My cousin got an NES before I did, and we used to argue all the time while playing Super Mario, Kung Fu, and that game where you were a penguin on the ice (an actual game?). I remember he was paranoid that the games would melt inside the console, and he would make me play with a shirt covering the controller in order to keep it free of bacterial contamination. I’m sure I had bizarre shit that I did, too, but who notices their own weird habits? We rarely cooperated. I even bit him once when things got really heated.
But The Legend of Zelda had a memory that kept track of your progress, so I think we had a sense that we might be able to beat this game. We got stumped on finding the raft (I think). We had no conscience (too young) so we cheated every way we could – mostly reading Nintendo Power, which told you everything. We found out we had to bomb a certain wall in a certain dungeon to get to the raft. Unfortunately, we found out the next room was full of ass-beating knights. All they did was wander around the room waiting to kill anyone looking for a raft. Time and again we got our asses handed to us. I think we even cried once. It was so unfair! We cheated so hard… how could this happen to us?!
My cousin sat before the TV with a look of determination on his face. “We’re going to do it this time,” he said. He went in the room and… now, looking back on it, I can’t imagine why we had so much trouble. The knights just ambled around, and as long as you stayed away from their front, you could hit them in the back without any problem. But as soon as he went in, we both started screaming like absolute bitches, and the knights took turns casually beating the shit out of him. He collapsed in front of the TV.
But something about his determination made me want to try one more time. I took up the remote and trekked all the way back to the dungeon. I bombed the wall and walked back into the Mouth of Hell Itself.
“God,” I whispered, “help me.”
Instead of making fun of me, like any normal kid would do, he whispered, “Please, God. Help us do this.”
“Help us get the raft, dear God,” I said.
I ran around the room barely stifling my panic. The deadly knights shuffled around, sniffing the air, their swords ready to end my life. I took a swing at one.
“God, help us!” I said.
“God in heaven!” my cousin cried. “Jesus, please, please, help us!”
I kept swinging, hitting one knight after another. “Jesus! Jesus Christ! Please, please come to our aid!”
“OH JESUS! DEAR SWEET JESUS!” my cousin cried, both hands in the air. “HELP US, JESUS! MIGHTY JESUS, GLORIOUS JESUS!”
“JEEEEEEESUS!” I yelled. “GIVE US VICTORY, JEEEESUSSSHHHHH!!!”
As the fight wore on our intensity grew until we were no different from backwoods snake handlers lost in rapture, speaking in tongues, crying out to the Almighty, waving the controller like a Bible or an angelic sword of flames. If his parents had been around, even being devout Christians they would have been alarmed by what was surely an exorcism or even the final battle prophesied in Revelations. Our cries of “JESUS! JESUS! GOD! JESUS!” surely echoed throughout the cosmos. Here was power far greater than anything in Nintendo Power magazine. In that madness I ceased to be a child and became a divine agent of the will of God, my own anxieties and fear and sense of self erased as I became a vessel through which the holy ghost operated.
And then, finally, the knights lay dead. Only I remained. The final war against evil had been won, and the raft was ours.
After that, we paused the game and ate a bunch of Fig Newtons because Voltron reruns came on in the afternoon, and we got into a big fight over which TV we should watch it on.
Years later, long after my formative years of heroic journeying, I wrote a bunch of books. They can be found HERE.