Chasing the Dragon
GLYNN WASHINGTON, HOST:
OK, so I was almost a blerd - right? - a black nerd. And like any almost-blerd, I wanted to do nerd things like magic tricks. I practiced, and I practiced, and I practiced, and I got to the point where I could make just about anything smaller than a 50-cent piece vanish. But that's not all. I could talk about black holes, Gandalf, time machines, and all the atomic-level, 15th-degree nerds, they hung out together. I'd see them, painting their Gollum figurines, memorizing pi, trading signed Neuromancer books, and it looked like so much fun,. But then they'd kind of nod to each other. They'd leave the lunch table, the hallway, the sidewalk - they'd just disappear.
Well, to the untrained eye they disappeared, but I know better. All you had to do was follow the clank of a 20-sided-dice. Trek it all the way back to a forgotten utility storage closet, where they created an oasis. A Diet Coke-fueled Shangri-La, where they could play Dungeons & Dragons. I didn't know much about D&D, but I longed to join them. They had people called Dungeon Masters, and these folk created map and charts and stuff. They'd send players on quests. You could be a wizard or troll or an elf, but most importantly, in the game, you could do magic.
I just caught bits and pieces from the other side of the closed utility closet door, but I couldn't go in. I was forbidden from going in. Not because I was black, they didn't care about that. No, because my pastor at church took the pulpit one Sabbath morning and proclaimed that in Ohio or Nebraska or some faraway place, a group of teenagers decided to play this Dungeons & Dragons on a Friday evening. One of these young men, a fellow by the name of Huey Sherman (Ph) called upon the power of a demon in the game. Well, a fiery devil erupted from the ground, but not just in the game, brethren, in the real world. Satan's spawn sprung out of the rafters and dragged each and every one of these boys down to hell. And neither Huey Sherman, nor his friends were ever seen from again.
Now, I'll be honest, I thought the pastor's story had a few holes in it. But I didn't want to burn in everlasting torment either on some kind of spiritual technicality. So I figured the safe bet was to just go ahead and avoid Dungeons & Dragons. No dragons, no dungeons, no magic. So there I stood stuck, my head pressed against the utility closet door, almost a blerd, and I say almost because what kind of blerd has never gone on a magical quest to slay a dragon? My body felt like it was rending itself in two, and luckily I knew someone who thought exactly the same way. Matt was another nerd at church, but unlike me, Matt was a nerd with a plan. He told me, (imitating a stutter) Glynn, if you're game, my brother and I, we've created an alternative to D&D, one that morphs the cosmology to one more consistent with biblical principles. If we show respect in our gameplay, it should be allowed.
Do they have any dragons?
Well, this was tricky. In my first module, the garden of Eden, it has lurking within it a leviathan, which according to biblical scholars...
Does it have any dragons?
Yes, there's a dragon.
It was awesome. Instead of magic, which is evil, we deployed the power of the Holy Spirit, depending on the roll of the dice. Witches became mages, wizards were apostles, trolls were heathens. Matt assumed his rightful place at the head of the table as Dungeon Master. Actually, Bibleland Master. He was brilliant. His game deployed a series of traps and puzzles. We laughed at Adam's folly, spoke to the great serpent as it tempted Eve. I even took a bite of the forbidden apple. It tasted fantastic. To a casual observer, it might appear as if we were discussing biblical history, except directly after church one day, I rolled two sevens in a row and used my Holy Spirit powers to turn all the rivers to wine, and the daughters of Eve rejoiced and begged me to become personal concubines. And I knew from Bible study that it was only right to accept their gracious offer. So I sent them back to my tent, and the pastor, who just happened to be standing right behind me, started barking in fury. What is this mockery?
And just like that, the jig was up. And I couldn't believe it was over. It couldn't be over. I hadn't even slain a dragon, hadn't vanquished a city. The pastor pointed to the 20-headed dice. Give those to me. Everyone kind of sat with their heads down. I picked up the dice. They jiggled in my hand. Give me - give me those right now. I held up my closed palm. Hand them over. I opened my hand - empty. The dice had disappeared. Everyone gasped. What did you do? I told him that mysterious forces were at play. He patted me down till he felt something. I feigned a look of surprise as he pulled the dice out of my pocket. It's a shame. It's a real shame. And suddenly I felt bad. Actually I felt horrible, like I had sinned against myself - magic. I'd practiced that trick for six months, and I knew better than to stick them in my front pocket.
Today on SNAP JUDGMENT from PRX and NPR we proudly present, "Presto," amazing stories from real people looking for a miracle. My name is Glynn Washington. Set your magic wand to stun because this is SNAP JUDGMENT.
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