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2014 – A Year In Stories: Week 44 – Do Not Pass ‘Go’

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Posted on November 9, 2014 by

This week’s story comes courtesy of my sidekick Josh Orr, and is about ‘A group of friends playing Monopoly, who discover that the transactions are taking place in their own bank accounts.’

2014 – A Year In Stories
Week 44
Do Not Pass ‘Go’

“Do we HAVE to play Monopoly?” James asked. “We have an entire set of bookshelves filled with board games and you’re choosing to play bloody Monopoly?”
“Yes,” Harriet replied, removing the game from the shelf, where it had sat unused and unloved beneath a copy of Settlers of Catan since they had moved in. “It’s a classic. Sometimes you just need to crack out the old favourites.”
“But it isn’t Christmas, and none of my family members are around to punch if I lose,” James protested in vain. He could tell that her mind was made up.

The doorbell rang.

“That’ll be Mark and Gemma now,” Harriet said. She had already unboxed the game and laid the money out in neat piles on the table.

James went to answer the door. Sure enough it was their friends Mark and Gemma, with whom they did a games night every other Thursday. They chose the games on a weekly rotation, and James secretly dreaded every time it came round to being his girlfriend’s week to choose.

She had been brought up on the ‘classics’ like Monopoly, and would always choose something from her childhood, and so the best he could hope for was a nice game of Risk every now and then. James would always say her picks were entry level games, and Harriet would call him a board game snob in return.

“I brought some Doritos!” Mark said by way of a greeting.
“I hope you brought enough,” James replied. “We’re in it for the long haul tonight.”
“I’ve decided that we should play Monopoly tonight!” Harriet exclaimed. Mark and Gemma exchanged a look. They were more used to meeple than Uncle Pennybags.
“Interesting choice,” Gemma remarked. Standing behind his girlfriend where she couldn’t see him, James shrugged.

With greetings exchanged and coats hung the foursome sat down to play. Mark picked the boot, Gemma the car, James the iron and Harriet, who was always the dog, picked the dog.

Play got off to a slow start, as it often did in Monopoly, with people jostling for property based on their bank balance, and taking pleasure in screwing others for rent prices.

After about an hour the game showed no signs of abating, and James read the mood of the room, or at least the mood of their guests, and declared a short break to order some pizza.

“Yeah,” he said to the girl on the end of the line. “Can I get 2 large pepperoni with stuffed crust, and one medium veggie feast?”
“Don’t forget the garlic bread!” Harriet hissed in his ear. Gemma and Mark nodded in agreement.
“Oh yeah, and two orders of cheesy garlic bread. Do we get any dips with that? OK good.”

He waited a few seconds while the bill was totted up.

“£35.47?” he said, repeating the girl’s words. “OK, here’s my card number…”

A few more seconds of silence passed as the payment was processed.

“What do you mean the payment was declined? Did you try again?”

Another pause.

“Not enough funds? Are you kidding me, I just got paid this morning. Hang on a second.”

He held the phone away from his ear and turned to talk to the group.

“Sorry, can one of you front this? My card has been declined. I’ll get the pizza next time.”
“Sure,” Gemma said, fishing her debit card out of her purse. A few moments later and the transaction was complete.
“I’m sorry to interrupt the game any more,” James said, once he had hung up the phone, “but I’d better get on to the bank to find out where all my bloody money has gone.”

#

James spent a frustrating half an hour on hold to the bank, although mercifully it was half an hour he wasn’t playing Monopoly. Eventually he got to speak to someone; a chipper sounding fellow from Scotland.

“Hello, welcome to First Bank Customer Services, you’re through to William. How can I help?”
“Hi William. My card has just been declined for lack of funds, but I know for a fact I got paid this morning, and I had some credit before that too.”
“Let me just bring up today’s records and see if any charges have been made. Ah yes, it seems that first of all you put down a small deposit of £3,500 on a house on the Old Kent Road, which sounds very good for a house in London, I might add. Oh, it seems there’s a few charges marked here as ‘rent’ to a Gemma Rogers, a Mark Jones and a Harriet Ringer.”

James nearly dropped the phone.

“Excuse me one second,” he said to the call centre rep, placing his hand over the phone. “We have to stop playing Monopoly!” he said to the group. “Whatever we are buying or charging rent on is happening in real life. According to this guy I’ve just bought a bloody house on Old Kent Road, which is where I’ve got my only house on the board. He also said that I’ve paid you all ‘rent’.”
“Oh don’t be ridiculous,” Harriet said. “Look James, I know you don’t think Monopoly is fun or interesting enough for board game nights but I do. If you didn’t want to play that badly you should have said something rather than making up this nonsense.”
“I’m not making it up!” James protested.
“He’s not either,” Gemma added. “I’ve just checked on my banking app and look, rent payments from you all.”
“Oh bloody hell!” Mark said, also looking at his phone. “I’m £25k in the red because of all the houses and properties I’ve bought.”
“I guess the lack of funds doesn’t apply to the game…” Gemma noted.
“What are we going to do?” Harriet asked.
“We should sell the houses and properties back to the bank first of all,” James said, before hanging up on the bank representative.
“But they buy them back at a lower rate. We’re still going to be thousands in the hole,” Mark said, looking as though he was beginning to panic.
“Leave it to me,” Harriet smiled. “I’m an expert Monopoly player. If we play sensibly there is a way to cheat the system so that everyone comes out up.”
“Are you sure it will work?” Gemma asked.
“Positive,” Harriet replied.

#

The gang all sat down again and, under Harriet’s instructions, began to play the game of their lives. Property and money changed hands only when and how Harriet directed it.

Another half an hour went by and things were starting to look brighter for their bank balances. James, who had lost the least, was back in the black, with Gemma and Harriet not far behind. Mark, who had been doing the best at the time the game had stopped, was still some way off, but Harriet was in the middle of using some of James’ excess to pay it back.

“Come on guys,” she said. “We’re almost there. Just another £3000, and we’re set.”
“I have to say, Harri,” James said, “this is actually kind of fun, playing Monopoly with real money. It’s kind of a thrill.”
“Yeah!” Gemma agreed. “This must be what it was like to be one of the Great Train Robbers. You know they played with real money after they turned over that train?”

Harriet, who was concentrating, and Mark, who was still several thousand pounds in debt, failed to join their partners in seeing the funny side of the situation.

“Come on guy, let’s focus,” Harriet chided. Mark grunted in agreement.

#

A few turns later and they were nearly at the magic number.

“Come on, James,” Harriet said encouragingly. “A 3, 5 or 6 will land you on one of Mark’s greens and you’ll be back even.”

James, his hands shaking, rolled the dice. The whole room breathed a sigh of relief as a double 3 came up. James forked over the money, and everyone was all square again.

“We should quit while we are back on track,” Mark said.

The other three were all too happy to agree. Breaking even again was one thing, but when your own money was on the line in such large amounts, gambling even more didn’t seem like a good idea.

“But wait,” Harriet said. “We can’t finish here. James rolled a double and so he has another go. We have to wait until the end of his turn.”

Nervously, James picked up the dice again and with a last glance at his friends rolled them again. The four all looked on in horror as a double 1 came up.

“It’s ok guys, it’s only a chance,” Harriet said.

James tentatively picked a card and breathed a sigh of relief.

“Second prize in a beauty contest… But I still have one more turn because I rolled another double.”
Once again the gangster watched in anticipation as the dice bounced on the table. A hush fell over the room. It was another double.

“What does that mean?” James asked, not really wanting to know the answer.
“Three doubles in a row means that…you go to jail,” Harriet answered.

At that moment there was a loud knocking on the front door.

“It’s the bloody fuzz!” James shrieked. “They’ve come to throw me in the slammer!”

Harriet slowly approached the door and, meekly asked, “Who is it?” There was no reply. A few seconds later, the knock was repeated. James cursed the lack of peephole in the door.

“Just…just answer it,” he said. “Get it over with already.”
“Are you sure?” Harriet asked. The knock came again, and James nodded.

Harriet took a deep breath and opened the door wide.

“Pizza delivery!” the delivery driver exclaimed cheerfully. His expression dropped when he saw the look of horror on the four’s faces. “What happened?” he asked. “It looks like you thought I was coming to arrest you all.”
“Not all of us,” Harriet said, taking the pizza and slamming the door. “Not all of us.”

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