Ninja (Part 3)

3.

The sky was a white page overlaying the city. The concrete park, with its cordoned off exhibitions of green, held no interest for the gaggle of casually dressed 10-year olds. As their teacher ranted about the properties of a rubber tree the three conspirators huddled, thinking conspiratorial thoughts. With her back turned the teacher could not see the children.”Now.” said Tyrone, taking both Shanti and Ben’s hands. Ben balked, but Shanti kicked him in the shin, then muffled his yelp with her own hand. They hurried away whilst their teacher’s eyes were averted. They dashed past some strange post-modern art piece, and through some columns before arriving in a small, concrete arena, where the steps of stadium seats climbed upwards in a semi-circle around them.

Finding a good vantage point, the three sat. Once settled Shanti said to Ben, “Alright let’s see it.” So Ben took out the grey box, with its two plastic purple buttons, it’s four-way directional pad, and the rubber “select” and “start”. Shanti said “What is it?” and Tyrone answered for Ben,

“It’s a Gameboy. You’ve never seen a Gameboy?” Shanti shook her head. With a sigh she said, “Mum and Dad keep buying me barbies.” Ben laughed, then stopped when he noticed the look on Shanti’s face. He tried to explain “It’s just, like, funny. You’re ten and your mum thinks you still play with Barbies.” Shanti punched him in the arm. Ben did not protest.

Her temper caught, and She said “WELL YOU STILL WATCH VOLTRON.”

Ben shouted back “VOLTRON IS COOL.”They argued, as usual, and Tyrone ignored them. He had gotten up, and started to vault over the step above, hopping down intermittently. Finally he interrupted the two, saying “Come on, what were you going to show us? I’ve seen a Gameboy before.” That silenced them.Ben said “Yeah but how come you don’t have one?”

Tyrone said “I don’t really like games.”

Ben’s mouth hung open in shock. Even Shanti shook her head from side to side. She said “let me play then. Please Ben?” She touched his arm, and Ben reddened. He stuttered sure, fishing in his backpack for one specific cartridge. “Check this out Ty.” He produced a small grey cartridge, and shoved it in Tyrone’s face. Tyrone grabbed it from his hand. Shanti, reading the title, tentatively said “Pokey-mon?” squinting her eyes at the green thing. Tyrone’s words tumbled out of him in an excited rush- “ITS JAPANESE. SEE!” He pointed at the characters at the bottom of the title. His eyes dipped into the strange sigils.

“So?” said Shanti.

“Play it Ben. Play it!” said Tyrone.

Ben nodded solemnly, offering his open hand to Shanti, who relented and placed the cartridge in it. In a ritual manner, Ben rubbed the picture on the front with two thumbs, then blew into the cartridge four times. With a satisfying *click* he slotted it in the back. He handed the Gameboy backed to Shanti, smiling. Shanti took it. The two boys flanked Shanti, and she slid on the switch. With a chime, the Gameboy logo fell into place. “You’re blocking the light.” said Shanti. The two boys rearranged themselves. Then she started a new game.

“Woah, slow down.” Said Tyrone, as Shanti skipped all the Japanese text. “I want to read it.”

Ben said “You can read Japanese?”

Tyrone said “Well Dad let me use his computer and I searched it up and you know Japanese letters look like what they mean, so if you can figure it out it’s possible- see, that one is probably man.”

Shanti said: “Screw the words.”

The two boys gasped at the swear. Shanti smiled, a wide, gaping thing. “SCREW IT! SCREEEEEW IT!” she yelled, and the others sat down, conquered by the obscenities. They watched Shanti muddle through the game for fifteen minutes, Tyrone basking in the Japanese-ness of it, and Ben staring at the back of Shanti’s neck with great concentration. “TYRONE, SHANTI, BENJAMIN.” came the shout, from below. They all jumped up, and Shanti hid the Gameboy behind her back. Their teacher started to advance on them. Ben, scared though he was, managed to whisper “Did you save?”

“No.” said Shanti. Ben was distraught.

“GET DOWN HERE.” Said their teacher.

The three did, with Shanti carefully depositing the Gameboy back in Ben’s backpack. After a lecture about various dangers of their irresponsible actions, they rejoined the rest of the class, continuing their tour of the fenced-in trees. During lunchtime the other children harrangued the three with questions, gossiping and fascinated by their peer’s rebellious actions. One particular boy, Olly, was unhappy about not being the focus of attention, and made some effort to regain it. Once he heard that they were caught playing on a Gameboy, he laughed. “Gameboy? I got a PC guys”

“What’s a PC.”

“Pro Computer. Got a game called DOOM on it. It’s supposed to be for adults, but I installed it myself, with a floppy disk.” The jargon hit the group of boys (and Shanti) like an incantation, stunning them all with their cryptic connotations. “I hacked it to Godmode.” Then Olly, once more the star of his own personal biopic, regaled his audience with the details of a boss battle, one that involved a giant spider, shotguns, rocket launchers, and lots of blood.

As the day waned, the kids minds were filled with images of rocket launching spiders, and Ben was desperate to somehow join the ranks of these pro computing kids. He thought up a cunning plan, one that solved two problems at once. To Tyrone he gave his backpack, saying that inside was another japanese game, and if he could hold onto it for the day, and give it back tomorrow, then he could play as much as he wanted. Tyrone, normally uninterested in games, was somewhat intrigued on account of the Japanese, and consented. Then Ben approached Olly and his gang, interrupting their conversation to point out how the Gameboy was in fact Tyrone’s. Olly said “shut up fatty.” and his courtiers laughed. Ben laughed along, and was thus admitted in, as a jester. Ben thought they were edgy, as Olly and the others swore a lot, if quite unusually (“he’s a total brick shitter!”), and Ben revelled in what he thought of as his new-found status.

Shanti and Tyrone stayed together, alone, Shanti peering over Tyrone’s shoulder as he trailed behind the class, playing one of the games. He avoided the teacher’s eyeline by staying perpetually behind the second largest person on the trip. The game was an action packed affair, where you could shoot throwing stars and jump over enemies. The dialogue that took place between levels was impenetrable to Tyrone, and he loved that. The only words in English were in the title: “Ninja Gaiden.”

As they got on the bus, Tyrone tried to sit next to Ben, who was laughing along with Olly and the rest. He extended the Gameboy to is hold friend, but Ben just looked at him and said “Seats taken.”  Tyrone withdrew his hand. Olly whispered into Ben’s ear, and after a too long pause, Ben added, “Back of the bus nig.” Moments after he said that, Ben’s face went rose-red, and the shame upon it was palpable. Still, he did not offer up an apology, or retraction. The terrible silence stretched on.

Tyrone did not know what “nig” meant, but he felt angry. As angry as he had just about ever been. He placed his friend’s Gameboy carefully upon the empty seat, then turned and went back to the back of the bus, not looking back at Ben. Shanti, who heard all, stopped. A shrill voice from Tyrone’s back stopped him in his track. Shanti shouted,

“BEN YOU FUCKING CHUTIYA!”

And that’s when the teacher yelled “SHANTI!” in complete outrage.

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