*All stories best read on nickpetrouauthor.com as “WordPress Reader” omits formatting
Good Game, Old Man
Match-making across the globe, life-mirror graphics, impact awareness, real exercise, no pain…
Just like real boxing?! The red advertisement text branded itself into Sebastian’s mind as he closed the tab with a swipe of a hairy finger.
Sebastian had been a real boxer, had fought all over the world. Only last year had he retired from coaching, and since then his life had become stale. The sole deviation from his coffin-journey was the weekly visit from his grandson, who expressed at least some enthusiasm for his grandfather’s teachings.
The journey leading to a fight was the most important thing, reasoned the weathered man. The jogging before training, the diets and protein, the endless skipping, the ruinous sparring, the gruelling bag-work, the absence of social life, the evasion of women — Sebastian desired his body capable of these things once again. Well… maybe not avoiding women — he would surely wither without the love of his Mary.
Sebastian replaced his tablet upon a charging pad on the bed-side table, turned to lay on his back atop the sheets.
“Mary, are you coming to bed?”, he calls out to his wife, far too loud.
“Dear, I’m on the phone.” Mary is somewhere in the living room, pacing as she does.
Mary’s voice grows as she nears: “Okay, love, I’ll see you in the morning… Yes, take care!”
“My daughter?”, Sebastian queries.
“Yes, dear. Little Oscar will be coming tomorrow rather than Sunday. I could hear him yelling something about boxing in the background.”
The old man’s face was rid now of its contortion. He smiles through the night, sleeps undisturbed, dreams of the ring.
“See Grandad, I wear this headset and hold these controllers. It’s very easy. And you can all see what I see through the T.V.” Oscar was beaming, untangling devices and cords from his backpack.
Sebastian recognized the equipment — was trying desperately to avoid cutting his grandson’s momentum. “Maybe, Oscar, you can show me after we hit the bag?”
“I want to show you now, Grandad. You are going to love it! It’s so easy, Grandad!”
The old boxer cringed, turned side-on to hide it.
Oscar stood planted into the carpet, throwing sloppy punches from a fragile stance.
He could see only the VR, hear only the VR — so he basically screamed at his grandfather: “See, Grandad, I won! First round KO!”
Sebastian was disgusted, seeing his own flesh and blood so frail. The boy’s footwork was atrocious, chin wagging in the air, punches falling short. Wouldn’t last ten seconds.
“Your turn, Grandad!”
“No, I couldn’t. It’s your toy Oscar, you play.
“You will like it, I promise!”
Sebastian wanted to stomp the device into the ground. “Fine. Quickly, now.”
His footwork is smooth. Guard — impeccable. Punches — fast and straight.
The crowd roars! TKO in the third round! The old boxer is victorious!
“Wow, Grandad! That was amazing!”
The hinted smile upon the old boxer’s face dissipates as he removes himself from the virtual world. He hands the device to his grandson, gently.
“It isn’t real, Oscar… I can’t… I won’t”
“It’s safe, Grandad! Safe for old people.”
“I said no, Oscar! It’s not natural. You are becoming a bloody sissy!”
“Sebastian!” In comes Mary, mouth gaping, holding a wooden spoon and ready to use it.
That night the old boxer lay in bed, confined, itching. He felt terrible about his behaviour in front of his grandson, but that wasn’t the thing that plagued him…
The old boxer reached for his tablet from the bed-side table, found, through search history, the red advertisement — swiped it open.