Friday night. My wife, dressed up, comes into the garage/office and says, “I want to go out, nothing major, but I feel like being out of the house.” I sit back from staring at the slow rendering in Bryce of a topographic fantasy map I had been working on and look at her. Pull down menus of possible replies display on my retina, most of them very inappropriate to say to ones wife. “Okay,” is the reply that I finally choose. A few minutes later, my daughter is dressed as well as her mother and we’re on our way. From the neck up I feel like I fit in with the fashionable women in the car. From the waist down I’ve created the illusion that ripped jeans are back in style and I’m leading the pack with my creaky leather hiking boots.
We drive into the city, Santa Rosa with over 150,000 humans living within its bounds deserves to be called a city, and hit our favorite hole in the wall restaurant. After a fine meal of grilled fish chimichangas we head out side. The women are discussing whether to hit Barns & Nobles first or the mall, when I say, “lets go to the game store first. I have the gift certificate from the unholy holiday to spend.”
Three blocks later, and with much complaining about the cold, we reach the game store. From outside, I’m the first to peer through the windows at the glorious sight. Over forty, mostly teenage, men are gathered around tables playing various sorts of games, from Magic the Gathering to D&D. I grin widely and said, “Oh! Get ready for this!” I pull the door open and step inside, inhaling deeply the odorous cacophony of all forty-plus, non-deodorant wearing, boys. Sugar coated sweat from the games’ excitements hangs in the air like a brick wall.
The girls cringe, but follow me in. I smile wider and make my way past the rows of gamers to the back where the game books are. After a minute I turn to see the girls whispering. “He’s in one of my classes,” my daughter says. “The one over there?” my wife asks. “He’s the one that plays D&D?” I ask my daughter to which she replies, “yeah, and I’m one of the only ones that is nice to him.” I nod, and consider telling her, “but don’t lead him on if you’re not interested in him, don’t be too nice, it will crush him.” But I decided to keep my own experiences and insecurities to myself, plus what daughter wants to be lectured about boys in the middle of an overflowing game store on a Friday night? “What will you say to him if he asks you in school about why were you here, if he asks if you play D&D what will you tell him?” my wife asks. “Yeah,” my daughter replies. The grin only gets wider.
“Can I help you?” the manager says. I look at him and ask, “you’re all out of the Colossal Red Dragons aren’t you?”
“No,” he says, “we have one left.”
I’m able to resist all but five minutes, when finally I lean over a few of the gamers and gently take down the last box containing the colossal red dragon. I only make it five steps towards the counter before I have three of the gamers standing around me, “he’s taking the last red dragon!” “Our last one is going?!” The next thing I know I’m handing my gift certificate and credit card over to the manager while being pulled into a conversation that I don’t even know how it started. “Don’t feed it chocolate, they’re allergic to chocolate!” one of the boys instructs me. “They’re not allergic to chocolate,” the manager replies. “It might be allergic to dragons,” the boy replies and then corrects himself, “no, it wouldn’t be allergic to itself.” Then, without power, I’m pulled back fifteen years and reply, “well, maybe…Vulnerability to Self, take 1 ½ times damage from self.” No! I didn’t just say that. Quickly I sign the paper, grab the receipt and I’m about to run, but the manager says, “we don’t have a bag big enough for the box, but we do have a trash bag.” Good, I’m thinking, a nice black Hefty bag to hide the dragon while I’m walking in the mall. I say, “that’s fine,” and to my horror he pulls out a cheap, very clear, trash bag and puts the dragon inside. The boys are talking; I can’t hear what they’re saying. I grab the bag and one boy says, “treat him well.” “I will,” I reply, “he will kill many adventurers,” and I’m out the door.
Around the corner, across the street, and we’re in the mall: My wife, daughter, me and the red dragon. So large is the box I have to walk behind the girls so it doesn’t bang into their legs. Ten minutes of standing in Victoria’s Secret with a red dragon hanging at my side, and I’m actually starting to feel comfortable there. If I didn’t have two attractive women talking to me about pink and blue sweat pants the stares from the other patrons alone would have killed me.
I reflection, I realize that I exist in a world that few of you know, and most of you that do know it have left it far behind, ten or fifteen years behind. While I shower and wear deodorant every day (okay, sometimes a Saturday goes by with a natural stench in the air), have a job, and amazingly not in school anymore, I’m still a gamer, with all the gamer abilities and enchantments, including Immunity to Gamer Stench.