My new roommate Jayson told me he’d give me Xbox lessons. “You can hang out with Max on Xbox and your ex will never know. It’s better than calling. You have on your headset and you play and chat on the sly. You gotta do it. It’s your son. Call of Duty is the divorced parent’s sidebar to junior.”
It took a month, Friday nights and Sunday afternoons, but I got good enough to be left-sticking through alleys on a run. The action started in some dirty little slum village. No grass, just broken windows. Black garbage bags blowing around. I’m shooting at everything that moves, laying down fire every half-step.
I had trouble getting past CPUs. There were a lot of them, and I was a new recruit — had no idea what I was doing. I thought I’d be some wildcard of their nightmares, thus my PvtPesadelo tag. But today I’m any jackass tailing a white van. I’ve got to get good at this.
And someone’s hollering at me “Get down! Get down!” and two seconds later “Take the shot! Take the shot!”
Now I’m chasing a guy who’s handy with a Desert Eagle sidearm through the alleys of Rio de Janeiro. The call came in about RPGs and machine-guns positioned up high. I shot a civilian.
“Someone get these civvies out of here! Hey — Este lugar não é seguro! Get out of here, it’s not safe!”
I start on the outskirts, making my way toward the favela. The slums come on fast. The buildings get smaller and shackier every two steps, and the CPUs are faster and attacking sloppy. The game mission is to get this guy Esteban. My mission is not to be a camper, not to hear the other players say:
“Get out of the game, frikken faggit!”
“Nobody wants you here, douche.”
Last my ex let me speak with my son, Max, I asked what he liked best lately. He said he was getting really good at Call of Duty.
“You could play me sometime, you know.” He said his tag was xswagmonkeyx and I was too embarrassed to ask what he meant.
“Yeah, Max. Cool. I’m gonna do that.”
“Dad said I have to go now.”
“Okay. You be good for him. Bye.”
I need ICBM info on the Russians. The Brazilian militia makes sure it won’t be easy. Every try-hard Pedro and Gabriel is gunning for Max, I imagine, with a double-barrel shotgun and AK-47. I’ve got an arsenal on rotation: assault rifle – ACR; Y-button M-1014 shotgun; trusty M-9 sidearm; frag grenades, oxycontin and flash-bangs. My tactical knife, if it comes to that. Right-stick snap neck. The design team put flowers everywhere. Black-eyed Susans.
I head west, up stairs, toward the favela rooftops. A dog runs up and barks. A civilian yells at me in Portuguese, “Dude, run, get out of here!” I want to know if Max thinks it’s as funny as I do that in this game Portuguese people say dude.
“Dude,” Jayson said by September, “you’re kicking ass.”
“Thanks. Almost swagmonkey material.” I use my flashbangs. I think of going multiplayer and adding Max. Getting close.
Now I’m back to a bombed out ball court. I’m distracted on a mountainside underneath the Jesus statue. I have to make it through criss-cross streets going up the mountain. Tin roofs, bright-colored brick, flat roofs — a lot of garbage. British guys hollering. There’s a shabby market, kind of make-shift, with melons and cases of fruit soda. Crates of chickens bokking around. Not knowing what to do, I kill all the chickens. That unlocks a Colonel Sanders achievement button for liking them extra crispy.
Heh. Max really liked that. I told him.
Max gave me his clan tag, ¡710. Little guy has mama’s back, and we’re just about cleared for dustoff. The game says, Send the chopper. Coordinates to fol — Bollocks! The skies are clear! Send the chopper now! Command’s got his head up his arse. We’re on our own.
I tell Jayson get in here and check this out. I’m on fumes. And I keep tasting copper in the back of my throat, while I lie down on the couch, while I wait for my son, while I count how many.
Anne Weisgerber is a Best of the Net, Best Small Fictions, and Pushcart Prize-nominated author whose work will/does appear in places like Structo Magazine, SmokeLong Quarterly, The Collapsar, DIAGRAM, and Entropy. Recent non-fiction is in The Alaska Star, Alternating Current, The Review Review, and Change Seven. She reads for Pithead Chapel, and is working on a novel about money, booze, and artists and an illustrated storybook called “Lives of the Saints”. Follow her on Twitter @aeweisgerber, or visit her website http://anneweisgerber.com.
(Next “Kill People” story: The House on Cypress Street by Jacqueline Doyle)
(Previous “Kill People” story: Pack Mentality by Jan Elman Stout)
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Image by Bago Games (Call of Duty)