Vinnie Changes the Rules of the Game

8

Vinnie’s mom checks the time on her iPhone. They’d been playing for fifteen minutes. It seems like fifteen years, she wonders if it will ever end. Vinnie’s dad is on his third cup of coffee. Vinnie is taking one question after the other out of his lunch box and crumpling them into balls and building a fence around Rupert with them. 

Suddenly, he stops crumpling the questions and says, “Ah hah. I found the perfect question. I’ve made a rule change to help you. First, I think I’ll put game recommended for smart people when I get a box for it,” says Vinnie.

Vinnie’s mom makes a deep sigh. She says, “What is the rule change, Vinnie?”

Vinnie says, “Since you both have trouble answering an easy question,  I’ve taken out the competition part. You are now partners playing against Rupert and Dexter.”

Vinnie’s mom glances at Vinnie’s dad and says, “We’re playing against a stuffed animal and a beagle?”

“Apparently so, dear,” answers Vinnie’s dad. 

Vinnie’s mom says, “I need a five minute break. It might be good for all of us.”

“I agree with Mom,” says Vinnie’s dad.

“Mom?”

“Yes, Vinnie?”

“Will you set your iPhone timer for five minutes. If you both are not ready to play in five minutes, you get penalized and Rupert and Dexter will get your points.”

Dexter slowly got up on all fours and barks thinking he was being called to eat. Rupert sat on the table against the lunch box, his smile never leaving his face.

Vinnie’s mom left the dining room and headed to the bedroom. Vinnie’s dad didn’t bother putting on a coat before he heads out to the deck where the large round circle thermometer read both 140 F or -10 C. Vinnie’s dad prefers reading the Fahrenheit reading because it seems warmer. 

With his parents out of the room, Vinnie uses the time to prep Dexter in the only language Dexter knows, food. Vinnie walks into the kitchen, Dexter trails closely behind. Vinnie opens the pantry door, he finds his dad’s favorite snack, a soy based faux meat jerky beef stick. He takes the largest bag, opens it and turns to Dexter. Dexter immediately sits on his haunches. Dexter knows this is the default position for receiving rewards from adults. 

Vinnie opens the package, breaks a piece of jerky off and says, “Dexter, bark if you know the answer.” 

Dexter is not too bright, but food is an excellent incentive. After five tries, Dexter catches on. 

Vinnie’s mom hollers from the bedroom, “What’s Dexter barking at?”

Vinnie answers, “He’s practicing answering questions. How much time is left on the timer, Mom?”

There is a brief pause. Then Vinnie’s mom answers, “There’s one minute and five seconds.”

“You better get Dad, Mom. Rupert and Dexter are ready to play.”

On time, Vinnie’s mom, Vinnie’s dad, Vinnie, Rupert, and Dexter are in place for the game to continue.

Vinnie’s dad looks at Vinnie’s mom, “Isn’t it a bit early for a glass of wine, Dear?”

“No,” answers Vinnie’s mom.

“Do you mind if I get a beer?” asks Vinnie’s dad.

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Vinnie Helps His Mom Out

7

Vinnie sticks Rupert’s hand into his lunch box. He moves Rupert’s hand around, first this way and then that way. “Pick out an easy one for Mom, Rupert. She’s in last place. I always thought boys are smarter than girls.”

Vinnie’s mom puts two fingers to her lips and lets go with a shrill whistle, “Hold on, Buster. Boys are not smarter than girls.”

“No need to get upset, Mom. I’m trying to help you out,” says Vinnie.

“I don’t want an easy question. I want the hardest question you have in the lunch box. I’ll prove girls are just as smart as boys.”

“That’s the spirit, Mom. Already, my game is more exciting than Clue, don’tcha think?” asked Vinnie.

“Vinnie’s dad glances at Vinnie’s mom, “Vinnie’s makes a point. Vinnie, I have a question about the game.”

“Sure, Dad. If I can’t answer it, either Rupert or Dexter can answer it. They helped me with the questions,” says Vinnie.

“When does the game end?” asks Vinnie’s dad.

“End? It doesn’t ever end. That’s what makes my game great, Dad. It never ends so there is no official loser. Problem is there is no official winner. Rupert is still working on the last part.”

Vinnie’s mom interrupts, “Vinnie, this doesn’t make sense. A game has to end. All games have winners and losers. Let’s play to ten points. The first person to get ten points is the winner. I think we can all agree to that.”

Vinnie shakes his head, “Mom, you’re thinking like an adult. You have to start thinking like a kid. If kids ruled the world we wouldn’t have wars or bad stuff going on. All that stuff comes from adults.”

“That’s pretty good, Vinnie,” says Vinnie’s dad.

“Quit taking Vincent’s side,” says Vinnie’s mom.

“I wasn’t taking Vinnie’s side. You have to admit he’s got a point, Dear,” says Vinnie’s dad.

Vinnie’s mom’s face turns a tad red, she turns to face Vinnie’s dad. She says, “I’ll grant you, Vinnie has a point. But who has been in charge? It’s boys who grew up to be men. I’d like to see woman rule the world for a change.”

Vinnie becomes bored with the conversation and slips away from the table and heads to the refrigerator. While he is away, Rupert keeps an eye on the players. Dexter follows Vinnie to the refrigerator. Vinnie opens the refrigerator door and stands in front of the open refrigerator staring at all the choices. There’s nothing he sees that he likes. If Dexter were taking a multiple choice test, he’d circle all the above. Vinnie removes a plate with two pieces of left over grilled chicken breast and tips the plate letting the chicken drop on the floor. He puts the empty plate back in the refrigerator. Closes the door and heads back to the table. Dexter stays behind eating his gourmet snack. 

Vinnie climbs into his chair, “Where were we when the game got interrupted?”

Vinnie’s dad is happy to get out of a conservation where he was losing ground faster than a bob sled going downhill. “Uh, I’ll think about what you said, Dear. You make a good point. Vinnie, I asked you how we would know when the game ends.”

“Right, Dad. I told you it never ends. You just had a memory fail, Dad. Never mind, I’ll pick a hard question for Mom. If it’s too hard, Mom, I’ll put it back and keep pulling one out until you think you can answer it,” says Vinnie giving his mom his best helpful look. 

Vinnie’s mom rolls her eyes and watches Vinnie stick his hand in his lunch box and squirrel it around. Vinnie pulls out a folded piece of paper. He carefully unfolds it and shows it to Rupert, “Do you think this is a good question for Mom, Rupert?”

Vinnie shakes Rupert so Rupert’s head moves. Vinnie’s mom silently prays, “Lord, we’d try for another child, but what if she was a he and he was a Vinnie clone? It is too much for any human to bear.”

Vinnie Asks His Dad if He is Neutered

Vinnie’s dad swallows, rubs his eyes, stretches his arms over his head. Vinnie interrupts him, “Dad, you only have thirty seconds to answer and you’ve used up half of them.”

Vinnie’s dad takes a sip of soda and says, “I was putting my thoughts in order. There was a rule change, I wasn’t prepared. I think I’m ready.” 

Vinnie’s mom perks up and twists a bit to catch Vinnie’s dad’s full profile. She crosses her arms over her chest.

“Let’s hear it, Dad. I’ve got sixty more questions and they get harder. This is an easy one. We’ll be lucky to finish by tomorrow night.”

Vinnie’s dad takes a deep breath that sounds more like the intact engine on a NASCAR racing car. He says, “You know how we take Dexter to the park sometimes?”

“Uh huh,” nods Vinnie.

Vinnie’s mom roles her eyes.

“Sometimes we let Dexter off the leash, right?” says Vinnie’s dad.

“Dexter loves it, Dad. You do it so you don’t have to pick up Dexter’s poop if we walk in the neighborhood, right?” asks Vinnie.

“You don’t pick up Dexter’s poop?” asks Vinnie’s mom.

“He doesn’t mom. He looks the other way. Sometimes he says, ‘It will disintegrate in time.’ I saw a kid step in one time. He skidded and fell down. It was one of the slippery kind Dexter does.”

“Enough,” says Vinnie dad. “Let me finish my answer. When Dexter runs loose, sometimes he jumps on a female dog from behind. That’s how babies are made. That’s how you got inside Mom.” Vinnie’s dad returns the smirk to Vinnie’s mom. He congratulates himself on handling a sensitive question.

Vinnie asks a two part question, “Is Dexter my real father? What are you doing here, Dad, if Dexter is my real father?”

Vinnie’s dad says, “Dexter’s neutered, remember when we took him to the veterinarian and had his private parts snipped?”

“I do, Dad. Are you neutered? If you’re neutered, how’d I get inside Mom’s belly?”

Vinnie’s mom covers her mouth and stifles a chuckle.

“I am not neutered. I have all my body parts, just like you,” says Vinnie’s dad a bit defensively.

“Let me get this straight, Dad. Your answer is that I got to be here because you and Mom act like dogs in the park when I am asleep?”

Vinnie’s mom cocks her head and raises her eyebrows waiting for Vinnie’s dad’s answer.

“More or less. It’s the way all children come to be, Vinnie.”

“That’s disgusting. The more I hear about being grown up makes me want to stay eight all my life even if I live to one-hundred,” says Vinnie.

“Well, did I answer it and do I get the points?” asks Vinnie’s dad.

“Wait a second, Dad. Rupert is scoring your answer. I’ll talk with him to find out your final score.” 

Vinnie pulls Rupert close to him, he whispers in Rupert’s ear. He pushes Rupert away and waits for two seconds. He pulls Rupert close to him and puts Rupert’s mouth against his ear. Vinnie nods three times. He sets Rupert down.

Vinnie’s dad says, “What was Rupert’s decision?”

“Each answer is worth ten points. Since Mom passed it to you, Dad, you get seven points and Mom has three points deducted from her score. Mom, what is three from zero?”

Vinnie Asks His Mom a Hard Question

4

Vinnie’s Mom and Dad sit at the table. Vinnie’s in his room getting the game he invented. Vinnie’s mom whispers to his dad, “Dear, I think we’re walking on thin ice. You know how Vinnie thinks. Be prepared. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

Vinnie’s dad says, “What could he devise? It will be a silly game. Let’s pretend it’s a lot of fun and it will get over quick. There’s nothing to worry about.”

“Please don’t take this wrong, Dear, but you’re a slow learner. Do remember when Vinnie wanted to choose the restaurant?”

“How did I know he was going to choose a place with a D health score? You have to admit he has a good heart. He said he chose it because anybody who gets a D needs a friend.”

“How did you feel after we ate there? As I recall, you kept making trips to the bathroom all night,” says Vinnie’s mom.

Vinnie interrupts the conversation, “Rupert wants to watch. He’ll sit next to me to make sure everyone plays fair.” Vinnie sets Rupert on the table against a Captain America lunch box.

“Where’s the game, Vinnie,” asks his mom.

Vinnie points to the lunch box. “Right here, Mom. The game is inside Captain America.

Vinnie’s dad gives Vinnie’s mom a confident, reassuring smile, “Tell us how to play the game, Vinnie.”

“It’s easy. I made up a bunch of questions, folded them and put them in my lunch box. Since I invented the game, I get to ask the questions. I have one die in box and you role it. If you get a one or a two, you get an easy question. If you role any other number you get a hard question. When you’re finish answering I tell you how many points you get.”

“This sounds like fun,” says Vinnie’s dad.

“Dear Lord, don’t let me fall into the dark side,” Vinnie’s mom silently prays.

“Who wants to go first?” asks Vinnie.

Vinnie’s dad says, “Why don’t you go first, Dear?”

“I didn’t volunteer,” says Vinnie’s mom.

“Too late, Mom. Dad already volunteered you. Role the die.”

Vinnie hands his mom the die. She shakes it in her hand and says, “Give me an easy one. Give me an easy one.”

Vinnie’s mom roles a four. 

“Looks like you got a hard one, Mom,” says Vinnie. 

“Mom’s really smart, Vinnie. She graduated with honors from college. She only got A’s. You won’t be able to stump her,” chimes in Vinnie’s Dad.

Vinnie pulls out a folded slip of paper, looks at it and tosses it back in the lunch box. He does the same to another folded piece of paper. As he tosses it back in, his mom says, “Vinnie, what are you doing?”

“The first two had the number one and two on them, Mom. I have to keep drawing out questions until I get one with a three, four, five, or six on it.”

“How many questions are in your lunch box?” asks Vinnie’s mom.

“About one hundred. The game’s not finished until we answer all the questions. If the game ends in a tie. I have three tie breakers,” says Vinnie.

Vinnie’s mom touches Vinnie’s dad forearm, “Do you think we’ll be done before bedtime?”

Vinnie’s dad says, “I think we’ll be done in a half hour. Want to make a small bet on who wins the game?”

Vinnie’s mom looks at Vinnie, “Are there any sports’ questions?”

“No, Mom.

“Okay, if I win, I get a full day at the spa. If you win, we’ll go out for pizza on Friday.”

Vinnie’s dad decides this is the best deal he’s going to get. He agrees to it, and says, “Looks like you have a question in your hand, Vinnie. We’re ready to play.”

Vinnie unwraps the question. He glances at his Mom, then back at the slip of paper he’s holding. He reads it, “Where did I come from for four points?”

Vinnie Offers To Help His Mom Find Eye Lines

3

Vinnie’s Mom rolls a five. Vinnie hands the dice to his dad, “Dad, I want to go last.”

“Why, Vinnie?”

“I’ve been thinking. I invented a new game. Clue is boring. I already know the murderer, weapon and room, but you won’t let me tell you. Face it, Dad, Clue is out of date. The only people who like to play it are old people.”

“Vincent, you were the one to suggest Clue. And, we are not old, says Vinnie’s mom.

“Mom, when do you become old? I don’t want to be old, Mom. When will you be old? Is Dad old?”

Vinnie’s mom reaches over to her hand bag and pulls out a small mirror. She holds in close to her face and moves her fingers around the edges of her eyes. She puts the mirror back and says, “Dear, do you see lines starting to form at the edges of my eyes?”

Before Vinnie’s dad can answer, Vinnie says, “Want me to get my magnifying glass, Mom? I bet I can find some.”

Vinnie’s dad jumps in, “There are no lines. Vinnie, we are going to play Clue. No one will turn over their cards until someone enters a room. Does that satisfy you?”

“Only if I’m the first one to get in a room. Please, Dad. Let me guess. Please? What if I am right about the murderer, weapon, and room? If I am, can we play the game I invented? The only thing I haven’t worked out is a board and pieces. I have all the other stuff. Please, Mom. Please.”

“On one condition, Vincent. If you have any wrong answer, you play Clue the right way and no complaints or wise comments. Agree?” asks Vinnie’s mom.

“Okay, Mom. Promise you won’t get mad if I get all the answers right?” asks Vinnie.

Vinnie’s mom’s brain sends out a warning siren. She knows something is afoot, but can’t place her finger on it. She looks quizzically at Vinnie’s dad. 

He shrugs and says seriously, “Does this mean I lose my turn?”

Vinnie’s mom rolls her eyes. She picks up the container holding the three cards with the solution to the case. She holds the container in the palm of her hand. She gestures with her hand toward Vinnie, “Okay, what are your answers.”

Vinnie says, “This is so easy, “The murderer is Mrs. Navis. She did it room 107. And, she stabbed the victim with her laser pointer.”

Vinnie’s mom pulls the three cards out of the container. “Vincent. You ruined the Clue game by writing Mrs. Navis, room 107, and laser pointer on the cards.”

“I wrote them on all the cards, Mom. Check your cards out. I’m right. So, we can play the game I invented,” says Vinnie.

“Vinnie has a point, Dear. It’s pretty creative, don’t you think?” says Vinnie’s dad. He quickly adds, “What if we all go out for Sushi tonight?”

“We’ll, okay. Vincent, promise me you won’t write Mrs. Navis’s name on any more board games,” says Vinnie’s mom.

“Promise, Mom. I’ll be right back with my game. You guys will love it.”

“What’s it called, Vinnie,” asks his dad.

“I haven’t thought of a name yet. I only tried it with Rupert and Dexter. They really like it,” says Vinnie.

“What’s the object of the game, Vinnie?” asks his mom.

Vinnie smiles at hearing his mom call him Vinnie instead of Vincent. He wonders if going out for Sushi improved his mom’s attitude. 

Vinnie’s Game – Vinnie’s Mom Feels A Migrane Coming On

2

The family sits at the dinning room table. Vinnie’s mom fills a bowl with low salt popcorn. Vinnie’s dad goes to the pantry and brings a bag of Mexican chips to the table. Vinnie stands in front of an open refrigerator door before deciding to fetch a jar of salsa and two raw hot dogs. He carries them to the kitchen counter, opens a cabinet door and takes a small plate for the hot dogs and a small bowl for Fruit Loops, his go to high sugary cereal he eats in place of candy. Vinnie breaks the hot dogs into small pieces and places the pieces on a plate. He sets the dish with the hot dogs on the floor. Dexter correctly assumes it’s snack time and consumes the two dogs in fifteen point one seconds a new PR. Vinnie picks Dexter’s plate off the floor, examines it. Feels its clean and puts it back in the cabinet. He says, “Dexter, you’re better than the dishwasher.”

Dexter sits on his haunches, cocks his head slightly, believes he did something good but he doesn’t know what it was, and expects a reward. Dexter’s dog brain is still trying to understand the human mind.

Vinnie carries the Fruit Loops to the table, places the dish on the table and sits down. I’m ready. I’ll go first. He picks up his cards and says, “I get to exchange one card with Mom and two with Dad. Then you guys can exchange a card.”

“That’s not how you play, Vincent. And, you are not going to a whole bowl of Fruit Loops. You know how I feel about sugary cereal, anyway.”

“But Mom, Gramma bought them for me, so you can’t throw them away.”

“When they’re gone, they’re gone and don’t you go asking Gramma to buy you sugary cereals.”

“I didn’t, Mom. I was talking to Rupert and she overheard me saying I was hungry for Fruit Loops. And, why can’t we exchange cards? Why, Mom? Why?”

“Because we are going to play the way the game was designed to be played, Vincent. It will be good for you to play by the rules. It’s what adults have to do to be successful in life.”

“Can I pass out the cards, Mom?”

“Okay. First, I’ll slide out one card from the characters, one from the room, and another from the murder weapon and put them in the case. See, I didn’t look at them. Before I pass the cards out, can I guess?”

“Dear, I warned you how this would turn out. I’m afraid it’s going to be worse than I imagined. I feel a migrane coming on,” says Vinnie’s mom to his dad.

Vinnie’s dad smiles, “Vinnie, pass out the cards. You can’t possible know who is on the cards in the case. I shuffled the cards. Mom and I watched you. You didn’t peek. If we look, we’ll have to do it all over again.”

“I still know. I am so sure I know. Please don’t look at your cards. I want to guess the murderer and the room and the weapon. Then we can play the game I invented.”

Vinnie’s dad answers for Vinnie’s mom who is pressing the palms of her hands against her temples. “Vinnie, you can’t guess until you’re in a room. We haven’t started playing yet, so you’re not in a room.”

Vinnie moves the yellow piece representing Colonel Mustard to the library, “I’m in a room, can I guess now, Dad?”

“Vincent, either you play right or you can’t play,” says Vinnie’s mom.

“But I don’t want anybody to look at their cards until I guess. I want to show you how smart I am,” says Vinnie.

“You know you don’t know,” says Vinnie’s mom.

“If I can’t play you won’t have enough players to play unless you use Rupert. He’s very smart and will probably win,” answers Vinnie. 

“Dear, will you get this game started so we can get it finished. I’m already worn out and no one has rolled the dice,” says Vinnie’s mom.

Vinnie’s dad picks up Vinnie’s yellow piece and moves it back to the starting place. He says, “Mom will go first, you will go second, Vinnie, and I will go third. I will be Professor Plum, Mom will be Miss Scarlet, and Vinnie, you’ll be Colonel Mustard.”

“Dad. Dad. Dad,” says Vinnie waving his arm as if he is in school.

“What, Vinnie,” says Vinnie’s dad with a hint of weariness in his voice.

“Mom can’t be Miss Scarlet. She has to be Mrs. Peacock because Miss Scarlett isn’t married and Mom is married,” says Vinnie.

“One can only wish,” says Vinnie’s mom.

Vinnie’s Game ~ Vinnie Makes Up His Own Rules

1

There is no such thing as global warming. There is no such thing as global warming. There is no such thing as global warming, Vinnie’s dad repeats over and over again. Vinnie’s dad stands staring out the window as the rain shows no signs of relenting. Five days straight and it pours and pours and pours. 

“You’re not going to make it stop raining, dear, by standing at the window and chanting,” hollers Vinnie’s mom from the study.

“It can’t hurt,” Vinnie’s dad calls back.

“Dad’s right. In the book I’m reading, a wizard chanted and tossed a magic potion in the air and winter turned into summer,” yells Vinnie from his bedroom.

“Are you reading now, Vinnie?” asks his mom.

“No, mom. I’m drawing pictures of Mrs. Navis to give to my classmates on Monday.”

“Vincent, don’t you dare. Throw all those drawing away this instant,” says Vinnie’s mom.

“Why, Mom? Under each picture I’m writing, teacher of the year. I think she’ll be happy. And, she’s smiling in each drawing. Remember, you told me you thought I could be an artist?”

“Yes, I remember what I said, but some people, especially teachers can be very sensitive. She may take it the wrong way,” hollers Vinnie’s Mom from the study. “Promise me you’ll toss them away.”

“Why, Mom? What if I cross out the word, worse from before teacher of the year on each picture?” asks Vinnie sincerely.

“OMG,” screams Vinnie’s mom.

“What if we all play a board game,” suggests Vinnie’s dad. 

“I’m in. What are we going to play? Can we play Battleship?” hollers Vinnie.

Vinnie’s mom jumps in, “No. I can’t take the sound effects you make, Vincent.”

“I only make them when I sink your ship, Mom. Since Dad is going to play with us, I can make them when I sink his ships too.”

“No,” says Vinnie’s mom.

“No,” says Vinnie’s dad.

“How about Clue, Dad? I already know Colonel Mustard did it,” says Vinnie.

“How can you know Colonel Mustard did it when we have started playing?” says Vinnie’s mom with an edge to her voice.

“Dear, you’re getting upset over nothing,” says Vinnie’s dad.

Vinnie’s mom hollers from the study, “You know how family board games go. They always start out as a good idea, but they end up differently.”

“I love board games, Mom. We have lots of fun. Remember when we played Monopoly last week and I put six hotels on my property?” says Vinnie.

“That’s the whole point, you can’t put six hotels on your property. You’re only allowed to put one hotel on your property,” says Vinnie’s mom.

“But, Mom. That’s only right when you play by the rules. I like to make my own rules. Don’t you think my rules are better than the game rules? That’s what I told Mrs. Navis.”

“You didn’t!” shouted Vinnie’s mom.

“Vinnie has a point, Dear,” says Vinnie’s dad.

“Rupert, when I told Mrs. Navis I wanted to play by different rules than classroom rules, she sent me to the counselor. Don’t tell Mom,” says Vinnie to his stuffed grizzly bear.

“You’re always taking his side,” says Vinnie’s mom.

“Thanks, Dad. I’ll get the Clue game.