Get Off the Idiot Box

Lucille Hill, his grandmother, is stooped over with arthritis, probably not even 5’3″. Her fingers are crooked, and her back hurts constantly. She frequently has him, his mother, or his brother use a vibrating massager to rub it out at night. She is a direct descendant of many different Mormon pioneers, Clara Mellor of Martin Handcart Company fame in particular.

Not that she would ever let you forget it. She lives with them two to three months out of the year, and if the young man isn’t up by 7 am on a weekend, she can be found in his room making his bed over top of him, muttering things like, “The pioneers were up before the crack of dawn every morning. Couldn’t be sleeping in when winter was closing in.”

“But we live in Texas, Grandma. There is no winter.”

“That’s not the point.”

Or there might be, “Come on now, boy, get up and get perking. You ain’t gonna make it to the celestial kingdom lying in bed, are you?”

“But Grandma, we can’t work our way to heaven.”

“You can sure as hell laze your way to hell, though.”

She has film strips of Johnny Lingo and numerous other Church or Church-adjacent stories. She shows them to the grandkids to keep them on the right track. A hell-fire and damnation Mormon is what the young man will call her in later years.

So one night, his mother is playing Legend of Zelda on the original Nintendo Entertainment System. The young man and Stephen are relaxing on the couch and watching her play. She is in the level 5 castle, and she is about to enter the room with the Darknuts. When he and Stephen were first mastering Zelda, this was the toughest room of the entire quest for them. Grandma keeps walking back and forth through the room with laundry in her arms. The young man cannot believe she has not commented yet. She often says to him, “You ought to get off the idiot box and do something that will get you to heaven.”

She is just now coming back into the room, as their mother opens her attack on the Darknuts. The young man elbows Stephen and whispers, “Watch this.”


He doesn’t respond but calls out, “Hey, Grandma. Look at this room my mom is in.”

Grandma freezes in the middle of the room, laundry basket in her withered hands. She watches for several long moments, as Link chases a Darknut around. Then, on cue, she exclaims, “Oh, hell, it looks like Satan!” She storms off toward their bedrooms with neatly folded piles of their underwear. The young man and Stephen break up laughing.

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