The year is 1884. It's April and the Clark family has
gathered for the spring interment of their father. He
died in January and the atmosphere is less somber now
that three months have passed. His daughters and their
husbands are visiting in the sitting room of the Clark
"Oh, Richard," complained Christine. "You're not
going to bore everyone with that, are you?"
"Maybe you think it's boring," replied her husband
as he opened a long, flat box on the coffee table.
"Let's see what the others think."
"This is your get-rich-quick scheme we've heard so
much about?" asked Ronald.
"I'm not promising anything, but I think it has merit."
"What is it?" asked Olivia.
"It's a game I think I might be able to market."
"He has wasted more time on this thing," said Christine.
"You play it on this board?" asked Virginia, graciously
showing some interest.
"That's right. It's like a large checkerboard, with
more squares. The game consists of 120 of these little
wooden tiles, each with a letter of the alphabet on it.
You put them together on the board to form words."
"Let's humor him," suggested his wife, picking out
some of the letters. "Richard, you can lead us into the
poorhouse, but I'll always love you."
"Give it a chance," begged the reckless husband. "Now,
look. Each tile has a tiny number in the corner. The
number indicates the value of the letter and varies
according to how frequently the letter appears in the
English language. E is the most commonly used letter, so
it only has a value of 1. Z is the least common and has
a value of 12. All the tiles are face down in the box
and everyone draws out eight of them. Then we take
turns trying to string together a word. Here... I can
He laid down the six letters.
"The M is worth 6, the O 3, the T 2, the H 4, the E 1,
and the R 4. That adds up to 20. So I record that and
pick up six more letters, and the next person takes their
turn. You try to put together the most valuable word you
can. And now that I've made the first move, you have to
incorporate one of my letters into your word and count its
"So I can use your O?" asked Christine.
"Okay," said his wife, "I've got an F, and another O, and
an L, an I, an S, and an H. That spells FOOLISH."
"That's worth 29," said Richard, recording her score.
"Very good. Now pick up six more letters."
"And I've got a B," said Olivia, "and a U, and an S, and
your T. That spells BUST."
"You can't do that," Richard explained. "You're running
up against the F. You have to form a word every way. If FS
was a word, you could do it."
"O-kay... I've got an R, and the U, Christine's I, and an
N." That spells RUIN."
"That's worth 16. Pretty good."
"I've got a B," said Virginia, "an O, Richard's R, an I,
an N, and a G. That spells BORING."
"Good for 28," said the inventor and scorekeeper. "Now
I'll put an S in front of MOTHER and we've got SMOTHER. I
get all the points from MOTHER plus 4 points for the S. That
gives me 44 altogether."
"I'll use that H from FOOLISH," said Christine, "and an
O, a P, an E, an L, another E, and two S's. That spells
"Good show: 29 again. That gives you 58."
"And I've got an A, and I'll use one of those S's, and
I've got an I, an N, another I, another N, and an E,"
offered Olivia. "That spells ASININE."
"Another 20 for you. You've got 36 now."
"If I had a V, I could make POVERTY," said Virginia.
"If the U were open, you could make PENURY," Olivia
"If I had another G, I could make MORTGAGE," Christine
remarked. "Or, over here I could make BEGGAR."
"How much would HAREBRAINED be worth?" asked Clifford,
"Or how about STARVATION?" added Olivia.
"Or DESPERATE?" Ronald inquired.
"That's enough!" Richard erupted. "I'm not letting
you play my game."
"Who would want to play it?" asked Olivia mercilessly.
"Richard, you're never going to sell that. You've got a
wife to look out for, and a child on the way. Keep your
feet on the ground."
"O-kay... o-o-o-kay. That does it. I've embarrassed
myself enough over this." Richard swept the elements of
the game into their box and pitched the whole into the fire.
"It was just getting good!" Christine objected.
"Give the man credit" said Clifford, lighting a cigar.
"I thought it looked promising," Richard eulogized over
his late creation. "Chess and checkers have been around for
centuries. Isn't it time someone came up with another game?"
"If there were other games to be invented, someone
probably would have thought of them by now," countered
Olivia. "Richard, stop trying to carve out a place in
history. It's juvenile."
"And if you are going to invent a game, make sure it's
entertaining," added Virginia. "I think that's an
"Livy, I've hardly been thinking about a place in history,"
said Richard. "You say I should think of my wife and children,
and I am. Wouldn't I like to buy her a big house and treat her
to some luxury. Look at what she's grown up with."
"Aw-w-w, Richard," said his wife affectedly. "You know
it's not those things that matter to me. And we don't live
far away. When I want to enjoy the good life, I just have
to come back here."
"What harm does it do to spend some extra time at
something like that?" asked Ronald. "He's got a good job."
"Tell him that," replied Olivia. "He's always complaining
"Richard, you're not doing badly," said Clifford. "People
can go a long way in the bank. Be patient. You can't start
out as vice-president."
"Well... Maybe I find finance kind of boring."
"Ri-chard!" his wife protested.
"My heart just missed a beat," said Virginia, laughing
slightly and catching her breath. "Don't do that, Richard."
"You'd like to have a place like this," said Olivia
vehemently. "Our father worked hard to bring it about.
Maybe sometimes he was bored, but he put up with it."
"Okay, okay," said Richard. "No more harebrained schemes.
I'll be as dull as you want."
"Thank you," replied his wife with great relief. "That's
A little later
A little earlier