Like all circles, my story starts where it will stop. From time to time I like to take some time off from work and spend the week hunting for games in my city and its neighbouring towns. One such place is Elizabethtown KY. It’s about an hour’s drive (give or take) from where I live in Louisville KY. There I found a nice little game shop that sold a wide variety of games. We've all seen them before. This shop was owned and operated by the Skaggs family. They were a very down to earth and friendly people. Their daughter Kori is who I would like to share a few words about with you today.
I can remember opening the door to the shop and being greeted with a polite and warm “Hello”, then a bit of a pause. She looked at me and asked where I had come from as she had never seen my face before. I guess E’town is one of those places where everybody knows who you are. After telling her that I wasn't from around there and that I had driven in from Louisville to search for games, she quickly made a comment about how far of a drive it was just to look for games. She also made it clear that I should have called first so as to not waste gas if I was looking for anything in particular. I was then quickly handed a business card with the shop’s phone number to remedy that situation in the future. I felt somewhat at home within that store, I was amongst my people it seemed and Kori as a person felt good to me very suddenly and very quickly.
“What are you looking for?” she asked me. The truth of the matter was I wasn't looking for anything in particular. I told her I mainly collect NES games. It was then that I was directed over to the NES half of the store. Yes, I said half! The collection of NES games there was massive, mostly common ones. I began my long ritual of the old mental checklist, “got it, got it, don’t want it.” It was then that I came by a nearly complete copy of Metal Gear. I picked it up and began to examine it. Everything was there except for the box. Cartridge, Sleeve, Manual, and what’s this? A map! Metal Gear has always been one of my favourite games on the system but after all this time I never knew the game came with a map! I couldn't get over it. I've never seen a map to Metal Gear before. I looked at the price tag on the cartridge. At $9.99 that was a steal for the game alone. I had to have it! Even though I only wanted the Manual and the Map since I already owned a copy of the game itself.
I picked out four more games to make my total a nice and respectable five. I walked up to the cash register and Kori began to total out my purchase. The last game in the stack was Metal Gear. She
looked at it and smiled, “Big Collector like you and you don’t even have Metal Gear?” That made me chuckle a bit. I let her know the truth. I already owned a copy of the game but I was willing to pay the $9.99 for the manual and map alone. That garnered a funny look from her “You mean to tell me that you would spend 10 Dollars on a little book and a map?” I nodded my head in agreement with wallet in hand. She took the map and booklet out of the sleeve and put them on top of my stack of four. “Merry Christmas then, these are on the house.” It was the middle of summer. I was stunned, how cool, I just got a free book and map to Metal Gear plus a good deal on four new games for my collection. As I was driving home from the store I couldn't stop thinking about how kind and generous it was of her to give a complete stranger something so valuable. As it turns out I was also very blind.
Some months went by and I found myself off of work and heading back to the shop on the hunt again. During the whole drive there I thought about how awesome it was going to be to see my new friend Kori again. This time I had a pocket full of cash to support the store and sort of in my own little way show gratitude and thank her once again. When I arrived at the store the door was closed and on it there was a big graphic with white lettering that read “In loving memory, Kori Beth Skaggs 1984-2012.” It was a door I never wanted to open.
Heartbroken, I got back in my car to sit down and collect my thoughts. I couldn't believe it. I lost a friend as soon as I made one it seemed. Even though I couldn't show her my gratitude I resolved to go in there and spend the money anyway. I wanted the family to have it. It was just money which doesn't mean a whole lot in my book but I wanted to show some sort of support for the family. When I entered the mood in the store was very sombre it just didn't feel right. I didn't ask Mr. Skaggs what happened, I didn't need to know and I didn't want to know. All that mattered is that my friend was gone and I didn't get a chance to tell her how much I appreciated what she did for me. Mr. Skaggs mentioned at the cash register that he was selling the store and that it was time for a change. It was the last time I ever set foot in that store.
After returning home that night, I lit a few candles and said a few prayers. I pulled the map she had given me out of the dust sleeve that housed my copy of Metal Gear and began to stare at it. I replayed our conversation over and over in my head then that question came into my mind again. “What are you looking for?”, “What am I looking for?” I thought to myself. After some thought I came to the understanding of the real meaning of my first trip out there. Staring at that map long enough I began to see through it all. She gave me two maps that day. One was for Metal Gear and one was for life. Through that one simple act of kindness and generosity towards a stranger she proved to me that the person I always was is the person I needed to be. I simply just needed to amplify what was already inside. She already knew what life was all about and she was only 27 years old. To this day those of you that really know me know that I don’t hesitate to tell people how much I care about them because you never know when your time with that person is over.
It’s wild to think that you can spend years working next to people and not bond with them at all and then someone you've only spoken to once in your life can bless you with both a lesson and a lasting memory. Look, I've spent a small fortune on video games. We all have, but the most valuable things in my collection didn't cost me a dime.
Kori, I know these words don’t do you justice. I know they aren't worth anywhere near the maps you've given me but it’s the best of what I have to give and I promise you, This Solid Snake is going to continue the mission. God Bless!
Kori Beth Skaggs
Article by Will Sanders (@kyceltsfan)