From Wheel of Fortune,
she learned that consonants
were worth far more than vowels;
she learned that it was okay
to answer a question with a question.
However, from The Price is Right,
she learned that any show
that wanted you to act like a fool
was not a thinking game,
a guessing game.
He was Jeopardy,
she, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?
He was quick
with the answers
to the questions
that were over everyone’s head
while she talked too much
& took too long
to get to her answer.
When they met Wheel of Fortune
where every contestant had
a “ridiculously handsome husband,”
a “rockstar wife,”
&/or “just the greatest kids in the world,”
they thought they’d found perfection.
For the former contestant who’d coined the term
“my hotsomesauce husband,”
the “Wheel of Misfortune” was a cross
between a waxy red round of gouda
& a disk of The Laughing Cow—
with two black lines of mold that spoiled the whole thing.
She bemoaned the agonizing minutes she’d spent,
waiting for the other contestants to complete the suffix
to the gerund in “What are you doing?”,
looking completely flummoxed when they landed on the Express,
making much ado about landing on the “million-dollar wedge”
then landing on Bankrupt the next turn,
pronouncing “n” as “en-uh”
“r” as “r-uh,”
& buying the vowel in puzzles like CHOCOLATE M_LK,
only to mispronounce the solve.
She hadn’t gone on to the bonus round
but had won a trip to a “developing country”
for which she had no other winnings to pay the taxes on.
She had grown up with Pat & Vanna—
witnessing the progression
of the turning of the letters
to the touching of the letters,
of Pat’s lousy jokes & receding hairline,
& the ushering in of the
lame-ass “crossword” category.
Through “The Wheel,”
she’d learned her alphabet,
then her spelling,
then the combinations of words
& the categorization of those combinations.
She’d learned to count in fifties & hundreds
before twos & fives
& that mispronouncing a word
could cost you dearly.
She’d seen snippets of every part of the world
& where they were located on the map,
so that she was curious enough to look them up
in Encyclopedia Brittanica.
She’d learned when to take chances
& when to play it safe.
When she became a contestant—
meeting these personalities
who’d lit up her living room
with their Fifties blandness—
it was like living her childhood dream
& connecting with a friend
that had grown up with her
without them even knowing it.
The money she won changed her life
but only because she used it
to change someone else’s.
She watched “Wheel of Fortune” to make herself feel smart,
“Jeopardy” to humble herself,
& “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” to realize that anyone
could be one.
For board game lovers: https://sarahleastories.com/2017/12/04/mondays-will-be-different-sweet-little-nothings/
For “Wheel of Fortune” lovers: https://sarahleastories.com/2015/09/02/writers-digest-wednesday-poetry-prompt-321-theme-gripe/
For “Clue” lovers (or “Cluedo,” as its known in the United Kingdom): https://sarahleastories.com/2015/05/01/poem-a-day-writers-digest-challenge-30-theme-bury-the-blank/
Buying unnecessary vowels,
calling letters that have already been called–
it’s not using your noodle, is all.
Listening to the host without the most,
who holds the female contestants’ hands to the Bonus Round,
makes me want to wash my hands and whiskey-wash it down.
Contestants who jump up and down after every triumph,
who use flowery adjectives to describe their significant others,
who rattle off all their kids’ silly, pretentious names,
are just a few of the many gripes I have about America’s game.