Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The importance of Pinball

There was young Hiroki Hatayama, sitting in the spooky section of the library, reading by candlelight and fending off the bats that would swoop down and try to bite him on the neck and other exposed skin surfaces. He pored over tome after tome while the lightning continued to strike outside, lighting up the dark corners of the library and making Hiroki promise to himself never to look into some of those corners again.

But it was late, and his eyes were heavy. His head tilted forward just a little, and he dreamt of pinball. Ahh, sweet pinball. I know y'all out there is young and don't recall how important pinball was in the '70s. Let me see if I can spell it out for ya. Pinball was, and I ain't exaggeratin here, really important in the '70s. In fact, I would go so far as to say pinball was really, REALLY important in the '70s. Does that help? I thought it would. I know me and my buddies would go straight to the pizza parlor (where all pinball machines were kept in those days) after a long day of building houses or shaving bears or whatever job we had at the time, and spend hour after hour just watching that silver ball bang and bounce around while the points racked up. Everyone under the age of 60 became a master in the game and, for a time, we considered doing away with elections in the House of Representatives and just selecting people according to pinball high score. I gotta say, after watchin C-Span over the last 20 years, I think we may have been a lot better off if we'd gone with that plan.

Of course, where I was goin with this is that, of course Hiroki was dreamin of pinball. We was all dreamin of pinball at the time. We weren't all bein awakened from out pinball dreams by hearin our name bein whispered, even though we knew we was alone, which is the situation Hiroki found himself in.

"Hiroki..." came the soft, seductive voice, like warm waves crashing over a supermodel.

He awoke with a start, "Wha? Huh? Screw you tilt!! If you weren't aware, this was the most common thing to say when being awoken in the 70s, followed real close by, "Maybe big hair ain't that great," and "Peanut farming rocket scientist!"

Hiroki looked around, but he didn't see nothin or no one who coulda been talkin to him. He was about to dismiss it all as the large peperoni and anchovy he'd had for dinner and go back to sleep, but he heard it again. "Hiroki....Hiroki Hatayama!"

I ain't never been a ninja myself, but I've seen and heard enough about them guys to guess they prolly got themselves a high tolerance for bein creeped out. I mean, a regular guy like me, I see a spider that's got itself a little too much hair and I'm screamin like a schoolgirl and climbin on a chair. Ninjas regularly make pets out of giant, hairy spiders that look like Yetis with eight legs and a dozen eyes, so it takes a whole lot more to creep them out. Hiroki, though, that guy was right creeped out.

He drew his sword and checked that his throwin stars and calipers were where he had left them. Then he dropped back into the shadows like he was taught, becoming part of the background. He slid along the walls like he was made of shadow, scanning around to find the source of the voice. He didn't have to wait long.

"Come on!" The voice yelled out again. "I can still see you, Hiroki! No, don't try to climb that wall. Seriously, I can see you're reaching for a throwing star. Don't bother. Really, I can see you. No, don't pick your...Hey! I didn't need to see that. Wait, no, don't eat tha....EWWWWW! WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?!?!"

Hiroki smacked his lips and dropped his eyes. The source of the mysterious voice had penetrated all his ninja camouflage powers and watched him eat that last slice of peperoni from his pocket. So he went for a different tactic.

"Who are you?" He asked.

"I am the Grimoire of Necrography!"

"You're the...Grim...of..." Hiroki stuttered

"That's right!" The voice said. "I'm the Grimoire!"

"A talking book, huh?" asked Hiroki.

"Yep," the voice responded, "a talking book. Isn't that awesome?!"

"Not really," responded the young ninja. "You're, like, the sixth or seventh talking book I've met in this section of the library. Seriously, it's a wonder anyone can get any studying done in this section of the library, between the talking books and the bats and having only candlelight to read from. There is such a thing as a desk lamp, you know!"

"Woah, hey," said the Grimoire. "Ease up there, little tiger. Don't get your panties all in a bunch. I just wanted to help you out a bit. But if you don't want my help..."

"No, wait," said Hiroki. "I'm tired and frustrated. I didn't mean to take it out on you."

"That's ok," replied the book, "I forgive you."

"So, what did you want to help me with?"

"I know you're looking to help your friend Thomas," started the book. "And I have hidden withn my pages the spell that can do just that. The problem is, though, that it's written in a special invisible ink, so you can't read it."

"That doesn't help me much then, does it?" The young ninja was snarky, like all teenagers get around that age.

"Well," said the book, "it could if you'd just shut up and listen. Look, I can't tell you the spell. But, I've seen the spell used before and I can tell you what you need to read the invisible ink."

"Really?!" gushed Hiroki.

"Really," said the book, smugly.

For the next two hours, the Grimoire of Necrography recited to Hiroki a list of ingredients, quantities and where to get them, while the young ninja wrote everything down. As the sun came up, Hiroki, with new hope in his heart thanked the book and turned to leave the library. The book chuckled lowly to itself.

"What was that?" asked Hiroki, turning back.

"Huh? What?" asked the Grimoire, innocently.

"That sound," said Hiroki.

"What sound? I didn't hear anything?" The book was talking a little too fast.

"It sounded like you chuckled lowly to yourself."

"It...what? No, that's...that's.....well, here's the thing. I was thinking of this joke this other book told me."

"Oh yeah?" Hiroki was suspicious. "What was the joke?"

"It was...um...it...you see, it was a book joke, and you just wouldn't get it. But the punch line is 'rifle, rifle'...."

"Uh-huh," nodded Hiroki. "I guess I'll just be going now, shall I?"

"Yep, sure, go ahead and get those ingredients. Have fun." Shouted the book.

As Hiroki turned to leave, he heard the book chuckling to itself again and decided he should find another library.

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