And I really hope that a feral owl flies in through your window right now and starts flapping over everything in your living room. I hope it tries to take your cat. I hope a dramatic chase and capture sequence unfolds that ends with you bleeding in a veterinary clinic, telling the baffled vet that "he fought honorably," so that you will be too distracted to ever finish reading this post. Because here are the details that ruin everything:
It was the summer between seventh and eighth grades. I was 13, and slowly being swallowed by puberty like Artax in the Swamp of Sadness. Thirteen is a terrible goddamn age: You have all the deluded self-importance of a teenager, but none of the mental or physical capacities to do anything about it. It's important that you understand that mindset when I tell you what happened next. I was cutting through the park on my way home from the comic book store when a bunch of kids flagged me down.
The first thing they said to me was: "Please, you have to help us!"
If they had said literally anything else, I would have just gone home to masturbate to Nintendo again (or whatever it was we did in the '90s). But they knew the magic words -- the universal, subliminal trick to mastering a preteen nerd. They appealed to me like I was a dragon slayer, and they the hapless villagers who needed rescuing.
"Yes, I shall save you! For I have just finished reading Dragonlance, and I am pretty sure I can do all that stuff!"