While plopped on his training potty in the middle of the apartment den, my son, lil Benny, threatened to kill everyone in the room. While straining, he spoke in his preschool accent and jabbed a finger at each of his targets.
“I’ma kill you. And I’ma kill you!”
Those threatened included me and his grandpa, Ben Sr. Both of us laughed of course ‘cause it was super cute like a baby penguin itching to wrestle. Grandpa Ben was now my primary babysitter for lil Benny. My mom just passed. She was a junkie and a liar and owed me three hundred dollars, but she was good with my kid. Lil Benny’s mom was about as useful as his grandma if you ask me though. I left my dad in the glow of the television to dispose of lil Benny’s kid shit. While flushing the toilet there was nothing funny left. I didn’t turn on the light, so everything was gray, cold, quiet and smelled of bleach, mildew and poop. I thought about the news and the funeral and genetic transfer of fucked up tendencies and wondered if there might be something wrong with my son.
There were garbled voices in my head for a while, flashes and whispers all saying violent video games are bad for kids. So I studied up, read the labels and dropped lil Benny in front of a tv without no screams of bloody murder and the pop pop pop of FPS digital gunfire. In his new game there were just tools and block men ready to build anything. Lil Benny loved it. After a week though I wasn’t so sure.
Benny stopped cussing and threatening to kill me, but he didn’t say much of anything, just ooooh and grunts and ahhhhhhhs like the block men in his game. He even started to copy the stiff swivel of their heads. I could tell his grandpa had noticed.
“That shit gon turn him into a pussy.”
I let that slide since my dad still had a lot on his mind of course about the loss of my mom. Doctors guessed the years of dirty meth led to the cancer. Many of their friends still didn’t know she was dead. When they asked how the treatment was going, dad had a phrase for it.
“Burned it up!” he’d say and laugh like an ass.
A few were confused/horrified but most knew his ways and cringed when they realized he meant cremation. Lil Benny’s mom left our apartment to buy some mac n cheese one night and the bitch never came back, fourteen months ago. Benny still sees her online, posting pictures. She bought a motorcycle and dyed the top of her head purple then gray then back to black. Lil Benny used to love her hair changes when they video chatted, never questioned when she would return. To him, it was normal that mothers left like that into the night or tiny containers.
Games were clearly not the answer, so I found a channel online. At first I was confused and tried to click away, but lil Benny stopped me with a grunt. There were no people onscreen, just a pair of white hands and a basket of plastic Easter eggs. The hands worked slowly to turn the egg around for the camera, creating suspense and shit. Lil Benny leaned in closer to the screen just as the egg broke to reveal its hidden gem: cars, animals, superheroes, popular cartoon figurines, and the one Russian nesting egg that lil Benny gasped over as each egg led to another inside, ending with a final micro race car at its core, which gave neither him nor me any satisfaction. Staring at the disembodied hands moving to break one egg at a time over and over made me feel like I was shrinking, like the oxygen left the room and all the toy trucks, robots, mice, candy, key chains and stickers birthed into view with a tiny explosion of air from the egg were growing big and heavy as bricks piling around my feet, pressing down on my toes. The videos gave me fucking vertigo, but lil Benny couldn’t get enough. He became addicted to them, retreating into the screen whenever I had to deny him a piece of chocolate his grandpa brought over because sugar sent him into a hyper tantrum, and I would have to restrain him through high pitched screams of injustice. I had to find something better than those vids though; there had to be something better than a strange man’s manicured hands popping open plastic eggs all day to help my son.
Lil Benny’s mom’s calls became more and more infrequent after he refused to talk to her that one time. She waited for him to notice the rainbow nest on her head, but he wasn’t impressed. He ended the call by touching the red button. The boy can’t read but can hang up on a grown ass woman without thinking twice.
I gave in, gave up, went to the store and bought a toy football. I figured the only solution was to take lil Benny outside. When I got home his grandpa was playing a game on the couch and lil Benny was in his room. I could hear him laughing and talking to the screen. There were other voices too, a woman and a man and other kids, so I hurried in to see who the hell was in my apartment. Benny knelt at the tv, watching a family online, playing games together in their home. Lil Benny waved a hand at me and said “hello daddy” without looking in my direction. He said every syllable, sharp as ice. I said “hey,” squeezed the foam ball then left. The family in his video sat close. The room was warm, clean with a rug, lamps and pillows. Everyone laughed like they would always be that way in there together.