FIFTEEN YEARS HAD PASSED SINCE THE LAST TIME I ROLLED A TWENTY-SIDED DIE with the intention of striking a pretend enemy with an imaginary sword. A lot had changed since I gave up role-playing games at the age of sixteen. My acne had faded away along with much of the hair on top of my head. My bony frame filled out, beginning with my belly and radiating outward. I stopped wearing t-shirts featuring comic book characters and invested in a more stylish array of Acapulco and bowling shirts though I neither bowled nor lived in a temperate climate.
I even began having sex more regularly before I went and got married. Apparently women feel more at ease spreading their legs for a man who doesn’t have a Batman emblem emblazoned on his chest (unless he’s currently portraying the caped crusader at the cineplex).
Marriage, however, proved just as devastating to my sex life as the Wizards and Warlocks games of my youth. Rather than role-play a 7th level Barbarian fighter with nearly superhuman strength and an aversion to magic, I was forced to pretend to be a first level machine operator with more debt than income. The wedding ring acted as a cursed item in W&W parlance. A band of emasculation that warded off women just as efficiently as the coolest Incredible Hulk t-shirt.
Now in my early thirties I was back in my home town after an extended stay at Sunnybrook Retreat, a chronic masturbation rehabilitation clinic. I’d reached an oasis of grim monotony. My wife didn’t want anything to do with me anymore though her frigidity had driven me to jerk in the first place. I couldn’t show my face at the factory without co-workers constantly making beat-off gestures at me.
At this wife-induced nadir, mentally frazzled, spiritually bankrupt, physically unemployable, and emotionally desperate, my younger brother recruited me for the sixth chair of his Wizards and Warlocks campaign.
“Why would I go back to something that’s brought me nothing but celibacy?” I asked.
“C’mon,” Steve said. “It’s different now. Back in the day, you’d have marathon campaigns, sixteen hours a day, every day of the week. You guys were legends.”
This was true. I’d disappear into Dungeon Master Joe’s basement for weeks at a time, emerging only occasionally for gyros and fries. But…legendary?
“We only play once a week,” Steve continued. “Tuesday nights at Zero’s house.”
“Tuesday nights? Sweet Jesus, that’s twenty dollar stinkfinger night at the Booty Bungalow.”
“You don’t even got money to go to the Booty Bungalow.”
“Cause you’re too goddam cheap to loan it to me. Besides, what if I do come into some money? Then I’ll have a conflicting schedule.”
“C’mon, brother, you were my inspiration to begin playing W&W, remember? You bought my first set of dice. Everything I know about poleaxes, I learned from you.”
“And for that, brother, I am truly sorry.”
“I always wanted to play a campaign with you. You retired before we could share that. Give it a try. For me.”
“I don’t know. Who’s gonna dungeon master?”
“I am. It’s gonna be me, you, Zero, Hairy Larry, Douche and his girlfriend, Sabrina.”
“Sabrina? You got a girl to play Wizards and Warlocks?”
“Yeah, a woman. Douche’s girlfriend.”
“Ok. What time do you want me to be there?”
Tuesday came and I still didn’t have enough money to play Stinkfinger at the Booty Bungalow with any degree of longevity. Zero’s mom answered the door when I knocked. She took me into the kitchen where she provided a soda and snack cake. She looked at me kinda odd when I asked did she have anything else needed eating, then she led me into the basement where the group had all ready gathered around a large folding table. Stacked on the table were an astounding assortment of instruction manuals, dice, paper and booklets.
The memories came rushing back. The stats, armor classes, THAC0. Hour long heated debates over the merits of possessing a two handed bastard sword or a double bladed battle axe.
I’d always scoffed at women who claimed to be born again virgins. However, entering this basement, seeing my brother seated behind a cardboard screen festooned with fire-breathing dragons and rampaging ogres, it all came back to me, and I thought: I’m never going to get my dick wet again.
But I wasn’t going to go down without a fight, I thought, looking at Sabrina seated beside a child-shaped dude who kept trying unsuccessfully to fit the broken half of his glasses against his face like a monocle.
A Wilderness Survival Guide laid spread-eagle across her lap and she transcribed information from the book onto her character sheet. Her green eyes slid up toward mine and lingered. She resembled the French actress Julie Delpy except Sabrina was even better looking. Golden hair ran riot past her slender shoulders. Full sensual lips. She was slim and leggy. She wore a teal skirt that hugged her curvy hips, a Wonder Woman t-shirt with the sleeves cut out to reveal the tattoo of a sorceress shooting thirteen multi-colored stars from outstretched fingers.
My second thought was: what the fuck is she doing here?
Was she even real? Or did one of these dice-slinging jackasses learn the arcane art of casting illusions? Here was the perfect woman seated among the most imperfect group of guys you could find outside a World of Warcraft convention. The Island of Misfit Toys made flesh presided over by Queen Sabrina, obscene in her beauty.
“How the hell y’all doing?” I asked. I tipped Sabrina a wink, feeling something I hadn’t felt in close to a year. My mojo rising.
“Yeah, guys, this is my brother, Vic,” Steve said. “He taught me everything I know about the Claremont era X-Men.”
Fuck. What a shitty introduction. “I also taught him about the fine art of pussy eating,” I added, arching an eyebrow at Sabrina who looked at me as though I had eight-sided dice tumbling out of my nose.
Douche looked up from his character sheet, squinted his little rodent eyes at me. Likely couldn’t see past his disproportionately large nose. Probably thought I was a handsome motherfucker, too. And he might have been right.
“Well,” Steve mumbled. “I guess I wasted a proficiency slot on that.”
This somehow garnered more laughs than my original pussy eating crack. This didn’t alarm me half as much as hearing my baby brother applying the Wizard and Warlocks gaming system to real life.
I sat down at the table between Sabrina and Steve.
“I took the liberty of creating you a character,” Steve said, “so we can get underway and not disturb the flow of the campaign.”
Looking at the sheet he handed me, I said “Schmule Heinrich. 5th level thief. What the fuck?”
“I remember you use to like to steal…”
“Only women’s hearts,” I arched my eyebrow at Sabrina.
“Also,” Steve continued, “the parties’ last thief, Avram Binrabin, got blown up in a wand of wonder mishap.”
“I wouldn’t mind having a mishap with my wand of vaginal gratification,” I glanced at Sabrina’s character sheet while arching my eyebrow, “with a certain 9th level elven druid.”
Douche brought his face up from his sheet. “Sabrina, your Mamawolf is a ninth level druid, ain’t it?”
As the game began and Steve described the tavern our characters found themselves congregating in, I scooted closer to Sabrina and whispered “Where were you when I was a teenager playing W&W?”
“I was probably in kindergarten playing Fantasy Forest.”
“No, not you specifically. You, generally. Where were the girls who could tell the difference between a hobgoblin and a homoculus?”
“I’m sure they were around. Did you ever invite any girls to the game?”
“Are you kidding? I couldn’t even talk them into taking a ride out to the lake and allowing me to stick my dick in their mouths. How the hell could I entice them to sit in a stinking ass basement pretending to be an elven druid surrounded by a bunch of guys who’d never seen a real boob before. Myself excluded.”
Sensing I was making a play for his girl, Douche decided to confront me, in the game, since confronting me in real life would result in a real backhand across the mouth.
“I’m going to approach the thief,” he announced, “the thief who seems to have my elven partner hemmed up in a conversation and ask him if there’s anything I can help him with.”
“Who the hell you suppose to be?”
“I am Ginsberglious the bard.”
“A bard? Who the hell? Why a bard? They’re fucking useless.”
“I have you know bards are an excellent character class. A nice hodge podge of fighter, thief and mage. And as an aside,” he continued, crossing his fingers in the air to signify he was speaking outside of game play, “I am a published poet with fifty poems published on four different websites this year alone. I’ve been called the best poet of my generation by some folks on Facebook.”
“Well I’ll be damned.” I glanced at Sabrina who shrugged sheepishly. “You know, I’m a bit of a poet myself. I’d like to recite one right now if you don’t mind. It’s called ‘For Sabrina’. I need your charity/ to assuage my/ sexual poverty// some vaginal alms/ so that I might/ relieve my palms.”
An uncomfortable silence followed. Finally Douche said “I’m not so sure about the rhyme. Poetry’s suppose to be a soulful cry in the dark. You wouldn’t speak in rhyme in an emergency would you?”
“Why are you still holding up crossed fingers, Douche?”
Sightings of a Black Bear at the Lake:
by Bradford Philen
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