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ESCAPE FROM THE COMMODORE 64 - draft returning games to the boys

Bits that never made it into the final book.

Marching up to the counter in K-Mart, two teenage boys spotted and tracked me as I made my way to the computer counter.I found it mildly amusing as they tripped over themselves in a battle to be the one to serve me. In the end, they both greeted me, neither prepared to acquiesce to the other.“Hello!” the first boy, his name badge reading ‘Peter Donald’, said. He was a stiff-necked looking beanpole losing his battle against controlling his acne. “How can I help you?” said the other, his badge hinting at either hilarious or sozzled parents, read ‘Cameron Cameron.’ This boy was a stout character with beady brown eyes, a downturned mouth and a three-day growth. “Before we start,” Peter said enthusiastically, we have a question for you? Cameron nodded excitedly. “Yes, a question.” I sighed. “Shoot.” “Are you keeping up with the Commodore?” Peter asked her, finding his own question hysterical. “Because,” Cameron continued, “the Commodore is keeping up the you!” They high-fived each other like the foolish dipsticks they were. My face remained impassive. Their smiles faded and they nervously came back to a more attentive state. “This wouldn’t load,” I said, practising my well-rehearsed line as I dropped the big plastic clam-shell case on the counter. I’d done this many times before, you see. They both looked at the game, Cameron screwing up his face. “Ah, this is supposed to be great! It was a ‘Zzap’ Sizzler, you know!” My expression made it clear that not only didn’t I know, I didn’t care. “Would you like an exchange or a refund?” Peter offered both kindly and awkwardly. “Exchange please,” I said as Cameron opened the case, inspected the cassette and started reading the manual. “And what game would you like to exchange it for?” Cameron asked, dropping the soon-to-be-exchanged game on the counter. A man in his mid-forties wearing a green beret approached with a jumbo set of headphones. “Busy!” both boys said in unison, making him wait his turn. “Well,” I said, “What would you recommend?” Peter rummaged through the glass display case beneath them and pulled out a shoot-em-up game. “This one! The  bas-relief graphics of the mammoth dreadnoughts, the silky-smooth scrolling and the cool animation of your ship as it performs the slickest turn you’ve ever seen, will hook you! I could even show you how it’s played. After work, I mean. Sometime. If. You. Want?” For the last few words, Peter could only look at the counter, unable to meet my gaze. In fact, Peter’s words had petered out at the end, much like his chances of getting a date with her. The man with the beret spoke up again. “There’s two of you! Surely one of you can serve me!” “Busy!” both boys said once again, not even making eye contact with the man. “Or this one,” Cameron said, pulling a tiny cassette with a cover depicting a hot-looking hunk of a soldier, a tank and, oddly I thought, an alligator at the bottom on the cover insert. “Sure, give me the spiel then,” I said, expecting some more gibberish. These lads needed to get a life. Or just to get out more. Even, to get out at all. “You shoot stuff,” Cameron said. I looked him in the eyes. He was a little bit cute, even if he didn’t know it. “Well it’s much more than that!” Peter added, grabbing the tape from him. “I mean Commando and Rambo are the big licence soldier shooters, it’s true, and this one has come from no-where but, and this is a really big but…” Peter awkwardly found himself looking at my butt. I smiled as he lost his train of thought. “What my colleague is trying to say,” Cameron said, elbowing him and snatching back the cassette, “is that it’s bloody good fun. Those other two,” he clicked his finger, “over before you know it. This one, on the other hand, is still not the deepest, I mean it’s no Elite, just has more stuff happening in it. As I said, you shoot stuff.” “Yeah but the music’s not as good as the other two,” Peter added, trying to salvage his pitch on the shoot-em-up game. I yawned. “I’ll take it. Give me a new receipt in case it doesn’t work,” I added. That was code for ‘In case Rhys doesn’t like it.’ Peter nodded, glancing away. Cameron snatched the tape off him and elbowed him again. Peter dropped like a stone, falling somewhere behind the counter. Cameron smiled as he started putting numbers into the cash register. Moments later, he produced a printed receipt. Peter reappeared and grabbed onto part of the receipt, which they handed over together simultaneously. I took the receipt and the army game and smiled. “Thanks boys.” I could feel their eyes lingering as I turned on my heel and walked away. The man with the beret had gone red. He dropped the headphones on the counter and frowned. “Now! Which one of you little cretins is going to serve me! I’m meaner than the soldier in all three of those games!” They both looked at each other and headed off in opposite directions.