I am Mr. X

I slid my plastic cup across the scuffed wooden table. Making room to open the playing board. Chairs scraped over the floor as my sister and a friend took their seats. The window behind the table open. Facing the front yard we’d just left. The tangle of branches from the dogwood still playing in my hands, the breeze carrying the outside in.

In the game, I became a grown-up. More than that — I became a spy on the run. My feet in buckle sandals tucked under my knees, my hair in braids, yet my hands holding sturdy cardboard game pieces assured my competency at flying through the streets of London on taxis, busses, and trains. Totally self-sufficient. Elusive. An awe-inspiring afternoon to a nine-year-old girl with sunkissed freckles in the tidy kitchen of a friend’s house.

The world lay before me on the board of Scotland Yard.

scotlandyard2

My sister and our friend teamed up to chase me down. Rules of the game: one Mr. X and the rest seekers to track him as he leaves a mysterious trail using public transportation.

I took a sip of lemonade. Steadying myself for the hunt. The plastic glass slippery from the humidity. My mind whirring and plotting the course. Wondering if I would escape. Relishing in past victories remembered. The innocence of my young self envisioned cobblestoned streets devoid of rubbish, instead gleaming. Enticing. I was Mr. X, hopping toll bars in the subway and darting into waiting taxis, then lumbering along on the dreaded bus routes — the slowest — the scent of hot exhaust and the rumbling engine right there in the room.

From the moment I heard the squeak of the game box opening, part of my mind leapt to London. Leapt into the web of false clues and honking horns and people on my tail.

I’d started the day as an American girl making her bed. Tucking my Holly Hobbie sheets around the wall in a rush to get out the door and hop on my banana-seat bike. Mid-day, I’d found myself caught up in a tangle of hope and last-second evasions so serious, so full of risk and oh, the consequences — Mr. X couldn’t be caught! Some days I escaped, breathless and free and full of triumph as I knocked back the rest of my lemonade. Some days I fell prey to the system. All days I folded the board, tucked it away into the box, and upon its closing I opened the door back out into summer. Back into that dogwood tree. My mind ready to be wherever I was at the moment.

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15 thoughts on “I am Mr. X

  1. Fun! I had a banana-seat bike and a dogwood my brother and I used to climb when I was a child! Thanks for bringing back some memories! 🙂

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    1. I bet you would! I haven’t played it since I was a kid; we didn’t even own it — it was only at my friend’s house as I mentioned. Remember those days? When your world of fun would double every time you went to a friend’s house because they had different toys than you?

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  2. You’ve described perfectly how the real world and that of the game intermingle, meeting up in the mind of a little girl with a huge imagination. And as always, the details are just right: “The plastic glass slippery from the humidity.”

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  3. You have triggered my own recollections of summer fun and beloved games, hiding out in the tree tops, and “My mind ready to be wherever I was at the moment.” A wonderful post as always.

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  4. Such a fun read! You transported us back in time to our own childhoods by sharing a glimpse of yours. Reading about your secret life as Mr. X reminded me of playing “Secret Agent Man” with my neighborhood buddies. I was a bona fide spy with a cap gun back then. 😉

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  5. I don’t think our children are getting the same creative sparks from their internet games as we did from board games and toys. I hope I’m wrong about that. Love this post. It does take me back.

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    1. That’s a good question. And one reason why I waited until my kids were around five-years-old before I introduced video games. But once my son got to kindergarten — they have computers in the libraries. And his class had a smart-board instead of a chalkboard. Times are changing… but I still believe that kids are kids and I have to hope no matter what electronic toys present themselves, their minds will still alight with the wonder of what they can’t see.

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  6. Our family owns this very game, same version, same everything (not the new one, which looks so slick and unlike its predecessor)! It was a charity shop find, I think it cost me fifty cents. When youngest son is in good fettle for a board game (he truly hates to lose any game), it’s so much fun. I loved reading your memories of how lost you got in the game as a child, and to catch a little snippet of your childhood.

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    1. Oh, I know! I don’t like the way they’ve redesigned the cover. It lost all its character and charm. I don’t own the game, never did, as I mentioned — it was a game we played at a friend’s house. But I think I’ll have to shop around for an original version of it. I’m glad you enjoyed the peek into my past!

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