"WTF, I don't have Paperboy?" I muttered as I scrolled through the Google Sheet tracking my collection on my phone. The clerk looked at me like how was he supposed to know.
"Man, I have over 450 NES cartridges.. and somehow I don't have Paperboy." That was my humble brag about how many carts I have but I forgot this guy works here, he sees assholes like me everyday scrolling through their home catalog on their phones and comparing his store prices to ones they find online. He doesn't care. He nods and sighs, wishing for me to make a decision.
I looked down in the case at Paperboy. I remember when it was less than a $5 game and I always passed on it because I always thought I had it. And I DID have it.. but as a kid. No idea what happened to it since.
The game brings me a lot of nostalgic memories. I only had a handful of games growing up. The typical boyhood story of the typical fare. Super Mario Bros, Contra, Guerilla War, and Paperboy. I might have even thought those were the only four games for the system until I was older.
At seven years old I remember playing Paperboy for the first time. I thought it was super rad. I was on a bike delivering papers as a teenager. Bikes and teenagers were rad. I could break windows and hit people with the papers, how awesome! The game was hard though, that much I could tell. I don't know how old I was before I finally made it all the way down the street without losing all my lives on that punk skateboarder. Out of nowhere, that bastard.
After the goofiness wore off and I actually tried to beat it as a kid, I certainly never made it far. In fact, I most likely saw this game as an arcade port not made for beating. Maybe it goes on forever and you just deliver papers until you're all out of paperboys and that's your high score. Maybe it's that kind of game?
Well, I know better now. I know you can beat it. I've heard people say they have. Today it has a $15 sticker on it and I don't even haggle. "Sure, I'll take it."
I get it home and wait until it's plenty late on a Friday night to ensure I have no life and plop it in. The first few tries I don't even make it past Monday. The cat can sense my discouragement and sits beside me, occasionally rolling over on his back to expose his fluffy underside of cat tits and soft fur. I rub it for good luck and dive back in.
Oh shit, Tuesday! Nice! I cap out there for a few rounds and rub more of the cat.
Wednesday! But I only have two houses left. That goddamn cyclone is causing me to miss houses because I'm just frantically peddling away from it and forgoing any chance at a delivery. Game over. Rub cat.
Gotta start it over. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and holy shit Thursday! Cat belly rubbing intensifies. This is slowly becoming his favorite game.
I make it to Friday with one life to spare. I'm thinking this might be the last level because I completely forgot that newspapers actually do get delivered on the weekends. Imagine my surprise when I get past Friday to see Saturday pop up. In my frustrations I lose focus and barrel into a trashcan and earn a game over. I let out a hearty "Shit!" and the cat scrams. I think we're done for the night.
Saturday morning arrives and I head back down. I pass my wife in the hallway. "Good mor..." "Mornin!" I descend the stairs and shut the door. I'll probably pay for that later but Paperboy, amirite?
I plop down and fire up the NES. The Paperboy music starts and the cat does a jolly gallop over and hops up beside me. Pavlovian effect I suppose. He's already exposing the goods, I give them a rub and get to delivering.
I do well. A night's rest has helped me recharge. I now have a new strategy. Ride a little bit into the grass. You can avoid the fucking skateboarder pretty much every single time that way. When you see the cyclone, just book it, it's not worth it. I was right all along with that. You'll lose a subscriber but unless it's your last one, don't worry about it. Always follow the remote control car, by doing so you will not hit it head on. Get on the street side of the dog and hit it with a paper as you pass or run out into the street. Rarely does a car come when the dog and skateboarder are together. And always go toward the direction the tire comes from. With these strategies firmly in place, I make it to Saturday having only lost a single life! I can do this. The cat stretches out and exposes more belly, he knows this is crunch time. I give him a quick but thorough rub and a pat on the head. We softly nod at each other and turn our direction back toward the television.
My seven year old memories of thinking the game was too hard to beat and was unbeatable are slowly fading. I get giddy imagining the euphoria I'll feel of getting credits on a game that has soundly dominated me throughout life.
Then I lose three lives.
There was a tire, remote control car, cyclone combo that totally ruined me. A dog and skateboarder tandem that I could not evade in time. And that crazy ass lady stormed out of the house one time, caught me off guard, and sent me barreling into a dude on the sidewalk break dancing. Gotta love this crazy neighborhood. I limp across the finish to complete Saturday.
With one life left I'm thinking Sunday will probably do me in. After all, the game does increase difficulty each day. Unless I'm just crazy lucky and pull off the perfect run, I'm back to rubbin' cat tits and beginning at the start screen again. And to top it off, I only have two houses left. If I miss both, I can make it to the end and still lose.
One house that I have left is the very first one. It's usually no problem as shit doesn't seem to get crazy until about a third of the way into the first segment but I'll be damned if I didn't just freaking miss the mailbox. I sent it sailing through the living room window. Crap! Now I really really really have to nail that last house. It's on the back stretch which means I have to survive until then.
I dodge skateboards, dogs, old ladies, guys doing break dances, tires, and remote control cars like crazy. I feel like I'm going too fast so I slow down and try to get in my groove on the grass. As I do a skateboard goes by and there's a tire rolling out, a grim reaper standing in my groove, and a remote control car up ahead. The skateboarder whizzes by (thanks groove), I swerve to the right of the tire, go back into the grass to dodge the reaper, and swerve back on the sidewalk to avoid the toy car just in time to send three papers at the mailbox. Two go through the window but one hits the box and gives me that sound of success. I hit a guy break dancing with a paper for good measure and wheelie into the finish line. "BOOM!" I bellow aloud. Startled, the cat rolls upright quickly as if to be on high alert.
I put down the controller and reach over to console him. After all, it was his good luck charms that resulted in the victory. Seven year old me would be proud, really proud. I close my eyes and try to remember the struggles I had playing it as a kid and trying to relish this moment of triumph.
"Hey grouch, are you going out to get the paper or continue to be a douche this morning?" I heard her say as she entered the room.
"I'm going, I'm going"