Shredded polychrome carnage splayed across the dining room floor, and screams could be heard even a house away. The neighbors would have happily complained, had the mayhem not originated from an eight year-old’s birthday.
The expertise with which Cody was slicing through the paper wrapping on his presents was astonishing, a fluidity easily comparable to a hot knife through butter, though with more collateral damage. Its box removed, he hoisted his latest prize above his head.
“A marshmallow gun!” he cried.
One of the congregated elders leaned to another apologetically. “I know you don’t like letting him have guns, Sherry, but this one just shoots marshmallows. Plus it looks like something from outer space. It’s hardly even a gun.”
The other woman waved away any concern, shifting her gesture to direct the birthday regent to an unassuming box only double the size of his hands. “Open the red one, sweetie. It’s from me and your dad.”
Again the wrappings seemed to whisk themselves from the box as if repelled by some reversal of magnetic polarity. Though many a scream had been uttered over the course of the proceedings, the look of transfixion and disbelief indicated that this could be the scream to end all screams.
And it was.
“Killer Brawl 4! AAAAHHH!!”
Pure reverie possessed the gift’s recipient, moving him to the den to plug the newest celebration of electronic sadism.
“Did you say ‘Thank you?’” his mother asked.
“Thank you! This is awesome!” Cody shouted, enthralled even before the television flickered to life, his hands doing their best to wrap around a gray, plastic controller.
“I’m gonna be King Tigerclaw. He’s the best.”
“No, Blanko is way better,” chimed a voice belonging to another set of hands, similarly at home on an ill-fitting button pad.
“Can I play, guys? I want to be Arm Mary.”
“You want to be a girl?”
“You can play whenever one of us dies, but it won’t be me, because I’m really good.”
“Except if I die, I can still play, because it’s my game, and it’s my birthday.”
As the screen flashed with simulated gore, the mothers chuckled amongst themselves at the beautiful pettiness of childhood.