June’s Writing of the Month comes from 2011 Writing Portfolio Gold Medalist Harris Durrani. After the jump, read an except from his story, “JEDI KNIGHT.” You can also hear more about Harris on WNYC’s The Takeaway from Wednesday, June 1, 2011.
Once I was at your place and we were in your room with a few other cousins and your buddies. You and the older boys were playing Resident Evil.
“Hermano,” your brother Pedro said. “Cool it.”
“You’re on fire.”
“No shit, Sherlock.”
On screen your character was slaying zombies like mad. One hand wielded a mighty blue sword that decapitated beasts by the dozens. The other brandished some sort of giant machine gun that fired ten rounds a second; each bullet passed through the chests of two zombies in a row, at least; usually it was three.
You finally sliced the last zombie in half, holstered your gun, and thrust your sword into its sheath. Now it got interesting. You jogged to the side of the field of dead undead and retrieved a blue, pocket-sized machine from your belt. You pressed a button and tossed the device into the center of the vanquished zombies. It hit the ground, igniting into a frosty, yellow mist. Minutes passed. The zombie bodies began to shift. Arms pulled heads to severed necks at the speed water would turn to ice if you pissed into the freezing air of that snow planet, Hoth, in Stars Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back.
“Shit no,” a friend of yours whined. “No fair.” His screen had been the first to fill with dripping red.
“Asshole.” Pedro punched you in the shoulder.
Now the zombies stood before you, an unending field of conquered peoples: ZOMBIES UNDER YOUR COMMAND.
At this point my mother popped in to see what all the cussing and yelling was about, and when she saw me doing the dog-gape like the rest, she said to you, “Geraldo Muñez, you get here ahora. What the hell is this?” She reached over, got you in a death-grip, and flung you out of the room. She pried me from the spot where I’d glued myself to the bed and held me like a mother grizzly bear protects her young.
“Geraldo, you playing these violent games with a ten-year-old around?” she demanded of you. She shook her head and began to mutter to herself. “Coño, niño. Hijo de gran puta!”
I tagged along, unsure of what was wrong.
“Tía…” You made your eyes big. “I didn’t see him.”
“You saw him. You did! Don’t lie to me.”
“But—” You sighed. “It’s just a game. It’s not real.”
My mother pinched you in the arm. You flinched.
“Who are you to say what’s real and what’s not? Eh?”
You stood there holding your arm like un tonto as my mother walked toward her bag. She pulled two lightsabers from the bag, put the first in your hand, and wrapped your stiff fingers around its warm hilt. She handed the second to me. My face lit, and I squeezed the lightsaber. She didn’t have to force me to hold this, oh no she didn’t. I moved into position, beckoning with my free hand.
You shook your head.
“Oh, hell no, Tía. Hell no. I ain’t gonna do some kiddie crap—”
My mother gave you the look. The one every mother’s got, the one that burns through your soul and squeezes jugo de naranja from your brains. The one you know you don’t want to shit around with.
I turned from her to you to her to you.
“Let’s fight!” I exclaimed, not knowing what to do. “Duel!” I extended my plastic lightsaber. It was the green one. My favorite.
You made your eyes bigger and faced my mother, but she wouldn’t give.
“You play with your cousin like you ought to, Geraldo. You hear me?”
You shrunk and entered Spanish mode.
“Si, Tía. Lo que tú quieres, Tía. Entiendo, Tía.”
“The hell you do,” my mother shot back. She stalked out.
Behind you I could see Pedro and the other boys peaking through your bedroom door, which you’d left ajar.
You turned once—this would be the only time you would face them again that day—and yelled, “Shut the f— up.” You faced me. “Alright. So how does this work?”
You fumbled your plastic blade out. It was purple, like Mace Windu’s. I always thought Mace Windu was hip since he was the only black Jedi, one step from Latino. He was also the first important good guy Darth Vader helped kill, but that’s a matter you’ve got to take up with George Lucas, and George Lucas has got the whole clone army, remember? You don’t mess with him.
I waved my lightsaber about and you followed. Once I saw your eyes spin a little too far to the side, I swung my weapon into your crotch and giggled.
“Jeez, Miguel.” You put a hand between your legs. “Don’t play rough.”
I jabbed my lightsaber at your bedroom door.
“You did.” I smiled. Innocent, honest.
You rolled your eyes, dark suns arching over pale skies. Nevertheless, they were soon glowing moons that reflected the brilliant, white light around them. In the space of an instant you’d changed, forgotten your brother Pedro and the rest.
“Shut your mouth,” you said, grinning. “You hit me in the nuts one more time, I’m telling Tía.”
I flung the tip of my lightsaber toward yours.
“She won’t believe you,” I teased.
You shrugged it off, and we sparred.
“You’re good,” I concluded. “You’re like a—” I paused, realizing the sheer gravity of what I was about to say. “You’re like a Jedi.”