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Pride and Prejudice: The Game
This week’s vault pick comes from issue 26, All Apologies. Its pages are filled with prose that moves tenderly with regret and intimacy from writers including Ken Kalfus, Tony D’Souza, and Kevin Moffett. Its poetry takes confessional remorse to an insightful and lyrical level from poets like Dean Young, William Wenthe, and Alex Lemon.
Here’s a piece from Maura Stanton whose poem “Pride and Prejudice: The Game” needs no apologies.
Pride and Prejudice: The Game
When my youngest sister broke her right foot, she hobbled about her town house on crutches unable to drive or go to work, eating frozen dinners but getting to read all the novels by Jane Austen for the third or fourth time. She loves Pride and Prejudice so for Christmas I bought her Pride and Prejudice: The Game and now we’re sitting around her dining room table with my other sisters, looking at the colored board printed with squares leading from one country house to another, along which we must move our cardboard figures, trying to get each pair to the parish church to win. Ellen, with her broken foot, claims Elizabeth and Darcy, Graciously, we let Jane take Jane and Mr. Bingley, while Honey, coughing hard because she has bronchitis, says, I’ll be Lydia, at least Mr. Wickham’s dashing even if he’s unreliable and I, since I’m the married sister, already a winner, if this is how you win in this life, I settle for boring Charlotte and dreadful Mr. Collins thinking too bad that Kitty and Mary have been left out of the official game just because they never married at least inside the novel. “Don’t keep coughing so, Kitty, for heaven’s sakes!” I could say to Honey quoting Mrs. Bennet, if she’d been moving a Kitty figure along the board to Netherfield Park, but instead the rest of us fall silent while she hacks and gasps exchanging worried looks, for she has asthma, no sick days, and has to go on press checks at 3 a.m. for no overtime. “I do not cough for my own amusement,” Kitty rebukes her mother, but she’s only a minor sister, her prettiness leading nowhere, unlike stout Lydia who married a cad. Then Jane throws the dice and the game begins! Mr. Bingley jumps five spaces in the direction of Longbourn, Lizzie Bennet heads off another way to Pemberly, Honey moves Lydia toward the soldiers’ barracks, and I push Charlotte Lucas three spaces closer to the pompous idiot she preferred to spinsterhood. And just then, my sister Sharon comes out from the kitchen where she’s been gabbing on her cell phone, and leans over the board admiring the drawings of the big English mansions and we ask her to read the trivia cards that allow sudden swoops forward, or forfeits of a turn and now we are five sisters bent over a miniature world all older than Jane Austen when she died at 41, pretending to wear gloves and adore dances, trim hats, write chatty letters and play the pianoforte, hoping to fill our dance cards, get invited for tea, though my sisters usually travel by freeway in their own cars, singing along to the Beatles or Bob Dylan or rehearsing how they’ll ask for the next raise from an asshole boss, or counting frequent-flier miles to see if they can get to Hawaii next March, wondering if there’s anything in the freezer for supper, or if they should stop at the gym to lift weights on the way home to large, bright rooms filled with plants, litter boxes, neat closets, and large-screen TVs.