Thursday, December 24, 2015

O. Henry's Gift of the Nerdgi

Chester awoke and slowly sat up on his couch and dusted the Dorito crumbs off his vintage Super Mario Brothers shirt. He noticed his cheesy fingerprints on his Xbox controller and remembered the all night Halo and junk food binge. It was Christmas Eve and he was stressed. The late night smorgasbord of killing bad guys and raiding his parents’ pantry of anything and everything tasty did not soothe his distress.
                It had been a hard year for Chester. He had hoped that this was the year he would finally be able to move out of his parents’ basement into his own place and then propose to the love of his life. Unfortunately calling a customer stupid for wanting to get a PlayStation 4 instead of the much superior Xbox one platform is a one way ticket to unemployment town. “Stupid Customer” Chester mumbled as he cursed his bad luck.
His savings were further depleted when he had to stock up on Mountain Dew and Beef Jerky for his weeks long campout for the new Star Wars movie. And while it was worth it to protect his hard earned geek cred, he had no money left to buy a Christmas gift for his girlfriend Sandy. And this was the core of his conundrum. After 36 years, it took meeting Sandy in a Hunger Games fan fiction chat room to get Chester to realize that maybe, just maybe, there was more to life than awesome stuff. He licked the cheese off his fingers and he felt this lesson weigh on him like the Incredible Hulk sitting on his chest.
What could Chester do? His bank account was tapped out. He was too embarrassed to go to his parents for cash. They remind him every time the topic of money comes up that most men his age have their own place to live and a job. Their constant harping is enough to make one give up on their dream of writing comics for a living. Almost, but Chester just knew his comic “My Little Hello Kitty Pony Ninjas of Doom” would be his ticket to the big time. And if his parental units didn’t believe him, Sandy surely did.
“Oh Sandy, what am I going to do?” Chester muttered to himself. He looked around the basement. He had spent years working to get it exactly the way he wanted. Every Marvel and DC poster placed perfectly, every Lord of the Rings action figure placed in the perfect order. Lego sets were lovingly put together and placed around the room. His collections represented a lifetime of building the ultimate shrine to all things awesome. However there was thing that wasn’t in his collection any, and that was his heart. Sandy had it now. Chester desperately wanted to put Sandy’s heart in his collection.  Not in the scary stabby stalker sort of way, but in a totally metaphorical way. He knew he had to part ways with a sacred part of his collection to fund his Christmas purchase for Sandy.
His true love for Sandy dictated his choice. He took his most prized possession, a super rare limited edition gold foiled ultra-mega Pikachu Pokémon card. He stared at it and remembered all the epic battles this card had single handedly won for him over the years. Losing this companion that has been at his side through so many wars was a punch to his gut, but he knew Sandy was worth it.
 The three block walk to the game shop might as well have been 300 miles. He carried the heavy burden of leaving one love behind for the love of another. He only hoped that the money made from this gut wrenching sacrifice would be enough to procure the prize that would be sure to seal Sandy’s devotion to him.
He got a hefty sum for his beloved Pikachu and he was pleased that the clerk at the shop at least understood the value of his prized possession. As he clutched his new wad of cash and fought back tears, he looked around the shop and there he spied it. Up on a shelf, next to a sweet autographed picture of William Shatner dressed as Captain Kirk was the rare Kenner, mint in the box, blue snaggletooth action figure that would complete the ultimate star wars cantina scene that Sandy had spent years trying to put together. And what was even better he had more than enough money. Chester’s body tingled at the thought of Sandy opening up this special gift. He had never done anything like this for someone else before, but then he had never known anyone as special as Sandy. He couldn’t wait for that evening.
After what seemed forever Chester’s phone alarm went off. It was six o’clock and soon Sandy would be there for the gift exchange. He had enough money left over from his purchase that he was able to buy a veritable feast of Jack in the Box tacos for him and Sandy to dine on. The doorbell rang and Chester ran up the basement stairs, through the living room, and threw open the door.
“Hi Sandy” Chester said as nonchalantly as he could, though she looked ravishing in her retro Battlestar Galactica T-shirt.
“Hey Chester”. She replied. A quick embrace followed and they both made their way down into the basement.
“I bought dinner.” Chester pointed to the large bag full of greasy corn tortillas filled with beef flavored soy protein and American cheese and deep fried to oily perfection.
“Thanks” Sandy Replied. “I’m not really hungry. I think I had too many Dorito’s and mountain dews last night during an all-night Fallout 4 marathon”
“Is there any doubt this was the perfect woman for me” thought Chester.
“Anyway, I can’t stay too long, I got a family thing to get to. I got you this present.” Sandy said.  “It’s no big deal” she added as nonchalantly as she could but the excitement was bubbling up inside her.
She handed him a small package and he ripped into the wrapping paper with relish. He marveled at what was inside. It was a custom made, titanium coated, Pokémon card holder. It was inlaid with gold filigree and etched with the message “To Chester, my Pikachu in shining armor”.
“I had it made so you can protect and display your prized Pikachu card” Sandy told Chester
“No big deal?” Chester thought. He held in his hand the most amazing gift he had ever been given. “How could you afford this? I know they cut your hours down at the tattoo parlor” he asked.
                Sandy allowed herself to open up and share her true feelings. “Chester, you mean more than anything to me and these last 6 days have truly been magical. It is true that money has been tight, but I was able to sell my Star Wars cantina action figures and had this custom made for you.”
                Sandy saw Chester’s eyes well up. “Well come on, let me see what this holder looks like with your Pikachu in it” she said.
                Chester grabbed her hand, looked her in her one good eye and told her, “I can’t. I had to make the same difficult decision because of how I feel for you.” He then handed his gift to her which she promptly opened.
                “A ten dollar gift certificate to QT?” she asked puzzled.
                “I know how much you love those buffalo chicken rollers.” He told her. “I just can’t bear the thought of you going to work on an empty stomach. Plus if you wait until after three o’clock the donuts are half off making this almost like a $20 gift card. ” A terse embrace followed and then Sandy left for her family get together.
                As Chester sat on his couch aglow with a feeling of deep satisfaction. This was the best Christmas he could ever remember. As he looked around his room, his eyes met the gaze from his new autographed William Shatner picture and he now understood at last the lesson learned by wise nerds throughout the centuries, that when given the choice between true love and William Shatner, remember, it’s a trick question. William Shatner is true love.