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Spadina Literary Review  —  edition 26 page 18


The nine year old boy was at a loss. His concentration snapped like a twig. He didn’t know what to do. He started to panic. He knew if he rushed trying to beat the Shredder, he would suffer the same ignominious fate he did the first and only time he had ever reached the videogame's final boss. That encounter had lasted just a few seconds before he was beaten. He knew even then that his defeat came as a result of his awe of the moment and the intimidation he felt. Nevertheless, he got a glimpse at what he knew he would reach again, one day. Today. But now was different. He was neither intimidated, nor in awe. He was ready. He just needed more time.

“Mom I’m at the end of the game," he shouted, "I’ll be out in ten minutes.”

He knew her way of thinking. She had made him a hot lunch and he was going to have to eat it hot. If she wanted him to have a cold lunch, then she would have served him a cold lunch. But he held on to the hope she would understand his plight and let him be.

“No," she called. "You come out here right now. Don't make me ask you again!”

Jonathan's palms started to sweat for the first time. He didn't know what to do. He knew if he tried to rush and beat the Shredder he would mess up for sure, and all of his efforts leading up to that magic moment would be for nothing. But if he listened to his mother, if he left his room and ate his lunch, his quest would be doomed as well because whenever he paused the videogame for more than two minutes, it froze. And every time the videogame froze he was left helpless and weeping as he stared at the screen that stared right back at him, mocking him with its stillness, before he had to shut the game down and start all over again. There was no save option either. It was a difficult time for dedicated videogame players back then.

“Jonathan, get out here right now! This is the last time I'm going to tell you."

Without thinking, blinded by his ambition, shaken by his worries and fears, Jonathan shouted back, “God, I’m playing my game, Mom, just leave me alone and let me finish, I’ll eat when I’m done.”

It was time to meet his destiny. It was time to bump heads with impossibility and conquer it. He unpaused the game. His turtle, Donatello, entered the final room, and there he was: the barrier that separated the boys from the men, the Shredder. Jonathan wiped the sweat from his hands on his pajama pants and took a deep breath. He was ready. But then, in what seemed like slow motion, he watched his mother open the door to the room, walk in, and push the power button on the Nintendo. The screen went black.

Without feeling, without remorse, without any thought to the hard work Jonathan had put in, the woman who claimed countless times to love her son unconditionally told him to get up and eat his lunch, but her words had no meaning, nothing did. Everything was gray, as Jonathan's sight was muted by the bitter tears welling in his eyes. Nothing mattered anymore. The sugar from his cereal became salt. Even the sun's glorious rays that shined through his window had vanished, bullied by the clouds.

Jonathan didn't remember walking to the kitchen. As he sat at the table eating his hotdogs and French fries, he tasted nothing. The rest of that day was filled with disappointment. His mother said he couldn’t play Nintendo anymore. She told him he had played enough. He waited until the following day and tried again, but it wasn't the same. He couldn't even reach the final level, let alone the final door leading to the final boss. Since that day, he never ever again saw the Shredder.

Many years have passed since that fateful day. And here I sit writing this story for all to read, as I am the Jonathan whose exploits you have followed. I am the Jonathan whose dreams were crushed. And while I’ve gone on to do many things since that day, from starting a business to travelling the world and having many adventures, none of those pointless endeavours could ever compare to beating Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

In case you are curious, my mother and I remain very close. However, it did take a long time for my wounds to heal. I have long since got rid of my Nintendo and its games, but my failure still haunts me, and will continue to haunt me until I clear that game and finally taste the sweet glory of victory that I was denied, many years ago, on that sunny Saturday afternoon.