“Look out for the cheater
Make way for the fool-hearted clown
Look out for the cheater
He’s gonna build you up
Just to let you down” — Bob Kuban and the In-Men
Palo Alto, California — Sometime in the ’70s
Two opponents face off in a game of skill and chance. The expression on their faces is one of grim determination — each carefully deciding their move before striking out with a gesture designed to force capitulation. It’s a matter of victory over defeat. There is no middle ground.
We pull back slightly to discover that these combatants are brother and sister. They are playing a game of Monopoly (or Checkers, according to the memory of a certain individual). Their cherubic faces are only slightly marred by the look of intense concentration. The older brother has the advantage by virtue of experience and cunning. The younger sister, who has suffered too many stinging defeats, valiantly attempts to even the score. The game is neck-and-neck now. The sister has, by luck, evened the playing field. Perhaps the cunning skill of the elder has rubbed off. But wait! The older brother has something else up his sleeve!
Fast forward to the end and it’s another stunning defeat for the younger sister. She violently collapses the game board, causing the pieces to go flying through the room. The older brother has to clean it up, but he is, once again, the victor. She, on the other hand, has had ENOUGH! Silently, she makes her exit, sulking all the way.
A minute or two later, the silence is broken.
“CHIPPER! YOU GET OVER HERE NOW!”
Mother’s voice cleaves the air like blade. What have I done now?, says the older brother to himself. He makes a beeline for the family room, noticing mother and the younger sister in conference.
You see, the sister — my sister — had not taken defeat lightly THIS time. She had sought the wisdom and consolation of our mother by uttering the following words:
“Mom, I think Chip is cheating”
Well, that did it. “Have you been cheating Carrie?”, she asked, with some incredulity. “Yes,” came the reluctant reply. “Why?”, she demanded. “Because I got power hungry.” Power hungry? Where did I get that expression from?
Mother was nonplussed. With her eyes closed in resignation, she simply said “Don’t cheat your sister.”
And that’s when my short life of crime ended.