Good Game, Old Man

*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.

END

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