You Win, You Lose

The Perfect Game

You’re set to play poker (or Scrabble or something else . . .) with a group of four. Write a story set during this game. Or, describe the ideal match: the players, the relationships — and the hidden rivalries.


Reenie had always loved word games. She hated strategy games, but at word games she won most of the time. She had been reading way beyond her age level since she first learned to read. Words were like candy to her, and she loved learning new ones.

All well and good, but when she played with opponents who were older than she was, it made her pretty unpopular when she won. She didn’t understand it. She lost regularly at Monopoly or checkers and no one got upset with her; however, if she won at Scrabble, she was  frowned at for hours afterward. Hardly seemed fair.

One lazy summer afternoon, she decided she would deliberately lose just so no one would be angry. Several neighborhood friends had gathered for an afternoon of games on the enclosed front porch, because it was raining hard. The porch was cozy, and they all looked forward to a couple of hours of good play.

The game started slowly.  Reenie drew  all vowels except for the “X” that was her final choice.  Uh-oh.  That was worth a lot of points, and she was the starter.  Should she put the “X” on the center square and make axe her opener?  Well, she had to use it, so she took a deep breath, knowing the others would be unhappy. And sure enough, the minute she put the “X” down, someone hollered,  “You cheated! How could you get the “X” on the first draw?  No fair!  You ALWAYS cheat!”

Reenie was, finally, completely discouraged. “No, I didn’t cheat!” Tears formed and dripped from her eyes, “I can’t help it! Every other letter I drew is a vowel, so I had no choice!  Why are you always so mad at me when we play word games?  It’s no fun for me, win or lose, because you’re all always mad if I win, and you make fun of me if I lose. So I’m done.  Go ahead and play without me!”

She left her chair and went inside the house, climbed the stairs to her room, and threw herself on the bed.  Her tears dried pretty quickly, but her heart hurt for a long time. She just didn’t understand it. At all.

Half an hour later, someone tapped on her bedroom door.  She didn’t respond, and the door opened just enough for whoever it was to peer inside.

“Reenie.  You’re awake.  Good.  Can I come in and talk with you for a minute?”  It was Rosie, a neighbor girl who was a couple of years older than Reenie. She came in and sat cross-legged on the end of Reenie’s bed.

“Reenie, I’m sorry you were upset.  I don’t think you cheated, and I don’t think anyone else really thinks so, either. It’s just that you seem to always be lucky when you draw your tiles, and you almost always win. It makes us feel stupid. We’re all older than you except for Kathy. We should be able to beat you, but you’re so smart with word games that we can never win.”

“Today I decided to lose,” replied Reenie. “I was going to put up simple words, and lose on purpose. And then I went and drew that “X” and I KNEW you’d all be mad at me. I don’t know what to do!  I guess I just won’t play word games any more. I’ll play checkers and other stuff that I almost never win, and then you’ll all feel better.”

“Well, yes, you could do that.  But don’t you think we’d catch on after a while?  Reenie, you need to understand that we don’t hate you or anything. We just don’t like to feel stupid.  No one does.”

“Well, then, what’s the answer?  It seems to me that if I win, I lose!”

“Look, the others sent me up here to talk to you. We all talked about what happened, and everyone knows it was wrong for us to accuse you of cheating. We all feel bad, and we want you to play. We’ve decided that it will challenge us to find a way to improve. And if you’ll play Scrabble with us, we’ll try to help you figure out the strategy games, okay?  This is supposed to be fun, not a battle. Come on.  Let’s go back downstairs.”

Reenie sighed, slid off the bed, and looked at Rosie. “Okay. That sounds fair.  Maybe we can turn this into a win/win.  Let’s go.”


3 thoughts on “You Win, You Lose

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