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Once Upon A Time:
The Price of Admission

by Kevin Kaier


I was just 10 years old and some older kids (who hated me) were always talking about D&D. I saw an add for it in a Spiderman comic book. I think I felt the first pangs of lust.

So I took my $3.00 of allowance and made the two and a half mile walk to the local hobby store. When I got there it was incredible. There were models (which I already did and was tired of blowing up), miniatures (some painted awesomely in glass cases) and a long shelf full of a cornucopia of roleplaying games. There was D&D, Tunnels and Trolls, Runequest, Traveller, Top Secret and countless others. I perused for a few minutes before suddenly noticing that my $3.00 wasn't going to buy me anything.

Still, at least I could scout it out and later see if I could con my parents into buying it for me. I soon found what I wanted. D&D Basic Box set: price $6.00. So I trudged home and begged my parents to lend me three bucks til next week. I now realise what crappy parents I have, because they said no, and they never really took much interest in me or my sisters happiness (they did a lot of drinking and weed, they were bikers). $3.00 worth of allowance a week was the extent of their parental involvement. So somehow I needed to make it through the week without spending one dime on school lunches, pop or candy. For a ten year old, this was equivalent to balancing the national budget.

Well, the weeks went past and I was never able to make the six dollars. The most I could seem to keep was around $4 -$4.25. This was in the times when comic books were still a quarter (35 cents was looming though), so this was a massive amount to accumulate in itself, and the six dollar mark seemed all but impossible.

But somehow, the Gods must have been looking down upon me. A month or so went by, my D&D dreams had started to whiter, when my mom announced that we were going to the Homecoming to watch the fireworks. On the way there, I hatched a plan. I asked if I was going to get any money for the rides. They said "What about your allowance money?" My sister and I both immediately complained "We spent it...we didn't know we were going to need it for rides." My sister, who was a drama queen even then, had some sort of crying fit and my parents gave in. The gave us each $3 for the rides. I take account of my personal finances: I have exactly $3. My mind whirred 3 + 3 = 6. Awesome - I would forgo rides and buy my Boxed Set.

As soon as we got to Ford Field (where the Homecoming is held in Dearborn, Michigan) I said "I'm going to the Hobby Store." My parents, who have always given me free reign, said basically "Go ahead, we'll be in the beer tent." Today, it amazes me that they let me a 10 year old wander around freely at a carnival. You'd never see that today - I guess times have changed.

I literally ran the 5 blocks to the Hobby Store with $6 in hand. Like a laser, I went to the shelf and grabbed that beautiful bright red box with the name of Gary Gygax emblazoned on it, and marched to the register where the owner named Walt was residing. I laid the box down gently, just like Indiana Jones did with the golden idol at the beginning of Raiders. The air was crackling with gaming electricity. Walt started punching keys into the started buzzing and whirring. And then Walt says:

"That'll be $6.30."

I almost fainted. I stood there, mouth agape. Confused and disorientated, I was able to squeeze out. "Mister, is say $6 dollars on the box."

"Sales Tax." says Walt.

Being a kid I had never heard of the concept sales tax, because neither comic books nor candy are taxable items here in Michigan. Roleplaying games are.

I was done. I wasn't near crying, but I had a lump in the base of my throat like I was ready to. He looked down at me. He saw that I was mumbling and confused. Walt who was a hard, but fair man, and didn't seem like the kind of guy who would cut anybody any slack. He himself wasn't a big fan of gaming, he was a die-hard Naval modeler. So I expected no mercy, and went to leave.

I was dragging myself towards the door when Walt said: "Hey kid, I'll let you slide this time..." I didn't hear anything else he said, because something rushed up inside me and blotted out all reality. It was just me and my bright red box. Walt bagged it for me, stuck the receipt in the bag and basically told me to shove off. I think or at least like to think he did this out of pure benevolence, not economics. I like to pretend that maybe the Gods of gaming shined down on me that day, in the form of a .30 cent tax exemption.

When the door whished open to the outside air, I felt like I was finally on my way to manhood. No more Star Wars figures or Micronauts for me. I was a D&D man now.

I didn't open the box then, I was afraid to for some reason. I must wait. This thing is too precious to open here with the mob shuffling by. I went and found my parents at the beer tent and told them I was going home with "My Precious." "Whatever" was their reply.

I trotted home victorious, locked my bedroom door and enter the halls of Valhalla. I read the entire boxed set cover to cover until dawn and made my first character as the sun was rising. What a day of glory!!!!

His name was Moondog - a fighter named after my favourite wrestler, Moondog Spot. With Moondog, I also fudged my very first dice rolls... and so the odyssey began.

Kevin Kaier is thirty-one years old and lives with his wife AnnaMarie and stepson Jherek in the badlands of Detroit, Michigan. He has been a dedicated Lovecraft fan for the past ten years, and has been running Call of Cthulhu for the last five. He tells us he also can't wait to see Lord of the Rings.

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