Atari Nights

[dropcap]M[/dropcap]y daddy hated video games. He had an outdated fear of them. “They’re a waste of time,” he’d say. “They’ll rot your brain to the core.” He said it so often I believed it.

Subsequently, video games terrified me. I thought if I looked upon Pac-Woman’s round figure for even a moment, my brain would trickle out my ears.

I was still willing to take the chance, though.

When my buddy Larry got an Atari 5200 console for his birthday, he invited me to play it. I warned Larry that our brains would turn into urinal cakes if we touched the thing. But Larry was a gambler by nature.

We played for five hours.

That year for my birthday, I asked Daddy for an Atari 5200. He didn’t even acknowledge the question. He just looked at me with sad eyes, like I’d just used an ugly word. I knew how he felt about video games. I had a better chance of getting a jug of Jack Daniels for my birthday.

Neither of us mentioned the issue again.

The day of my birthday, I arrived home from school to an empty house. Nobody was in the kitchen, the lights were all off. When I walked down the basement stairs, I was greeted with a “Surprise!”

And it was a surprise. Mother and Daddy stood in front of a small upright piano, all wrapped up with a big ribbon.

Daddy grinned. “The way I see it, your friends will outgrow their video games,” he said. “But you’ll be playing one of these until you’re old and gray.”

If he could only see me now.



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