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They used to call it woolgathering, if you came from a certain part of the country during a certain time in the past century. Woolgathering. When you sit there (or stand, or, heaven forbid, drive) and in your mind's eye play out a scenario or memory that has drifted into your thoughts.

Today I was woolgathering as I sat in an interminable useless meeting thinking about the insane grabs for power and money of the recent past, a corporate pigfest that would embarrass the most gluttonous of porcines.

From there, I reminisced about the cutthroat Monopoly games my cousins and I used to play. More accurate to say they played while I bleated about being fleeced. I didn't have the killer instinct necessary to amass a fortune; I didn't have the predatory shark teeth for tearing apart my victims. I was the nice one whom everyone eyed as a possible patsy (I was 3-5 years younger than they).

At first, the game was quite well mannered and quiet. We politely took turns and murmured our consternation at each other's bad breaks. Then an air of uncertainty, and electric anticipation could be felt as one property after another was bought.

Each property had green houses and red hotels. One player (my cousin Janet) rolled doubles and, out of control, bought Park Place and Broadway and the Reading Railroad. When I landed on a property of hers, she laughed and grabbed all the cash I had.
My next roll ended with my going to jail and I watched helplessly as everyone else raked in the dough while I sat out my turns. They bought and sold amongst themselves, consolidating and wolfing down the profits.

I finally got out of jail, but it was too late. My mortgaged properties were worthless and my money was gone, even the bills I had hidden under the mattress--I mean, board. Even the cat refused to acknowledge my existence and went to Janet for head butts.

Just like life. Janet is skinny and wealthy and neurotic. I'm OK and my dog loves me.

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