Before We Rob This House, Let’s Play Some Skeeball, by Sam Pasternack

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Nice work with the alarm system, Jimmy. Let’s start upstairs. These rich guys always keep their valuables close to where they sleep. There, I see stairs next to the air hockey table and…wait…is that a skeeball machine? In a person’s home? Holy smokes! Jimmy, what do you mean, “Who cares?” I haven’t played skeeball since I was a little kid. I used to go to the arcade every Saturday with my pop and play skeeball for hours. Got real good at it, too. One time I even scored a 700!

What do you mean, “Is that good?” Of course it’s good! I hit the 100-hole five times in one game! Let’s see if we can turn this bad boy on. There we go. Ah, the song of skeeball. You hear that Jimmy? Of course you do, it’s so freakin’ loud. Never sounded this loud in the arcade with Pop, probably because he was always yelling about my poor skeeball form. He said that’s why he was happier when I wasn’t around.

Jimmy, stop casing this joint and come watch me play.

You know, people always say that skeeball is so easy. But it’s not. It’s definitely not. If skeeball was so easy, wouldn’t there be more stories about a fella getting a perfect 900? Wouldn’t that be on the six o’clock news? It’d be much better than highlights from sissy sports like tennis or football. When I was a kid, Pop wouldn’t even entertain the idea of letting me play one of those outside sports. He would bring me to the arcade in the dark of night and crack open a window just enough for me to shimmy through. Then he’d say, “I’m not coming back for you until you get your first 500-point game, and maybe then I will accept you as a son.” And wouldn’t you know it? I got my first 500-point game five days later.

What do you mean, “These rich fellas could come home at any moment and we would be caught standing in front of their dismantled alarm system, so can you hurry up?” How could you think of something like that at a time like this? Can’t you see I’ve got a perfect 600 through the first six balls?

I remember the last time I was perfect through six. Pop was standing next to me, but he wasn’t paying attention. He was talking to Vicky, the girl who took the machine’s prize tickets and gave out the prizes. He’d say stuff to Vicky like, “How many tickets for your heart?” and, “Run away with me so I can leave this eyesore of a kid.” Vicky always thought Pop was funny, and said a million tickets would be enough for her heart. Pop was always real helpful with my tickets. He would take the ones I would win and put them in a safe in the basement. One day, after I came down with tuberculosis and had to stop playing skeeball, I noticed that the safe was gone. I tried to tell Pop, but he was gone, too. So was Vicky.

Jimmy, put down that stack of jewelry boxes and televisions. I’ve got a 700 right now. You may witness history, which is more valuable than anything we rob from these people.

See, it’s all in the wrist. That, and a little bit of luck. Before he left, Pop would take me on the circuit, the circuit of skeeball machines, that is. He always said that what separated the winners from the losers was an extra little bit of luck. That’s when he started forcing me to kiss the skeeball before each turn. It definitely helped. I scored 300 points higher than anyone else when I played the machine at that tuberculosis ward. Pop said he was almost proud of me that day.

What do you mean, “That sounds unsanitary and horrifying. Are you going to kiss the skeeballs in this house?” What’s that supposed to mean? Of course I won’t kiss these skeeballs. It’s poor etiquette to kiss skeeballs in a stranger’s home. Didn’t you ever have manners lessons or nothing?

And why do you care if I kiss the skeeballs, Jimmy? What do you mean, “Given how much you’ve been talking about this skeeball machine, I’m in the mood to play now and would like to have a couple of turns?” What the hell is that supposed to mean? Oh, I think I know what you’re getting at, and the answer is no! No! No you can’t have a turn playing skeeball. It’s my turn. It’s my turn! It’s my turn, Pop! Get away! What do you mean, “Put away that gun! What are you, crazy?” I can take out my gun if I want to! You can’t tell me what to do! I don’t need you, Pop!

BANG!

Great, now I have nobody to play air hockey with.

Sam Pasternack is a writer living in New York City. His work has been featured on McSweeney’s Internet Tendency.

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