By Tristan Duenow
Bright sun rays pierced the black of my suit. Little beads of sweat dotted my brow and a damp undershirt stuck to my back. The white fluffy clouds occasionally blessed us with shade as they moved in the gentle breeze. It was a day he would have liked very much.
Mom stood with me. She breathed deeply and sighed it all back out. We were the only two left standing over the hole.
“I better go help your siblings set up back at the house. Don’t take too long, okay.”
“Okay… I’ll see you soon.”
She grabbed my hand and gave it a little shake. I knew she was trying to encourage me, but the effect was diminished by the puffy cheeks and red eyes that hid behind her smile. She left and walked back towards where my wife and son stood waiting.
All alone I took another look into the hole. Even from here I could count all the grains of wood only interrupted by the many flowers that had been thrown down. Purples, blues, whites. All kinds of colors bounced around each flower from a different person, the number too many to count.
Each color reminded me of something different. Red, the blood from my first shave. Blue, the time I thought I was gonna drown only for him to pull me up. Green, the grass stains from mowing the lawn. But yellow was different. It took me farther back. Straight into his lap.
I must have been my son’s age. Just old enough to begin understanding the world with an unquenchable curiosity, but not old enough to figure it out on my own. Old enough to not want to wet the bed anymore, but not old enough to have completely stopped.
Days then were filled with getting my hands on whatever I could. Making swords out of sticks. Chasing my older siblings around until I eventually got hurt. I would run back crying to my parents wanting them to comfort me. All the while my siblings would be trying to claim it was my fault.
It was around then he came home with it. A brand-new gaming console with its new state of the art 32-megabyte game. Kids today would laugh at the technology, but it was incredible. I was hooked instantly. The buttons, the lights, the music playing through the box tv’s speakers.
I came to the title screen of the game many times. The yellow background moved with images of a man riding his horse sword in hand ready to face the evils of his world. I couldn’t read the words or understand the story, but I could hear the music and feel the atmosphere. That was enough for me.
Well, I also needed to beat the game. I remember feeling like I played my heart out, but never made any progress. It became my ritual to play until I grew so frustrated, I would cry and throw a tantrum.
I would say how much I hated the stupid game, leaving it to play with other toys for a while. Yet, after just a few minutes I would always come back to play more. The familiar title theme would play. I would hum along best I could before starting the game up and continuing the ritual.
After a few rounds he would always come in asking, “Everything going okay?”
The buttons called to me more than his words ever did. The green, blue, and yellow buttons magically made the man on the screen do what I wanted. I wouldn’t answer until he picked me up from the ground like a sack of potatoes.
“I said everything going okay?!” He would shout spinning me around while I giggled. He would set me down and blow a raspberry on my stomach, sending me into another fit of giggling. The only thing that could possibly tickle more was him rubbing my feet in his scruffy beard.
I’d hit some more buttons before the frustration started to return, “I just can’t beat this part. It’s very hard.”
“Well, why don’t we beat it together.”
He picked me back up and set me down on his lap, his big arms wrapping around me and grabbing the controller. I could feel his fuzzy face rest against my head from time to time. And always his warmth.
Thinking back on it he was doing most of the playing, but just having a hand on the controller was enough for me. I would mess with his fingers sometimes getting us killed. We would lose boss fights and he would growl at me, but never get mad. He read me the story, and I did my best to understand it.
Day by day we worked our way through it. In return for helping me beat the game I promised to help him with the chores beforehand. Together we would do laundry and dishes. I would play outside with a toy while he mowed a different part of the grass yelling at me if I got too close. Whatever the chore was it didn’t matter, we did it together humming the game theme back and forth.
It was always after the dishes were done and the lawnmowers put away that a smile crossed his face. He would run towards me, and I would sprint away laughing trying to get away. Callused hands scooped me up and shot me around the sky like a rocket ship until I landed back in his lap in front of the yellow lights. In front of the floating melody.
Only now do I realize maybe he was more excited to play than I was. I can’t remember how long it took us to beat the game. Only that it felt like years of adventure. An epic to be told for generations to come. The credits rolled after the final scene the main theme playing in the background.
We set the controller down and I jumped around the room screaming, “We did it. We did it!” My hands clapped as much as my legs ran.
He only smiled at me in response before I once again became a rocket ship flying through space. I’m sure we played through it several more times. Probably to the point He became sick of it.
The wind picked up slightly bringing me back to the present. My eyes were watering again. I had thought I had no more left but still more seeped out. Mom had been waiting for me to throw my flower in. I held the yellow flower in my hand and from my pocket pulled out the game cartridge I had found in his box titled, “Things not to forget.”
He had never grown sick of it. Well, maybe he had at the time, but time is a funny thing. I held them there for only a second longer before tossing both the flower and the cartridge in the hole.
“Don’t worry Dad I won’t.”
I smiled to myself and hummed the title theme. The song that started it all. My love of games that propelled me to meet my friends. Influenced my careers and ultimately led me to my wife. To starting a family.
As I reached them my wife looked me grabbing my shoulder. I had wiped away the tears on the walk back across the cemetery, but she knew me better than that. My son gave an exasperated sigh. His small fingers made the green, blue, and yellow buttons look giant while he pounded them away.
“Everything going okay?” I asked him.
His only response was a grunt.
“I just can’t beat this part. It’s too hard.”
A grin crossed my lips. I reached down and picked up my son much to his chagrin.
“Well, why don’t we beat it together?”
Tristan Duenow is a North Dakota born writer with a B.S. focused on English and Music from NDSU. He enjoys fantasy, realistic fiction, and cuddling with his cats. Currently, Tristan works in quality assurance and spends his free time reading and writing.