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The Perfect Machine

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  • The Perfect Machine

    A short story from years ago I hope some may find amusing....


    I not only once saw the perfect machine, I even played her. It was many years ago in a place I wish I could remember; somewhere on the Northern New England coast. But I remember her all right, and how she felt in my hands, and the impact she left on me and my adolescent memories.

    I remember I first saw her in the corner of a dark and dingy pool hall. She stood proudly all by herself on all fours, her hypnotic, flashing baby blue lights silhouetting her majestic body in the dampened darkness. I was young and inexperienced, but she didn’t mind, nor could she, for she was coldly and sleekly immune to all that marveled her.

    As I approached, her features became more apparent. They were unique and excitingly unfamiliar to me. I reached out and touched her sides and I got the slightest tingling of electric shock that stirred something deep within the primal me. As I peered down in wonder at her amazing playfield, I caught a glimpse of my own awe struck face reflecting back at me off of her polished, gleaming glass.

    I looked around. The atmosphere was worthy of her presence. It had the right amount of sand and grit upon the floor to grind you feet into, the right amount of salt and sweat in the air, and just the right amount of dim, smoke hazed light to illuminate her angelic shape.
    I placed my hands upon her and felt the smoothness of her buttons, they were soft and sensitive and slightly slippery, undoubtedly from the hundreds of hands that have been on her in times gone by. But now, she was mine, all to myself, and I would try my best to make her mine.

    I reached into my damp suit for the lone quarter that I knew I had and gently dropped it into her waiting slot. She acknowledged my offering with a low audible chirp, and as I pressed her button she sprang to life in awe-inspiring vigor; a crackle of electricity and the wondrous sound of re-setting electronics and finely tuned mechanics. I tested her twin set of flippers, and they were all strong and true, striking forth with lightening snap. Her play field was a treasure trove of delights; sloping ramps and mirrored spinners and bright cherry red bumpers. Drop targets stood like poised front line soldiers waiting untimely demise. Her multiple eject holes awaited to be filled by spinning balls of silver. Her stunning artwork, alive with deep, rich colors, wrapped her in high tech, erotic bliss. She was an exquisite palette of color, light, and imagery; a marvel of artistic technology and geometric perfection, and I sadly only had a quarter dollars worth to try and make it all worth.

    With calm precision, anticipation, and a deep breath, I pulled her plunger deep and let it loose.

    I wish I could tell you that I made her mine that day. I wish I could tell you that I played her for hours on end and explored her every curve and swoop. I wish I could tell you that I had her so lit and ready that every motion of my ball had her exploding with bells and whistles, and she had no choice but to offer me the elite privilege of leaving my own initials upon her body in flashing lights for the entire pinball world to see. I wish I only could.

    But the sad fact is that I lasted less than two minutes. Before I knew it, she had swallowed all my balls one right after the other. The first two I lost down the left outlane after a pathetic, uneventful stroll through her upper playfield, and the last one right down the middle as I cracked a fingernail attempting a frantic, last resort, two flipper slap save. No extra ball. No replay. Nothing. To add insult to injury, I didn’t even come close to matching, and my score didn’t even crack six measly digits.

    As I stood there in stunned silence and contemplated how such a catastrophe could have possibly happened, it dawned on me that I was learning one of life’s great lessons. As with so many things, beauty can be deceiving, and it’s temptation can lead to self regret, a suffering soul and most of all, empty pockets. All that glitters truly is not gold, and this machine, this perfect machine, helped me learn that in a hard, cruel way.

    I don’t remember when and where I saw her, I don’t even remember her name, make or model. But I do remember the brief moment we had together, and how I searched for her in years to come in the darkened corners of arcades and shady poolhalls, hoping for another chance to prove myself worthy, but it never came, and so it was probably better. I’ve beaten many machines since then, but I never again saw one as fine as her, and I probably never will, but I’ll always have a few quarters jingling in my pocket just in case out paths happen to cross again.

    Thanks for reading. Good flipping luck to all.