Price Breaks and Heartaches
a journal of retail and failed romance
The Fries And The Fury
As you know I was 18 years old, freshly graduated and at the crossroads of my life; some of the class of 1986 were joining the military, or heading off to college or getting a jump start on their careers. I meanwhile was flipping burgers, living at home, playing role playing games and in my free time I was pining away for my high school sweetheart.
Somehow I had become a pathetic stereotype, the kind of character I wouldn't be caught dead writing about.
It was my day off and I was at Adrian's parent's house, the grid map and cardboard counters were spread out on the floor before us, there were dice and rulebooks within easy reach and of course we had plenty of scrap paper.
By the way, you ever notice some people call it scratch paper? I don't get that at all... you're not scratching it at all, you're scribbling on it.
I guess it's a semantics thing.
Semantics aside we had everything we needed to pretend we were super heroes without having to wear spandex in public.
I believe you kids call it "Cosplaying" now- in our day it was called "inviting arrests and beatings".
"Boy," Daniel said, "I hope this week's game is as cool as last weeks. Spider-Lad really kicked ass."
"I have to agree with you," I said, "it was fun fighting giant robot Presidents. The Frost's ice blasts really came in handy."
"Bah," Gordon frowned, "Patient Zero's powers were utterly ineffective against opponents without an immune system."
For those of you getting confused, as part of the role playing game experience we all made up our own super heroes- I was the Frost a crimefighter with ice powers, Gordon played Patient Zero an man whose power was he had all known diseases and Daniel was playing Spider-Lad.
Not very original I know but Spider-Lad was a marked improvement over his Superguy character.
"Well," Adrian said, "your heroes will be glad to learn that you've gotten a lot of positive publicty from saving the city."
"Awesome!" I said.
"Of course Spider-Lad and the Frost are less than happy to discover they have herpes."
Daniel dropped his dice, "Wha-what?"
Gordon said, "Sorry guys, it turns that Patient Zero's Venereal Blast had a bit of an area effect. I guess I made it too moist."
"Herpes?" I couldn't believe my ears, "Super heroes don't get herpes! James Bond maybe..."
Adrian tried to hide his smirk, "Sorry guys."
This was the thing about role playing games, to a certain level you were at the mercy of the story being created by the game master and it seemed like Adrian didn't enjoy seeing his players having more fun than he was.
So why did I keep playing?
I still ask myself that question.
Once Spider-Lad and the Frost had added some medicated lotions to their utility belts the game got started.
"This is so lame," Gordon said, "what super team patrols the streets on ten speed bikes?"
"We do," Daniel said.
"Well," I said, "if we had pooled out character points like I said we could have gotten that battle van I picked out but you insisted your character had to have jaundice vision and don't get my started on Spider-Lad's super special power!"
Adrian shouted, "Hey! He had to spend all his points on being able to communicate telepathically with spiders! It's totally in character for him!"
"Just you wait," Daniel said, "that power is going to come in handy some day."
"Back to the game please," Adrian said.
Soon enough our terrific trio bicycled right into danger when we heard a bank alarm go off. We carefully locked our bikes up and headed to investigate. Adrian set the scene.
"You find the bank in a shambles, there is a morbidly obese man heading for the doorway- he's moving at speeds approaching sixty miles an hour!"
"Oh no!" Gordon said, "It's Speedload!"
That's right, Speedload, a 300 pound man that can run at roughly the speed of sound. he made fast work of our heroes by charging into us, causing earthquakes with his high speed stomping and in one case blinding Spider-Lad with a well timed flick of his brow sweat.
Once we had been thoroughly humiliated it was time for a pizza break. Since we were gaming at Adrian's house he refused to pay for any of it but probably ate about half of our order when all was said and done.
I wanted to talk about the game and keep my thoughts as far away from reality as possible.
No such luck.
"I've got an interview at the arcade next week," Gordon said, "I've been practicing counting change all week."
"You really want this job don't you?" I asked.
"I have two long term goals for my life, one is managing an arcade the other is meeting Peter Mayhew. Now if I could manage an arcade owned by Peter Mayhew..."
Daniel said, "College has been awesome so far, you can ditch class anytime you want."
"I wish I knew what I wanted to do with my life," was all I could say.
Having burned his mouth scarfing down pizza Adrian spoke last, "My Dad'th going to thend me to buithneth thchool next year but firtht he wanth me to work with him in hith T-Thirt Thop."
"I still can't believe your Dad makes so much money off t-shirts with dirty sayings on them." I said casting another glance around the glamorous looking parlor.
"It'th not jutht the dirty thayings, it'th the merchandithing- TV thows and rock bandth."
Gordon smirked, "Didn't you guys get in trouble for selling unlicensed tie ins?"
"Hey man everyone doth that, ethpethially after contherth. Do you know how much they charge for the offithal t-thirtth? We offer a viable alternative. It'th capatialithm at itth finetht."
"Hey Al," Daniel asked, "you still chasing after Lilly?"
"I'm not chasing her, I'm courting her," I explained, "chasing makes me sound desperate."
"I don't know what you thee in her," Adrian sneered, "the's thuch a bitth."
"So, she wouldn't go out with you either huh?"
Our meal break over we got back to the game and it's action packed- or as Adrian called it Athction Packed- conclusion. This being a game of CHAMPIONS we wrapped things up roughly six hours after we started. I made my farewells and drove home. Even though it was roughly twenty minutes out of my way I drove past Lilly's house. I don't know what I would have done if I had spied her getting the mail or sunbathing on her front lawn. I might have wondered why they Hell she was doing something like that at eleven o'clock at night but I would probably be to intoxicated by the sight of her to really care.
With that ritual done I headed out to my favorite gas station- which was another twenty minutes out of my way but it was a full service station and one of the guys that used to pick on me worked there. I got a cruel kick out of having him check the oil but never having him add any.
Petty I know, but fun.
It was so strange, I was a young man with a car, I could go anywhere I wanted but I lacked any sort of direction. And not just metaphorically, I kept getting lost coming him from the gas station.
I just knew I had to make something happen. I had to set some goals and work towards them.
As far as I was concerned my first goal was to find some way to make Lilly mine. I would no longer settle for anyone else, I was a true romantic.
In other words I was still a virgin.
See? Semantics again.