A Friendly Game
©1998 by sunstruck

     They stand as two sentinels on the bare wooden floor. Chipped edges and nicks mar the brown wood, legs scuffed by countless boots and shoes walking past, but, the surface in contrast is kept new and clean, the green as young looking as new plant growth this spring. Empty, except for the blue chalk marked white cue balls sitting in lonely reign atop the tables, they wait for the first customers of the night to dare place two quarters in the slot in their side, releasing the rest of the balls, solids and stripes, one through fifteen, to join the white.

     I walk into the room where they wait, beckoning me, come play us. I ignore their call, instead, rounding them to the far wall where I lay my jacket on a stool, place my bottled water on the shelf used as a table, and go to the dart machine. There is where I place my quarter. Cha-ching. Lights flash as I press the buttons choosing which game I want to play. 301 is my choice. Red plastic house darts are sitting in a can attached to my machine. Already, I feel possessive. My darts. My machine. The game belongs to me. I grab the required three darts.

     I walk back to the yellow tape glued to the floor about six feet away from my machine. Someone has conveniently written DO NOT STEP OVER LINE on the tape with a black marker. Penmanship not overly neat but definitely readable. I mentally thank whomever for taking the time out of, Iím sure, a busy schedule to do this for us. In the heat of the moment, who knows how many people would step over the line whilst tossing their darts. I did wonder what cataclysmic disaster would befall me if I did step over. My head is calm and cool now though and I let the thought pass without tempting fate. The consequences surely would be horrific since someone took the time to warn us. In the back of my mind though, in the heat of battle...

     I wind up and let fly a technically perfect toss. The arc was breathtaking as it flew from my hand aiming towards the bullís eye in the center of the board. Fifty points were to be my award for such stunning accuracy. Except, a gust of wind must have blown in from outside. Thatís the only reason I can think of to explain how my dart missed the center by two feet, bouncing off the wall, clickity-clack, onto the floor back at my feet. I looked across the room at the open door, positive napkins and plates would be strewn all over from such a fierce blow. No napkins, no plates, were sitting anywhere except on the tables in front of the diners. No one else seemed to have noticed the wind.

     With a shrug at how unobservant people can be, I bend over and pick up the dart, without stepping over the line. I wind up once more, let fly, watching, a smile on my face, what is guaranteed to be a bullís eye this time. The dart clickity-clacks, landing at my feet. Picking up the dart, without stepping over the line, I study it. There must be a flaw in itís aerodynamics, or something like that. It looks okay. No holes in it. No missing wing. I put it in my front pocket for safe keeping anyway. Iíll give it to the management when I leave. I wouldnít want my fellow dart players being subjected to unusable equipment. Why should they have to suffer what I went through.

     Mentally patting myself on the back at how altruistic I am, I use the next dart clutched in my hand. Iíll replace the flawed one when I walk back to the machine after tossing my two bullís eyes, one for each dart I have left. This time I change my wind up. I stand more with my side facing the board, like a baseball pitcher. I cock my forward leg up in the air at the same time I lift both hands over my head. My right hand, grasping firmly onto the dart, lowers back behind my head. In smooth, controlled, perfect unison all three limbs move. My leg racing to the floor, left arm flung in front of me, and the hand holding the dart, turning it into an MX missile targeted at the bullís eye, with forward momentum, tosses it true. Thud. No clickity-clack this time. I knew it had to have been the dartís fault. 

     My eyes raise to the electronic scoreboard, waiting for my fifty points to subtract off my starting number. It still showed 301 as my current score. Eyes now glaring, I turn to stare at the malfunctioning machine. My dart had hit the board, all right. Just not in the center, the bullís eye. Not even in any of the other numbers. It had hit in the black outer ring. No points.

     Glancing around quickly to see if anyone had noticed my momentary lapse in concentration, the only explanation I could think happened, I made sure I walked around the yellow tape, not over it, and collected the dart from the board plus a new third dart from the cup holder. I went back to the throwing line.

     This time I didnít do any kind of wind up. I stood facing the board, behind the yellow line, and casually lobbed the dart, that-a-way. It landed on a tiny piece in the middle of a pie wedged shape under the number 17. I looked at the scoreboard. In small digits it showed listed T17. My total score now read 250. T17 must stand for triple 17 which equals fifty-one points which subtract from 301 leaves me 250. Not so hard after all. Iíll have it down to zero in no time at all.

     Confidently, I lob my second dart a little more forcefully. If I got a T17 on the first toss, Iím sure to get a T20 if I throw harder. Thud. Smilingly, I look at the scoreboard once again, expecting to see my score down to 190. Lighted up in big digits is 248. Underneath, next to my T17 is listed, in small digits, S2. Looking back at the dart board, I see the second dart stuck in the top big chunk of the pie wedged shape under the two. Disgustedly, barely looking at the board, I toss my final dart, hoping itíd land somewhere inside the target. Thud. S5.

     Walking around the yellow tape, I go press the change player button, as instructed on the monitor even though Iím only one player, pull darts from the board, again, as instructed on the monitor, and walk back to the throwing line to start my next round of tosses, per the monitor.

     Time passes as I whittle away on my score. Mostly thuds, but, now and again, a few clickity-clacks. My legs start to cramp with all the walking back and forth Iím doing. Iím glad I wore my walking shoes instead of dress shoes. My feet would be bloody raw by now if I had. 

     Finally, my score is down to two points. All I need to do is hit the S2 (Iíve hit it plenty enough times in the last hour and a half) and Iíve won the game. First dart, I gently toss towards the two. A mind numbing buzz shrieks from the machine (taking me back to my high school days and my alarm going off in the morning) as lightening bolts flash across the scoreboard with the word BUST emblazoned on my retinas. Looking back at the board...

     Bullís eye.

     My dart was sticking dead center in the tiny black circle. Now, I get it. Now, I donít want it. I get it anyway. Eventually, the lightening stops flashing and the buzzing stops... buzzing. The monitor instructs me to push the red change player button and remove all darts for the next round. I follow the instructions.

     I can feel my face overheating and sweat running down my sides from embarrassment on how many times the room was awakened from the buzzing and lightening flashes, let alone BUST glowing behind closed eyelids. Praying that this endless game will end, I toss my dart. I watch in slow motion as it sails across the six foot expanse directly at the big section of the pie wedged shape under the two. Starting to relax, my ordeal almost over, I start turning to walk away confident Iíd won. From the corner of my eye, I see and hear clickity-clack. My dart bounced of the S2 spot and landed a couple of feet beyond the yellow tape.

     In the heat of the moment, all I can think of is picking up that frickiní dart and shoving it by hand into the two point piece. Striding across the yellow tape, the one with DO NOT STEP OVER THE LINE written on it, I squat down, swinging my arm at the dart on the floor, picking it up. At this same time, I feel an excruciating jab into the right side of my groin. Slowly straightening up, every little movement adds more burning pain. My eyes start tearing, as reaching into my pocket, I pull out the aerodynamically deficient dart, without the tip on it.

     After placing all darts back into the cup holder, I limp across the yellow tape towards the exit, making sure I step on the words and twisting my foot, smearing a few letters. Walking by the pool tables, now being played upon, someone shouts that I havenít finished my game. I tell them, without turning around, to go ahead and finish it.

     As I pass through the exit I hear behind me a thud, then sirens wailing and victory bells ringing.

The End


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