by Paul White
The ping-pong ball bounced as it hit the edges of the glass bowls, eventually falling between them and onto the counter top.
This game was not as easy as it looked. But why was I surprised? After all, this was the traveling fair and they were here to take as much money from the community as possible.
But that is the way of things.
What I should be surprised at is the number of people who queued up at each stall wanting to give their hard earned cash to the travellers. The number who wanted to play games, which were heavily weighted in favour of the stall holder, for relatively valueless prizes.
I suppose it was the seduction of the fairground itself, the lights, the noises, and the smells. They all cast a spell over the community, excited the children and the childness within the adults.
Giant bears and candyfloss, Alice bands with flashing tentacles, doughnuts and sweet rock canes with your own name running all the way along the centre. The crowds, the laughter, the shouts and screams as the waltzes rattled and spun in gut wrenching circles to overpowering rock music.
That is the way of things.
I had one more ball left, one small lightweight ping-pong ball which could win me a prize if, and this was the biggy, ‘if’ it landed in a bowl.
I had already thrown eight balls. It was one pound for three, my first six bounced everywhere except where I wished, as did the last two from this set. That left me with one more chance to win and I wanted to win. I wanted very, very desperately to win.
You see my girlfriend, my new girlfriend, who was bouncing up and down beside me in excitement and anticipation, “really, really” wanted me to win. She wanted me to win because she wanted one of these prizes “Soooo much”.
As her new boyfriend, what could I do? This was a challenge, not only of my skills and capabilities, but of my determination in front of adversity. This was a test of my loyalty, of my commitment to her. In fact, this was a trial of my manhood, an examination of my suitability as a mate.
Although these things remained unspoken, everybody knows that it is the way of things.
I had watched each of the previous balls as they bounced, jumping from on bowls edge to another. Somewhere within that movement, there was a pattern, a pattern of chaos. Impossible to map by mathematics but one which was there nevertheless, instinctive, intuitive. It was a form, a tessellation of almost ethereal quality. It was a shape I could feel.
Tossing the ball I watched its progress through the air. With baited breath, I saw it descend and hit the lip of the first bowl. The ball sprung up and forward before falling again, hitting another bowl and recoiling back towards me. It was going to clear the bench, it was going to fall to the floor. I would have failed the test.
My girlfriend gasped, holding both hands to her mouth, biting her fingers. I stood immobile, helpless and hapless. The ball seemed to take an age, it appeared to float downwards, teasingly. As the ball fell it just caught the edge of the final bowl, rolling around the inside of its lip, circling, spiralling around and down, down, down into its base.
“Yes,” I shouted punching the air with relief. My girlfriend jumped onto me, wrapping her arms about my shoulders and kissing my face.
I had won.
I had won my challenge, my manhood, my girlfriend’s adoration. I was a champion. I was king.
That was how things are; that it is the way of things.
The stall holder was disappointed that he had to give away a prize, he looked even more disgruntled when my girlfriend demanded a Nanolion.
Nanolions were new, only brought here from some small blue planet in a far galaxy, I think they called it Earth once upon a time, by the travelling fair. They were, however, amazing, tiny replicas of us in every detail. Some, it is said could also speak, though many did not believe that so.
The stallholder held up a plastic bag, it was inflated and tied in a knot. “There should be enough air in the bag to keep it alive until you get home,” he said.
My girlfriend took it from him. “What do you feed them on?” she asked.
“Oh, just small scraps. They will eat almost anything” He said. All interest lost he turned to the other punters surrounding the stall offering their pound coins in hope of also winning a Nonolion.
“We shall find a box to keep it in tonight,” My girlfriend said, “and tomorrow we will go shopping, buy it a cage and a run and things”.
“Is it a he or a she?” I asked.
Holding the bag aloft we looked closely, “It’s a she, maybe we could buy her a mate or…..lets go back, let’s win another”.
I replied, “I don’t think so. It was only luck I won this one”.
“Oh please, please, pretty, pretty please”.
So we turned around and headed back to the ping-pong ball stall. It looked like my challenge was not quite over yet. I had one final test to pass.
Oh well, I suppose that is the way of things.
© Paul White 2015
You can read more by Paul here.