High on the Plains: Can’t you hear me knocking

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Chad Christensen, Columnist

The neighbor boy had come over to see my stepson, and he was gibbering on as usual. And it was fast. Very fast. It was actually a strain to keep up with what he had to say. He’s a video game connoisseur, movie guru, and an avid Matchbox car collector. And it seemed like he was talking about all of them in one long rambling sentence. I could feel my face melting. It was great.

The poor kid looked pale— like he hadn’t been out of the basement for a while. His eyes were squinting as though the sunlight coming in the front window was too much. And it was Halloween day, so I’m sure the loads of Gobstoppers and M&Ms he had ingested on the way home from school were kicking in. No cocaine was needed here. This was old school speed.

His thesis focused mainly on the Sega Genesis console. We talked about Road Rash, X-Men 2, Jurassic Park: Rampage edition, the weirdness of Earthworm Jim, and the surprising fun-ness of True Lies, a movie turned video game. Arnold Schwarzenegger at his best. These were the days before Grand Theft Auto.

I mentioned that I had recently been playing the NES and that my brother had sent me two gems from our childhood: DuckTales & Ninja Turtles 2 The Arcade Game. This seemed to excite him. His legs began carrying him around the room as though they were not under his control. The candy was getting the better of him.

“Listen,” I told him, “You need to relax. You’re scaring the pets.” The dog hadn’t moved from the couch all day, and to be honest, that’s her usual speed, but one ear had lifted. I could tell she knew— the monkeys were getting crazy. If they kept it up, she would eventually have to get up and move to the couch in the office.

I hollered to my wife, explaining to her that the boy was starting lose it, and that I may need to hose him down in the front yard if he keeps it up, but she ignored me as she usually does when I holler frantically from the couch. She was too busy applying large fuzzy eyebrows to her son, who was going as Steven Universe for Halloween. I was all alone.

Neighbor boy began to lose me when he started getting in-depth about the different controllers for all the consoles. He knew which ones worked the best— something about button patterns. The mumbling got so bad I just started nodding and tried to make my way to the front door. I figured if I could just lure him outside, nature would take its course, and he would find the trail back to his house. But he was in some kind of holding pattern with no place to land. I stood there, holding the door, until finally I pretended to see something in his driveway.

“Quick!” I said, “Your parents are going at it in the driveway. I think they’re drunk.”

There was horror in his eyes as he darted out the door with rabbit-like speed. It’s amazing how fast 11-year-olds can run, and with absolutely no regard to anything around them. Trees, bushes, fences… these mean nothing to kids when all pistons are firing.

He looked confused when he got to the driveway though— but I gave him the thumbs-up. He was gonna be fine. The young are strong. He’ll figure it out.