So. I committed myself to writing student-assigned topics throughout the month of May. To tell you the truth, I could extend LONG beyond May. The kids had a great time (perhaps TOO good of a time?) coming up with topics they thought I should write, topics they themselves had a tricky time with. Of course, some of them were just having some fun with me.
The topics included the functional: “write a horror story without gore,” “write ten sentences in Shakespearean English,” “write a dialogue-only poem.”
Others invited me to think on an entirely different plane: “what is your view on racism?” “what makes us human?” “how is your vision of yourself different from others’ vision of you?”
There were a couple, of course, that were downright savage: “write a 5-page realistic fiction story.” “write a story while doing push-ups (dictation allowed).”
Today, I’ll dip my toes into the water with this prompt: “Write about a video game you’ve played – no research allowed.”
I still remember the setup in our back hallway. There was a tiny black-and-white TV plugged in to an Atari game system wedged in the bottom shelf of our linen closet. You’d think it was a terrible place to have it, but that placement was perfect. You see, that closet was all the way at the end of the house, at the end of the hallway with the kids’ bedrooms. My parents’ bedroom was at the opposite of the house. No way could they hear how often we were playing, or how often we fought over the games.
My brother Mike and I could play video games on that black-and-white TV absolutely any time we wanted to. And we did. There was the Grand Prix car race played on the paddle controls, there was Asteroids, and there was Pong, an early version of lots of Breakout games.
But the real star of the show? Without question, it was Space Invaders.
Space Invaders was a game where you had your rocketship-shooter on the ground that you could move from left to right. Up above you would be rows of UFOs that would march down left…right…down…down…and you’d have to shoot them all before they landed on you.
chickchickchickchickchickchickchick went the UFOs as they marched. As they got fewer and fewer, closer and closer, they’d speed their march, coming towards the rocketship.
chickchickchickchickchickchickchick you’d race back and forth shooting at the UFOs. Level by level you’d shoot them down. As you gained levels the UFOs would go faster, would start shooting back at your rocket ship.
chickchickchickchickchickchickchick if you were lucky you’d score high enough (a whopping score of 9,999) you’d TURN THE GAME OVER! which was cause for celebrations and high-fives, and maybe a bit of resentment that *someone* was hogging the video game.
chickchickchickchickchickchickchick I’d wait my turn patiently, patiently until my brother lost a game – unless he lost too early in the game and then he’d say that round didn’t count. And the rounds that DID count took forever because he turned the game over who KNOWS how many times.
chickchickchickchickchickchickchick went the UFOs, faster and faster. I’d keep my fingers crossed that my brother would finally lose, because I knew he wouldn’t willingly give the game to me, knew I couldn’t tattle on him for being a game hog, knew my parents would just take the game away because we were fighting.
chickchickchickchickchickchickchick I waited my turn to get control of that joystick, that Atari, that black-and-white TV in the linen closet.