An excerpt from Silence of the Stars, and also an excerpt from my life. Knowing how to launch the ball is easy, but keeping it in play…not so much.

I plugged in the pinball machine, and its bells and sounds brought back many memories, some fond and some not. The basement was bare when he showed me the place back then, and it was really done up nice now. While the pinball machine was warming up, I went back into the utility room where the furnace and water heater were, and noticed a door beyond that I hadn’t seen before. I opened it and flipped on the lights. It was just another storage room and even though it was under the house it was very cold. There was my old motorcycle, the overpowered dirt-bike I begged my dad to buy me for my birthday. I hadn’t been on it since I accidentally laid it down on a gravel road, resulting in a trip to the hospital with the mother of all road-rashes. That motorcycle was the beginning of my troubles, the troubles that I felt like caused my parents to finally divorce.
It was the summer I turned fifteen, and without a single bit of malice in my heart and soul, I somehow became a demon possessed by the devil, or so it seemed. My first nefarious act was meeting a girl on the beach in Panama City, Florida. She was cute and a good kisser, so we found a chaise lounge chair in a darkened place on the beach and made out until I completely lost track of time. When I got back to the hotel, there was a policeman in the room and my mom was crying. They thought I might have drowned because I hadn’t returned, so they called the police. Just as the officer assured them, I had met a girl and lost my mind like teenage boys are wont to do.
Then, weeks later on a weekend trip to the lake, I met up with one of the kids who lived with his parents down the cove. My folks weren’t poor by any stretch but these people were rich and a little snotty, and he was very spoiled. I didn’t really like him much, but he was the only guy my age around at the time. Several college boys were there and they were drinking beer and offered me one. The Martins had let me have a single beer and I didn’t even feel it so I figured why not? After about six, I was feeling good, so when I was offered a boiler-maker, I knew that would make me feel really good. I had several, and unfortunately, a good twelve hours passed that I don’t even remember. I woke up in my bed the next morning, and my parents were too furious and dismayed to even talk to me. I tried to eat breakfast, but wound up getting sick and feeding it to the fish off the end of the dock. I was promptly put on restriction, and was actually grateful for it. Confined to my room and my house, I couldn’t cause any more trouble for them or for me.
I was a good kid after that. Summer was over and I went back to school, studied hard and got good grades. Most of all, I stayed out of trouble, shunning my friends and almost all social gatherings. But one day coming home from school while deep in thought, I ran a stoplight and wiped out a Mercedes Benz. Both cars were totaled, and thankfully no one was hurt, but after that, Mom and Dad seemed to argue day and night. I could hear them from my bedroom downstairs late into the night and I just knew it was all my fault.
The final straw was getting arrested for beating up that asshole from Clairmont High. That was the beginning of the end of my parent’s marriage. They divorced, and I had a feeling that they might have stayed together if they could have divorced me instead.
I pulled the pin back and launched the ball into play, and the machine went off with all the bells and sound effects that I loved so much. I batted the silver ball around a bit and everything was going well. The points were dinging away and I was feeling like a hotshot, until it bounced off a bumper and went straight down the drain, out of reach of the flippers.
Story of my life.
Maybe I needed to stop playing the game.
It wasn’t my fault that I was always trying to take it to the next level, it’s just how I was. I was curious. I was motivated. I was creative and I always wanted to see how far or how fast I could make everything go. But now I was beginning to realize that it led me into trouble almost every time. My dad was hardworking and ambitious too, and that’s probably where I got it from, but for some reason he seemed to have mastered control of it and I hadn’t.
Another ball popped out and I stared down at the glass and all the blinking lights, then pulled the pin back and launched it up again.

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