For those who haven’t already read them, you can find links to the previous chapters here:
Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9
Chapters 10 and 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13 Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16 Chapter 17 Chapter 18 Chapter 19 Chapter 20 Chapter 21 Chapter 22 Chapter 23 Chapter 24
It took no time to get to the bowling alley, even in the Weed Wagon. I had wanted to take the KZ, just in case I was ready to leave before Weed. Unfortunately he seemed to know exactly what I was thinking and insisted on driving so I was left to his mercy. But I still wasn’t sure why we didn’t take the Chevette. It may not have looked much better than the mail truck but at least it was faster.
“Look man, maybe this wasn’t such a good idea.”
“Too late now,” he said, grabbing the keys from the ignition and sliding open the mail truck door.
“You know I can hotwire this thing with the screwdriver in the glovebox, don’t you?”
I was only half joking.
“Don’t make me get the cattle prod,” he said, motioning to the toolbox behind his seat.
Unfortunately I had no idea if he’d actually brought it.
We sat staring at each other with our poker faces on for at least a minute, before we both started cracking up.
“Fine,” I replied, “but if we’re doing this I’m going to need a little helper.”
“I’ve gotcha covered,” he replied, pulling out two Big Red bottles.
I knew Weed, so I also knew there was no way it was red cream soda in them.
“Nah, that’d probably be a little too much. It’s MD 20/20.”
“Mad Dog? Good choice.”
“I’m glad you approve. Now can we get in there and have a little fun?”
I took a big drink from the bottle Weed handed me and scanned the parking lot. It was still pretty early but the place was already almost full. That meant we’d probably be waiting on a lane or any of the video games in the arcade. I took another drink, then finally turned back to Weed. The look on his face told me he wanted to be there even more than I didn’t want to be there, so there was no way I could make him leave but I couldn’t resist making him wait just a little longer either.
Pulling a cigarette from my pack, I patted my pockets, pretending to not be able to find my lighter. Exasperated, he pulled out his butane powered torch and lit it for me, then climbed out the door.
“Now I’m going in, with or without you,” he said, slamming the door shut.
“I’m coming, I’m coming,” I replied. “Don’t get your panties in a bunch.”
“They’re your mom’s panties, so…”
“Wow, you did not just go there.”
I couldn’t hear his reply over the sounds of Mötley Crüe’s Girls, Girls, Girls, spilling from the doorway as we went inside but the grin on his face told me he was very pleased with himself.
As I had feared, the place was packed. Groups of teens were hanging out around the various tables, collecting their bowling shoes from the counter, or just hanging out in any space they could find. We couldn’t see the actual lanes from just inside the door but based on the scoreboards shown on the televisions hanging above each one, I was pretty sure they were all taken.
“We might’ve been better off staying at your place.”
“Nonsense,”he replied. “First of all, we got your pathetic self out of the house.”
He wasn’t wrong.
“And second of all,” he rambled on while scanning the various groups around us, “If we’d stayed there, you’d have zero chance of getting to second base with some hot chick.”
“I don’t know,” I replied, “I think your mom has a thing for me…”
“You know you deserved that.”
“But come to think of it, I could do worse for a step-dad…”
“Okay now you’re just taking it a little too far.”
“Maybe a little, so how about we turn our attention to all the possibilities surrounding us.”
He made a good point. There were plenty of girls hanging out everywhere, and a lot of them seemed to be unattached, but even if luck was on my side, I wasn’t sure I was ready to just hook up with some random hottie.
“I thought you said I needed a night of video games?”
“Video games, bowling, girls, there’s no reason we should limit ourselves to just one form of entertainment.”
It was really hard to argue with that logic.
“How about you scout out the arcade while I check out the lanes?” He said.
“And should I be looking for open games or girls?”
“Yes,” he said, before turning and heading into the crowd.
I thought about heading right back outside, but I hadn’t been to the bowling alley for quite a while so I was a little curious if they’d updated their arcade selection.
It took a couple minutes, and a little too much maneuvering past too many people for me to reach the entrance of the arcade area. There were no overhead lights on inside, but the flashing screens from each game cabinet provided more than enough light to make my way from one machine to the next. Many of them were the same old games that had been there forever, but I did find a few new ones.
There were a couple guys with light guns in their hands, ducking for cover, then popping out to mow down an army of bad guys, trying to get through the levels of Time Crises before time expired.
Another updated machine featured the newest version of Tekken, which allowed the players to join together in team battles against the never ending stream of opponents. The graphics on the cutting edge game, and the game play itself, looked amazing but there was a line of guys waiting at each machine for their turn. I really wasn’t in the mood to stand around, watching and waiting so I moved on.
Towards the rear of the arcade area were the older games that didn’t have the flashy graphics or immersive 3D worlds of the newer ones. Dig-Dug, Q*bert and even Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles had become too oldschool for a lot of people, but not for Weed and definitely not for me. We still prefered Out Run to newer racing games like Cruis’n USA. Not that the new games weren’t enjoyable, but they didn’t quite hold the same appeal. And on the plus side, there were a lot less people waiting to play them.
Some obvious noob had just missed an easy jump over a barrel on the first level of Donkey Kong, using up his last life and the last of his patients as I walked up to the machine.
“Stupid game, not even worth playing,” he grunted as he walked away. I had to laugh at him as I grabbed the joystick to try my hand at it. Not because of his reaction, but because I remembered being just as bad when I first started playing. The game, like most older games, really was about timing and reflexes. Thankfully I had gotten much better in the hours of practice I had, before I got into cars.
The screen finished flashing “Game Over” and I was just about to press the start button when Weed appeared beside me.
“What are you doing?”
“You said games or girls,” I replied. “This was what I found.”
“Okay, it may be true that I said that, but you know girls trump games.”
“And if you look around, you’ll notice there really aren’t any in here, so Donkey Kong it is.”
“And if you’ll look around, you’ll see two hotties headed our direction now,” he replied.
I followed his gaze back towards the entrance to the arcade area, but the only girls I saw kept walking right past on their way to the bowling lanes and concession stand.
“Okay, so they might still be another minute,” he said, turning back to me, “but not long enough for you to get in a whole game of DK.”
“And what happens if these imaginary girls don’t show?”
“They’re coming,” he continued.“And besides, I got us a table.”
“Really? That was quick.”
During Rock N Bowl the pool tables only cost a dollar an hour, so even the guys who didn’t want to throw balls down the lane or or mash buttons of the video game machines all night usually showed up for the cheap 8-ball which meant there was usually a list a mile long waiting for one.
“How much did it cost you?”
“Mikey was working the counter so we got off cheap; one joint now and one when we leave.”
“And it’s ours for the night?”
“As long as we want it, or at least until his shift is over at 2:00.”
“I knew there was some reason I kept you around.”
“You mean besides my amazing personality?”
He couldn’t even say it with a straight face.
“So what table did we get?”
“Table eight in the corner.”
“Works for me.”
Weed racked the balls as I found each of us a cue that was relatively straight. Nine ball was my prefered game but Weed liked 8 ball, so that’s what we started with. After all, it was his joint that got us the table.
“And you’re sure these girls are actually coming?”
“And you’re sure this isn’t just like what happened at the party?”
“It’s funny you should say that,” he replied with a grin.
I didn’t know what to say when he pulled a wallet from his pocket, the same wallet that had been stolen from him the night of the party.
He just continued to grin at me for a second, then glanced over my shoulder and waved.
As I turned around I saw two smiling girls headed right towards us, one of which looked like the cute little cheerleader Weed had left me for just before my accident.
“Please tell me this is some sort of joke.”
“Not at all. Apparently that night was some sort of cheerleading initiation thing. The next day she felt bad, and must have liked something I did, or something she saw, because she’s been looking for me ever since. She and her friend actually came here tonight because she heard we used to come here.”
“I believe that she felt bad for you, I mean, we all do, but…”
“Shush, now be cool.”
The girls reached the table, and with mostly-sober eyes I realized Weed’s thief wasn’t quite as young as I’d remembered, but I was still sure she wasn’t an upperclassman, though that really didn’t matter to Weed. Her friend, though, I recognized as a senior, but we didn’t run in the same circles at all, so I wasn’t sure what her name was.
“Tiffany,” she said, introducing herself as the younger one, Stephanie, moved next to Weed.
“Yeah, I kinda know that.”
“The whole walking out on Mr. Baker’s class thing, and then saving Ms Reader from the burning car…”
The memory of Ms. Reader brought back some dark thoughts, and apparently I did a horrible job hiding it.
“I’m sorry,” she said, gently touching my arm. “I didn’t mean to bring up, you know, I just meant that pretty much everyone knows who you are now.”
“I don’t know if that’s such a good thing…”
“So Nate,” Weed said, saving us from our awkward conversation. “I promised these ladies that we would teach them how to shoot pool.”
“Don’t you think someone should teach you first?”
The girls laughed and Weed started to turn red, so it was a good start to the night, at least for me.
Weed teamed up with Stephanie for the first game, which gave me Tiffany. To my surprise, though, Tiffany didn’t seem to need me to teach her a thing about pool. Weed broke, sinking the ten and the four balls. He tried to pocket the six, but missed and scratched instead.
I’ve got this one, Tiffany said, grabbing the cue ball from Weed.
She then proceeded to sink the two, three and six balls before finally missing a tough bank shot on the yellow number one. Weed and I just stared, and even Stephanie seemed surprised by her friend’s sudden skill. I would have thought we were being played, except she was on my team, and there were no stakes.
“Don’t worry about that,” Weed said to Stephanie, “It must be beginner’s luck. We can still rally.”
Standing behind her, with his arms around hers, Weed helped Stephanie grab the cue and line up a shot. They seemed to be taking a lot more time than necessary, and both seemed to be enjoying the whole process. Tiffany and I just kinda looked at each other.
“Maybe we should give them a little space,” she said to me.
“Maybe,” I replied, “but knowing Weed it won’t take long.”
The words came out of my mouth just as Stephanie was about to take her shot, but the sudden burst of laughter made her miss the cue ball completely, and hit the nine ball right next to it.
“Hey now,” Weed said, but I wasn’t sure if his objection was to what I said or to his partner’s reaction.
“I believe that’s another scratch,” Tiffany replied, handing me the cue ball.
Several hours, and way too many games of 8-ball later, I found myself out in the parking lot, smiling, laughing and feeling much more relaxed than I had in quite a while. I really wasn’t sure where this thing with Tiffany was going to go, or if I wanted it to go anywhere, but what I did know was that she was leaning against her car waiting for me to kiss her. I took a step forward, but before I could make my move, she leaned forward and kissed me.
It had been a while since I’d kissed a girl but it was by far the best one I’d ever had. There was an excitement and a passion in it that told me she wanted me, and at that moment I wanted her too. She wrapped her arms around me so I moved my hand to caress her neck and that’s when the images came flooding in.
Instinctively I pulled back.
“What’s wrong?” She asked.
The shock on her face probably mirrored the look on mine.
“Nothing’s wrong,” I lied. “That…was great…”
“I thought so too…So why aren’t we still doing it?”
The look on her face was part anticipation and part hurt. And I didn’t want to hurt her.
“I’m sorry, I…uh…just remembered that we were supposed to pick my mother up from work.”
“Like, ten minutes ago,” I said, looking at my watch.
I turned around and Weed had stopped his makeout session with Stephanie and was staring over her shoulder at me with a confused look on his face.
“I’m sorry,” I said to all of them. “I really am, but Weed, we need to go.”
Like the true friend he was, Weed backed my play. He even waited until we were a block away from the bowling alley before he ripped into me.
“What the Hell man?”
“I’m sorry, really, really sorry.”
“Please tell me there is some really, really good explanation for why I don’t still have Stephanie’s tongue in my mouth.”
“Because I touched Tiffany.”
“That’s kind of how making out works.”
“And when I touched her…the images started coming…”
“So it’s not something you can turn on and off?”
“So what’d you see?”
“Nothing really, I pulled away as soon as they started because I didn’t want to see anything.”
“Why not? You could see all of her dirty little secrets.”
“That’s what I’m afraid of.”
“There’s nothing wrong with knowing how kinky she really is.”
“That’s the problem, I don’t just know if she’s had lustful thoughts, or if she’s lied, or simple things like that, I see it all.”
“And…what if she’s done something really bad?”
“How bad could it be?”
“I’m not sure I want to find out.”
“Why not? What if she’s a sex fiend?”
“Good point,” I replied, “but what if she’s my last assignment?”