JUST SHY OF SODA SPRINGS
An alien green hue coated the room
from the Apple IIE, it was always hours
after bedtime, but how mad could mom get,
all we had were educational games.
I’d grown tired of surviving Odell Lake
having cracked the hierarchical code
of predator prey, and had shifted focus
to Number Munchers and the newly acquired/
pilfered superstar: Oregon Trail. It was winter
and the furnace in the basement had a morse-
code style system of pings that translated
to warm or the unwarmed chill of incoming air.
The hardwood floors felt extra hard
to bare feet at this time of year, across the street
across icy mounds of shoveled snow, the neighbors
had Christmas lights all blue and for some reason
that seemed cool, like a breath mint for the eyes.
But inside it was all green, all slightly pulsing lines
of green and green and green, a deep concave grey
and the faintest reflection of my little face.
Buying food became a chump’s game. Bullets
were for buffalo and deer. Forget the squirrels.
Trade for parts, trade that food. So many thousands
of pounds of meat wasted, I went for historical accuracy
without even knowing the horror stories. I went for score,
you get a better bonus starting as a farmer,
because poor folk rising to the top is a better story,
it warms the stomach like a bowl of chicken noodle soup.
Besides, there were no bankers in my family.
If there was loading dock worker for a class,
it would be pretty close to farmer. Creaks from upstairs
and the monitor was instantly off. Quietly listening
from the computer room which doubled as a play room
and guest bedroom when needed. Would I be busted,
sent to bed where the only entertainment I had
were three Choose Your Own Adventure
books two weeks overdue from the library, or
would I get to see if the river was low enough to ford.
I’d pay to get across if possible, that’s how far
I’d sold out, once I realized getting to the end
with everyone alive gave you a bonus. How quickly
I placed so much more value on human life.
Zebulon Huset is a Pushcart nominate poet whose work has recently appeared or is forthcoming from The Southern Review, The New York Quarterly, The Georgetown Review, The Cortland Review, Thin Air, Harpur Palate, The North American Review, Spillway and The Evansville Review among others. He posts a writing exercise/prompt blog called Notebooking Daily and teaches a community creative writing class in El Cajon, CA.