Leader of the Pac

By Jeanne Marie Laskas
Sunday, June 18, 2006

He's at it again, wowing his fans with his awesome power, agility and strategic good sense. That his game is, well, Ms. Pac-Man, and his fans are his kids, is secondary to the real story being played out on the floor of our family room: In this moment, he is a hero.

"Watch out, Daddy!" shouts Anna. "Those blue guys are gonna turn!"

"Faster, Daddy!" Sasha chimes in. "Eat them before it's too late!

Go, Daddy, go. And here comes the strawberry 'round the bend. Don't waste your time on the little dots when you can chomp down a strawberry and rack up real points. He teaches these techniques. He shows them how to save the big blinking dots for later, when you can use them to lure the bad guys toward you, then gobble those bad guys during their fleeting moments of vulnerability.

"It's timing, girls," he's saying. "It's thinking ahead. A little delayed gratification goes a long way in this game." Anna is glued to the screen, and Sasha is draped over his back, holding on for the ride.

"Hey, champ," I say, from over at my post at the stove. I am stirring spaghetti sauce. I know my place. "Are you going to let the children play, too?"

"We play three games each," Sasha explains. "It's still his turn."

"My turns take a little longer," he says smugly.

And good for him. Go, Daddy, go. He's gone places none of us have ever gone. He's gone to Level 3. Well -- whoops -- not today. His third guy just got trapped in a corner and -- blorp! -- now he's history.

He folds over like he's having a heart attack, hangs his head in agony.

"Oh, Daddy, you were robbed," Sasha says, patting his head. "That was not your fault."

"Yes it was, sweetheart," he says. "Yes, it was."

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