Snippet: Games

Don’t you hate it when the end of the story is, “And then he woke up”? Or “it was all just a game”?

“Everything Trellafan thought of as reality was just a game. Yes, he was just a damn tenth-level half-elf, living on the edge, in some stupid computer game designed by post-pubescent males and played by a dorky little twelve-year-old in Missouri.

“Trellafan was mad. No. He was…pixellated.

But what about the reverse? Isn’t the reverse the reality? You think it’s all been a game, until you discover otherwise. (Imagine going through a video game like that. One elf, tall, pointy ears, named Trellafan. Wanted for the virtual murder of just about everybody in the damn virtual universe.) Life isn’t real most of the time.

Is it?

My dad called me yesterday to tell me that my uncle Derek was dead and the funeral was on Wednesday in De Smet. South Dakota, you know, Little House on the Prairie.

I didn’t say anything.

Dad kept talking about the details.

Eventually I hung up. I didn’t say goodbye.

I made my excuses at work, left a message for my friends so they wouldn’t be expecting me for the Tuesday night game, and started driving. A lot of it was in the dark across three states that either gave the impression of a lack of reality or too much of it.

Tuesday night was the rosary (same thing as a wake, but less booze and more middle-aged women chatting about their kids in the church basement, serving ham sandwhiches with margarine, macaroni salad (you can’t beat a church-lady macaroni salad), and coffee, coffee, coffee. He was in the funeral home, laid out in the casket, still looking like the guy that inspired me to — I don’t know, slack off and enjoy the easier side of life. He was the first guy I knew that had a computer. He used to program his own games on them.

OK, they were stupid games.

Still I felt nothing.

People offered their sympathy. By Wednesday morning, it started to get to me.

“What are you so goddamned sorry about? What? Did you kill him? Did you strike him down in the prime of his life? Was it you that handed him one too many burgers? You used to cook him bacon and eggs for breakfast every goddamned morning, didn’t you?”

Some poor church lady. Didn’t take it well.

Somebody took me outside and let me yell at the parking lot for a while. Dad just stared at me like it was weird to watch his own son…have emotions. And Mom just wept over me, like it was some kind of great distraction. Then it was time for the funeral.

The casket was open. His kids had left little stuff in there with him. To get buried. Remote control. Couple of action hero figurines. Arcade tokens. Time to walk into the church, sit with the rest of the family in the front pews. Walking by him, he blinked. I could see his eyes, blue blue blue eyes just like my father’s, full and round, sparkling with tears: full of life.

And then I woke up.