A dialogue-based story by David Benn which raises questions of language tropes, cultural change and parental responsibility.
SAME BUT DIFFERENT
‘Dad, do you mind if a I get a game on the PS4?’
Harrison stood at the bottom of the stairs and I knew he was swinging on the banister even though I didn’t raise my eyes from the ironing board. The late afternoon was slow and humid and if I didn’t look at him then I wouldn’t have to tell him not to swing on the bannister.
‘Is it going to cost me anything?’
‘It’s half price this weekend. It’s usually eighty dollars but this weekend it’s only forty dollars.’
I pushed the steaming iron up and down the front of a stiff white shirt and considered my options as I felt a bead of sweat run down the small of my back and between my cheeks. ‘How about if you pay for half and I pay for the other half?’
‘Okay, but you need to approve the purchase.’
I stood the iron on its end and looked over at him. Like me, he was shirtless and dressed only in a pair of boardshorts. Unlike me, at thirteen years old, he had already begun to cloak himself in simmering discontent.
‘Okay, for a start, stop swinging on the banister and, why do you need my approval? Just go and buy it.’
He ran his fingers through his hair and rolled his eyes. ‘The PS4 won’t let me buy it because it’s rated M.’
I stared at him for a second or two. ‘Really? That PS4 wasn’t designed by puritans, dude. What’s the name of this game?’
I walked out from behind the ironing board and picked up my phone from the breakfast bar.
Harrison groaned and put his hands over his eyes. ‘What are you doing that for? Why can’t you just trust me?’
I googled Mortal Kombat. Lurid computer-generated imagery of decapitations, howling disembowelled behemoth warriors and blood-drenched medieval hardware poured over the screen. It was rated R.
I looked up at Harrison. ‘It’s rated R and you can’t have it.’
Frowning in disbelief, his jaw stiffened. ‘What! Why not? You’ve let me play violent games before.’
‘Fortnite is rated M. There’s no blood or graphic violence. This is horrific.’
He squared his shoulders and pointed at me. ‘It’s not about the killing, it’s about the game play. You’ve let me play other violent games! Why don’t you let me play this one?’
‘Because this one is rated R. You must be eighteen to play this game. So, five years from now, we’ll go out, get a six pack and come home and play Mortal Kombat.’
Harrison walked over, poked me in the chest and snarled, ‘You’re being a total fuckin’ Karen about this and you don’t even know it. Dylan’s father lets him play it!’
‘It doesn’t matter what Dylan’s father lets him do. I would no sooner give you alcohol or supply you with pornography than buy you this game.’
He shook his head slowly. ‘That’s different. You’re a Karen.’
‘Well, I think it’s similar, maybe even the same.’
He sat down at the breakfast bar and put his head in his hands. ‘Everyone is playing it except me.’
With my arms folded and my back against the breakfast bar, I stood beside him and sighed.
‘You know, I was a lot younger than you when the movie Jaws was released. I badgered my father to take me to see it, but it was rated R. Then, for some reason, they changed it to an M rating, and I went back to badgering Dad. So, one night he eventually got tired of it, walked down into his study and came back with the novel Jaws by Peter Benchley. He handed it to me and said that as soon as I could read the book, he would take me to the movie.’
Harrison looked up. ‘How long was it before you could read the book?’
I shrugged my shoulders. ‘About five years.’
Copyright David Benn. Photos Wix. SSOA is supported by City of Sydney accommodation grant assistance.