Game On!

After the divorce, the Gray Menace seemed pleased with my wife’s absence. He would hiss at her, and she would whack him with a broom. Not the happiest relationships. However, with my nose buried in books much of the time, he grew bored. We were city apartment now, and the opportunities to terrorize small rodents and hang around with other tough cats were lacking. The oxymoron controlled chaos, best-described life with him anyway. But, now he was bored. A bored Clancy J. Bümps was a dangerous one.
Board games provided the answer. I was as poor in grad school as I had ever been during my Folkie years. But board games were cheap and available. After studying, I’d pull out a game and play against myself. Randomizing moves with game spinners and dice, I could be a very dumb opponent.
The Gray Menace began to take notice. He’d sit on the other side of the table and watch. Eventually, I began to talk to him about the game. Then I’d set him up as the opponent and ask him what his next move would be. One day a friend gifted me with a war game based on Napoleon’s campaigns. It had hundreds of tiny pieces of cardboard representing the units involved. Clancy paid close attention to the movements, so I let him play Napoleon. At one point, I got up to get a beer. On returning, I thought that some of the units seemed out of place but couldn’t specifically tell which; dozens were on the board. Clancy sat there erect, innocent, and waiting for me to make my move.
After a few beers, I needed a trip to the bathroom. Once again, the board seemed just a bit different. “Have you been moving pieces?” His glare seemed to say, “I the mighty Napoleon cheat? You defame my honor!”
After another trip to get a snack, it was clear that my forces were in retreat. “You stinking cheater!” I yelled. He instantly transformed from my cat into the Grey Menace. Reaching out a paw, he swept the pieces onto the floor and stalked away. I could see the French flag and Imperial Guard following him. As Napoleon noted: “In war, the moral is to the physical as ten to one.” I lacked the gumption to pursue.
Years later, I watched the first Bill and Ted movie. There is a scene where the character playing Napoleon is faced with a complicated chess problem. In a fit of pique, Napoleon takes his baton and sweeps the chess pieces to the floor. Hmmm, great minds think alike.

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