Video games had taken over as Beckett's main hobby and interest. Previously, he had taken swimming lessons, and progressed until he reached the 4th grade. As it became more challenging, however, his motivation waned, so his parents let him stop. There never seemed to be any urgency in Beckett's performance. Beckett had also done karate as a child. He did it for a few years; he went through a few belt-changing ceremonies. However, when other kids got better and Beckett started falling behind, his parents let him stop. The combination of Beckett's mother passing away, his father becoming withdrawn, and moving to Vancouver, resulted in Beckett losing his desire to exercise. Despite these lower levels of physical activity, however, Beckett still had it in him to move fast, and the situation seemed to require it.
So Beckett ran.
Beckett ran hard.
Beckett's house was usually a 25 minute walk from school. He was about to make it in 11 minutes. Suddenly, there was some urgency. Beckett knew that if he did not get home in time, life would be over. Video games would be taken away. His computer access would be limited.
For weeks, Beckett would be forced to sit in his room and study and do homework. Once a minimal improvement was made, he might get his life back. The improvement in his school work would be small, but the sacrifice would be immense.
It was a bad deal.
Beckett saw his home and slowed his pace. He took a few moments to calm his breathing. It was close to 4 o'clock and there was still some light out. In Burnaby, the sky was often grey from September until June. If it was not raining, it always looked as though it might suddenly start.
Beckett caught his breath and moved towards the front stairs. The large brown house on Collingwood Drive stood out because of the pink front door. Beckett's father had intended to paint it, but it never happened. He cut across the neighbour's un-mowed lawn and moved towards his house from the right side, avoiding potentially being seen from his father's study window on the left. Beckett climbed the concrete steps, careful with each step to not make a sound. He slowly put the key in the lock. Once in, he turned the key slowly, and firmly lifted the door to prevent the hinge from squeaking.
After entering, he carefully pulled the door shut. He looked down at the floor. No mail had come through the slot on the front door. If it had come, his father had already taken it. Beckett made his way down the hall stepping carefully to avoid the squeaky floorboards. He stayed close to the wall where the floor was less worn. Beckett's uncle and cousins lived on a ranch in rural Alberta. When they would go out in the nearby woods up in the mountains, they had been taught how to avoid making noise in case they came across a bear. Although Beckett's uncle could be obnoxious at times, the lessons still had their use. As he made his way towards his bedroom, he could hear the sound of paper rustling coming from his father's study.
Nuts, Beckett thought. He shrugged his shoulders and frowned. There was no need to hide it anymore. He lifted his leg to start moving towards his room, allowing one of the floorboards to creak. "Beckett? Is that you? Come talk to me please." Beckett's father called.
"Yeah, coming." Beckett responded. He slowly made his way down the hall.
Beckett entered his father's study. Opposite the door and in front of the window that Beckett had carefully avoided was his father's desk. His father was looking forward out the front window. The lamp on his desk was bright, and it hid what little blonde there was left in his father's greying hair. He was still slim despite little effort to eat healthily.
There was an opened letter on the desk; it must have been the one from school.
"So what's happening, Beckett?" His father asked, still looking out the window.
Beckett took a quick breath. He intended to make excuses. Other students are bugging me. The teachers don't like me. But looking at his father's stern expression, he knew it would not work. "I don't know, dad. I don't like school. It's not a lot of fun." Beckett replied.
His father turned in his chair to face Beckett. "It's school; the point is to learn. I'd rather you enjoyed that, but if you don't, well, you need to do the work."
"I'm doing the work, dad. I'm just not... doing it well."
"I thought you were going to make an effort this year. It's barely been a few weeks, and already the principal is concerned." His father responded, holding the reports up.
"Dad, I don't know. I just... don't know."
Beckett's father frowned.
"You know, I remember when you were so excited to go to school, and to go out to all your extra activities."
Beckett stared at his feet.
His father continued. "I just wish I could get you to see that school doesn't have to be this painful experience. There are so many opportunities for you if you do well in school. So many great things to learn about."
"Like what, dad? No one is able to show me why any of this is interesting. We sit in math class and do math problems. We sit in history class and the teacher makes us read books. No one ever tells us why we do it. And now, I have a stupid assignment about a historical figure who's been dead for two million years. It's just so boring."
"Beckett, it's not supposed to entertain you. Your teachers have more important things to worry about than entertaining you. It's supposed to prepare you for the future."
"Prepare me for what? I have no idea why we study this stuff. How is math and history gonna help me find a job?"
"Look, just do the work!"
His father used to be a lot more patient.
Beckett stood quietly. He wanted to be alone, back in his room.
"Beckett, are you listening to me?"
Beckett stayed quiet.
"This assignment, who is it about?"
"Caesar. Julius Caesar." Beckett replied.
"Do you know anything about him?" "Just from TV and video games. He was a leader. He got killed. They mention him in 'Crisis Shock'."
"Who killed him?"
"Other senators." Beckett replied. "In 'Crisis Shock' the leader kills all his advisors because he doesn't trust him. He says, 'I did what Caesar should have done'." Beckett hadn't thought of it until that day, but the programmers who designed many of Beckett's favourite video games loved to include ideas and references from history. Many of them, however, went unnoticed by Beckett and his friends. Although Annie didn't know much about them either, she did seem to have become more curious in recent months.
"See? History doesn't have to be so boring, then, does it?"
"I guess not. Does this mean I can play video games this weekend?"
"No. When is the assignment due?"
"In two months."
Beckett's father looked towards the closet. "Let's see if I can find it." He said as he got up and went into the study's closet. After rummaging around for a few minutes, he pulled out a cardboard box and set it down on the carpet. He removed the lid and began pulling out books. "I think I have a few books on Rome here."
"I guess this is my weekend, huh?"
"Yup, I've already locked your video games up, and your computer locks are on as well."
This was his father's favourite move. If video game privelidges were suspended, then his father would take away the game console. He would also activate the parental controls on Beckett's computer. Beckett still had the ability to play games on his phone, but these games were boring. They usually lacked the story lines and action that Beckett preferred in his video games. Considering how little Beckett enjoyed them, getting caught playing one of these games was not worth it.
Beckett's father found the books he was looking for. "Here you go, son." Beckett's father said, handing him a large book. Beckett read the title: The Roman Empire. "This one might help too." Beckett looked at the second book: Caesar, the Gallic War. "This is about how he conquered Gaul, which is France today. It's a tougher read, but maybe you'll get something from it. You can still use your computer, but I've put the games lock on it. Stick to wikipedia and other history websites."
Beckett took the books in his hand and looked briefly at the covers. The Roman Empire had an image of Roman soldiers marching. The Gallic War had a face on it, Caesar's no doubt. He noted the large forehead and nose. Beckett felt a brief feeling of courage. I'm going to work hard and get right to work on this, he thought. He felt a surge of energy come over him. He opened The Gallic War to a random page and read a few lines; the feeling disappeared. The feeling was replaced with a a sense of dread. How am I going to get this done? Beckett thought to himself. He tucked the books under his arm and headed towards his room.
"Beckett," his father started. "Let me know how it goes. It can be complicated, but I can help you if you get stuck on anything."
"Thanks dad." Beckett replied. But Beckett knew that he probably wouldn't ask for help. It wasn't that he didn't need the help; it was that Beckett typically didn't do enough work in order to have a good question. Beckett could never ask for help because he never got far enough or deep enough into an assignment to ask a question that showed he had done the work.
I'd rather be playing Crisis Shock, Beckett thought. He entered his room, put the books on his desk. He sat down and opened The Roman Empire.
Before he got even one word in, Beckett looked at his computer. He moved the mouse to wake up his computer, and opened a browser, which went right to youtube.com. Beckett typed Julius Caesar into the search bar. I'll start with a video, he thought. But then he looked back at the book. On the first page he saw a painting of a man on a horse crossing a river. 'Julius Caesar crosses the Rubicon', the caption read.