The alleged snipers were caught and it is now safe to go out in the streets. I paid a visit to the Folsoms to see if they were all right.

The reason I was so concerned is that Carla Folsom was hysterical during the past several weeks.

She said, "I can't understand how anybody could do what they did."

"It's hard to figure out."

Just then Jimmy, the Folsoms' 12-year-old, came into the room. He said, "Do you want to play a video game?"

Carla said to me, "Go ahead. He's been cooped up for three weeks."

We went to the rec room.

"What do you want to play?"

"I don't care."

"How about 'Hitman 2: Silent Assassin'?"

"What else do you have?"

"Here's one. 'Splinter Cell.' You have the right to spy, steal, destroy and assassinate to protect American freedoms. If captured, your government will disavow any knowledge of your existence."

"Is that all you've got?"

Jimmy kept going through his collection. He read from a cover. "It's time for a little urban renewal. Take command of 120 fully armed, fully loaded Meganites and stop the apocalyptic Volgara invasion through our cities. It means you have to knock down buildings and crush some pedestrians. We didn't say it would be easy but, hey, nothing is."

I picked up another game and read, "Give peace a chance. The lines of good and evil have been drawn. Your weapon is a walking death machine and your mission is to destroy everything on the planet."

Carla came down to the basement. "How are you guys doing?"

I said, "We're having a problem picking the most frightening one."

"Jimmy has one of the best collections in the neighborhood."

"The violence for a 12-year-old boy doesn't bother you?"

"It's just a video game. By the way, Jimmy has given me a list of the new ones coming out for Christmas."

Jimmy said, "I can't wait for 'Car Stealers,' 'Torture in Iraq' and 'Blowing Up Public Schools.' "

"They all sound interesting," I said. "In my day we played Elvis Presley records. Now video games seem to be the indoor sport."

Carla said, "Thank God. It got Jimmy through the sniper crisis. He couldn't sleep while the snipers were out there."

Jimmy said, "How about 'Saving the Human Race -- No Matter What the Cost'?"

"Suits me," I said. "It makes you think."

(c)2002, Tribune Media Services