“For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors and laugh at them in our turn?”
Waiting for a break in the conversation, the impatient ten-year-old saw his chance. The two mothers had slowed their discussion of preschools just long enough for him to break in and change the topic to something that really mattered.
“Jocelyn, you should come down to the basement and see how far I’ve gotten in the new Harry Potter game on our Wii. It was released today, and we went to Target right after breakfast to get it. I’ve been playing all day, and I’ve unlocked a lot of the characters already. The Dementors are so cool.”
Never one to pass up the opportunity for malarkey, I shrieked, “Dementors? In your basement? Nice try, Jo-Jo, but there’s no way I’m going into your basement if there are Dementors there. I’m ascairt of Dementors; even thinking about them makes me feel all cold inside. Nope. Sorry. Not gonna go. I’ll just be staying up here, in the light, where I can dash out into the sunshine and play on the swings and slide–objects which seem tragically untouched today, in fact.”
“Oh, come on, Jocelyn. You should come down so I can show you all the stuff in the game. The Dementors aren’t even scary. Here, I’ll show you.” Then he ran up the stairs to find his enormous Lego guide book. Panting, moments later, he opened it to the picture of a Dementor mini-figure.
Spluttering, I gasped, “Why, that’s what I look like every February when I’m shuffling around the house in a fleece blanket and have eaten too many Jelly Bellies! Sure, it’s horrifying, but such images are nothing new to me. Lead the way, son. Take me to your Death Eaters. Of course, I’m not promising I won’t scream once I see them in action on the screen, of course.”
“Just come on. It will be fine,” the kid assured me, skittering down the stairs and finding the imprint of his rear end that lingered on the carpet in front of the screen.
“Now that I’m down here in the dank bowels of your house, I’m all nervous again, especially because I see you’ve got your minions gathered ’round,” I noted, gesturing to his three brothers, all of whom bounced excitedly on crossed legs. “Just show me Hogwarts. I don’t need to see any Dementors.”
Unable to appreciate my manufactured drama, the kid turned to his brothers and reported, “Jocelyn keeps saying she’s afraid of the Dementors. Good thing I’m just getting used to the game and can’t always find them. But, Jocelyn, I’m going to show them to you; maybe if I just make my Harry and these redheaded guys–I just call them “The Twins” because I don’t know who they are–run around Hogwarts, I’ll find some for you…”
“Hey, kiddo? Those twins are Ron Weasely’s older brothers, if I remember correctly. Also, I don’t think the Dementors can come into Hogwarts. I think you’ll have take Harry outside to find them. I’m pretty sure they’re unable to enter the school.”
With a tone of new respect, the kid asked, “Do you have this game? You must have beaten more levels than I have so far.”
“Nope. Few things make my breakfast sit harder in my stomach than racing off to Target after ingesting it, so I don’t have the game. I just remember that I always feel better when the action is in Hogwarts since the Dementors are kept out of it by some spell–I think Dumbledore cast it. I love Dumbledore! Whenever I get all shrieky about how hollow the Dementors make me feel, I hope the story will go back into Hogwarts, where things are relatively safe. ‘Cause when those Dementors are floating around, sucking souls, I feel absolute terror.”
Looking away from the screen for a nanosecond, the kid asked, quizzically, “You mean, like, in the movies?”
“Naw, I haven’t seen the movies. I mean when I read the books.”
Out and out confused by now, he scrunched his eyebrows together and squeezed out, “What do you mean, the books?”
Feeling scrunchy and squeezy myself, I could only say, “What do YOU mean when you say ‘what do you mean, the books?'”
Continuing to push the buttons that kept Lego Harry zipping towards Hagrid’s cottage, the kid lifted his eyes long enough to clarify his confusion, “There are Harry Potter books?”
The breath easing from my body–and not due to any Dementor’s soul-sucking kiss–I warbled, “Um, yea. There are some Harry Potter books. That’s how I know about these characters. That’s what I’m talking about when I tell you how terrifying I find the Dementors. Books. From books. You should try them.”
Shaking his head in complete disbelief, the kid looked around at his cadre of brothers, all of whom awaited their turn at the controls. He chortled, “I don’t get it. How can she be afraid of Dementors from reading about them in books?” Then, looking at me, he upped the chortle to friendly mockery, “I don’t get it, Jocelyn. How can something you read in a book be scary? Books? Scary? Huh?”
Backing away, wishing him luck in defeating the level and one day figuring out the names of The Twins, I mumbled a few words about “well, there’s a lot of fear inside imagination and, well…um…books really can take your brain to…” before I realized his gaze had swiveled back to the screen,
to stare at a world of fantastical characters–
capable, on the written page, of conveying darkness, shock, vividness, fright–
flattened by pixels into safe, predictable, easily-controlled opportunities to “win.”
If Lego ever introduces a line of Jane Austen products, you better believe I’ll camp out at Target the night before, sweaty credit card clutched to heaving bosom, anxious to be the first to buy the Pride and Prejudice game and make the Elizabeth mini-figure slap Darcy across the face, ride a pony through the moors, and dance a graceful air in the ballroom–all in an effort to collect enough yearly income to stage a wedding after defeating the villainous George Wickham with a well-placed barb in the final level.
After all, it is a truth universally acknowledged that a single Jocelyn in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a Wii.