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.”
Also by Karl Koweski
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