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Winter 1997
Monopoly
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She rolled cat's eyes. She was losing from the start. I rolled and moved eight spaces from GO. And that's the way it continued. She lagged, always a good half dozen spaces behind. I was buying more property, good property, Park Avenue, and stockpiling my earnings. She was quiet. I didn't say anything either. I didn't have to. It was clear I was winning.

Then Mother came in with dinner. I pushed the Monopoly board aside, making room, and Mother set the stiff paper plates of steaming beef stroganoff on the table. "Get a fork and knife," she said, then turned and left.

From the standing closet next to the cold box I grabbed silverware and paper napkins, nice paper napkins, cloth-soft and embossed with fancy curlicues, that Mother had amassed from the Polks' kitchen and that I was certain Mary Beth would take notice of. She was watching my every step. But still she said nothing, not even after I sat down and we began eating, not about the napkins, or even about the food, which, like the napkins, came from her kitchen. Her silence both annoyed and alarmed me.

Was she thinking of Mother as a thief a napkin thief and would she tell her mother?

"Everybody's doing it," I said.

"What?" she asked, finally looking up.

"Playing strip Monopoly," I lied.

She picked a tiny thread of beef from her teeth and wiped it on the edge of her plate. She was looking directly at me the whole time. Then she turned her fork and looked down at her food. Not long after, no more than a couple minutes, she got up and went to the door, and at that moment Mother appeared, just as if Mary Beth had been expecting her. She held Mary Beth's schoolbooks in her arms, which she left on the couch and disappeared as quickly as she had come. Mary Beth lingered at the door. Even after she sat back down, she kept looking back over her shoulder. Once, as she turned back in my direction, I caught her wistful gaze. Then I felt sorry for her. I was about to speak. But she all at once looked up and said, "Where's your father?"

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