PIT or Carrom, anyone? | Story #4

by Elouise

1967 Jun Game time Elouise and Diane

Elouise and Diane (Sister #3) playing Carrom in Savannah, Georgia, June 1967.

When I was young, I became addicted to at least two ‘parlor’ games. They may not have been the greatest games going, but neither was on my father’s list of R-rated games. Besides, I often won. What wasn’t to love?

The first was PIT. This was a card game, even though playing-card games were normally verboten.

But not PIT. It was, in fact, a family free-for-all, open to anyone who understood how to sort cards, think quickly and scream at the top of her lungs. All of us, parents included, got down on the floor, got a little crazy, and used plenty of body language to help us get what we wanted.

PIT was my first initiation into the joy and agony of overtly competitive games. When we played well, we could demolish each other’s advantage and emerge triumphant, happy and gloating, even over our parents.

I still don’t know why we could play PIT, but not Old Maid or Bridge. PIT isn’t polite or gentile. It mimics the raucous, no-holds-barred competition of Wall Street. We frenetically traded Wheat, Oats, Flax, Barley, Rye and Corn cards–always mindful that one Bull and one Bear card were in the mix for added suspense. The goal, of course, was to corner the market.

How strange. My parents believed the stock market was a form of gambling. Yet we played PIT as though our lives were at stake.

The second game was Carrom, which, back then, we called Carroms. You could play it using small billiard-like sticks, though this wasn’t allowed in our house. Instead, we used our bare fingers and thumbs to thump our way to victory. Some family members were better than others.

With Carrom it helped to have good hand/eye coordination and finger strength. You also had to look sharp and take your shots carefully. The goal was to knock your opponents ‘men’ into the net pockets at each corner of the board before yours were all knocked out.

Conversely, you had to intuit your opponent’s strategy, and act quickly to ward off imminent disaster. That usually meant knocking one or more of your opponent’s ‘men’ into tight if not dangerous positions. Or into one of the corner pockets. Hence the nail-biting suspense of Carrom.

This game also reeked of shady dealings and gambling. According to my father, Carrom was a dumbed-down version of pool or billiards, and almost always involved betting, liquor and swearing. It seemed a lot like the stock market, though without its seeming glamor.

Carrom and PIT are vintage games and I’m a vintage woman wondering how this connects with my life. I’m reluctant to say it, but the truth is simple. In our good-girl, rule-oriented family, we were regularly schooled in the art of blood-thirsty competition. How strange can it get?

Not that I’m complaining, mind you. In fact, I can’t tell you how good it felt to crow and lord it over everybody else when I won a game of PIT or Carrom.

Pride doesn’t always go before a fall. Sometimes it’s the sweet reward for demolishing all competitors. Or at least proving until the next round that I’m the Queen of the Castle.

I could get bent out of shape about this. Especially given our not-so-subtle competition as sisters for parental affection and attention. Plus my long history of being overly competitive and a died-in-the-wool perfectionist.

But I won’t. I loved those happy interludes when some of the Good Girl Rules got set aside, and we went for the jugular without guilt, shame, or remorse.

* * *

5-day Story Challenge–Day 4

Thanks yet again to my blogging friend Kim for inviting me to join this challenge, and for her consistent encouragement since I began blogging!

If you haven’t already, take a look at Kim’s blog. Click here for a great place to start. Her poem plus story is heartwarming, and I’ve never seen a pail like the one in her photo.

Guidelines:

*Post a picture each day for 5 consecutive days (see note below). Attach a story to your picture.
*Can be fiction / non-fiction, or a
*Poem / short paragraph
*Each day nominate another blogger

Today I’m nominating Kev
at Kev’s Great Indie Authors.
I also extend an open invitation to all my followers
who have stories they’d love to tell.

*Note: Sporadic posting is fine if you’re not able to post each day. No one is obligated to accept this challenge. However, if I nominate you, I know you have stories to tell!

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 3 October 2015
Photo credit: DAFraser, June 1967, Savannah, Georgia