Blowing in the Cartridge 1

“Every kid has a fort…”

Every kid has a fort when theyâ┚¬â”žÂ¢re growing up. Whether it be made out of pillows and couch cushions for wood and nails in a tree, we all have forts at one point or another. My fort came when the neighbors at the back of our house cut down a tree and had it fall over our side of the fence. We had bramble and bushes covering a good part of our backyard. I have no recollection of what our parents were feeling at the time, but my brother David and I were thrilled. We had the coolest and most expansive fort out of everyone we knew.

The question became what could we make out of it. Our parents had just gotten us a Nintendo Entertainment System (our second video game system ever), and we now had an idea for this fort. We would make Nintendo World. â┚¬Å”What was Nintendo World?â┚¬Â you ask. In reality, it was just a bunch of sticks with a few boards stuck on top. To us though, it was purely magical.

It was magic to other people too. We had a cousin named Mark. Mark was born into a rather bad world. My Uncle Tommy, god rest his soul, had coupled with a woman, married her, and divorced her. Mark was the result of that unfortunate coupling. My uncle Tommy was a homosexual in deep denial, even until the end of his life. At the time, homosexuals were still being accused of taking punishment from God through the AIDS virus. I donâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t remember Tommyâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s separation from his wife because I was too young or not even born yet. All that I know is that Mark was the result of it.

Mark was a bitter man to say the least. He was a person consumed by his personal demons. The lack of a normal father, a broken household, and a million other horrors I am lucky enough to have avoided rotted away his heart. He stole, smoke and drank while underage, got into fights, and generally tried to make up for his ruined life by filling it with other peopleâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s sorrow.

Mark came to live with us for a while. My father, being a big hearted man who was a rather terrible child himself, saw Mark and figured heâ┚¬â”žÂ¢d try and do him a favor. My father and my uncle Tommy were always incredibly close so it comes as no surprise that he took Mark in when the man Iâ┚¬â”žÂ¢m named after couldnâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t be there for his son.

To say my brother Dave and I took to Mark is an understatement. He was great at games and incredibly friendly to us. We took turns playing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: The Arcade Game with him and marveled at his skill on games like Castlevania 3 (though we were always better at Mega Man then him). Itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s no surprise that we told Mark about Nintendo World. What is a bit of a surprise is how quickly he took to it. He thought it was a grand idea and helped my brother and I make it ten times better then it could have ever been. It was sanctuary.

As time went on, Mark seemed to be getting better. He moved back in with his father and got his life straightened out it seemed. He still played with us, but he was over more rarely because Mark had started working at a Salvation Army. Every time Mark was over though, David and I would literally drop everything to go find him and play with him. He was the big brother I never had, and the oldest brother that itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢d take a few years to grow into for me.

Both of my parents are school teachers. They worked in a little Podunk high school and middle school in Harpursville, New York. It was where some of the poorest of poor kids went to school, grew up, married, and sent their kids to the same schools. My parentâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s former students had children, as people often do. Those children were my best friends. The only problem though was that they all lived so far away. While 35 miles or so seems like nothing today for me, it was an absolutely insurmountable distance at the time. Therefore, whenever we had friends spend the night it was a truly momentous occasion.

My best friend was named Matt at the time. He was a rather poor kid (though I didnâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t know it at the time) that was about to be coming from a broken home himself (as his parents would divorce in the next two years or so). That didnâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t matter though. Matt was over and I was going to show him Nintendo World. He had some great ideas too. We used a few pieces of plywood here and there to make a new secret entrance. We even made a Sky World which was much more then just a large piece of plywood on some of the stronger limbs. He was proud. I was proud. We had made things better.

It was a few days later when Mark came over. David and I were playing Castlevania in the basement when we heard a shriek. Being the self absorbed brat that I was, I kept playing while Dave raced upstairs to see what happened. I eventually paused and went outside to see what all the fuss was about. As it turns out, Mark had seen our improvements on Nintendo World. He grabbed me with and picked me up with tears in his eyes and asked me what had happened? I simply replied that Matt and I had made it better and there was even a Sky World now.

He put me down, collecting himself, and told us to go inside. I said we could fix it, and he shouted â┚¬Å”GO INSIDE!â┚¬Â There was no question in his voice. Dave and I watched as he got up and tore everything down. He tossed pieces of plywood on to the lawn and tore branches asunder. Shortly after finishing with his rage he left. Dave and I were in shock consumed by guilt and a little fear.

We didnâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t see Mark after that day anymore. He never came over, and we only heard about him briefly in conversations here and there. We saw him thoughâ┚¬Â¦ once. He was working at the Salvation Army saying that things were going good to our parents. I asked if heâ┚¬â”žÂ¢d ever come over again. He said sure, both of us doubting his intentions. It was only a few days later that we heard from our parents that Mark had been caught stealing and was fired from his job. We asked about him a few times always wanting to know where he was and never getting a satisfactory answer.

After the destruction of our fort, Nintendo World, we stopped playing there as much. It was partly because I had grown the way all children do, and I could no longer fit in the smaller places. My brother and I eventually moved down to Florida for a bunch of reasons, but we went back to our old house on a road trip last year. Everything seemed smaller. Much smaller. What was most surprising though was when we looked in our back yard only to see the chain link fence that had once outlined our houseâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s perimeter before the tree hid it from view. It had been cleared years ago was what our old next door neighbor told us. It was simply gone.

There are certain shocks in life we all have to deal with at some point I suppose. For Mark, it was that reality sneaks up and interrupts peace every so often. For me, it was that loss is inevitable. We both lost Nintendo World in our own separate way. I took it from him out of misplaced kindness, he took it from me out of anger. It is only now that I can truly understand what it is like to lose a sanctuary, and let me tell you. It is absolutely terrifying.