Board Games


When I first heard that Grandpa Hank died, I didn’t want to go to no funeral.  But Mama said that kin is kin and I reckon she would have just turned my backside sore if I hadn’t gone.

“Besides,” she said, “they’re divvyin up the fortune.  You want yours don’t you?”

Well now the way I saw it, Grandpa Hank’s treasure was gonna have to go around a mighty large circle before it ever got to me.  Not that any of it should, being the most time I ever spent with him were a few games of backgammon in his kitchen.  Those are good memories of mine, with Grandpa showing me how to play then teaching me to trash talk the family.  He’d kick around at the hollow floor boards and tell me about Aunt Tilly and her drinking, or Uncle Horace’s gambling problem.

When me and Mama got to Grandpa Hank’s old cabin, every swinging dick that had ever known him was there.  Musta been two hundred people spillin out onto the porch.  Thank goodness Mama knows how to talk her way through a crowd, and we got ourselves two seats up front.

Sam the preacher got up by the fire place, reading off a long list of names and items.  I watched Mama get some old jewelry and a Winchester rifle.  Uncle Horace and Aunt Tilly got things too, before stuff started going to folks I’d never heard of.  I was near the bottom of the list, paired with the backgammon board.  My heart was pounding as I walked up to Sam and took the old mahogany set in my hands.  I sat back down and opened it up and let the round polished stones cascade through my fingers.  I pooled them on the soft felt of the board and picked them up to do it again.

When the room around me fell into a hush, I knew they were waiting to hear about the gold.  But I was too excited about my board to care.  Grandpa Hank had remembered me, and that was plenty.  Wasn’t no need for me to go and get greedy.   I had just picked up the hand carved wooden dice when Aunt Tilly shrieked.

“What do you mean there’s no gold?  That’s the only reason we’re here.  The rest is junk.”

Well, I don’t know what Aunt Tilly got, but I certainly didn’t think my board was junk.   I gripped the dice thrower in my hand, turned it over once and felt a tickle run up the palm of my hand.  Turning the small wooden cup over, I pulled out a slip of paper stuck inside.  Without moving my head I stared down at my lap and saw one word written in the same chicken scratch that Grandpa Hank used to keep score with.


~ fin ~

Louie Wilkerson lives in Portland, Oregon where he works for the YMCA.  He's also trying to finish school.  One day, he will be done with all that.