The final in a three-part series examining the mental fortitude required to survive a game of Skip-Bo. To get to Part I, go here. For part II, go here.
As the game muscles its way toward a conclusion, interest is waning across the board. You wonder if and when it ever really waxed, but we have entered a tangible decline stage. The piles sit a little messier and muddled together. Players other than me need pokes and reminders on their turn. Sixes start to look like nines. Every turn requires a full recap of which cards will play.
"You need a 2, 4, 6, or 11," my daughter informs me.
Immediately I go back one generation. Two, four, six, and 11 were the channels we got on TV growing up. "4" (ABC) came in clear pretty much all the time. "2" (CBS) was a little staticky but was clear enough. "11" (NBC) came in OK as long as it wasn't snowing, raining, sleeting, foggy, hazy, hot, humid, partly sunny, mostly sunny, partly cloudy, mostly cloudy, or some other "weather event" or weather non-event. "6" (also NBC but from a million miles away) required the rabbit ears to be set to a 34-degree "less than" angle (<) and one family member to dress in tin foil while standing on the roof holding an open umbrella. "13" (PBS) came in as clear as a lark and, if we're being honest, at times it scared the hell out of me, but nobody ever bragged to their friends about getting 13. Nobody under 30 years old understands anything I'm saying right now. But these days I get just enough channels to see Matthew McConaughey douching out in a Lincoln, "dint dewit tuhbee kewl..."
I hold a 3, 5, 7 and 9 with a dreary tableau of 12s in front of me. But I draw a card that leads to an avalanche of card-playing. I empty out my hand, my extra crapload of cards down in front of me, and a fair portion of the vital Skip-Bo pile. An epic run like this earlier in the game would have caused anxiety, dread, tears, and a dented mini-basketball hoop. Now my opponents are rooting me on like a marathon runner on Mile 25, go, go GO, you can do it daddy! But I can't close the deal. Alas.
It's anyone's game now but nobody really wants it. All those 1s and 2s that we couldn't find earlier are sprouting up when we need higher numbers. People are asking out loud, "Can we be done playing Skip-Boo?" No. Because if we're learning from this interminable ennui, it's to finish what we start and not quit because we're bored or losing. And we ARE bored. And losing. We press on.
Wait, is that how this game is pronounced? An ancestor of mine pronounced it "Skee-bo" (rhymes with Tebow) and my wife pronounces it "Skip-Boo," a curious pronunciation that actually involves an inside family joke. (When your jokes center on the game of Skip-Bo, it may be time to re-examine?) A cursory internet search reveals what we all thought..."Skip-Bow" is the proper pronunciation. Let's not complicate things.
With that out of the way, a last push brings finally the game home to my daughter, who led wire-to-wire and held off my furious, one-hand avalanche rally and a few advances by my son who remains the unluckiest Skip-Bo player ever. Agony of defeat gives way to sheer relief, and we can all get back to our lives and our laundry after that
"Now we'll see who comes in second."
Are YOU kidding me. I came as close as ever to cheating but gritted my teeth, Only a few more turns and I finally got my cards out. The boy then, relegated to third place and not usually one for drama but a veteran Sesame Street watcher, does a full-on Bert Faint and cracks his head off a bookcase. Injury has sufficiently augmented insult. My lame attempts at comfort don't work..."if this were the Olympics you'd have taken home Bronze..."
Soon he's back up on his feet; otherwise I'd make him clean up the game. And that's the biggest contest of them all...get out of the room before Dad can get out of the criss-cross-applesauce position that reduces his joints to a fine powder. "Hey, can somebody help me put this away..."
And they're gone. Probably not to do laundry, but they're gone. They'll be back soon to take another crack at Dad and as I stare at the burgeoning laundry pile, I'll be willing to play a thousand more of these games with them. The laundry can wait.