Punch Out! by Sarah Tollok
Mom faithfully opened my uncle’s pizza place all by herself. The morning started with going to pick up produce from the warehouse in her little brown hatchback. I was crammed in the back with crates of iceberg lettuce and tomatoes for the hoagies. I nibbled on the free apple the guy on the loading dock gave me and hoped that no bugs climbed out of the crates. Later, coloring books only lasted so long, but there was always an arcade game near the front counter.
I toggled the joystick and hit the buttons until my little hands had blisters, the see-through silhouette of my avatar throwing jabs and uppercuts. I made it through the skinny guy, the fat guy, the Irish guy. My toughest opponent, a pixelated stereotype in a turban, moved too fast to dodge.
I ran out of quarters. I learned how to open the register. I wasn’t a greedy kid, I only took as many quarters as I needed for the next round. My uncle came in early and caught me. He yelled, his words so fast.
Years later, his words again, slower, “I’ve already done my mourning.”
He wasn’t going to bother to come to mom’s memorial.
I was tired of playing games. So I blocked and blocked and blocked some more; phone numbers, email, and every social media platform. Then I threw one last super-powered roundhouse into the mailbox, landing days later but with great accuracy, hitting all the places that his years of neglected relationships left wide open.
And a K.O. of a P.S., “I should’ve taken more fucking quarters.”
Sarah Tollok is a reader and writer from the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. She refuses to pick just one genre because she's having too much fun. Words in Intangible Lit and Second Chance Lit. Can be found at SarahTollok.com and on twitter @SarahTollok.