Des smashed his fist on his alarm clock as it chimed ding, ding, ding. The glowing red digits read 7:30am. He jumped out of bed but tripped over his sheets and crashed to the floor of his bedroom. Ignoring the pain in his jarred knee he sprinted to his door and shoved it opened.
He raced down the hallway towards the bathroom. He must get there immediately!
‘Hah!’ yelled a triumphant voice.
Des tripped over his older sister’s foot, she had opened her bedroom door just in time. She started to run to the bathroom. He reached out desperately and managed to snag her ankle.
‘Oof.’ She fell to the ground.
He pushed himself up and ran again. He jumped over his other two sisters who had immediately started tackling each other after they left their rooms.
He reached the bathroom door, slammed it shut behind him and locked it.
‘Yes!’ He had gotten there first. No having to wait an hour for his turn or have a cold shower.
Des imagined glowing yellow letters appearing above his head, just like Street Fighter. Level 1 complete. You Win!
After getting dressed and gloating to his three sisters he went downstairs for breakfast. Before he entered the kitchen he took a huge breath.
Just keep your cool, he thought.
He went in and saw his dad reading his newspaper and sipping his coffee while his step-mother ate her jam toast.
‘Morning,’ he grunted. He gathered together the ingredients to make sandwiches. Methodically he began constructing the girls’ and his lunch.
‘I heard you playing games again until midnight last night. If you dedicated yourself that much to your schoolwork you wouldn’t be failing English so badly. Why do you have to waste your time on such childish behaviour,’ his step-mother began her usual morning rant.
He tuned her out. It was basically the same thing all the time. You’re such a disappointment, Desmond. Why can’t you be more like my son, Desmond. You’re never going to get anywhere if you keep being so useless… Blah, blah, blah.
She could’ve at least done him the favour of mixing up her speeches a little.
He’d tried to explain to her before that he wasn’t just playing computer games but was programming his own game. He thought that being a computer programmer, especially of games, was a respectable career.
But any time he tried to stand up for himself he was called rude and ungrateful. Then his Dad would take her side. Des couldn’t take that kind of disappointment every day. He was better off just staying silent.
His sisters couldn’t stand their step-mum and they always ended up in a screaming match. So he made a deal with them. He would make their lunches and they would ignore her rants. It was worth it for some peace.
He finally had all four lunches packed and ready. After choking down some cereal he and his sisters all ran out of there to the bus stop.
Step-mother averted. Level 2 complete.
If there was anything worse than facing step-mothers in the morning it was English class first period. Des sometimes thought that the school administration were really demons in disguise wanting to suck the life out of students by putting their least favourite class at the worst times of the day.
To make matters worse they had to read Emma by Jane Austen for this term. What self-respecting teenage boy wanted to read Emma anyway? For supposedly smart people, teachers could be so dumb.
‘Desmond!’ snapped Mrs. Critiker. ‘What are you doing here?’
She picked up his sheets of programming that he’d had in front of him instead of his English notebook.
‘What are three of the central themes of Emma Desmond?’
‘Uhhhmmm. Marriage… women… and… um… social status?’
Mrs Critiker scowled at him, then handed back his papers. ‘That is correct. Put these away.’
Phew. Thanks Sparknotes.
Avoiding detention. Level 3 complete.
At lunch Des walked towards the table under the tree where his friends sat.
Once he passed the kids sitting around the flag pole he began counting in his head.
One… two… three.
He stopped walking on three and right on cue, just like every day Gale came ambling up to him. He smacked him on the back as if they were buddies but with enough force to make Des stagger forward.
‘Well if it isn’t the Captain of the Nerds. You gonna talk to me today or ignore me like a punk?’
Gale was like M. Bison from Street Fighter II and every day it was like Des failed to defeat the boss. He just couldn’t finish this part of the game that made up his life, no matter what he did.
Des sighed, ‘I guess I’m talking today Gale.’
‘Ahh you want a heart to heart chat with me Des? I always knew you were sweet on me. But I’m just not interested you freak!’ As he said freak he swung his fist and punched Des right in the face.
Des let himself fall to the ground. He pulled out a tissue from his pocket and used it to staunch his bloody nose.
A sucker punch while he was distracted by Gale’s outlandish claims. That was a new tactic.
Slowly he got up to his feet and looked at Gale’s sneering face.
‘See you tomorrow Gale.’
He thought he registered surprise and a little bit of respect on Gale’s face as he turned away. But Des chalked this episode up to a defeat anyway.
Facing the Boss, Level 4. You lose. Try again!