The String Game was my favorite game for a few years,
until we lost one of the participants to an early death. It was
co-invented by myself and my two cats at the time, Ivan and Gus.
We played it before breakfast every morning that we were together, and
we all knew the rules. I was actually not a contestant, but served as
score-keeper and set-up-man.
The game in action: Gus racing past Ivan
unscathed to score a point!
The Origins of the Game
The game came about this way: in our bedroom, there was a beanbag
hassock (pictured above) in between the bed and the door. Ivan loved that
beanbag so much that it's still known as Mount Ivan, long after his death.
Now Gus, though he didn't eat as much as Ivan, was always antsy to get
a move on in the morning - he was quite the active cat. Ivan, on the
other hand, was both fat and lame (from an accident in his kittenhood
that broke his hip). So waiting lying on the beanbag until he was sure
I was actually heading out the bedroom door to get breakfast was more
his style, while Gus's style was to try to lead me out of the room by
example, then come back and try to lead me again.
Ivan, though he loved to eat, also loved to play. So every time
Gus would trot by the beanbag, Ivan would lean over and try to swat
him. Since both cats seemed to find this very amusing - Gus delighting in
racing by close but so fast Ivan couldn't get him, and Ivan delighting
in connecting now and then - I quickly learned how to encourage the
Gus was always a sucker for string. Wiggle a piece of string and he was
in stalking mode right away. I learned to wiggle a piece of string in
just the right way and just the right position so that Gus couldn't resist
racing for it, so focused on it that he charged directly by Mount Ivan.
(Ivan was also normally a sucker for string, but not during The
String Game. He knew the rules: the string was Gus-bait.)
So every time Gus would leave the room, I'd wait until he realized I
wasn't coming yet, and had returned to the doorframe, out of reach
of Ivan. Then I'd wiggle the string back in the bedroom so he'd have
to come back past Mount Ivan, where Ivan would try to swat him again.
Gus would then think of breakfast and trot back out the door, usually
by a circuitous route to avoid Ivan fairly easily on the way out, and
so be set up for another round.
We played to six points: Ivan got two points for connecting with Gus
(which wasn't easy); Gus got one point for getting by Ivan unswatted,
and one point for actually catching the string (which I was trying to
jerk away from him). He was pretty quick, so he almost always scored
at least one point each round, while Ivan could only get him every other
round or so. So the game was pretty evenly matched, with first one cat
then the other winning, and every now and then a tie, as Gus would
catch the string for his sixth point as Ivan swatted him for
his sixth point. Once somebody had six points, I'd go serve
them their breakfasts at the same time, no matter who won, and all
three of us were happy.
We never tired of it, none of us. I suppose I shall never have cats with
the same taste for this game again, so The String Game is
probably something I'll just treasure the memory of without getting to
play again. But I tell you this: it was my favorite game, without
exception, while it lasted.
In loving memory of Ivan, 1988-1999 (left) and Gus, 1988-2000
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