100 Stories about 100 People. #87. Will H.
Ever since I was a young boy I've loved the silver ball. It's not just a great opening lyric to a song, it's a fact of my life. I love pinball. It's about skill more than memorization like many of the video games that replaced it. The flip of the wrist, trying to get the ball into the right target and respond fast enough to keep the ball in play. You have to try and cheat to keep the ball from going down the drain without the machine notice. Pinball is a fantastic game and I always wanted to own a table. Thanks to Will, I got my wish.
Will owned a game store called Enigmas. He specialized in foreign games and he did rather well for a while. He had his wife Cass run the store when he wasn't there. She was less the business type and more the stern mother for all the kids that showed up. Their daughter Becka was the precocious child that spent her youth looking cute. She also gave me a bloody nose and nearly fought me for my pet squirrel, but she was cute anyways. It was the middle class dream and they seemed happy.
Will did have one flaw, he was way too trusting. He gave 'friends' jobs that would turn around and stab him in the back. He would loan money that was never paid back. It began to wear on him, and he could frequently become snappish. He finally decided to take collateral for loans after another 'friend' left him holding an IOU. Another of his regulars needed a $500 loan, Will said he needed collateral before he loaned that much cash. The guy had a pinball machine. The man got his loan.
Two weeks later I walked into Enigmas and Will was livid. I on the other hand was rather happy, just getting a large tax return. The gentleman that he loaned money to had taken the money and moved out of state, leaving Will with a pinball machine he didn't want. Will angrily told me he had a Johnny Mnemonic pinball machine and he just wanted his $500 back. I told Will I had $500. Will then told me I had a pinball machine. It need work, but it was a functioning pinball machine.
A pinball machine is both a simple machine and a horrifically complicated machine at the same time. It consists of lots of small parts with childish names. Bumpers, flippers, kickers, spinners and plungers are all common parts of the machine. A pinball machine has a thousand different parts, easily. Getting them all to work at the same time is the problem. I learned more about reading schematics from that pinball machine than anything else ever taught me. The instruction manual alone was over two hundred pages. Now you know why Will was so quick to get rid of it.
I kept that machine for years before somebody offered me a healthy sum of cash for it. Will has long since moved away with his family. Enigmas was shuttered years ago and the regulars have gone their own ways. I do owe Will gratitude for helping me finish a life dream. Now to just earn enough to afford another one.