The games we grown-ups play
October 15, 2007
JOE and BOB are just finishing up lunch. The server puts the check down on the table. JOE grabs it before BOB can.
BOB: Give me that!
JOE: Nope. I got it.
BOB: No, come on, I’m serious!
Don’t! Let me! Etc.!
JOE: It’s on me.
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BOB: (Fleeting anger) All right, then, but I’m leaving a tip. And the next time, I’m paying, dammit!
I call this interaction the Adult Game. As a kid, if someone wants to buy you food or give you money, your reaction is, “Hooray! Yee haw! Stuff!”
But, as the kid version of me observed, this all changes once you become an adult. I got constant firsthand reminders of this while living with my grandparents.
Every other Friday afternoon, my grandmother “Nannie” would “fix” the hair of her best friend and next-door neighbor, “Miss Dolly.”
I wouldn’t pay much attention to the beauty-parlor gossip bantered back and forth during their session in the kitchen, but I would always make sure that I was around for the big finish because, well, these were the days before Internet. Or cable.
Here’s how it ended … every time: Miss Dolly would get out of her chair, examine her hair with a hand-held mirror, thank Nannie and proceed to pull out two $1 bills from her pocket.
“Here, Dera,” Miss Dolly would say, thrusting the bills toward Nannie, who, as it turned out, actually had a real name.
“Oh, you stop it, Dolly. I don’t want that mess,” Nannie would reply, just as she had two weeks earlier. And two weeks before that.
Then it got good.
“You take it, Dera,” Miss Dolly insisted, trying to shove the two bucks into Nannie’s hand.
Nannie usually managed to avoid letting the bills actually touch her hand by flapping her arms madly about as Miss Dolly charged, but occasionally Miss Dolly would catch her off guard, grab her wrist, shove the wad into Nannie’s reluctant palm and attempt to force her fingers into a fist around the cash.
Nannie was usually able to keep her fingers stiff, thereby not officially “accepting” the money. Some days, though, her arthritis would be acting up, and Miss Dolly would get, well, the upper hand, if you will.
As soon as Miss Dolly let go, Nannie would immediately open her fist, sending the bills hurtling to the linoleum.
But it was too late, because Miss Dolly had already made a dash for the door.
Nannie would then scoop up the singles with the fluidity and grace of an NFL fumble recovery and nab Miss Dolly at the door. Miss Dolly’s cardigan had large, roomy pockets, a detail that Nannie exploited each time.
Bam! Right in the pocket while Miss Dolly futzed with the screen door handle. Then Nannie headed back to the kitchen and psyched herself up for the next salvo.
The fruit bowl sat on the kitchen table and was filled with decorative fruit, so the contents never changed from week to week. Miss Dolly shoved her offering beneath the tangled mass of rubber grapes, hoping to buy herself enough time to get out the door.
But Nannie was onto the fruit bowl ploy, and intercepted her, sending Miss Dolly out the door, grumbling in pretend defeat, her freshly primped head hung low and two bucks in her left hand.
Later in the afternoon, when tempers had cooled, I’d scour the backyard for the booty. It had usually been left in plain sight, like under a small rock on the patio, but sometimes Miss Dolly would get clever and hide it really well.
Throughout the year, little wads of cash would be discovered in the pecan tree knot holes or shoved inside the clothesline post. I suspect that there are at least eight dollar bills still well-hidden in the backyard of that old house.
Once the freshly hidden treasure was discovered, I’d hand it over to the proper authorities. The Adults.
Nannie, who never cussed, would mutter, “Damn her,” as she tossed the two dirty green pieces of paper on the counter.
And I swear I once heard her add, through gritted teeth, “I’ll get you Dolly. I’ll get you if it’s the last thing I do.”
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