Window to the Past

28 May

100 words for Friday Fictioneers, a gathering of writers from institutes (of higher learning) around the world, based on the prompt below from Jennifer Pendergast, submitted for peer review and consideration for Dean Rochelle Wisoff-Fields’ list.




Nine spaces. Seven-hundred-and-sixty-five essentially different positions. Twenty-six-thousand-eight hundred-thirty possible games absent rotations and reflections. From ancient Egypt and the verdant shores of the Nile to Tiberius’ Arch and scrawled remains of Terni Lapilli to Noughts and Crosses in London’s streets to Three Men’s Morris, the history of man is written small and large in its squares.

In the United States the very first game was contested in 1856 by my great-great-grandfather Alfred in the Theta Chi fraternity meeting hall above the main gate of Norwich College. He lost, (who hasn’t) but made it into the history books nonetheless. Playing tic-tac-toe.


Three Men Morris

Roman tic tac toe



41 Responses to “Window to the Past”

  1. rochellewisoff May 28, 2014 at 9:32 am #

    Dear Doug,

    It’s comforting to know that such a worthy endeavor as tic-tac-toe came from the seat of higher learning. As always you played the history card with panache.


    Rochelle SD

    • dmmacilroy May 28, 2014 at 9:38 am #

      Dear Rochelle,

      Thank you for your kind comments. Here are some XXX’s and OOO’s for you.



  2. Gunn's Cabin Fever May 28, 2014 at 10:08 am #

    Ha! Enjoyed that very much – rich in information and humour!

    • dmmacilroy May 28, 2014 at 10:11 am #

      Hi Managua,

      Thanks for reading and commenting.



  3. wmqcolby May 28, 2014 at 12:11 pm #

    Very cool. I like the pictures, too! There’s something about the way you wrote this that really exposed symmetry and patterns, if that means anything.

    Anyway, in layman’s terms, a pleasurable read. Great ending, too. I think my mom played Nine Men’s Morris back in the day (everything went up over the years).

    • wmqcolby May 29, 2014 at 9:17 pm #

      … then I saw the cat won.

      • wmqcolby May 29, 2014 at 9:18 pm #

        … then again, maybe not. I need glasses BAD!

    • dmmacilroy May 30, 2014 at 11:19 am #

      Dear Kent,

      Thanks for reading and enjoying and saying so. Glasses, contacts, microscope, binoculars, tunneling electron microscope…. No matter. I appreciate your stopping by to play a game.



  4. patriciaruthsusan May 28, 2014 at 12:31 pm #

    Doug, You did a lot of research for a small piece. That and the pictures made it extremely interesting. The ending was just the right touch. Well done as usual. —Susan

  5. Snow's Fissures and Fractures May 28, 2014 at 12:48 pm #

    I loved the numbers, didn’t know where they were leading me.

  6. aliciajamtaas May 28, 2014 at 2:01 pm #

    Read it once, wondering what all the numbers and lists of places were about, read it twice and though BINGO (wonder how that game got started?) This was an informative read. Thanks!

  7. Sandra May 28, 2014 at 2:12 pm #

    Amazing how this game has survived in its various incarnations; and equally amazing how you come up with the same level of elegance in everything you write. There’s so much more to look forward to now that you’re back in the FF fold. (You are back aren’t you?) 🙂

  8. K.Z. May 28, 2014 at 3:37 pm #

    very surprised with the direction that you took. unpredictable and intriguing. saw what you did with the window too. 🙂

  9. Claire Fuller May 28, 2014 at 4:00 pm #

    Ahha! The window! I was looking for the noughts and crosses on the ground, rapping my forehead for what I was missing. Sneaky Doug, very sneaky. Loved the writing and the history.

  10. elmowrites May 28, 2014 at 5:38 pm #

    You see the darnedest things, Doug! Thanks for making me look harder (again).

  11. helenmidgley May 28, 2014 at 5:48 pm #

    I loved the flow of numbers, the whole piece felt like a little piece of magic. Great job 🙂

  12. Björn Rudberg (brudberg) May 28, 2014 at 8:43 pm #

    I think even before entering higher learning I learned that no one ever wins in tic-tac-toe… it’s always a tie.. but maybe it took a while to figure out.

  13. lingeringvisions by Dawn May 28, 2014 at 9:32 pm #

    So very clever. I love how you make me think, re-read, think some more.

  14. JKBradley May 29, 2014 at 2:18 am #

    Reminds me of a movie involving a boy and a computer at NORAD. “Would you like to play a game?”

    Good to see you around, Doug.

  15. sandraconner May 29, 2014 at 3:02 am #

    Well, at least I didn’t have to go look up any words this time. I think you take the prize for the most creative handling of a fairly ordinary picture, but I do have to make sure of one thing: since the X is the winner in the game in the window, I assume you were the X-guy, right? It’s important that you be the hero of your own story.

  16. Jan Brown May 29, 2014 at 5:22 am #

    What a great take on the photo prompt! Enjoyed this very much.

  17. elappleby May 29, 2014 at 7:28 am #

    HI Doug
    A very interesting take on the prompt – i like ‘tic tac toe’ – it’s a much better name than our ‘noughts and crosses’ (although ours makes more sense!)

    • dmmacilroy May 30, 2014 at 11:07 am #

      Dear El,

      It would be nice to know from whence came the name. Probably from the ‘one-two-three’ aspect of a winners placement. Hard tellin’ not knowin’. Thanks for stopping by to read.



  18. Lindaura Glamoura May 29, 2014 at 9:42 am #

    Hilarious for a change! tic tac toe indeed! A window into the verdant past of gaming…

    • dmmacilroy May 30, 2014 at 11:05 am #

      Dear Lindaura,

      Gamers rule, right? Thanks for reading and commenting.



  19. BrainRants May 29, 2014 at 7:39 pm #

    Precisely what a college kid would do, no matter what century.

    • dmmacilroy May 30, 2014 at 11:02 am #

      Dear Mr. Rants,

      Exactly, and well noted.



  20. tedstrutz May 29, 2014 at 7:40 pm #

    Dammit, Doug… now I have to go chasing thru Google looking for links to the things you mentioned again!

    Mahalo and Aloha!

    • dmmacilroy May 30, 2014 at 11:01 am #

      Dear Ted,

      Kind of like Bill and Ted’s excellent adventure, minus Bill. Enjoy the trip and say hello to Rufus (George) for me. Thanks for reading and commenting.



  21. Dee May 30, 2014 at 9:34 am #

    Dear Doug

    It’s amazing that the game has survived for so long and very clever of you to use it in this almost lyrical way. Your writing always has such style, it is so good to have you back here.

    Best wishes


    • dmmacilroy May 30, 2014 at 11:00 am #

      To Dee or not to Dee,

      You are one of the writers and reasons that I am ‘back’. Thanks for reading and commenting. ( I loved the way you asked where everyone is from this week. That was a nice touch and helped bring us all closer together, so to speak. Brilliant of you.)



      • Dee May 30, 2014 at 2:06 pm #

        Dear Doug

        Thank you for that lovely compliment, I’m just glad you decided to return.

        I’m really pleased that everyone has said where they are from, it does help to bring us all little bit closer.

        Take care


  22. rgayer55 May 30, 2014 at 10:44 am #

    Dear Doug,
    As I read through the countless combinations and various options, you’d think I could have at least won once in 58 years. Oh well, I hear all the winner gets is cold gruel and stale crackers.

    • dmmacilroy May 30, 2014 at 10:56 am #

      Dear Russell,

      Have you ever stopped to consider how similar sounding yours and Rochelle’s first names are? I’m officially wondering whether our trip to Joplin is really going to be a strange surprise. Rochelle is dreaming of Ahi. I’m looking forward to finding out the truth.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.



  23. unspywriter May 30, 2014 at 2:33 pm #

    LOL! Well, at least he’s in the history books! 😉

    Here’s mine:

  24. MythRider May 31, 2014 at 4:43 pm #

    Interesting, Doug. A history lesson in 100 words.
    Nice to know you come from worthy stock.

  25. Alice Audrey May 31, 2014 at 5:07 pm #

    lol Great build up to a fun ending.

  26. Sarah Ann May 31, 2014 at 7:44 pm #

    Beautiful. I love the form of the second paragraph – the long set-up about Alfred followed by the two of decreasing length to hit it home. Wonderful.

  27. Sun May 31, 2014 at 9:09 pm #

    a simple box type game that has entertained so many through history. your introduction about the game – quite intriguing. who knew all the possibilities. 🙂

  28. Perry Block May 31, 2014 at 11:37 pm #

    Okay, let’s play! I’ve been up studying all night!

  29. artfullyadelie June 4, 2014 at 7:32 pm #

    I certainly wasn’t expecting this all to boil down to tic-tac-toe. Very humorous and insightful to know that some of the simplest things have quite intriguing histories!

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