Scissors Paper Nuke

“Scissors Paper Rock.”

“Scissors Paper Rock.”

“Scissors Paper Rock.”

Three boys playing the game of ancient ages rouse me from my rail induced reverie.

Obviously brothers. The youngest is short, brown hair and eyes that observe more than he sees. The middle is blonde, curly-haired. His blue eyes dance with laughter at any excuse. The oldest straight-haired, blue-eyed seems more reserved. 

A recipe for rivalry perhaps. Not at all. For right now they’re all laughing. 

I return to semi-sleep secretly counting the stations, till journey’s end.

“Scissors, Paper , Rock.”

Three arms rise once, twice and fall together ending again in fits of laughter.

Which should mean that no one cares about winning or losing. 

But as I half-open my sleep-lidded eyes, and look more closely, I realise I’m wrong. For there’s a pattern emerging. 

“Scissors Paper Rock.”

Both youngest boys are winning. The eldest isn’t.  And when he wins,  he loses the next round.

That’s it. I know this.  I’m sitting upright up in my seat trying to remember why. 

The answer reappears like a lost muse. 

The younger boys have worked out how to win.

To win at scissors paper rock, pick the option that would have won last time. Most likely you’ll win next time. Why? Because most likely your opponent will repeat his winning strategy. If paper would have won last time, choose paper this time. A statistics degree has some uses after all. 

“Scissors, Paper, Rock.”

As each round continues, the eldest boy’s voice grows louder and louder. His fist reaches higher only to fall further. 

He knows he’s being beaten. 

What he doesn’t know is worse. I squint and see. 

He can’t see that his opponents are cheating. 


As each round starts, each is watching the other. And just before the third fist-fall, the youngest peeks at his elder. And the result is that both their fists fall as one.

“Scissors, Paper, Rock.”

I look down. Yes his fists are clenching before during and afterwards.

He suspects.

I’m wrong. 

He’s standing frozen in the middle of the train aisle thinking.

He knows. 

The others wait for him to begin.

“Scissors Paper Rock.”

Arms rise and fall as one. 

“Scissors Paper Rock.”

On the third fist-fall the eldest one raises his arm higher. At the top of his swing, he’s made a fist. Maybe the bystander should intervene before…

“Scissors.”

“Paper.

He brings his arm down, a clenched fist now, only to extend his thumb out. 

“Rock.” The younger two say.
“Nuke.” His voice drowns out their last word.

The two youngest losers stop and stare. The middle boy’s eyes are shining. His mouth starts to twitch. The youngest looks at him and starts giggling. The eldest joins in.

Now three boys are almost rolling on the floor laughing their heads off. 

Until at an unspoken word, the game begins again. 

“Scissors, Paper, Rock.”

“Scissors, Paper, Rock.”

“Scissors, Paper, Nuke.”  

Laughter, more laughter, until our station arrives. 

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