It had to have been a game

July 20, 2006

When we go on road trips, as we did recently, my wife and I pass the time by listening to music, remarking on the scenery, and playing the classic car-game, Lesser of Two Evils. I may have mentioned this before. It’s a wonderful game whose only requirements are a vivid and twisted imagination, and the willingness to use it.

  For example, a wife may turn to her husband and say: “OK. You have to either walk naked down Gooch’s Beach at noon on a summer day without explaining why to anyone, or drive a Honda Element for the rest of your life…also without explaining why.”

Or a husband may challenge his wife with: “You have to become a full-time MCI telemarketer for three years, or you have to have sex with [insert name of person universally considered repulsive].”

Hours pass, hilarity ensues.

On our latest vacation, Diane came up with a spin-off of Lesser of Two Evils, called Would You. Instead of proffering a choice of two undesirable situations, the challenger presents a desirable one, but with a caveat – and that’s where the fun begins. One example might be, “You can have the house of your dreams, but to have it, would you allow the lawn to be covered with pink flamingoes, shiny lawn balls on pedestals, and those painted cut-outs of stout women in polka-dotted dresses bending over?”

Diane started off with a killer, destined to become a classic in the annals of Would You. She asked if, in becoming a best-selling novelist, I would have the worst comb-over imaginable (she alluded to a man with the worst comb-over imaginable, just to help me visualize), and never cut it off or explain why I have it. I said no. I have a thing about my hair.

What we could never imagine, however, is that we would one day come across another couple that had played Would You…for real. That people would actually play the game and then follow through with the consequences.

During our latest vacation…

We were having supper at Shaw’s Wharf in New Harbor, just minding our own business, keeping a low profile, enjoying the view of the sea and taste of our meals, when Diane caught view of something approaching from over my shoulder. Her eyes bugged out and she said, “Oh God. Don’t look.” So what did I do? Looked, naturally. I had no choice.

A couple was walking up to the counter to place their orders. Late 30s. Clean. Ambulatory. They didn’t look stress or anxious, so it couldn’t have been a hostage situation. Their eyes weren’t glassy and they weren’t staggering, so they couldn’t have been under the influence of mind-altering substances. I hadn’t been drinking, so I couldn’t have been hallucinating. There was only one explanation for the horrifying image that has been seared into my brain: it was the tragic result of a game of Would You gone awry.

She was wearing a reincarnated quilt as a skirt. It was mostly in pinks, with bits of powder blue and other suburban pastels – a fabric pattern Liberace would have rejected for being too fruity. What she sported to complement her skirt is of no concern to the reader; what matters is that her husband was wearing a shirt created out of the exact same fabric. And he wasn’t blushing.

Clearly, the night before the wife had said to her husband during a game of Would You (which we should have copyrighted), “I’ll make you breakfast every day for the rest of your life – anything you want – French toast, pancakes, eggs Benedict, you name it – but would you buy that Brooks Brothers shirt that matches my new skirt and wear it all summer long without looking embarrassed or explaining why you would do such a thing?” And he thought about it, said yes, he would, and then they got horribly drunk and swore an oath to honor that game of Would You. And then we, along with countless other innocent bystanders, were subjected to the results.

I hope he enjoys his waffles.

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