Friday, April 1, 2011
Chapter IX: The Paladin
Juliet sighs in exasperation. She is close to leveling. She needs it, she wants it! Her pixilated elf icon showers a skeleton double her size in multiple colors as her sword hacks away at the monsters hit points. She is one level away from gaining Holy Radiance. She plays a level 82 female paladin.
Her phone rings, the Lord of the Rings theme song temporally catches her off guard. Jasmine, her paladin perishes. The screen goes white as her disembodied spirit reappears in the grave yard near the starting point. In WOW you get as many retries as you want. Juliet ignores her cell phone and applies buffs to her character. She is going to be damned if she lets work get in the way of leveling. Her party quickly reappears near her and they run back to the dungeon.
Her phone rings again, she disconnects from the server. She doesn’t want to listen to her friends chew her out, without her in the group they will have a hard time healing. It’s not cool to stop half way through a raid but she has to go to work. She knows it’s her boss at Burger King and she’s late. She works down town.
Juliet is a small black girl but often gets mistaken for a boy. She is slender and is only 5’3. She wears boy cloths and doesn’t understand her own gender. She isn’t gay or bi. On the other hand she never kissed a boy. She has greasy long dark hair and her perfume comes from the grease from Burger King. It wasn’t a surprise that people initially thought she was a boy. She is 22 years old.
She doesn’t expect much out of life. She has a small apartment on the bad side of town, off of the Anacostia Metro, or the green line. She spent the weekend at her friend’s apartment in Maryland. They had a Lan party. Most of her friends were passed out; the raid she did earlier wasn’t part of her guild so it didn’t matter she left. They don’t do drugs but they did have a few drinks. Or at least she did. Her friends believe in sugar and caffeine and they shun most things that distort the mind.
She was about to quietly leave when Matt started to knock. She was startled to see his obese frame at the front door. He was wearing his favorite shirt that he got at King Richards fair when he was younger. The hobbit from Tolkien was on his backside and a druid magically altering a forest imaged on the front. It was hard to see for many years blurred the coloring.
Without hesitation she whispers, “You are late by a few days. Everyone is sleeping; want to keep me company as I go to work?” She shoulders her back pack that has her work uniform in it. She had the hind sight to give herself more time with her friends by packing for the weekend.
He agrees as he blushes. It’s obvious he likes her but he won’t act on it. She doesn’t care for chubby males, especially ones that smell of body odor. For that matter she doesn’t care about dating. Someday she will find her companion when the world was ready for it to happen.
After they are a block away from the red line at the Metro she finds herself evaluating her Paladins performance the night before, “Matt, it’s too bad your hunter wasn’t in the group. We could have used him.”
“Sorry about that. My mom and brother needed some help at the church. I still live with them even though I’m 20.” He then goes on a rant on how his stats need to be improved for his dwarfish hunter if the guild would ever take him serious. Juliet notes it’s a nice day and there are not many people on the train. There are a couple of homeless people and old people.
She decides to put Matt on the spot and asks him about his relationship status. She isn’t interested in him but wants him to talk about something outside of his hunter. He doesn’t know how to play WOW right, instead of playing with the group he plays more like a mad man who just wants to hack n’ slash.
“I don’t have anybody.” Not surprisingly he continues, “So the other day, I was trying to fight a mob after farming and a PvP player came and kept on killing me.”
A new couple entered the train. They are dressed nice and are obviously going somewhere important. The woman has a newspaper. After a few minutes she looks up and asks the passengers if anyone wants the comics. Not wanting to listen to Matt, Juliet says she would love to have it.
At Union Station she says bye to Matt. She decides to eat at Mc Donald’s and changes into her work outfit in their bathroom. No one looks at her strangely; the employees are used to seeing her that type of thing. She chided herself that she could be a spy and imaged herself being a master of disguise.
Eight minutes later she arrives at Burger King. It’s near lunch time and it’s busy. She’s surprised to see the couple from the metro leave the lobby as she is entering. She tries to nod to them as the guy gives a cheeseburger to a homeless vet. She shrugs as they don’t notice her. How would they? She’s dressed differently. She hears him say something about the stupidity of fast food workers and onions and decides its better they didn’t recognize her.
She says hi to a few people working at the cashier and lobby clocks in. Juliet closes her eyes for a moment as she puts on plastic gloves and an apron. She briefly sees herself as a paladin. Is it possible to ever live in a world of fantasy? She wishes she was the paladin in the game. She sighs as she picks up a spatula. This was the real world. The real world was going to have her flip burger patties, not kill monsters or heal her misfit band of Heroes.
Chapter X: The Vet
The river stunk of things best not thought of. Driftwood piled in heaps on the far shore near a sewage drain. Cars and trucks could be heard on the highway.
“Give me your hand, man!” Harry Faust quickly tucked his tattered right sleeve under a safety pin and reached for his friend Tom Green. Tom was thrashing in the water, spittle dribbled down his chin as he cussed his ill fortune. A fishing line was tangled in his left fist and he was trying desperately to catch the fish that broke his rod. He thought he could pull the fish in by his hand and the fishing wire.
“I can’t believe I slipped. The ground shifted!” Tom wasn’t doing a great job keeping his balance and went under the water for a second time.
“You’re a poor miserable liar. Now let me help you and take my hand.” Harry reaches out with his right hand, his only good hand. He lost his left arm and hand during the Korean War in the 1950’s. He is a proud hungry homeless vet.
Shifting his weight to his left side Harry balances and extends further, “Take my hand if you want a chance in catching the fish.” Deep down he thinks it’s pointless but his friend isn’t that smart.
Tom resigns himself to the fact that he needs Harries help and grasps the outstretched hand. He never understood how a one arm man could be so damn versatile. Tom gasps in pain as the wire from the fishing line digs into his other hand. Blood appears on his palm. He decides it’s not worth losing a hand and lets the fish go. He will scavenge some dumpsters for food later. Not wanting Harry to get mad for losing dinner he decides to pull Harry into the water with him in jest. Nothing like a good water fight to ease hunger pains.
Ten minutes later they are drying off. They sit on the bank and go through discarded fast food wrappers. Garbage is everywhere and large city buildings can be seen in the distance. They are in the old factory district which has been abandoned for a decade. People on the interstate often throw garbage out of their car windows while passing. It’s common to see birds and homeless people scavenge for food.
Harry is wearing old military fatigues that he bought at a Salvation Army. He never wanted to let go of who he was and cloths like that reminded him. A person with a fine eye would note that he wears an assortment of things that are all sewn and patched together. His jacket boasts of wars in Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq to name a few. In the real world he was a Special Forces officer who was stationed in the 6-2-5 war or what others would know as the Korean War in 1950’s. He lied about his age when he was fifteen and enlisted in the army.
His job was to deliver sensitive data to the allied forces before the Allies bombed a bridge on the Han River. He succeeded with his group but a crazy ROK Korean soldier blew his left arm off. Needless to say he is now a 70 year vet who has medals and honors, one hand, no money, no home, and no food. Where was the justice in life? He did however have his health. He was faster than most twenty year olds and could outrun almost any high school student. Harry has very keen reflexes and by anyone’s standard would be called fit. Having one arm did not hamper him in the slightest. It just embarrassed him.
Tom was looking down at his palm and asks, “Want to look at Mc Donald’s for some dinner?” Tom was once a banker but lost his family and careers do to alcoholism.
After a minute of carefully weighing his odds, Harry decides it would be best to find dinner on his own.
“Nope, I think Burger King is training new people. They won’t be paying attention to the lobby and I can get some grub when people leave their trays.” He didn’t want to dig through garbage if he could have food served on a tray.
Tom looks up from his hand and mutters, “Maybe I will meet you there after I do my thing. You want to meet at DuPont Circle and play some chess at 1 PM?” Homeless people play chess there to hustle people who think they know how to play. It’s common for a person to lose ten dollars a game. Of course if they won they would get their money back plus another ten dollars but people never win. How could someone beat a homeless person who has been playing for 40-50 years? Harry smiles as he ponders what he could do if he makes a few dollars. Maybe he could rent a cheap motel room for a few hours and get a hot shower.
He gathers his stuff and heads towards Burger King. On the way they see two cops harass a simple redneck in a green geo prism. A real cool police dog is acting like a puppy; it has the most interesting pattern on its fur. He waves at the cops and thinks it’s a great day.
Posted by Greg L. Miller at 12:16 PM