by Bud Smith
I was busy those days looking for new recruits, we’d recently lost Annie, a 5th level Dark Elder Witch and I felt as table master that it was my obligation to fill Annie’s seat. If nothing else, one more person to bring nacho ingredients and the more nacho ingredient variety we have- the better.
It was more than that though. We’d lost Annie and Annie had an alliance with Fred the Blue who had an allegiance with Pork Pie Betty (who has that nickname because she always wears a pork pie hat, even in the shower supposedly). Our game playing is not much different than real life. You start to pull one person away, others follow.
Before you know it, I’m eating pathetic nachos on my own. A lone dungeon master without any variety of nacho ingredients. There you’ll find me rolling my 20 sided die on a Saturday night in my mom’s basement in Weehawkin, while she yells down the stairs for me to come up and go for another car ride to Food Universe. There’s a sale on store brand soda. 10 cases for 10 bucks.
You would think she was trying to power a spaceship off of this sphere with all of that store brand soda. No. She’s just buying it because it’s on sale and because the doctors forbid her form drinking it. There is already a pallet worth of that crap next to the kitchen pantry. What’s 5 more cases?
I put on my light jacket and my slacks and I take her out in the Cadillac.
I didn’t want to live here with her, but I stay because she needs me and without me, I don’t think that she would make it very long.
Ok, do you see that empty spot above the TV? You can’t miss it. Front and center over the TV, smack dab in the middle of my Doctor Who commemorative plates and my framed/signed/framed again Battlestar Galactica poster… doesn’t that spot look so empty to you?
If you spun around in my game room very slowly, you would be hard pressed to find an inch of the walls without some kind of interesting memorabilia. Whether it is my Millenium Falcon replica Lego model, my full scale Boba Fet mannequin, the entire cast of the Fellowship of the Ring in color cardboard cutout… 3 out of four of the hobbits signatures (Elijah, you’re in my sights)… posters, posters, more posters… the point is, there is a lot of great stuff down here, except, suspiciously, above the TV- the best part of the room. Center stage if you will.
You want to know what used to be there?
A fucking broadsword.
I used to have a broadsword hanging right there and now, every time I look at my own god damn TV, I get so mad, because someone, some slimy filth, has come into my home and stolen my broadsword! If I still had it, I would kill them with it. Oh, well there you go… it’s like the Terminator. The situation builds itself doesn’t it? Future John Connor sends Kyle Reese back in time to protect his mother from a Skynet Cyborg and while he’s there Kyle Reese knocks up Sarah Connor and 9 months later you get regular time John Connor, who grows up and sends Kyle Reese back in time to protect his mother from… where does it end? A snake eating itself forever.
I went to a fantasy convention a few years ago, or should I say, tried to go to a convention… I was supposed to go with my friend Jay and his buddy Greg, but on my way to meet them for some pre-partying the night before in Brooklyn, I got lost and wound up in the wrong part of town. I’m told that it’s not as hard as it sounds.
I get off the subway, now mind you, it’s only my second time in the city and I’m not real sure where I’m going and I’m not really dressed right. I’m walking down the sidewalk in a long red cloak with the hood up and I’ve got my face painted all crazy neon colors, with these wild red contact lenses in.
I’m on my way to a game of D&D and I’m dressed as a new character I’m gonna try out called Frazzle Razorheart… I keep looking at the paper printout of the directions that I have from Mapquest but I can’t really see them because all of the stupid streetlights on the block seem smashed out. I pass a bunch of idiot kids on a stoop who are doing stupid inner city stoop activities and they of course get the BIGGEST kick out of me, they start shouting things and taunting me, I walk faster and hear a bottle break on the sidewalk not too far from my feet.
A few blocks up, I’m thankful as all Hell to see that the streetlights are working properly. I pull my directions back out and scan them over as I walk faster and faster. Then, here it comes, I see the two shadows getting taller and taller, falling in front of me on both sides.
That’s when I’m knocked over, face first.
I get a broken nose from the curb. I get my cloak ripped off of me. They take my wallet, including my fantasy convention tickets. They rip off the enchanted amulet I used to wear around my neck as a token of affection from Annie. They throw my good luck 20 sided die into the sewer. They leave me there bleeding.
In short, they kill Frazzle Razorheart and I vow never to let this happen to me again.
Recruiting. Yes, I’m very busy recruiting. I hit the usual hot spots. I hang up flyers at the library. Then I walk from one end of the mall to the other. Then I go to the tiny arcade outside the movie theatre. No luck anywhere. Finally, my ace in the hole, I go to the comic shop and spread the word out there, especially when I see some kid that looks cool. I explain to him why “game night” is the most amazing thing and why he or she should give it a shot.
Sometimes it’s hard, but as a dungeon master, you really have to put yourself out there. Let’s say for instance you’re leaning against the brick wall outside the comic shop sipping a tropical mystery slurpee and you see some dude come rolling up in a 1998 Blue Ford Escort and he’s listening to Cake. You instantly know so much about this dude. You know, he has his own car, he likes cool bands with trumpets, he’s on his way into the comic shop so there’s a great chance he’ll be down with hypothetical magical board game adventure… Yeah, this dude is a shoe in, could there be a more perfect candidate (besides a hot chick exactly like Annie)?
“Excuse me, sire!”
“I like your sideburns!”
“Oh, Ok, thanks.”
I step in front of the door and block it with my body. I know that this pisses Dean off behind the counter in the store and that I have been warned repeatedly not to block the door, but sometimes, you just have to ignore Dean, he can be a real prick but he’s not such a prick to call the cops like he warns. Us gamers stick together. Even though he never games with us. He’s still a gamer.
“Hey, I want to ask you a life changing question…”
“Do you throw dice?”
He looks perplexed and he looks slightly frightened. I only weigh 120 pounds. I’ve got long stringy bitch hair, maybe it’s my chain mail shirt I am wearing under my trench coat.
“Do you throw dice?” I ask again, more assuredly.
Craps! What a tool box! Craps! Imagine that.
“D&D.” I say.
“No, I don’t play D&D.” He says, “I was picturing an alley, throwing dice in an alley for money.”
“You’ve done that?”
“Twice.” He says.
I step out of the way. I let him in the comic store. He’s not the kind of recruit I’m looking for. Not the kind of fellow I would bring around my poor disabled mother.
Dean says, “GET AWAY FROM THAT DOOR!”
I cut across the field, through a hole in the fence, down into my own yard. That’s enough recruiting for awhile.
After my beating under the streetlights, I returned to Weehawkin a different guy. My friends in the city had gone to the Fantasy convention without me and my outlook on life was rather grim. I took to AOL instant messenger to vent my frustrations to some far flung international friends that I have acquired. Nobody special, just some pixie chick who’s name I have already forgotten, an Elf named Jazamine and a warrior who hails from Finland and calls himself DeadlyInferno31112.
I hadn’t talked much to DeadlyInferno31112, but he seemed like a cool enough dude, actually on this particular night, he sprung up the conversation with me. I was happy to go private chat with him because the hot ass pixie and Jazamine the sex Elf weren’t really down for cyber, so what else was I gonna do, but discuss serious battle technique with DeadlyInferno3112?
He talked briefly about a mutual friend of mine Snakestrangler13 who had recommended he give me a shout out to help him with a very delicate matter.
Arrowofhope: What’s your delicate situation entail?
DeadlyInferno3112: herd u were gettin out of Warcraft
Arrowofhope: Thinking about it
DeadlyInferno3112: herd u have an insane character that u built up
Arrowofhope: that I do, took me three years…
DeadlyInferno3112: why u quitting?
Arrowofhope: thinking bout going off the grid and going back to old school play. D&D. There’s no chicks in Warcraft. I mean, chicks that’ll come over your place and…
DeadlyInferno3112: u must not be playin right. I get ALL the chicks in Finland over my place cuz of Warcraft.
Arrowofhope: Trust me dude, you don’t even want to scrape the surface of how powerful my Warcraft character is, what I mean by that is, there’s NO WAY to play the game wrong with this character.
DeadlyInferno3112: how much u want
Arrowofhope: it’d be priceless, trust me you don’t have that kind of money
DeadlyInferno3112: try me
DeadlyInferno3112: lol…rotfl, smpl
DeadlyInferno3112: shitting my pants from laughing
Arrowofhope: yeah, seriously, it’d take a million bucks for me to sell Gage Griffonkiller
DeadlyInferno3112: Look, talked to Snakestrangler13 about what happened to u last weekend
Arrowofhope: … gotta be more specific lots of stuff happened last weekend
DeadlyInferno3112: herd u were jumped
Arrowofhope: by fifteen guys
DeadlyInferno3112: u need a weapon
Arrowofhope: I know
DeadlyInferno3112: ur in luck, I make weapons
DeadlyInferno3112: I’m a weapon expert, willing to trade my best weapon for Gage Griffonkiller
Arrowofhope: Best weapon? I’m intrigued… tell me more
DeadlyInferno3112: Think u can handle a broadsword?
Things went great after that. Within a few weeks, there was a knock at my door, mind you, this was during my first official; “game night” posing as Dungeon Master in my very own game room and HOLY CRAP, here’s UPS showing up with a giant bubble wrap envelope nearly four feet long and foot wide.
“What can this be?” I exclaimed coming down the stairs with the package.
The players, my new friends sitting around the Dungeon board all were speechless when I opened up the package in front of them and revealed it to be the finest broadsword that anyone had ever seen.
I swung it around for a minute even though it was far too heavy for me and then I had to set it down in the corner. During the game, nobody could take their eyes off of it.
They’d roll the dice, cast a spell or drink a potion or whatever as quickly as possible and then become eye locked on my fine new weapon of immense power.
Legend spread through town about my fantastic weapon and wouldn’t you know it, suddenly, next game night, here’s Ronnie Harding bringing his cousin over, because she’s just had to see the broad sword even though this was the same night as the homecoming dance. Yeah, a chick that loved Finnish Swords more than the homecoming dance.
Her name was Annie and she had my heart, had it right in the palm of her hand.
I have to admit, it was what I look back at now as “the salad days” of my life. I have never smiled so hard. For two and a half weeks, I just couldn’t wipe the smile off of my face no matter how hard I tried. I mean, how lucky was I to have this fine specimen in my possession?
That sword… it got me laid.
For two and a half weeks, Annie was powerless to resist me.
I promote Annie from 1st level witch to 3rd level witch all in one sitting. Then, the next game night the others are a little more than upset to find out that she is suddenly a 4th level ELDER witch… they protest, it gets shitty. All I have to do though to quiet them is point over at the broadsword and they all quiet immediately. Even Pork Pie with her big mouth. Take off that stupid hat and wash your hair, I want to say, but I don’t.
Then, just a few days later, I came home from the Pandora’s Pretzel Box where I worked in the county mall and to my absolute unimaginable horror, I found my broadsword gone.
Oh. My. Motherfucking. God…
I collapse on the carpet in front of my TV and crush a party size bag of Cheetos with my body… orange dust is shot out in a plume that hangs for quite a long time. Slow motion Cheetos dust falling like tears from Orange Angels in an orange heaven, or orange Valkyries in orange Valhalla or something.
It outlasted all of that.
Have you ever gone from feeling the best you ever have to the worst you ever have all in the same day? That’s how I felt. Really.
I was very nervous too whenever I went out. Worried again about getting jumped. People coming up behind me and taking my legs out. Cracking my head open… I know, now, that I shouldn’t have worried about that kind of thing, the place where I live is not a dangerous place. Still, I did worry. It was a lot of things that made me that way. I’ve lost a lot in my life, as short as it is and I’m not comfortable with the idea that I could lose more.
Coffee. Scolding hot black coffee.
I began to carry it around with me. Not because I like coffee. I can’t stand it. It makes me gaga, just thought of having to drink it. No, I was carrying the coffee because I was very worried about the shadows appearing behind me, stretching in front of me, making me smash face first into the concrete sidewalk again.
The scolding hot coffee was the a weapon. I was ready to throw it in someone’s face if they came at me.
One day, my mother rolled to the top of the stairs and she called to me, LET’S GO GET SOME SODA, BUY 2 GET 2 FREE.
I don’t have the heart to tell her it’s just some sleazy salesman’s way of saying buy one get one free. I also don’t have the heart to tell her that she shouldn’t be drinking so much soda. Any soda really…She says, They already took my legs, I’d hate to live a life without carbonation.
On our way through town, my mom starts to suck in wind like she is beginning to hyperventilate.
“I have to tell you something and I’m very nervous to tell you.”
“Tell me what?”
I pull the car over.
“I have a confession.” She says. “I threw your sword in the garbage.”
“Yes, I threw it away.”
“Why would you do that!”
“I was so worried about you in the new neighborhood… I was worried that you had joined a gang.”
“A gang! Are you insane?”
She just shrugged and began to tremble.
“I know now that it was a mistake…I was just worried about you.”
“Nobody has EVER been in a gang with a broadsword… EVER.”
As angry as I was, it’s impossible for me to be too mad at my mom for very long. I mean, sure we drove in utter silence to Food Universe and when we got there I didn’t say a single word to her even though she was very curious, “Honey, would you like coconut soda or cream soda? Ginger Beer or Pineapple?”
She thinks she can cheer me up with oddball flavors.
I pushed her AND the shopping cart through the store and didn’t say a word until we got back in the Cadillac. Then I let her have it.
“DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT I WENT THROUGH TO GET THAT BROADSWORD!”
I drove angrily…Ha! Me in a gang, can you picture that! Me in a gang! Me, the gangbanger, not the dungeon master… I wondered, did gangbangers get more chicks than dungeon masters? If they got more, was the quality higher or lower? How often did you really get jumped? If I was in a gang in this town, what were the chances of getting shot in a drive by? I scanned all the available brick wall space on the way home… there wasn’t even any graffiti in this town! If there were gangs in this town, they were softies, I could be a hard core gang banger in a town like this, but, that’s not what I want.
“How did you even get down the stairs to get the sword?”
“I crawled.” She said.
“You crawled? You really crawled?”
“I was worried about you. You’re my little baby. I couldn’t let anything bad happen to you.”
“You crawled up the stairs with a god damn broadsword from Finland? Was it in your teeth?
“You know what, mom… I want to be mad at you, I really do… but you’re just such a bad ass.”
“You think so?”
“Yeah. You got no legs! You crawled down there and scooped a heavy friggin weapon off the wall… impressive.”
“Thanks. I’m not crippled you know…” I drove in silence, then at the traffic light she said. “Tell you what, pull over at the corner store, let’s get some vanilla ice cream. We’ll make pineapple soda floats.”
“That sounds horrible.”
“Pull over anyway, they took my legs, they aren’t gonna take away my ice cream.”
“Tomorrow you start eating like a person with extreme diabetes, alright?”
At our next game, Ronnie is absent. They’re dropping like flies. Drastic measures need to be taken. I’m nervous. I give everyone unlimited hit points for the evening. I keep handing out wonderful pieces of imaginary armor. Flying spells. Potions for invisibility. I’m terrified to lose anyone else.
The next day, I got up very early and I sit in the driveway on the trunk of our car, just looking at the pile of garbage out by the road. The sun is barely over the trees. Such a strange thing to be awake before noon… I haven’t had this happen to me in over 2 years since I graduated high school and took my place in the real world.
Then, I hear it as it approaches like a groaning dragon stomping down the street.
The man hanging off of the back of the garbage truck hops off and goes straight for our garbage… as if we didn’t have business that needed to be attended to.
“Hold it right there.” I say.
He looks up and eyes me quizzically. People are always eyeing me quizzically.
“I believe me and you have something to discuss.” I say in my deepest baritone.
“What’s to discuss?” He says. Now, I’m well aware, this probably isn’t the kind of guy that I should be messing around with. He’s well over six feet tall. He’s got a goatee. His fluorescent t- shirt has cut off sleeves and he’s got some pretty serious flaming skull tattoos on both arms.
“You got something of mine.” I say.
“Just your garbage.” He says.
“Dude, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Don’t even try to pretend. You got my sword.”
He doesn’t say anything. He just looks at me blankly.
He smiles just a little bit. “I got it.” He says.
“I want it back.” I say, “Right now…or…”
“You can have it back.”
“I’ve got other swords, I’ll cut…wait, did you just say?…”
“You can have it back, relax.”
“Oh my god! My mom threw it away and I was so pissed. You’ll really give it back?”
“It’s only right.” He said.
Then I shook his hand even though his hands were covered in garbage juice.
He’s my buddy now. His name is Randy and you wouldn’t believe it, but he’s into D&D too. He comes to “game nights” now and hangs with us. He’s a great addition to the group and more than makes up for Ronnie and Pork Pie flying the coop. Of course, I’d be a liar if I said that he could replace Annie, but I’ll give it time.
He’s a cool dude, evident of course by the fact that he returned my broadsword but also by two other things.
First, he installed a stairlift so that my mom can come down here into the basement and hang out when she wants to. I can’t believe that he found it in the garbage, but, he did. That’s just how life works out sometimes. He won’t take money from us, but he’s not rude enough to turn down all fifty cases of our soda. Even if most of them are store brand birch beer.
Second, he invites me to go and see Ozzy Osbourne with his girlfriend Liz and Liz’s daughter Vicki.
Do I want to go?
What do you think?
Ozzy Osbourne and a hot chick my age who likes Ozzy and potentially me…
I can’t sleep for two nights in anticipation.
Then when it all happens.
It’s beyond anything I could have ever hoped.
Bud Smith’s work has been published in the Bicycle Review, Red Fez, Uno Kudo, The Meth Lab, American Drivel Review and The Idiom.