EB or not EB?

By Tom Chick

I'm looking at the back of the Warrior Kings box. I'm looking. I'm looking. I look at the front. I open the flap. I'm looking. Looking. I look over at Trevor. He's looking at the back of the Sum of All Fears box. He's looking. He's looking. He flips it over. He's looking at the front of the box. He flips it back over and now he's looking at the back again. He's looking.

He sees me looking at him looking. "What?" he says.

"Does it look any good?"

"I don't know. I can't tell yet." He's looking. "No." He starts to put it back.

"Give it here," I say. We switch boxes. He looks at the Warrior Kings box. I'm looking at the Sum of All Fears box. I'm looking.

"Gimme that one back," he says and I give him the Sum of All Fears box. He gives me the Warrior Kings box even though I'm done looking at it. But I look at it some more anyway. I put it back and take down Legion again. I'm looking at it. I'm looking. I flip it over and look at the back. I'm looking.

"Does that look any good?" Trevor asks.

I make a noncommittal sound.

"Give it here," he says, handing me the Sum of All Fears box. Now I'm looking at the front of the Sum of All Fears box. I look at the back again. I put it back on the shelf and take down Warrior Kings again. I'm looking. I'm looking.

"What time did you say UPS gets here?" Trevor asks Jake.

Jake is the clerk. He's really into EverQuest and uses it as a barometer for other games. "It's okay," he'll say of any game he's asked about, "but it's not as good as EverQuest." He said this about Civilization III, which makes as much sense as saying West Wing on NBC isn't as good as a grilled stuffed burrito from Taco Bell. When Trevor asked Jake how old he was, he said that he was eighteen, but that he's taking classes at the junior college this summer. It was as if that somehow made him older.

"UPS usually comes at about two," Jake tells us again.

Brian, the manager, comes back from lunch. "You guys still here?" he says to us.

"Yeah, we can't decide."

Brian is about forty. He's really into action figures. He knows the release dates for the new Gundam figures, but when we ask him about a computer game, he has to look it up in his binder.

"So you're sure it's not on your list to come in today?" Trevor asks.

"Yep," Brian says amiably, fingering a stack of unshelved Evangelion figures in their unwieldy bubble packs, "Soon, but not today."

"But it could show up anyway, right?"

"Yep, it could. It's happened before. If I recall rightly, it happened with Crazy Taxi 2 on the Dreamcast. It was supposed to come out on a Thursday and we got it in the Tuesday before that."

"Oh," Trevor says.

"Yeah, wow. We couldn't believe it. We were like, 'hey, this isn't supposed to come out until Thursday', weren't we, Jake?"

"Yeah, we were all 'what's up with that?'," Jake says.

"So it could happen," Brian says, "Hey, we just got in a new shipment of Candyman 3 figures. Also, The Simpsons, but those as for kids."

Trevor and I are waiting for Neverwinter Nights, which is supposed to be out any day now. Trevor has been jittery with anticipation for the last few weeks. "Man, oh man, Neverwinter Nights, man," he had said. He kept saying things like, "Oh jeez, Neverwinter Nights is coming out this month, jeez" and "Neverwinternightsneverwinternightsneverwinternights". Sometimes he'd say something more concrete, like "I've got serious wood for Neverwinter Nights" or "I wish fucking Neverwinter Nights would fucking come out already".

He called me this morning and said it might be in at EB today and we should be there early in case it showed up. I hadn't been as excited about it as Trevor, but his enthusiasm was infectious. Which, I'm reminding myself now, is the reason I stood in line for four hours when Episode II opened.

"You're sure it's supposed to be out today?" I had asked him as we drove over in his Honda Civic.

"Pretty sure."

"How do you know?"

"I checked Gone Gold."

"What about EB's site? What did it say?"

"I don't know. I said I checked Gone Gold, not EB's site. Gone Gold said maybe today. Also, Rich LaPorte had waffles for breakfast this morning. Last night he watched Hardball with his wife and then played Dungeon Siege for a few hours."

"Why are you telling me that?"

"I don't know. George Jones isn't doing those diary things anymore, so what else is there?"

"Don't be a jerk."

"Look who's talking."

"Who's George Jones?" Donny had asked from the back seat. Donny is Trevor's 14-year-old nephew.

"He's this guy who writes about games," Trevor answered, "I think he has a dog and a Game Boy Advance, but you're too young to know any more because there's porno and drugs involved."

When we walked into EB, Trevor's eyes widened when he saw the Freelancer box on the shelf.

"Dude," he bellowed, lunging for it. I knew better, having spotted the yellow 'Coming Soon' sticker. When he grabbed it and discovered it was empty, he looked around to see if anyone had seen his lunge.

"I knew it was empty," Trevor quietly announced, "I just thought the box was cool."

Some kids playing Masters of Teras Kasi on the PSOne at the counter looked away and smirked.

"What do they know," Trevor muttered, "They're playing a Playstation One game. Which one of you is Princess Leia?"

"I am," said the kid with braces, "Princess Leia kicks ass. Watch this." The kid grabbed Chewbacca and kneed him in the groin. Trevor watched for a moment and his jaw started to go slack the way it does when he's into a game. I could tell he was hooked and I knew he was going to lean over and quietly ask 'Do you have this game?', which he did and I don't. Then Princess Leia kneed Han Solo in the groin and Trevor and the two kids laughed.

I went to the new releases shelf and start taking down boxes. Now we're both standing here. The two kids were extracted by their mothers an hour ago.