Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Autobiography of Someone Else - 8

The tanks emit a somber purr that rises to a growl when they maneuver. A dry pop when they fire. Then ascending, beeping tones as the missile, a point faint and fleeting as a shooting star, caroms in the maze. This is the sound of Japan.

When your tank gets hit it explodes with a staticky roar, a shaming noise, full of anger and reproach. Hchrrrrrrrrrr! Your tank is prone, humping the mouth of an L-shaped obstacle like a dog; you try to turn it around but the joystick won't respond. You know death is coming. Hchrrrrrrrrrr!

When your tank gets hit it vanishes and reappears, spinning, a little farther back, looking like an animated swastika.


Harry's parents were obsessed with health food and books and exercise and living right. The Atari in the living room was their only concession to the frivolous desires of children, a sacrifice to the gods of junk so that they may continue to compost their garbage and watch Masterpiece Theater.

Every night at dinner Harry's dad placed a ramekin of vitamin and herbal supplements beside everybody's place. Grape seed with its naturally occurring bioflavonoids, garlic to ward against infection and cholesterol, cod liver oil for essential fatty acids, elderberry for the immune system and a big, grainy multivitamin with minerals. The family took them ritually before eating, in place of grace. Harry went through the motions of placing the pills in his mouth and taking sips of water, but he tucked each one in turn inside his cheek until he could safely spit them out into his napkin.

"Why don't you swallow your pills?" I asked him.

"I don't know," he said.

A minute passed. Then Harry cast his joystick aside, mid-game.

"Check something out!" he said.

I followed him to his bedroom, where he pulled a shoebox out from under his bed and opened the lid. Inside were hundreds of pills: white ones, red ones, green ones, amber gels and two-tone capsules, some gummy and discolored.

"Why do you keep them?" I asked.

"I don't know."