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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: The Game of Life (09/11/08)

TITLE: Game Change
By Kristen Hester


Tony grasped the spinner between his thumb and pointer and gave it a twirl. “Ten,” he declared when the wheel stopped. He slid his blue car forward ten spaces, then leaned forward and adjusted his bifocals to read the writing on the square. “Win talent show. Collect $10,000.” He chuckled.

“What’s your talent? Singing? Dancing?” Samuel teased with an easy smile.

“I dance and sing. Want a performance?”

“Maybe next time.” Samuel spun a six, moved his green car, then rubbed his bearded face as he silently read to himself. “You’ve got all the luck today, my friend.” He counted out $5,000 and passed it to Tony. “It seems I had a ski accident and must pay the doctor. I’m not sure how anyone with my small salary affords to go skiing, but what do I know?”

Tony just smiled, still surprised he was playing a child’s game and actually enjoying himself. He’d thought Samuel was crazy when he set up the game, but he’d reluctantly agreed to play.

On Tony’s next turn he landed on the square that said simply, “Baby girl!” He added a pink peg to his car and then let his mind wander to a time, many years ago.

“Watch me dance, Daddy?” The curly-headed brunette, draped in pink chiffon and satin ribbons twirled around the room, stopping only long enough to make sure he was watching attentively. “Am I pretty, Daddy?”

“Yes, Princess. You’re the most beautiful girl in the world.”

His smile grew when he felt warm arms encircle his waist. “What about me?”

He turned and nuzzled his face against his wife’s neck. “You’re the most beautiful woman in the world.”

She turned to their daughter. “Couldn’t you watch her forever?”

“Yes,” he purred. “Life doesn’t get better than this.”

“Your turn.” Samuel’s words brought him back to the present. “Although I don’t know why we’re still playing. I think you’ve won.”

Tony was silent as he spun the wheel and continued the game.

On Samuel’s next turn he moved his car to the square that read “Trade Salary Card with Any Player.

“Whoop-ee!” Samuel said. “Who’s the rich doctor now?” When he saw the forlorn look on Tony’s face, he abruptly stopped his celebration. “What’s wrong? Are you upset?”

Tony shook his head and managed a grin. “Of course not. It’s just a game.” He was telling the truth. Losing a pointless game didn’t bother him, but the sudden change in the game reminded him of how quickly his own life had u-turned. He recalled the moment it had been dramatically altered.

He’d sensed something wasn’t right as soon as he walked into the house. When he saw his wife sitting on the couch with her bags packed, he was confused.

“What’s wrong?” he’d asked in alarm.

He could no longer recall her exact words, but the bottom line was she’d found someone else. She traded him for another man and took his daughter with her. He’d spent the next year and every dime he had fighting to keep them. When he’d unsuccessfully exhausted every effort to win them back, anger became his constant companion. He’d nursed and fed the all-encompassing emotion until it led him to irrevocable actions.

He mentally returned to the game. “Looks like you’ll win now,” he said to Samuel.

“The games not over.”

“Might as well be.”

“Indulge me. Keep playing.”

Tony begrudgingly moved his car along the board. His eyes widened when he landed on another “Trade Salary” space and the game was reversed again.

After they got to the end of the board, Samuel and Tony counted their rainbow-colored money. “Well, look at that, Tony. You did win, after all.”

“I’m surprised. I’d assumed the game was over when you took my salary.”

“Nope. You should know by now, it’s not over until it’s over.”

A loud buzzing noise sounded through the speakers above them. A uniformed guard entered through the locked medal door. “Visiting hours are over,” the emotionless voice barked.

Samuel rose from his seat. “I’ll bring a different game next week.”

Tony pumped the pastor’s hand. “Thanks,” he said, and meant it.

“Don’t thank me. I enjoy our time together.” He turned to leave. When he got to the door, he stopped and looked at Tony. “Remember, friend, just like in the game, your life isn’t over yet.”

Tony nodded his head silently. The pastor had left him something to ponder.

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This article has been read 879 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Allison Egley 09/20/08
Oh, very good. Left me wondering what he was in for. You definitely got me at the end.
Laury Hubrich 09/21/08
Well now, here's my guess: I assume he's in a mental institution. This is a very sad entry but you did leave us a ray of hope at the end.
Shelley Ledfors 09/21/08
Excellent! I love the surprise of the setting at the end. Before that I was picturing a senior center or something of that sort. You used "medal" instead of "metal" to describe the door, but most likely you already saw that after you submitted it. (I hate it when that happens! :-)) Very engaging piece!
Jan Ackerson 09/21/08
Really well-written, and the flashback is seamless--awesome! I have a hard time imagining people playing Life in prison, but I suppose they could...Love the double meaning of the title.
LauraLee Shaw09/21/08
This is masterfully written and perfect for the topic. Your hanging ending left me curious, but now I can choose it! Excellent!
Pam Carlson-Hetland09/22/08
Wow...what an excellent piece. I loved how parts of life were revealed, the touch of mystery, and then a surprise ending. Mostly, I like how it left the reminder for all of us that no matter what hardships we've had, life can change. Beautifully written. Great job!!!!
Celeste Ammirata09/22/08
Wow! This is really good. A reminded of how every choice we make can affect our game of life. Great job!
Scott Sheets09/22/08
Powerful entry! The slow revelation of the setting was quite effective. Nice double take on the topic. Great Job!
Verna Cole Mitchell 09/25/08
Congratulations on a win for a wonderful story--don't know how I happened to miss it. You can feel the mc's despair at the results of his anger and see a glimmer of hope. Great writing.
LauraLee Shaw09/25/08
Congratulations on 4th place, my friend!
Carole Robishaw 09/25/08
If it was in irrevocable action leading to t locked metal door and a unformed guard, my only question is: did he murder her or the other man? This was very good, and I was totally surprised by the end.
Yvonne Blake 09/25/08
Very creative! I liked how you interwove the memories into the story/game.
Pamela Kliewer09/25/08
Congratulations on a well deserved win! This is very well written and I loved how you drew us into the story down to the surprise ending...
Beth LaBuff 09/25/08
This is really good! I love your ending! ...thanks for the reminder.
Peter Stone09/30/08
I loved the way you threaded memories of a life that was good but slowly went off the rails throughout the game. Good message, too, that like the game, life is not over simply because it looks bad.