The seventh meeting of Season 4, on April 7, was very sparsely attended; I think it was the fewest attendees since the early days of Season 1. Quite a few stalwarts were missing, including Matt (Aaron took over organizing duties again). Joseph and I had our first absence since joining the League, as we were seeing Walk the Moon in concert at the Fillmore in Detroit. Since I was absent, I cannot report on the events of the night directly; I have, however, spent the last two weeks interviewing witnesses and am now ready to report on the events that transpired.
It was just another ordinary night at the Avenue as the league members warmed up for the night’s competition. Suddenly, the front door flung open, a shot rang out, and the music stopped as the iPod fell dead. In walked a rough-looking character wearing a duster, a black hat, and a bandolier full of pinballs. Someone whispered, “It’s Blackball Bill, the meanest pinball player in six counties!” Two people jumped behind the bar, three dove under tables, and most of the rest went running out the back door, as Bill and his two shady sidekicks strode toward the pinball alcove.
Bill sized up the league members with a cold stare, then said, “Take your little league and get out of here. This is our saloon now.”
Aaron matched his stare with a sardonic sneer. “Oh? Can I see your title? I’ll wait while you go get a certified copy from the Ingham County Register of Deeds.”
The three people who had been hiding under tables decided it was time to make a break for it, and ran out the front door. But the Lansing Pinball League stood their ground. “I tell you what,” said Blackball Bill. “I’ll show you what gives me the right. We’ll have a showdown. Me against one of you, one on one, fair and square.”
It was agreed, and soon Chris stepped forward, or (according to some accounts) was shoved forward by unknown parties. A deal was struck: one game on Indiana Jones, with the loser agreeing to leave the Avenue for good.
Blackball Bill went first and as the rest of the league stood in silent suspense, started a multiball and shot somewhere above a dozen jackpots. His two sidekicks looked at each other and smirked. Chris stepped up, cool and collected, and nearly matched Bill. But on Ball 2, Chris began falling behind. As he casually launched Ball 3, Bill said, “You folks had better start packing.” And then he proceeded to ring up a score so mind-bogglingly high that witnesses were unable to recall exactly what it was. They could only say that the sight of the number filled them with sublime terror and a deep sense of their cosmic insignificance.
Despite the immense deficit between the scores, Chris looked unfazed. He walked up, scrubbed the glass until it shone, then got to work. He shot the mode start, to the amusement of Blackball Bill. “A mode’s not going to save you now,” he scoffed, as the Well of Souls started. But Chris just smiled and then did a complicated series of button presses that no one could quite remember afterward, finishing with a few knocks on the side of the cabinet. The DMD strobed, then spelled out “SOUL SECRET MANIA” as 24 balls exploded into play at once. Chris began hitting the flippers in such a frenzy that the playfield looked like a blur of silver and flashing lights.
Bill stared in shock, then turned and gestured at one of his sidekicks, who nodded understanding and then walked right into Chris’s peripheral vision and began leaning distractingly toward the table.
Sarah yelled, “Hey! That’s playing dirty!” and proceeded to pick up a chair and break it over the offender’s head. The other sidekick rushed toward Sarah, and Alex shoved a table in his way, causing him to sprawl onto it, leaving him helpless as Russell smashed a mostly-empty Mason jar over his head.
“Uh,” said Greg, “It’s not supposed to be doing that, is it?” Everyone looked over and saw smoke beginning to curl out of the machine as Chris kept playing. The 21 balls still in play were causing the bumpers to heat up to such a degree that they were beginning to smolder. After another moment, flames started to dance under the glass.
“Get away, it’s going to catch on fire!” yelled Alex, but Chris shook his head.
“I’m almost there, can’t quit now.” He kept shooting as the fire began to spread, then, just as it reached the flippers, his score passed Bill’s. The rest of the league cheered as Chris let go of the flippers and waited for the balls to drain. Everyone rushed to hug him, but he held a hand up, then turned back to the flaming table and quickly darted his fingers in to tap the melting flipper buttons in order to put up his Grand Champion initials. Then he backed away just in time. With a huge whooshing sound, Indiana Jones was consumed in a fireball. Blackball Bill and his companions slipped out the back door in shame while no one was watching, and Cattie ran over with a bucket of water and doused the fire.
That is what happened at the meeting I missed, as well as I can determine.
The next day, Wednesday, several of the people who had missed on Tuesday did a makeup session – so many, in fact, that it felt like a mini league night. I got put into a group with Sam and Jake, and Joseph joined a group with Mike S. and Matt P. Joseph’s group was also joined by a newcomer to the league, Matt’s friend Avik. As predicted, we did not get to play The Addams Family, as it was still failing to load balls. I had one of my worst nights of the season, about which I think the less said the better. Particularly disappointing was my bad game of Theatre of Magic. I love that table and used to feel pretty handy at it, but lately things always seem to go wrong. Later I watched Avik really put me to shame on Theatre of Magic, doubling my score or better despite it being his first time playing it.
This was my first time bringing my new bunny beer cozy to the Avenue. Months ago I had posted a link to a pattern for a crotched bunny Mason jar cozy on Facebook, and joked that someone needed to make it for me so I could tell my beer from other people’s at league night. I had forgotten all about it until I arrived at my mom’s house for Easter and she presented the finished cozy to me. She knits very well but did not know how to crochet, so she had to teach herself from videos online in order to make it for me. She informed me that she expected to see it on a jar of PBR. Well, here you go, Mom…
I have to get up early on Thursdays so I told everyone up front that there would be no Theio’s for me tonight. Mike worked on me all through the evening and eventually, and predictably, I ended up being cajoled into going to Theio’s with him, Joseph, Jake, and Sam. By the time I got home it was past my bedtime.