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June 6, 2008 Pick a hand

There are currently four kids living in our house who I get to play with: my two little brothers, who generally just play with each other (though I’ve recently gotten to the point of being able to trade teasing banter with them, which delights me), my little 5-year-old sister, and our 8-year-old cousin. The two of them have latched onto me like I was a present from America just for them. :D Their current favorite game to play with me is ridiculously simple (which is good, since I have a ridiculously limited vocabulary). They’ll pick up any small object – a rose petal, a few inches of thread, a rock, a pen cap, etc – and hide it in one hand. Then they hold both hands out, and I pick whichever hand I think it’s in. If I’m right, I take it and it’s my turn.

Before our cousin and her mom (my xalti, aka Ama’s sister) came to stay with us, Little Sis and I used to play this. It was more straightforward with just two players: if the other person guessed which hand was holding the amzyan (little thing), it was their turn. If not, you’d hide it again.

Now that there are three of us playing it, it’s impossible to get two turns in a row, because someone is picking each hand. In other words, if it’s Little Sis’s turn, she hides the amzyan and then holds out her two clenched fists. I pick one and Cuz picks the other one. Whichever of us has found it hides it next.

Statistically speaking, each of us should get a turn a third of the time. But it doesn’t work that way. I’m “it” half of the time. Because both Cuz and Sis do their best to make sure that I get the amzyan each time. At first, it was as simple as holding it in the hand closest to me. But then I started reaching for the hand I knew it wasn’t in. When Cuz is it, this works, because Sis is fiercely competitive and wants to find it every time. But when Sis is it, she does everything in her power to ensure that I end up with the rose petal, or thread, or rock, or whatever. She pretty much shoves one fist into my hand, and then holds out the other one for her cousin to “choose”. Cuz isn’t much better. She gives me suggestive looks, or shakes one fist in my direction, or does everything but announce, “Hey, Kawtar, it’s in this hand.” The fact that I’ll invariably choose the other hand, just so Little Sis gets to find the amzyan as often as possible, doesn’t deter her much. She’s just gotten craftier about which hand she puts it in.

Basically, the game has gotten to the point that she’s trying to outthink me in order to force me to win each round. :) It’s like playing rock-paper-scissors, which is easy to win as long as you can think two steps ahead. (Or, if you’re playing against someone else who knows this strategy, think three steps ahead.) She’s thinking, “OK, it was in my left hand last time, which Kawtar knew, so she went for my right hand. If I put it in my right hand this time, and she does the same thing, she’ll get it.” The strategizing can’t get too complex, because Little Sis’s moves are pretty predictable. As long as Cuz can figure out how to keep Little Sis from getting it, it’s inevitable that I will.

Oh, and what about when I’m it? Since both girls grab for whichever hand is closest to them, I was running into hurt feelings from whichever girl I didn’t “give” it to. So then I started stacking my hands vertically, criss-crossing them, doing the congo-line arm-spin, throwing fake punches left and right…basically everything I can think of to ensure that the both hands will be near both girls, and that the winner will be random.

I would think that this game would grow old quickly, but we’re going on two weeks now with no loss in enthusiasm. :)

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