My life so far, Episode 12: Pinball exploits
Letters : 14066 Words : 2621
Finally, the pinball game. It's a little weird, we admit it, but what's important isn't the pinball itself. It's the chemistry between the four, the friendship being built. The influence on Julie. And it's a light episode before the next one which is a lot more serious.
To say we made it to the common room is an understatement. Lucy and Carter were in the back, holding hands and whispering to each other, laughing like lovers do.
I can't exactly put my finger on why I didn't think they were laughing at us, but I somehow knew this was between them. They were a couple, and this was them, talking about each other.
My reaction was to be blessed to witness it, not ashamed that maybe, I was the problem. It was a refreshing change.
"Lucy is so fucking cool", told me Mindy
"I know, right?"
"I want to be her when I fill up. I mean, she told me the most wonderful thing"
And that is where telling the story after the fact is a problem.
I recall being jealous of what Lucy told Mindy, like, highly jealous. I was proud of what Carter told me about my instinct, but Lucy said something even better for Mindy. Something I wish she could have said about me, but that she couldn't. I wasn't there yet.
It hurt me. So I pushed it away, and now, seven years later, I can't, for the life of God, remember what it was.
But it wasn't creepy at all, and it made Mindy's day.
Meanwhile, I was still on the high from Carter's comment.
It's stupid. Our parents raise us all of our lives, and then, two older teenagers whisper to us comments and it changes our future.
They could have been jerks playing with our emotions, but they weren't. My friends tell me that people who get into cults are stupid, but I don't think they are.
I think everyone is looking for validation from others, and as such, we can fall victims to predators.
And that is another rule of cool. Cool people, self-validate themselves. They don't care for the approval of others. They exist and that's their validation.
Lucy and Carter saw an impressionable 12-year-old girl playing with Mindy, a girl they possibly barely know, and saw an opportunity to make a move in pinball, so they befriended her.
I sincerely doubt that when they met me, they instantly decided to be friends. They saw a girl with potential, befriended her, either to get an ally or to check out the competition, and ended up having some level of fun high enough to keep hanging out with her and her friend.
Or maybe it's a cool kid thing, see an underdog, help them?
I don't know enough and I certainly won't ask them.
Can you imagine? "Why are you hanging with a loser like me?". Or worse, today "Why were you hanging out with a loser like me?". Plus, the only reason I think about this, is that I am writing this memoir. That's it. Ok, let's drop this and get back to the events.
The common room had two elderly couples playing dominoes in the corner. None of them bothered to look at any of us, but one of the men had a beer, and the three other adults had sodas.
"He can't avoid it", says Lucy
"I know. It's the social lubricant"
"What is?" I ask
"Booze, your dad turns weird when he drinks", says Lucy
I think, and seldom see my parents drink. Well, not beer. Sometimes, they get a glass of wine, sometimes. Mostly when they have friends over, which is rarely the case.
In case you are wondering, Alcohol makes my mother sleepy, and my father doesn't like to drink when his partner doesn't. The glass of wine they take is usually over more than an hour, during a big meal, and mostly to pass gifted bottles from guests.
Note, before you give bottles of alcohol, check if they really drink.
"You know he usually takes only one beer"
"Yeah, but when he gets a second, he checks me out, and I don't like it"
"I'll tell him to piss off if he does"
"You'd do that?", Lucy says, suddenly all smiles
"Hey, for you? Any day"
She launches at his neck and kisses him while wrapping his neck with her arms. Her right left lifts, but they quickly split apart, look at us, and sort of look weird.
I smile, Carter relaxes.
"So, everyone knows their place?"
"I do!" says Mindy, who apparently wasn't bothered at all, but instead, smiling from witnessing the kiss.
And in case you are wondering, yeah, that was another formative moment for me. In how to express affection for your partner. It's a positive thing, don't worry about me.
"I am not certain if Mindy goes second or if I do"
"Let's alternate", says Lucy, which make Mindy smile
Lucy plays her first ball, but doesn't get to lock and doesn't get a do-over either.
Mindy is about to step in, but Lucy turns off the machine and turns it back on.
"Why did you do that?"
"It's called resetting. Haven't you watched any speed running videos? Carter speedruns Portal glitchless"
"Not that I am that good"
"Glitchless takes over 20 minutes, so if you mess up at the start, you reset"
Of course, the world record is now about 14 minutes, but back then, not all of the strats were found, and Carter wouldn't have been able to play them then. But at age 12, I didn't even know what Portal was, and could only imagine what speed running was. Imagine that, me? Not knowing speed running.
"Portal?", I ask
"Super cool game, I can show you tomorrow if you'd like", says Mindy.
"Maybe I can show you girls tricks? ", says Carter
We are both excited by the idea.
"It's going to rain tomorrow, maybe we can hang out and play Portal. It ain't bad", says Lucy, which makes her only cooler.
Now, I wasn't much into video games, but if Mindy, Lucy and Carter wanted to play, I would be in!
Lucy played another round where she locked a ball, followed by Mindy,and then me, without locking one.
Carter resets the game, and tells us not to worry at all.
Lucy starts again, but resets twice, before making it to Mindy, who doesn't lock, but I do!
"Ok, you can lose the ball", tells me Carter
"Why? I can keep playing, no?"
"I am the pro at multi-ball", he says, "Not that you are bad, but I have more experience"
I think, keeping the ball in the air.
"Carter, it takes a few seconds to unlock the balls, right?", I say
"Yeah", as I manage to hold the ball in the upper section
"If I lock the 3rd, you take my place", I say, keeping the play up, and trying to hit the targets for the ramp.
"But the scores are individual", he says
"I know, but presently, we are only trying to figure out the multiplier for the third multi-ball"
"Holy Shit, that's it, you are a genius Ji!", he says, which makes Mindy laugh a little
But Lucy scolds me. "Language, Carter"
"Sorry girls", but I am too concentrated on the task.
"That's the new plan", he says. "We try to lock, no matter what, and I only handle the multi-ball"
I smile, I am almost to the ramp activation, but I lose the ball in the middle.
Carter takes his turn, and easily activates the ramp. It's the first time I saw him play and I can admire his technique.
Mindy is next to Lucy now, and I am on the other side, looking at the play, fixated on the movement of the ball.
Carter seems to have control on the ball, on its movement.
He activates the multi-ball, which makes Lucy and Mindy jump in joy, but I remain focused on his action.
His technique is exemplary. He uses the left flipper to keep one ball in the upper section, hitting the mushrooms, and another at the bottom right, hitting the side targets, but at a different timing than my slalom trick so that he always keeps it on the right.
The third ball,is resting, with the left flipper kept up and it was resting in the fold. He uses both of the left flippers to handle two of the balls.
When he finally loses the bottom right ball, he gets the resting balls in action and continues to rack up points.
"Can't he lock one up?", I ask, aiming for Lucy, but it's Mindy who answers
"You can't lock a ball while in multi-ball"
When he makes a mistake, both balls are at the bottom, and he juggles them but loses them both at once.
We do not reset, Lucy plays her next ball, and doesn't lock. Still no reset, but Mindy locks one, and I lock one, so that during his normal turn, Carter gets to activate the multi-ball and lasts even longer, making even more points, now with a x6 multiplier on top of our x4.
I know then what we are doing wrong, too much focus on the multi-ball.
He does manage to lock the first ball after he got back to only one, but it's Lucy's turn to lock the second one.
Mindy releases the multi-ball and gives her place for Carter, while I check the score.
"Carter, it doesn't say", Lucy says
"I know, we have to calculate it"
"But how? It's always you who did", she says
"Shit, I didn't think of that"
"Language, Carter, you promised me that in front of the girls, you would watch your language", says Lucy
"I don't mind", says Mindy
"I do", says Lucy.
"It's x9", I declare
"Are you sure?", says Carter
"Mushrooms give 10,000 normally, we are at x5, and a hit gives 450,000 not 600,000", I say with confidence.
And then, he does something completely unexpected. He leaves the machine alone, and high-fives me.
"The game!", says Mindy, in horror, as the three balls drop and her turn is over.
But Lucy puts a hand on her shoulder.
"This wasn't about a high score, this was about discovering the rules of the game"
"Now we go for the high score", says Carter, with a smile
"Original plan, new order of players", says Julie
"Really?" says Carter
"Ji is first, she is the second most consistent in locking, and the least consistent for surviving, so we know faster than with Mindy or me if she locks. Faster reset."
"Good idea", her boyfriend says
"But Mindy, you take the knee if both of us lock. Can you do that?", says Lucy
But Mindy is happy to do it. Thrilled even!
I reset my first 3 games, which is really making me nervous, but then again, I felt a ton of pressure on my shoulders. Both Lucy and Carter were reassuring, but Mindy was mainly smiling at me.
On my fourth one, however, I didn't lock one. I locked 2! "Holy shit" I said
"See, watch your language, you are rubbing off on them"
Both Lucy and Mindy let their ball die, but Lucy played a little before. We didn't understand, until Mindy got the do over.
"Right, I forgot"
"No worries", says Lucy, smiling
Nervous, it was soon Carter's turn, but before he started, Mindy said something.
"I think it was faster to not play twice in a row than to make enough points to avoid the do-over"
"You know what, Mindy, great observation", says Lucy, glowing.
Carter takes a deep breath, and starts to hit the targets, but once the ramp is active, he keeps going, and loses his ball.
"Fuck", he says, which makes Mindy chuckle
"Carter", yells, Lucy. "That was seriously out of line"
"I know, I am Sorry Mindy and Julie"
"Hey, we both say fuck in school, we are not 6", says Mindy, even I didn't hear her says it
"It's a question of setting an example", says Lucy
I nod, and then, Carter resets.
"Can I try something?", I ask
"Be my guest, it's your turn anyway", he says
So, I start my ballet, sending the ball to the left from the right, and to the right from the left, back and forth, hitting the targets. As I rake up the multipliers, I learn how to hit individual targets, not just randomly.
Nobody says anything, they just are transfixed.
Until Carter resets.
He goes to me. "Julie, new plan. We keep the previous one, but you boost my multiplier on my first ball, like you just did."
"No", says Lucy
"No?", Carter says
"You are the first player, Carter, but Ji starts to rack up the points. If she misses, we reset, and then, she locks it for you."
"But it's one less ball for me to multi-ball", he replies
"No, it's not. It's a faster reset. You multi-ball on your first round or we reset"
"Lucy, there is no way I can multi-ball on the first ball, even if she locks the first one"
So I say.
"Then I lock two, not one", I propose, almost out of nowhere
"Huh?" says Lucy
"You said it, I am more consistent in success, and in failure. I lock twice, while boosting the multiplier, give him the machine, he multi-ball, and then we follow the sequence"
"So you play again?", says Mindy, a little angry
"No, I would need more rest. Either you or Lucy"
"You could go, Mindy, and then me and finally Julie. ", says Lucy
"But Carter would play his turn, right?", I reply
"Yeah, once we are at x35, we can't go higher", says
"X35!" I say, shocked.
"That's' a lot on your shoulders, I know"
I look at the pinball. It's more than I thought. Can I do it?
Well, the answer is yes!
Fine, I had to reset 5 times. By the 3rd, I was resetting by myself. But I was getting more consistent and the other three were really supportive.
I got to the x35 on the 4th try, which was all of the lights from x2 to x8 lit up, but I didn't lock my first ball.
On the next one I didn't go too far, but the 6th one?
I got the x35 AND locked two balls.
That meant that each hit from Carter was at x105! That's how you make a lot of million points.
By the time he lost, he was in the 8 digits.
Things were looking up, and then, Mindy locked the first one, and Lucy another one, allowing me to take a knee and rest a little as Carter did again a multi-ball.
Now at x210, it wasn't long to reach 200 million points, but he was down to one ball, and locked another one.
Mindy missed her lock, but Lucy got it, so I could skip my turn. Lucy did it for me, as I watched and saw Carter get his third multi-ball, with a x315 multiplier. Each mushroom gives him over 3 million points!
When he makes it to 800 millions he has beaten the high score, which gives him an extra ball, meaning he had 2 left!
Excited, he loses his last ball of this run at a little over 850 million points.
We cheered, but we weren't done.
We went through another round, where I skipped again, and while he did get the multi-ball and over a billion points, he didn't last long.
We tried on our last ball to give him another multi-ball, but failed.
We ended up with a high score of about 1.4 billion, and he put: "4HT" in the name.
"What?" says Mindy
"Four hot teenagers. Because girls, that's what we are", he says, high-fiving us, and then, hugging each one of us, Lucy longer than Mindy or me, and she got a kiss too.
We closed the machine, exhausted, and left the common room.