Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Toby Merrill, A Confused Video Gamer.
Toby Merrill of 42 Potts Avenue is one of Cloverdale's rising video game stars. He won the village Video Game Challenge last year by destroying the all time PacMan record set by Floyd Berman in 1996. He took high honors in Confederacy Elementary's class on video game theory. Six months ago he moved into the majors by challanging Harv Whopple's top score in Alien Invaders during the Shire wide Gaming Tormanent held at the Kicking Donkey Pub. Currently Toby is in training for the Confederacy of Dunce's National Mario Kart Video Game Championship scheduled to begin next month at the Capital City Holiday Inn.
Toby Merrill is a hero to the hundreds of Shire citizens who've lost their lives to the call of the screen.
Last Saturday Toby awoke to the sound of a car door shutting. He rolled over facing the wall. There was no school and he had no intention of getting up. He stayed up past 9:00 P.M. the night before playing video games with his brother and he rarely stays up past 9:00 P.M. Remember, Toby is in training.
He heard the front door open. “I need some help here. Matthew...... Toby...... here on the double!” his mother shouted. Toby rolled over to find his brother. He was passed out in his bed, fully clothed. Toby wondered if the seventeen year had been out all night. Matthew was known to sneak out of the house without permission. Sometimes the escape woke Toby up. Other times it was the early morning return that did it. Toby noticed the bedroom window was open and the screen dislodged. That explained Matthew's appearance. If mother found him like this she’d pop a vein. The rest of the morning would be spent listening to them yell. Toby didn't’ want his morning ruined so he decided to put her off the scent before she reached the bedroom.
Toby got up, stumbled to the bedroom door and cracked it open. He hid behind the door not wanting to be seen in his underwear. He never knew who mother might have with her. She was the Master of Garage Sales in Cloverdale and there were many that sought her out as a teacher.
He looked toward the front room. The coast was clear. He listened. He only heard his mother's voice talking to herself. She had a tendency to praise herself for her best finds. She was alone. He opened the door fully so he could speak.
“Heard ya mom. I’m getting up.”
“Where’s Matthew?” she called from front room.
“In bed,” Toby replied.
“Get him up to.”
“Can’t I do whatever it is myself? Matt is out cold and you know what he's like in the morning.”
“Lazy as his......,”
“What do you need done?” Toby interrupted. He wasn’t in the mood to hear her start in on his dad. His dad did his best but jobs were hard to find.
“Bought some things at garage sales. Their in the car. Bring them in. Oh, I’ve got something for you as well. Its a bit of a surprise. Run along now.”
Toby shut the door. He sat on his bed searching for his pants. He found them under the blanket he’d tossed off his bed during the night. It was too warm for a blanket. He put them on one leg at a time, stood up and fastened the button. He knew his shirt was somewhere. He remembered taking it off but where he threw it, he didn't know. He looked on the floor - nothing. It wasn’t hanging from the lamp, the dresser or the small basketball hoop attached to the top of the door. He dropped to his knees and looked under the bed. There it was. How it got there he didn't know. He slipped it on and walked out of the room barefoot.
Mother was in the kitchen putting something away. “Toby, there is a bag of clothes in the back seat. Bring them in and put them in the wash room. Got you some good clothes for school.”
“Is that the surprise? Clothes?” Toby asked. His entire wardrobe consisted of a collection of discarded items from nearly every home in Coverdale. He couldn’t go anywhere without someone giving him a double look. He knew the reason. They recognized something he was wearing from their own closet. He lost count of how many times someone from school stopped him with the same two statements.
“I had a shirt like that once?” or, “Those are my pants. Where did you get them?”
“Got them at your garage sale,” Toby would say, and then add “They look better on me, wouldn’t you agree?” That usually shut them up. If not, Toby didn’t care. In Cloverdale being Garage Dressed wasn’t a bad thing. Everyone was into recycling. Toby knew it had something to do with greenhouse gases or carbon monoxide poisoning or global warming or something like that. 'Garage fashion' as Toby called it, meant you were concerned about the environment and doing something about it. Last year it was cool to Garage Dress thanks to Toby and his best friend Lance. Lance one of the most popular kids in the school. Lance started Garage Dressing on a dare from Toby. Toby played him perfectly to his advantage. Toby was like that - a smart boy that knew the politics of school. He also knew that Lance never walked away from a dare.
Toby dumped the clothes into the hamper. They smelled of moth balls and detergent. He turned to walk back to the front room.
“Surprise!” mother shouted from the sofa. Toby stopped dead in his tracks. There was something curious on the coffee table in front of her. Toby’s brain began searching all files for a reference but found nothing. The failed search led to Toby’s next question.
“What is it?”
Matthew was up sitting next to her on the sofa trying on a hardly worn pair of garage shoes. He shot a smile to Toby. It was a thank you for covering for him.
“Its a hockey game.” his mother said getting up from the sofa to make room for Toby. “Come sit here and give it a go.”
Toby sat down and surveyed the device. There was no screen. There were no controllers. Toby looked for evidence proving it was some kind of video game but nothing about it resembled a video game. It was a sheet of metal painted to resemble a hockey arena. The players were made of metal as well. Each player stood in a long narrow slit in the floor.
“Well,” Matthew said. “Aren’t you going to give it a go?”
Toby looked at Matthew. He knew he was enjoying his predicament immensely.
Toby looked side to side. He picked the game up searching for something he couldn't find.
“What’s wrong?” mother asked. “What are you looking for?”
“How do you switch it on?” Toby asked.
“Switch it on?” his mother responded in disbelief. Matthew fell back into the sofa laughing. “Wha?” Toby asked. He didn’t like anyone taking the Mickey on him.
“There is no switch Einstein. It ain’t got electrics.” Matthew said hitting him alongside the head with one of the garage shoes. “This is old school hockey. The way they played it before electricity. You know, from when mom was a girl.”
Matthew looked up at his mother with a grin stretching ear to ear.
“Pack it in Matthew. I’m not that old. Come on Toby - give it a go.” Mother urged him on.
“First Garage Dress. Now Garage Hockey?” Toby asked as he reached down and found the black plastic knobs visible from the underside of the game. He pulled on one knob. One of the red players moved forward as he pulled the knob back. Toby turned the knob. The player turned, matching every move Toby’s fingers made on the controller. “This could be cool.” Toby mumbled. Using his other hand he took control of two players. He pulled them back and forth, then spun them around. Slowly first then faster and faster until he felt he understood the mechanics of the game.
“Fancy a game?” he asked his brother. Matthew seemed hypnotized by the game’s workings.
“Why not. You might be able to beat me on the 360, but I'll bet I can dominate when electricity is out of the equation. Get ready to get owned.” Matthew jumped from the sofa and positioned himself opposite Toby. Mother produced the puck and the game was on.
They played nonstop for thirty minutes before Toby called for a bathroom break. On his way back to the front room Toby gave Lance a quick call. Sometime later the house was full of Toby’s friends, each waiting their turn playing hockey “Old School”. The garage game was fantastic. Mrs. Merrill was so caught up watching the boys play that she forgot about the long list of chores on Toby's Saturday Chore List.
Toby was a happy boy. He had a new garage game, hardly worn garage clothes waiting to be washed in the wash room hamper, a house full of friends and a day with little work.
Life was good.