The first time I played with the Capitalist Swine was at Billy’s house. I can’t remember how to get there, except that Terry took me up some squirrelly way through a maze of subdivisions around Plymouth or Canton or somewhere.
Billy took us out in the backyard to show off his split-level deck. He had two maple saplings with about a dozen leaves between them. They looked like Charlie Brown Christmas trees compared to all the other trees shaggy with leaves.
We played that first game in the back porch, an unfinished addition with particle board walls and studs showing. A sliding glass doorwall blocked sounds and cigar smoke from passing in or out of the living room. The kids were not allowed back in Billy’s sanctuary, and he boasted that only his things decorated or rested here. Stacks of freeweights and a bench dominated one end of the porch, and the card table almost filled the other end. The only decorations were posters of a very young Brando leaning over the handle-bars of his bike, and another poster of a glistening Triumph motorcycle.
Just after the turning point where all the properties are owned and the game really starts to get bloody, Billy’s wife brought in a massive tray full of baked chicken and fries. He seemed to have a great thing going, with a growing house, smiling wife who cooks and cleans, and 2.4 kids scampering past the portable gas fireplace with the flintlock rifle over the mantle of it, next to the framed service award from the Department of Natural Resources. In recognition of outstanding blah blah whatever, presented to Officer William Cadieux. The .4th kid was a teenage step-daughter who I never saw, only heard about.
Overshadowing the otherwise plain decor of the living room was a grandfather clock Billy had designed and put together himself. You could see the long pendulum swinging through a stained glass crucifix down below, complete with a little blocky version of the savior. It showed time in Roman numerals, with the moon and stars and sun gradually rolled behind a little window on the face of the clock. The crowning touch was the ten-point rack of antlers sticking out from the sides of the clock, taken from a real buck on a real hunting trip, which Billy described at length. I don’t know what kind of statement the antlers were supposed to make about Christ, but it made an awesome looking clock.
During that first game, toward the end of the night, I let out a particularly vicious, messy sneeze in my hands. It took more than one kleenex to clear off my nose and fingers, but they didn’t notice, or made a point of not noticing.
The next time I came, instead of playing Monopoly, we helped Billy move out. He said it was a trial separation. After that, we usually played at Billy’s parents’ house in Redford, where he had moved in. We’d show up around seven or eight, me and Terry car-pooling sometimes from the mall. Dean would show up an hour later, and we’d play Monopoly ’til two or three in the morning. A couple times I fucked up and played ’til dawn, then had to go to work three hours later.
Mrs. Cadieux always came down to the game room in a heavy terrycloth robe around ten or eleven to offer us turkey sandwiches, or roast beef or whatever leftovers from dinner she didn’t want to put away. I would try not to be the first into the kitchen, and try not to take too much food and look like a pig. Dean would skip the food and grab another beer. I’m not sure if he was trying to stay lean, or knowing that food would diminish his buzz. Terry always whispered in the kitchen, because the attached dining room was always dark, and just beyond that were the stairs up to the parents’ bedroom.
I only talked with Billy’s father once. His accent was pure Hamtramck, halfway between Chicago and Poland.
I had been quiet the first few times we played at Billy’s and later at his parents’ place. By the third game, I felt comfortable enough to grill them about the game. Why Monopoly? Why the weekly event?
“Somewhere in the mists between Poker Night and D&D lies Bloody Monopoly,” Terry said.
He stared at me and I felt sure he was mocking me somehow. I laughed to break the tension.
Dean told him, “You’re such a cock.” To me, he said, “Billy’s the freak for Dungeons and Dragons. He got Terry into it, and they convinced me to waste one night of my life trying it. They couldn’t find anybody else to play after that, including me, so they gave up D&D and we started playing Poker. We did that for about six months until it got boring as hell and we started doing Hearts, Rummy, Euchre, Shit on Your Neighbor. By the time it got down to Crazy Eights, I had to get good and drunk. Next night, they tell me I invented Bloody Monopoly.”
“Bullshit!” Billy threw doubles and moved his lead demon eight spaces to Baltic Avenue, then rolled again, saying, “It was Terry’s idea.”
“Yeah, but whose idea was it to use real money?”
“Mine,” said Billy.
Dean yelled at his brother, “Dammit, you told me I invented part of it.”
Terry landed on Community Chest, pulled a Get Out Of Jail Free card, and sold it to Billy, who was always willing to buy them for forty five cents. “You invented the part about tequila on Free Parking.”
“Yeah! That was when the game was good. Why did we stop doing that?”
Billy shoved the dice at Dean. “We stopped after Chantal’s vodka watermelon. I know you remember that.”
“I remember the watermelon. Who’s Chantal?”
They acted like the game was just a way to pass time, as if any game would do. But the room would get serious when they brought up old debates over house rules, or when the die would land on an angle against the board, so it might be a five or it might be a one. Do you re-roll it, or call it as it lands? Dean said he was only here for the beer, but he’d argue harder than the others. Billy would pull out the tattered rulebook, plus the notebook full of customized house rules. Sometimes that settled it. Sometimes it led to courtroom dramas over what the Framers of the House Rules had intended back when they wrote the House Rules.
The other two had stopped playing as distinct characters, but Terry played the role of the Socialist Party. His moves and failures and successes represented the prosperity and tribulations of the Party as it rose to power. When he won, it represented the Socialist Party gaining enough acceptance to take over Atlantic City.
For the first month, they badgered me about choosing my token. “You can take the easy way out,” Billy explained, twiddling his fingers like a wizard over Dean’s pewter top hat, “and pick one of the boring, old pieces that come with the Monopoly set. Or you can find a token that suits you.” He slouched back in his chair and smiled. Billy’s token was a two-inch high lead figure of a demon, perched on a little mountain-top base, wings spread wide, a flaming sword in one hand and a cat-o’-nine-tails in the other. A leftover from the days when Billy’s title had been “Dungeon Master.” Every few months, he repainted the figure’s deep red skin and black nails.
Dean performed his Ritual of The Bottomless Bottle before replying. One beer nearly drained. One fresh from the freezer, which he kept stocked and rotated frequently enough that they never froze. He would open the full bottle, take a quick pull, and leave enough room to empty the old, hot bottle into the new, cold one. Like he was only drinking one beer each night. One long, ever-expanding beer.
“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: fuck you. There’s no shame in keeping tradition. You assume that I chose this piece casually, but I put some thought into it, maybe more than you.” Dean blew a long puff of air, the remains of a stifled burp. “I like that it’s an old game. What, eighty years, a hundred years, depending who you believe?
“This game has some weight to it, and you clowns take something away from it when you bring your toy soldiers and chess pieces into the game. You’re totally fuckin’ with the vibe of Monopoly. It’s like playing Pinochle with Pokémon cards.”
Terry said, “That’s been done,” but couldn’t derail his brother’s thesis.
“I limit myself to the eight traditional tokens as a matter of respect for the game. So which piece do I want representing me? What do I got to work with here?”
Dean grabbed the sandwich-sized tupperware box with all the green houses, red hotels, pewter tokens and extra dice. “The Scottie dog and the iron are out, cause they’re for pussies. The car looks too much like a toy. It doesn’t move me. The wheelbarrow I kinda like. Makes me think Working Class. Back-breaking labor for forty years. Makes me think of those VFW-types my dad hangs out with. Not ‘Proletariat,’ some bullshit term a college kid would apply to them, but fuckin’ Working Class. I respect these people, but I don’t wanna be one of them. This game is about winning the fuckin’ lottery and investing your money to become King of the World, so I ain’t gonna be a fuckin’ wheelbarrow.”
He picked the wheelbarrow out of the box.
“Thimble’s kinda cool, but it has that Working Class stigma just the same. Plus I read where it was only included with the set because back in the old days, people would lose a couple of the tokens, so they’d play with a real thimble instead. Fuck that.
“The shoe, no offense, Lee,” because I was using the shoe that time, for no particular reason. “It’s got the working class stigma, makes me think of cobblers making that shoe. Plus I had this girlfriend who told me how shoemakers were one of the trade guilds originally involved with the Illuminati, right alongside the Masons, and she said you could prove it because the word ‘cobbler’ was
really derived from ‘cabala.’ So every time I look at that shoe with the fuckin’ loop on the back, I got an image of her armpits bursting with tufts of black hair.
“So that leaves me with either the bucking horse or the top hat. Even if you didn’t have the base broken off both your Lone Ranger dudes, I wouldn’t want them. He looks like a boy scout or a mountie or something.
Billy said, “Chantal busted the second one.” He ignored Dean’s frown and said, “I don’t know why you ever brought her into the game.”
Dean shook his head and frowned at Billy. “Who’s Chantal?”
“Will you just roll?” Terry set the dice in front of Dean.
“Now the top hat, on the other hand,” Dean said, as he held the dice a couple feet over the center of the board and dropped them without shaking them, as Billy fell forward and battered the table with his forehead, sending his straight piles of money askew from where they had been lined up under the rim of the board, “that’s a fuckin’ token.” Dean advanced his top hat nine places to Pennsylvania Railroad. He dropped two dollars on the bank next to Billy. “I want it.
“I look at the top hat and I see Abe Lincoln. John Fitzgerald Kennedy at his inauguration, huh? Then I think of W. C. Fields and how he died tragically, but kept joking up to the end, and I think that this is the most meaningful piece in the game.”
He took the railroad deed that Billy finally found, set it on the table next to his other deeds and stared at them. He was looking really glassy-eyed. Only ten o’clock and he looked like he would nod off right there without replenishing his everlasting beer.
“So it’s not like I just pulled the Balrog figure out of my old Dungeons and Dragons collection because he looked cool. I put some fuckin’ thought into it.”
I rolled three, landed on B&O Railroad. “Hey, I’ll buy Pennsylvania off you for two-fifty if you want.”
“I’m not as fuckin’ dumb as some people think I am.” Dean didn’t mean my offer for the railroad, because he was staring at Billy when he said it.
Billy crossed his arms, which made his thick biceps look even more swollen.
“You popped her implant,” Terry said.
I put down two dollars on the bank and tapped the title card for B&O in front of Billy.
Terry shook off the dirty look from Billy and repeated to his brother, “Chantal was the one whose implant you popped.”
Dean looked up at Terry, instantly sober. He looked at the game board, studied it for confirmation, adjusted his top hat so it was better aimed on the path.
“Oh! No no, she tried to put that off on me, but we were just wrestling. She was trying to tickle me and I was just holding her arms away from me. I squeezed too tight and the thing popped out on me.”
I said, “Eeeewwwww,” and shrank away from the table. Billy grabbed the dice from in front of me and made his roll.
“That thing stunk, too. It was infected or something. Some quack doctor in Ferndale gave her a big discount, but he fucked her up. Of course, she blamed it on me.”
“Fools!” Billy thundered. He stood up too fast, knocking the chair over backwards as he flexed, a pale Lou Ferrigno in a Lions sweatshirt, growling, “I consign thee to the depths of Hell, puny mortals!” He drew his hands toward the board in trembling claws. I thought he was pantomiming strangling Terry across the table in slow motion, but his massive talons stopped and hovered over the board where his demon figure had come to rest. “Park Fucking Place! You losers may as well kiss your money goodbye right now.”
Dean said, “It was Norplant that popped out, not an implant. Little sticks of birth control medicine inserted in the arm. Do they even make that shit still?”
Terry scooped up the dice and shook them silly. “All I’m saying is those things were not real.”
“Motherfucker, those were all original parts, straight from the factory. Original miles. Factory-to-dealer incentive.”
“Fake,” said Terry.
Dean was on the way to the kitchen for a fresh bottle, saying, “Slam the doors and kick the tires.”
Terry didn’t need to explain his playing piece. He used a live round from a .357.