No dice is a response to a conversation or request that means there’s no chance of the event happening. No dice was stronger than an idiomatic expression in my childhood. It was literal. Nothing associated with gambling, chance, or luck crossed our threshold. No cards. No billiards. No dice.
I didn’t like cards—too dull for me—but the neighbor kids pushed until I learned to play a poor game of Old Maid. I never conquered Rook, the Parker Bros. Puritan substitute for regular playing cards. Yatzie (later renamed Yahtzee by Milton Bradley) was too new to be found in the local five and dime in our small town, but five dice broke all the rules.
My twin and I played jacks, dominoes, and checkers, the ancient games my father permitted as non-gambling entertainment. I tried pick up sticks and marbles over his opinion that they were meant for boys, not ladylike. I kept my marble bag out of sight, away from the board games, to avoid detection. Monopoly was my favorite, but the required throwing of dice, a gamble, forced me to wait for an invitation from the kids across the street.
The Christmas after my father died, money was tight, almost nonexistent. I hoped to receive a Monopoly game, but Mama said it would be disrespectful to his memory. The same answer followed the next Christmas. Respect trumped fun.
Half a dozen years later, I moved to San Francisco. That opened a world of choices. I shunned playing cards in favor of Monopoly and Yahtzee. Then, along came Scrabble, a word game created by Alfred Mosher Butts in the early twentieth century and popularized by Macy’s Department Store in the mid-1950s. Now owned by Hasbro, sales statistics proclaim Scrabble to be in one of three American homes.
Scrabble. It’s one game of chance my father would have approved of because it’s proper for girls, educational, and played with no dice.