Two hours later, still not having reached an agreement with Tom, I made my way through K-Mart. This time, I made a stop in the confectionary isle and grabbed a couple of Whistle Pops and a packet of Lolly Gobble Bliss Bombs.Making my way to the counter, I expected the boys to be waiting for me again.Instead, a staunch bespectacled woman with silver hair and resolute eyes waited for me. She was attired in a somewhat extravagant navy double breasted trench coat with buttons down centre front. Her name badge read ‘Bela Tavarious.’ I stopped before her, handing over the cassette. “What’s wrong with it?” she growled at once, fixing me with a glower. “Where are the boys?” I asked, trying to keep my mojo. “Not here. Are you attempting to return this game?” she asked austerely. Attempting? Who did this battle-axe think she was dealing with? “I am. I have the receipt,” I pointed out, opening the case. I pulled out the receipt and waved it magically before her. “What’s wrong with it?” she demanded to know. “Are you going to tell me it doesn’t load?” I bit my bottom lip. “I am. Cause it doesn’t.” “Well,” she said. “We’ll soon see about that. Let’s take it over to the demonstration unit we’ve got and try it for ourselves, shall we?” I watched as the woman snatched up the game, came from behind the counter and sashayed over to a Commodore 64 computer connected to a TV. There was a game playing in demo mode on it. “Umm, sure,” I said, wondering if it would work. “Have you tried the Azimuth Head Alignment Tape?” the woman asked me as she took the game out of its green case and put it in the cassette deck. “No and I’m not going to. There’s nothing wrong with my computer,” I insisted. The woman looked at me and leered dubiously. “Do you know how many people bring in cassettes that still work?” she said. “It happens. All. The. Time. That’s why we demo them now. Was my idea, in fact.” She wore a Cheshire Cat grin and folded her arms, as though that might make me fold. I rolled my eyes into the back of my head. I knew my little brother was smart but had he prepared for this scenario? Or was I about to become unstuck? She turned the computer off then on again. She started typing. “LOAD.” She swapped over the tapes, putting my ‘faulty’ tape inside the deck and slamming the plastic top case down so hard I thought it might break. “PRESS PLAY ON TAPE,” the computer said. She did so and the screen blanked as the game began to load. A loading screen materialised and looked promising. Well, not promising for me! “It won’t work,” I assured her. The old bat was still smiling. “We’ll see, won’t we? So far, it’s looking good, wouldn’t you agree.” I huffed on the spot. I wanted to eat my lollies but instead I folded my eyes and moseyed back to the counter. She watched after me. “I can’t exchange it if it works, you know,” she said, confident as you please. I looked over games available to buy carefully. Rhys had shown me his many games so I would know not to bring home a duplicate title. Sometimes he gave me very specific names to watch out for. Usually games that had been raved about by his beloved Zzap!64 magazine. He’d been content with the last one I got him, the army one, said it was loads of fun. My instincts kicked in on that one, the hot solider on the cover art not hurting, I supposed. This time, as I looked at all the cassettes and the occasional cartridge game, none jumped out at me. I walked back over to the computer and the unpleasant shop assistant. The game still hadn’t loaded and the screen, with a scarab beetle in the middle, remained in place. “See?” I said. “It hasn’t finished loading yet,” she assured me as a series of customers turned up. She begrudgingly shuffled off to serve them. “Don’t move, I’ll be back!” she threatened. I waited and suddenly a green screen appeared – text appallingly displaying “PUSH JOYSTICK BUTTON TO START.” I glanced back over my shoulder and saw Bela Tavarious peer at the screen at she served customers. I beamed back at her with fakery, blocking the screen with my body. She reluctantly returned to her customers. I turned the computer off, ejected the cassette and headed to the nearby cassette players and stereos. At once, I rummaged through my shoulder bag, took a band aid from it, and then used it to cover the top of the safety tab on the corner of cassette. I then shoved the tape into a demo radio cassette player, hit REWIND for a few seconds, then hit the RECORD and PLAY buttons together. I let that run for a few seconds, hit stop, ejected the cassette, ripped the band aid off then dashed back to the demo computer. “LOAD” I typed, shoving the cassette into the deck and hitting rewind. The tape spindles whirled as the cassette began the journey back to the beginning. The soon-to-be ill-fated forward journey at normal speed would not be productive. I hit play on the tape as it had just returned to the start. The screen went light blue and in moments, the loading screen appeared. As I went to look over my shoulder, there she was! “What are you doing?” she demanded to know, standing over me. I stood back. “It didn’t work. I thought I’d give it one more try, you know, just to be sure.” “Hmmmph,” she said, putting her hands on her hips and watching the screen like a hawk. “Do you like computers?” I asked her. She pulled down her spectacles and glared at me. “Not really. They’re just a passing fad. Soon we’ll be selling the kids Cabbage Patch Kids and roller skates again.” I waggled on the spot slowly and beamed, waiting for my victory, which was now certain. As we waited, neither of us was keen to make conversation. She was waiting to prove me wrong and protect the store’s bottom line whereas I couldn’t prevent a haughty smirk forming on my lips, knowing she was about to kiss my arse. I tried to be more mature about the whole thing but in the moment, it was hard to be humble. Sure enough, the loading screen remained, the tape played to the end and stopped. Bela Tavarious looked down at the tape player then back at the screen. She hit the space bar then several other keys then ended up playing the thing like a piano in the hope that the loading screen would disappear. She then pounded the keys in frustration, unleashing some lewd language at the poor old Commodore 64. “Apology accepted,” I said to her, almost laughing out loud. Finally I spotted a game that appealed to me – and I was sure Rhys had mentioned it as one he was chasing. The cover featured a fuming headmaster bending a cane over a school boy with a slingshot. I pointed to it. This one looked like so much fun I figured I might even have a go myself.