Story: The Game Master

Sitting outside of a 7-Eleven feeling bored and disinterested—two of my favorite pastimes. I was probably drinking a Jolt Cola, exquisitely paired with a Mr. Big bar, using my skateboard as a lunch tray because I couldn’t quite figure out how to ride the thing. This was a pretty typical, hot afternoon in the summer. The only reason it sticks in my memory is because it’s the day I met The Game Master.

He slid lazily across the parking lot in the heat, coming right for me. Nevermind that he was probably in his thirties, for the moment, because I don’t think he was quite there mentally. He wore ragged, pale blue denim shorts, and a t-shirt that was probably white at some point but now perfectly matched the color of his few remaining teeth. He had hair—in fact, a lot of it—but you couldn’t really tell where it was coming from, and paradoxically he would have been described as bald by most people. Picture Keith Apicary on meth. 

He sat right next to me. I was probably the coolest person in the known universe that year, but this made me slightly uncomfortable. I dared not make eye contact, but looked at his shoes, simple white sneakers with velcro fasteners, in pristine condition. I suspected he may have taken them from the last kid he came across.

He spoke, tossing back bangs that didn’t exist. “Cah ya joo a kicksslip?”

“No,” I said, with shame. I looked down at my own sneakers, navy blue Vans astride a half-eaten candy bar on the deck of my board, rolling it back and forth depressively. I was a poser.

“Ya ssink I cud try?”

I picked up the Mr. Big and took a bite, relinquishing my department store cruiser to the man. If he stole it, I could campaign for a new one, so I considered this an ideal outcome. But he didn’t.

He hopped on and rode in a wide arc around the small parking lot, getting a feel for the board. This is when I noticed the gun tucked into the back of his tattered jorts. Not a real gun, mind you, but one of those orange NES Zappers, the cable appearing to have been torn off. He turned at the other end of the lot and started straight toward me, fast, and at the last possible moment he popped the tail with his back foot and sprung into the air, flicking the board into a graceful spiral with his toe. It was beautiful.

As he slammed his feet down and stuck the landing, he reached behind his back and pulled out the light gun, aiming it right at me. I knew in this moment that I was no longer the coolest person in the known universe. He pulled the trigger, and I swear to you my vision flashed white and I heard the sound of the shot, like a cymbal crash.

He returned my board to me as I sat there, defeated and in some kind of awe. He gave me his name and said he hung out around there a lot, but I never saw him again. I sometimes sat there hoping he would appear, but he never did. I started to wonder if I had imagined him.

It wasn’t until maybe 2006 that I looked him up. This was when Facebook was new, and everyone was reconnecting with the people they went to school with, long-lost family members, old flames. Me, I was looking for some older guy who shot me when I was a kid. 

Anyway, turns out he did some time after being convicted of exactly the list of crimes you’re thinking of right now.

Irreversible Mistakes