Writer’s Block: No Holds Barred

Port Isabel-South Padre Press

The comforting aroma of freshly brewed coffee begins to fill the air inside a home warmly lit and cozy with seasonal knickknacks set out on practically every flat surface. The sun has gone down and with it, the heat of the day has subsided to a much more manageable level. It’s almost cool enough to enjoy a cup of coffee. Almost.

But it’s tradition — in this house, at least — to enjoy a steaming mug of brew while gathered around the kitchen table in the evenings.

“Sorry?” my mom asked me while I was at my parents’ house for a visit recently.

She wasn’t apologizing, she was referring to the board game, Sorry. That’s another tradition in their home. My parents pair their evening coffee with playing tabletop games the way other people pair their morning coffee with reading a newspaper or eating a donut.

Usually, it’s several rounds of dominoes played until either she or my dad reach 200 points. Mom keeps score on a small notepad marked with X’s. She and dad will jokingly quibble over whether or not the counts are accurate. The winner earns bragging rights until the next evening’s game and coffee.

But lately, they’ve added Sorry to their nightly ritual. There’s not much surprise to the game when played by just two people, but a third adds a nice twist. It adds a sense of competition, and it brings out the utterly ruthless side of my otherwise good natured, easy-going parents.

We rolled a die to see who would go first. Mom won that honor for each game we played. With our pieces set out on the board, we began to play.

Dad and I have similar strategies for playing. If we get a Draw 2 and Draw Again card or a Move 1 (which is also a Move 1 from Start) card, we’ll almost always take the opportunity to put a new pawn into play.

Mom doesn’t. She’ll contentedly work with just one or two pawns on the board, steadily inching them towards Home a couple of spaces at a time.

“Take one out,” I said to her more than once, meaning to use the rare Move from Start cards to put all her pawns into play.

“Nope,” she said, shaking her head resolutely each time. “I know what I’m doing.”

Time and again, dad and I would have each of our four blue and green pawns progressing across the board while mom would have one sole yellow pawn so close to her Start space that it seemed dad or I would win long before she got a single pawn Home.

But then something would happen. Mom would draw a Sorry card. She’d look up from the board smiling gleefully. “SORRY!” she’d say as she plucked one of her pawns out of its holding pattern in Start, twisting it across the board like a miniature tornado until she reached either one of mine or my dad’s pawns. With a flick of her wrist, she’d tap the opposing pawn back to the beginning.

I can’t tell you how many times mom did this when my pawns were within a space or two of being in the Safe Zone. I’d look up, pouting that it was unfair. Mom would laugh and again say, “Sorry!”

Over the course of the series, all three of us had success with our respective playing strategies. And eventually, the coffee at the bottoms of our mugs was gone, signaling the end of game night, where the play is no holds barred.

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