The Computer Game
You are the computer. Your sister is the only one who can operate the computer. First, she has to say, ‘power on,’ and press you on the nose. You have to say, ‘Please enter password,’ and she has to guess, and she has to be wrong and you have to offer her a hint, and the hint should be something that only she will be able to guess, and when she has guessed it, you have to say, ‘loading desktop,’ and your hands should do a little robotic dance to indicate the loading process and then you have to say, ‘Welcome to the computer. Please select a task from the menu,’ and she’ll always select ‘Games’, which she knows how to do by pressing a knee or an elbow and saying ‘Games,’ and then you have to say, ‘Games menu. Please select a game,’ and then she should press somewhere, say a shoulder blade or a belly button or a pinkie finger, and you will say, ‘You have selected…’ and you can say anything you like then, and she has to play the game. You could say, ‘interpretive dance-off,’ and she’d have to dance to your mother’s baroque mix-tapes, illustrating concepts with increasing levels of difficulty, beginning with anger, then popcorn, electricity and finally, love. Or you could say, ‘The floor is lava. You have survived a volcanic eruption and must save your family’s valuables without falling to your death.’ And she will have to rescue items in increasing levels of danger from the surrounding lava, beginning with the salt and pepper shakers, and ending with the dog, who, unaware of the danger, will have to be saved before he leaps off the couch to his death. Or you can say, ‘time travel’ and she will be transported thousands of years into the past where she has to escape a Tyrannosaurus Rex, and you have to robotically reassemble yourself into the T-rex, and she’ll run. Then she has to win the game, and return to the games menu, and then you have to say, ‘Games menu. Please select a game.’
The Sleeping Bag Game
The sleeping bag will go over your head and cover your entire body. Your sisters will spin you around and around until you have lost all sense of where you are. You must now reach your father’s library at the far end of the house, trapped in this feet-smelling polyester cocoon. All noises will be suffocated out, only your own battle cry will carry you on. But your body will try to carry you in a circle instead of the way you direct it. You will spin around again, the way they spun you, their phantom hands pushing you on further detours while they stand laughing.
The Mediation Game
You have to catch the moment the argument was conceived, which is always several minutes or even hours before either of your parents are aware they’re having an argument.
It might be, for instance, because your dad had forgotten something, forgotten that she needed the car that day, forgotten to take in the laundry, forgotten that he needed to drop one of you off at your orchestra practice, and she has had to remind him at the last minute even though she is tired because she has had a long day, and he said, ‘Oh, that’s right, orchestra practice,’ and she has given a twitch of both eyebrows. It is the twitch that you have to look for, as if she is trying to shake something off of her prefrontal cortex.
Some time later, he will ask her an unrelated administerial question which belongs, in her mind, to the category of things he should know by now. And she will make a generalisation about his incompetence for which he will request further data as support for her claim. In response, she will then refer to his almost forgetting the orchestra practice drop off earlier, to which she will add, ‘and I cleaned the whole house after I came back from work, and I made dinner, and my wrist hurts,’ and at this point it will become difficult to follow the argument, as it builds up its own steam, moving swiftly away from the subject about which it began, but you have to stay on your game. If you stay on your game, you will notice when your mum says something like, ‘I just wish you’d x.’ And dad will say something like, ‘Well that’s ridiculous, how does x relate to the administerial question about which this argument started?’
At this point, you can jump in and answer your dad’s question by saying to him, ‘Don’t you see that Mum is not literally arguing about the subject that she’s arguing about, and cannot understand the logical argument you have attempted to present because she has her ear tuned to the frequency of feelings, and therefore any logical counter-argument is unproductive and merely serves as a performance of righteousness which makes her feel that you are not listening to her feelings?’ And you can say to your mum, ‘Don’t you see that you are speaking in response to a subterranean hurt which has existed within you for most of our childhoods like a disused subway, built years ago and never properly dismantled even long after the end of its usefulness?’ and once you have said these things you can stop listening because you have won your parents’ argument.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Madison Hamill is based in Wellington. She has recently completed her Masters in Creative Writing at the International Institute of Modern Letters. Her work has appeared in The Spinoff and Sweet Mammalian, among others.