough either. Your turn.”
She rolled the dice again, landing on CHANCE. Her grandfather handed her the orange card. “PAY POOR TAX OF $15” said the little top-hatted millionaire with his pockets turned inside-out.
Her grandfather gave her five dollars in change. “How do you know that’s right?” she asked.
The top of his head tilted slowly down to a position near his shoulder as he stared at her.
Grandfather rolled again, landing on Tennessee Avenue. He handed her the dice.
Eight. She landed on Pennsylvania Railroad. “Well obviously I can’t afford it,” she muttered.
“It makes no difference. They’re all Amtrak now.”
“Wait a minute. Who owns all this property at the start?”
“I do, Alex. I’m the government.”
“Well I don’t think I like this game.”
“Most people don’t,” said her grandfather.
“I’m not going to play by the rules.”
He moved her piece to JAIL.
“ That’s not fair.”
“Oh it’s quite fair. I’m the government and I’d do it to anyone playing this game.”
“Most people do.”
They picked up the pieces and put them in the box.
“That’s an immoral and unwinnable game.”
Her grandfather’s head moved slowly over to his shoulder again as he smiled at her.
(FULL DISCLOSURE BY THE AUTHOR: I’m never this patient with young people. I made the whole thing up.)