Thursday, September 15, 2016

Vignettes by Me, on Themes Picked Randomly: Day 15

Theme 335: Isolation

Fritz led the pinball machine repairwoman, who had introduced herself as “Tracy Truepenny” when she arrived at the pizzeria, to the alcove behind the last booths and pointed out the game that the management had been receiving complaints for, the Abracadabra. Tracy’s face lit up when she came closer to it. In astonishment, she declared it to be “an original electromechanical!” Fritz nodded but was more astonished by Tracy herself.

Fritz now felt glad that his uncle, who owned this pizzeria, had asked him to stay late past closing to watch and assist this repairwoman, though at the time he had chaffed at the request. Tracy was twenty seven and therefore Fritz’s senior by a decade, but Fritz could not keep his eyes off of her flirty red pageboy, her ample red lips, or her pale red freckles.

For her part, Tracy could not keep her eyes off of the red spiral lanes, spinners, and switches on the Abracadabra’s playfield, the red lights behind the eyes of the lurid magician illustrated on the backglass, or the red mechanical wheels of the scorekeeper embedded in the backbox. She fingered the deactivated flipper buttons and asked, “So, what seems to be the problem?”

“Uh, people say they lose their ball for no reason—like it acts like it went past the flippers when it didn’t,” Fritz tried to explain, leaning over the glass so as to watch Tracy watching him. “There aren’t any balls missing, though. I couldn’t get it to do it, but enough people have complained, I guess they aren’t lying.”

“Hm, this game doesn’t have a gobble hole, so … Let’s see if I can reproduce the problem,” Tracy decided. She tore off the “OUT OF ORDER” sign taped to the glass and went behind the machine and plugged it in. LED lights behind the letters of the word Abracadabra twinkled in a rolling wave. As the magician’s red eyes flashed, a reverberating voice intoned, “Abracadabra! Muhhahahaha!” The lightning yellow and red lights on the playboard also lit up in strobing chains. Tracy held out her hand, her thumb brushing Fritz’s chest. “Quarter.”

“Sure!” Fritz frantically dug through his pocket until he found a quarter to place in the Tracy’s waiting palm. “Here you go.”

Tracy dropped the quarter into the slot and rammed the ball into play with the plunger. With her knee, she lifted up the entire cabinet from the front, tilting it to make the ball roll back and forth through the playfield, probing every bumper, target, and lane. Finally, Fritz heard a clunk followed by a series of knocks as the ball rolled back into the trough at the front of the cabinet. “There,” Tracy announced, pointing. “I’ve isolated the problem. There’s a dead bumper here, and the ball landing on it instead of being kicked back has opened up a seamwhere it just so happens to drop down into a basket to the ball trough. Ha!”  

In a matter of minutes, Tracy had pulled off the front coin door; popped the glass up and slipped it out; propped up the whole playfield to reveal its mystifying underbelly of servos, junctions, and wires; soldered new wires into the malfunctioning bumper; and glued a thin strip of wood in behind the playboard, closing the seam. Fritz sat next to Tracy’s toolbox and handed her the soldering gun, the Phillips-head, and the multimeter as she asked for them. Finally, Tracy replaced the glass and the coin door and tested the machine again with a retrieved quarter. It checked out.

Tracy handed Fritz a business card with the words “Truepenny & Daughter Pinball Repair” printed under a smiling cartoon pinball machine. “Please call me if it breaks again,” she said. “I’d be happy to work on it.”

“D-do you mind if I call you if it doesn’t break?” Fritz asked, his stomach knotting.

Tracy gave him a funny look. “You could do that too,” she said smirking, tilting her head while picking up her tool box. “But it wouldn’t do you any good.” She patted Fritz on the shoulder. “Stick to girls your own age.”

Tracy turned to look at the Abracadabra machine a last time and sighed. “It really is a beautiful machine. We’ll send an invoice for the work.” She left though the jingling front door, swinging her clattering tool box.

Fritz watched her leave the yellow street light through the blinds. He stood alone in the dining area, fondling the card she had given him.

Explanatory Postscript: When I say “picked randomly,” I mean picked from a Master List that I’ve compiled of 999 themes intended to serve as creative writing prompts (from the following sources: 501 Writing Prompts; 25 Creative Writing Prompts; Examples of Themes; List of Themes; 365 Creative Writing Prompts; 100 Themes Challenge Writing Prompts; List of Journal Ideas; and Top 10 Types of Story Themes). To pick a theme at random, I roll three ten-sided dice (the first for the hundreds place digit, the second for the tens, and the third for the singles) and find the theme under the number I have rolled. If I hit a theme I have already written on, I roll again. If I ever roll 000, I make up a theme. The Master List is a secret, so don’t ask for it.

No comments:

Post a Comment