In my family, Scrabble is a blood sport.
Specifically when played by my youngest sister, Leslie.
Often I don’t even have my coat off and she’s already got the board in her hands, a little smile on her face. “Scrabble?” she’ll say casually, as though it were merely a pleasant way to pass the time and not a vicious competition.
The men in our family scatter into other rooms like mice, sparing themselves the bloodshed.
“Bring it,” I’ll say and there begins an hours-long skirmish, debating words, rules and whether or not you lose a turn if you peek into the dictionary.
Leslie is famous for concocting bizarre, vowel-less letter combinations that somehow, to my dismay, end up being actual words.
She claims to have a special technique of choosing letters, taking a maddeningly long time selecting each tile, and smiling at the “X”, “Q” and “Z” that turn up, as though they were old friends she was expecting for tea.
The game is usually won or lost by a point or two, with the loser insisting the other one must have cheated.
But it doesn’t stop with Scrabble. It’s also whose hair is longer, who knows the coolest music, who roasts the best chicken, etc.
Recently, she came for a visit with her toddler’s Noah’s Ark balancing toy. She pretended she brought it for Miles, her son, but I knew a motive lingered.
“You know,” she says, eyebrows raised, head cocked.…”I can balance these animals on this ark in under sixty seconds.”
“Congratulations,” I tell her. “You must be really proud,” not taking the bait.
I mean, really, we are mature adults. This is a toy for a one year old. A line needs to be drawn here!
I stack the animals in a weird way on the sides of the ark in under thirty-two seconds.
She insists that I cheated and we laugh so hard, we cry.