“What story do you want to hear before dinner, Jimmy?” Grandpa Jim asked.
Jimmy settled on the couch near his grandfather. “Tell me about the War that you and your friends were in. I haven’t heard that one yet!”
Grandpa Jim nodded. “Yes, yes. Those were dark days indeed. The War itself lasted only hours, but it felt like weeks before we came to the end of it. By that time, I had lost all of my companions, and I found myself alone to fight the horrible artificial intelligence known as The Core by myself.”
“How did you do it, Grandpa?” Jimmy asked.
Grandpa Jim let a smile bleed across his face. He up held the pointer finger of his right hand. “Luck and strategy, my dear boy.
“See, it all began for the four in the foyer of the Tower of Roses. We had to fight our way through that place first before we could even get close to the Core. Things got a little dicey, but we managed to make it out of there alive. Once we found the blue key – which we needed in order to get through the exit – the place went nuts with enemies. Ronald, my best friend, took it upon himself to cover our backs as we battled our way out.
“Did you and your friends escape?” Jimmy asked as he scooted across the couch, closer to his grandfather.
Grandpa Jim frowned. “We did, but not before we had to fight a beast the likes of which you may indeed see in your lifetime. An experiment gone awry. The four of us were weak when we first met up with the beast, but by the end, it was just me and Ronald left. Craig and Tootsie died in the battle.” He turned and stared out the living room window, his eyes catching sight of the drifting clouds outside. “They were good companions to have on an adventure like that. But they were still new to the game, still green to the strategy it took to fell that beast. They didn’t know what Ronald and I figured out too late into the battle: The beast had a weak spot, a glowing disc on its forehead. Once we realized that, Ronald and I shot up that thing until it finally exploded all over the place, leaving a mess of coins behind.”
Jimmy scratched his head. “Coins? Why would it leave coins behind?”
Grandpa Jim shrugged. “I don’t know. It just did.”
Becky peered into the room, her sparkling blue eyes catching Grandpa Jim’s attention. “Are you filling my son’s head with nonsense again, dad?”
Grandpa Jim laughed. “Of course not.”
Jimmy waved his mother away. “Not now, Mom! He’s telling me about the war.”
Becky rolled her eyes and huffed. “Dinner’s almost ready. Can you two wrap this up, please?” With that, she vanished, leaving Grandpa Jim to finish his tale.
“As I was saying, we defeated the beast, Ronald and I. From there, we advanced to the deepest part of the war, the inner Core. This was a terrible place of demons and traps. We had some close calls. It was in that place that I lost some of my hearing. The sound of the explosions was too much for my fragile ears. The volume in that place was too high.
“We finally made it to the central Core, though. Before we knew what hit us, Ronald was cut in half by a mining laser.”
Jimmy gasped. “What did you do then, Grandpa?”
Grandpa Jim laughed, happy to have the full attention of a ten-year-old. “Well, I did what I did best throughout the whole war. I pulled out my rocket launcher and went to town on the Core and its diabolical artificial intelligence. I made it out with one point of health – but I made it out.”
Jimmy scratched his head again. “One point of health? What does that mean?”
Grandpa Jim patted Jimmy on the back before standing to his feet. “You’ll know what it means soon enough, kiddo.”
Becky returned to the doorway.
“I’m hungry!” Jimmy exclaimed as he ran to the kitchen.
Becky stopped Grandpa Jim in the doorway between the two rooms. “You really think it’s healthy to fill his head with such things?”
Grandpa Jim shrugged. “What things?”
“The War? Really? Is that what you’re calling it now?”
“It was responsible for the loss of some of my hearing. You know that.”
“I do know that. I was there, remember?”
He smiled warmly. “I do remember, Tootsie. Maybe after dinner…”
Becky shook her head and put her hand on Grandpa Jim’s shoulder. “Dad, I love you. Really I do. But Jimmy is too young to play those kinds of games. You know that. And I’m…well, I’m too old. That was a one-time thing, okay?”
Grandpa Jim gently moved his daughter to the side and passed by her as he made his way to the kitchen. “You’re never too old for video games, sweetie. Never too old.”