We used to play a game when I was a kid. This would’ve been when I was 9 – 11 or so. 3rd through 5th grade. We’d play the USS Bonzo after school. The Bonzo was an imaginary space ship of our creating. It was equal parts inspired by “Star Wars” and “Star Trek”. It’s name came about, I believe, because of our limited knowledge of then President Ronald Reagan. He was in a movie called “Bedtime for Bonzo” featuring the future president acting with a monkey named Bonzo. I’ll let you fill in your own political jokes here __________
The main three players of the game were myself, Sean Gahagan, and Chris Rivera. We would later add Pat Maloney to the crew and that’s a little bonus story unto itself.
We’d get together at Chris’s house after school and go to the basement. He had a partially finished basement with a tile floor and a bunch of furniture. There was a large leather easy chair that I would take the cushion off and prop in front for the pilot seat and front control panel. (I was the pilot, by the way.) To the left of me was the navigator and weapons station, Sean was in charge of that. He had a stool and a table on it’s side in front of him. The table on it’s side gave him a four-pronged laser cannon. To my right we lined up a row of dinning room chairs that served as a side of a ship as well as the air-lock and entrance to the cockpit. All along the back wall there were built in cupboards, that I don’t think had much in them because we’d crawl inside to repair the engine or hide when enemies took over the ship.
The over-arching plot was a combo of “Star Wars” and “Star Trek”. Sean and I had built the Bonzo, it was “our” ship, but due to a galactic war of some sort, our ship was pulled into military service and was assigned Chris as our commander. But he was from the Galactic military and was a rule follower. I always pictured that he was dressed in the crisp red uniforms from “Star Trek: The Motion Picture”, very professional, whereas Sean and I were dressed as twin Han Solos. (Han Duo?)
Sean and I also had individual “computers” that would help us out, give us answers, but mostly forward the plot of the story. His was named Simon (it was the electronic game “Simon”, you know that plastic circle with four big buttons on it) Mine was called Herbie (it was knock off of the Simon game. It was basically the same thing, but smaller and rectangle shaped.)
I recall spending hours sitting in the cockpit/leather easy chair a couple of feet away from a wood panel wall. Staring at the knots in the wood, pretending they were astroids or enemy ships. Often I’d get an alert from Herbie about upcoming dangers. I’d make a beeping noise and pretend that a paper slip came out with a printout of whatever warning. Sometimes, if I didn’t know what to do or say, I’d print it out and say “oh oh, Sir, read this.” and hand it to Chris or Sean.
The day would usually end with the Bonzo crashing so we could go through the exciting drama of knocking our ship apart.
We had played it a number of times, when our friend Pat Maloney wanted to play with us as well. I never felt like I was a popular kid in school, or a bully, or anything really. I seem to recall comparing myself to Charlie Brown in that I was just boring and/or normal. But, when I look back on how we treated Pat, it makes me think that bullies come in all shapes, sizes and methods.
We made him second in command under Chris, so he never really got to do or decide anything. There was a raised cupboard to the side of the Bonzo set-up that you could enter from the bottom. We’d sometimes use it as our escape pod or landing craft to explore planets. What we’d do is constantly assign Pat to go on mission outside the ship in the Pod.
So, basically, we’d lock him in a cupboard by himself and continue to play without him. Every so often he’d give us an update by yelling from inside the cabinet and I think we just ignored him.
I don’t know how long he stayed with the crew. I only recall one day’s worth. I can’t blame him if he did leave.
So, why am I telling you all of this? Well, it’s a story. I find it entertaining and interesting. There’s more I could, and probably will say about this time of my life (a lot happened around that age.). But, the original reason I thought of this was using it a story. I was reflecting on a pile of stuffed animals that my daughter has. We call them “The Crew”, and they’ve all got individual personalities and could potentially go on all sorts of adventures. I was thinking about them and the adventures we could create when the USS Bonzo floated to mind.
I had started writing a story about the Bonzo when I was in college. It would be about us as kids playing this game, but then we grew up to be actual space adventurers. As with most stories (I’ve got notebooks full of false starts) this one is shelved somewhere to be brought to life someday, or not. Perhaps this is the only form it will be told.