The Cheating Paramours by
100
(148 Stories)

Prompted By Dice

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Two hours north of San Francisco, the Russian River flows into the Pacific. At its mouth, the river broadens into a lagoon, the forest gives away to a broad estuary, and the riverbank gives way to ocean beach. Seals and sea lions gather at the river’s mouth, the seals busy surfing for fish in the strong tidal currents, while the sea lions bathe in the sunlight, lined up like round, gargantuan holiday vacationers.

Maybe male chauvinism had forced Lily and Carmelita to become the better monopolists.

A row of cabins perch on the south bank of the lagoon. In early fall, we would often rent the Johnson cabin, a family-made, hand-hewn job, rustic and comfortable, and take advantage of the coast’s October weather, foggy in the morning but warm and sunny once the fog had burnt off.

My partner, Lily and I formed half of the core of a cabaret theater that worked in San Francisco during the fall and winter. Bob and Carmelita, the other half of the company’s core had discovered the cabin years before and this thespian gang of four would occasionally spend part of our vacation together, bedded down in the cabin, hiking on the beach, driving up and down the picturesque northern California coast, cooking, drinking, sleeping and doing whatever else came naturally. Favorite evening pastimes included playing Monopoly.

As we all know, Monopoly uses dice to motivate the players around this salute to do capitalism. Dice and money make the Monopoly world go around. One player would also perform the banker’s duties, distributing houses and hotels to players in their efforts to purchase as much property as possible. The winners were — as could be expected — those who accumulated the most property and money. As is the way with money and property in the free-wheeling monopoly market, things could get a bit — if you’ll pardon the expression — dicey.

But we were a wholesome lot, one for all, and all for one and Monopoly, after all, was just a game played with dice, a game board featuring famous metropolitan avenues like Broadway, Marvin Gardens, several railroads and utilities, a pile of funny little house and hotel tokens, and play money. No harm in that, even though it we were playing with two major foes — private property and capital.

During one vacation, we decided to form consortiums. Truthfully, Lily and Carmelita suggested that Bob and I team up “to combine resources” and the two women would do the same. They would even take on the hassle of banking. All was well for a while, but then, after several games in which the women seemed to win game after game, Bob and I grew suspicious. The women were winning every game.

We objected as our opponents won another game. Wide-eyed and humble, Lily and Carmelita pleaded ignorance and innocence. It was just the luck of the game, they insisted. Or maybe, they suggested, in those early days of second-wave feminism, that women like them, being institutionalized as second-class citizens since Neolithic days, had been forced to develop sharper social skills and more sophisticated bargaining abilities, to compete with long-established male dominance. Maybe, they speculated, entitled male chauvinism had forced them to become the better monopolists.

But we were no dummies, Bob and me. We began to question the inevitability of defeat. We watched the board closely, we threw the dice and counted our way street-by-street around Monopoly’s microcosmic, two-dimensional community. We checked the dice. They rolled fine, same dice we had always used. We kept a running list of transactions, to track any unregistered deals that might put more houses and hotels on our opponents’ properties. No skullduggery was revealed.

To dull the pain of recurring defeat, I rose to pour another glass of wine. When I turned, cabernet in hand, I watched with amazement as Carmelita smoothly slid one graceful hand across to the bank, swept up a pile of $500s, slipped half the bills to Lily and eased the other half into her humble savings.

“Hey!” I shouted, nearly spilling my wine. “I saw that!” My heart began to pound with shock and disappointment. Lily and Carmelita turned and stared at me with surprised but seductive eyes.

“Saw what?” Carmelita asked.

Seeking reinforcement, I turned to Bob. “Did you see what she did?”

Bob looked up, startled. “Who?” He asked. “Me? Who did what?”

“Her!” I was too shocked to even utter Carmelita’s name. I pointed my cabernet at his underhanded partner. “Her!”

Lily frowned. “What on earth are you babbling about?”

I crossed behind the two duplicitous women. “Sh-sh-sshe just stole money… from the bank.”

“Whaaat?” Carmelita looked up at me with a contemptuous twist to her lovely lips.

“Why would she do something like that?” Lily said. “We’re winning.”

Bob was trying to catch up. “Wait a minute,” he said. “Stole money?”

“Yeah,” I shouted. “Of course you’re winning goddammit. You’ve been robbing the bank.”

Bob reared back in his chair. “But… but… you’re the banker,” he said to Carmelita. “You can’t do that!”

“Sure she can,” I sputtered. “And she did. I saw her.”

“Oh calm down,” Lily crooned in her best television sotto voce. “Have a drink. Take a deep breath and sit down. Don’t you want to finish the game?” She blinked flirtatiously.

It’s amazing how women who can claim the equality of womanhood with force, intelligence, logic, and vigor can turn coquettish in an instant. But I didn’t note that in the heat of the moment.

But across the table, Bob and I realized we had been boondoggled in one game after another for days, ever since our partners had suggested we team up. “We’ll even run the bank,” Carmelita had suggested, as if they were doing us a favor. Some favor. And they had proceeded to swindle and bamboozle their loving partners by night, while during the daytime we explored and frolicked in the sunshine, mellowed in the beauty of nature, dined and cooked and laughed with one another, all in the gayest of spirits as if nothing clandestine was unfolding beneath our feet.

No,” I said. “I do not want to finish the game.”

“Me neither,” Bob said. “I can’t believe it.” He shook his head. “I’m sorry, but I just can’t go on.”

Neither Bob not I could continue. We felt too violated, too swindled, too deeply betrayed by our cheating paramours.

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Profile photo of Charles Degelman Charles Degelman
Writer, editor, and educator based in Los Angeles. He's also played a lot of music. Degelman teaches writing at California State University, Los Angeles. 

Degelman lives in the hills of Hollywood with his companion on the road of life, four cats, assorted dogs, and a coterie of communard brothers and sisters.

Visit Author's Website



Characterizations: funny

Comments

  1. susanrubin says:

    Liar liar pants on fire! I have been playing monopoly with the four of us for decades. Every game ends with the men sulky and accusatory. You are so sexist you never notice that we beat your butt at cards at monopoly at every game. Try to figure it out. Now you’ve embarrassed the two men in the game!

  2. susanrubin says:

    “Pay no attention?!?!?” I hate to say it but if you guys had paid attention you wouldn’t have lost Every Game for 40 years.

    • In a gentleman’s game of monopoly, there would be no dipping into the till, of course but noooo, now that feminism runs roughshod over the old rules — as well it should, I hasten to add — I feel on overthrow coming on. We may be myopic in our entitlement, but you’ve taught us a lesson we won’t forget.

  3. Hi, all. A little context for the first comments on ‘The Cheating Paramours’: Susan was commenting as Lily, one of the two women in the monopoly game because she WAS Lily during the great embezzlement caper. She responded in character but please know the story is true, although the names have been changed to protect the pranksters and prankstees.

  4. Wow, I feel like I’m at a performance of the Living Theatre, with the audience members coming on stage and the players mixing it in with the people in the cheap seats. This is fun
    Very engaging tale, with nice descriptions if the physical and social landscapes. But author, watch your back!

    • Thanks, Dale. Glad you enjoyed the post and following snappy, in-character, comment repartee. Living Theater, eh? Quite a comparison, actors breaking the fourth wall, roaming among the audience shouting grievances. Lily and the living theater. Good one!
      BTW: the Living Theater makes an appearance in my next novel, set in the San Franciscan radical theater scene, circa ‘65-‘69.

  5. All’s fair in love and war Charles, give it up!

  6. Suzy says:

    Funny story, Charlie. I do remember Bob and Carmelita AND Lily from an earlier story of yours. Now that you have divulged Lily’s true identity, there’s no telling what could happen! Maybe she should write her own version.

    And fyi, there is no Broadway in Monopoly, the fanciest address (along with Park Place) is Boardwalk, because all the streets in the game are streets in Atlantic City, NJ, as I discuss in my story.

    • Thanks, Suzy. John has suggested that the innocuous beginnings of a board game vacation might lead to deeper, darker battles, and Bob and Carmelita’s wedding, which happens in idyllic Hawaii several years later might prove to be and ideal setting for John’s ambitious suggestions.

      Of course you’re right. And I had NO idea that all the addresses were from Atlantic City! Good to know!

  7. Wow! Bravo, and a standing O!! An exciting departure from the norm, how fun! And yay Susan/Lily…welcome! Good show, pranksters!

    • Thanks, Barb. The story does depart from the norm in some ways, see my notes re: melodrama, but the cabin, the sea lions, and the monopoly were very real. And Susan’s entry in character seems to have added to the spicy dicey flavor.

  8. Betsy Pfau says:

    What a fun story, Charles. I love the way the cabernet gets soaked up and tossed around to point out the duplicity as you blend Second Wave feminism, scorn for capitalism, cabaret theatre and your own wonderful creativity to set the stage for us. Thanks for an engaging piece of entertainment.

    • Thanks, Betsy, I’m glad you enjoyed it. I hadn’t given much thought to the theatricality of it although I admit to resorting to melodrama to add a bit of spice and specificity to the dicey reality. Hope London is high and dry for you!

  9. John Shutkin says:

    I agree with Dale: this is great theater. And beautifully told, starting with the stage setting opening paragraphs about the Russian River area. Along with the theater theme, I almost feel as though the Monopoly board should be visible somewhere in Act I, like the proverbial gun mounted on the wall. That way, we would know it would be used in Act II — and probably not to good ends.

    I shall avoid taking sides in this nasty war; it’s too much fun just watching it play out here in Retro. But, having been a lawyer for decades for accounting firms, and thus having seen dozens and dozens of fraudulent schemes unfold, one particular aspect of this play rings very true. As with Occam’s Razor, usually the simplest explanation is the right one. And, in the case of fraud, forget all these stories of mazes of off-shore shell companies, with the money untraceably moving from one to another. Most of the time, people just steal the stuff and put it in their own damn pockets. As Willie Sutton purportedly answered when asked why he robbed banks, “That’s where the money is.”

  10. Marian says:

    Very enjoyable from the reader’s perspective, Charles, and maybe worth a one-act play? My take-away, from this story and life experience, is that men have a “noticing” problem, whereas women are (still) socialized to pay close attention to others. In circumstances such as this, women have the edge, even though they cheated, because they weren’t caught right away.

    • You got it, Marian. That’s the historical material obo I was trying for. The ‘moral’ lesson the men tried to impart I made via a Victorian melodramatic male response about the ‘amoral’ behavior of the women. In reality, everybody turned it into a running joke that’s still worth a laugh — we’re all still pals, altho spread all over the nation and the globe —as characterized by Lily/Susan’s in-character response below.

      This foursome was very aware in reality of the sexism involved in our interactions but I thought putting the old-fashioned spin on the men’s response made for a little more dramatic tension. This episode took place in the late ’70s when we were all working hard on gender awareness. There’s still more work to do, but that was the spirit that I wanted to impart in what began as a funny little tale about monopoly and dice but turned into a melodrama about sexism.

      Here’s another Retro piece I wrote about the adventures of Bob, Carmelita, Lily, and the author: https://www.myretrospect.com/?s=Bob+and+Carmelita%27s+wedding

  11. Laurie Levy says:

    Great story, Charles, about the game I love to hate. One of my grandkids loves it and always bankrupts his poor old grandmother. He’s ruthless and talks me into terrible trades. I’m always the thimble in honor of my late grandfather who was a tailor. He’s usually the dog and he’s tenacious. We play putting $500 plus all fees into free parking, and somehow his dice throws land him there far more frequently than mine. Three to four hours later, I am defeated. Your story made me laugh. Think I will offer to be the banker next time.

    • Great, Laurie! I’m so glad I made you laugh. The melodramatic innocence and disappointment of Bob and the author may have been inflated a bit for the sake of story, but the Carmelita and Lily did get away with outright embezzlement for many, many games so…

      Yes, by all means, try your hand at banking. As we know from real life, that’s where the real ‘profits’ are made.

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