Cheap thrills at the arcade.
By Kelley Cunningham
“Can we go, Mom? Pleeeeeeeze?”
“Um, alright, I guess so.”
The arcade here in this small country town is a different animal from the neon-lit, eardrum-busting hells that dot the New Jersey highways, where I used to live. This one is just old and smells like despair. I don’t know which is worse.
As I approach I see an arcade employee, wearing a frayed FUN N’ GAMES vest, sitting at an old school desk by the door. Do I have to pay her? Somehow notify her of our intent to procure entertainment in this establishment? I guess not. She doesn’t even look up from her cheese fries. I suppose she’s the one making sure that roving child molesters don’t leave with my kids. Feeling safer, I go in.
“Wouldn’t it be nice if we were married and we wouldn’t have to wait so long…”
Oh, God. The Beach Boys on the sound system. Well, it’s better than Flunky Fave and the Ice Ice Babies or whomever they would blast from the speakers back in Jersey. As long as they don’t play Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons I might survive this.
There’s hardly a soul in the place. I walk right up to Tiffany behind the counter. She blows a huge pink gum bubble and moves her baby’s car seat (with the baby in it) off the counter.
Trying to be patient while my three insanely excited boys claw at me, listening to a cud-chewing unwed mother explain the difference between the FUN ACE and PARTY ACE ticket combos is something I never thought I would be doing in my life.
“And I keep on thinkin’ ‘bout you, sister Golden Hair Surprise…”
The rows of Formica booths are empty save for three or four other parents. Or by the looks of them, more likely residents from the local halfway house here on a field trip. Suddenly I notice a huge shelf full of magazines, all surprisingly current and somewhat interesting. All right!!
I wade through the stacks of parenting magazines and read the cover headlines. “How Sacrificing Yourself On The Altar Of Motherhood Can Improve Your Child’s Reading Skills.” Nah. Oh wait, here’s a Cosmo! I grab it and settle down into the booth, slamming my kneecap on the cast iron support beneath the table.
“Mom, you said a bad word.”
I didn’t know one of my darlings was behind me, his arms full of accordion-folded prize tickets he had won at Skee-Ball.
“Here, hold these. Thanks, Mom. Bye.”
I get up, slamming my other knee, and go ask Tiffany for a cup to hold the tickets. She’s absently rocking her baby as she talks to another employee about their weekend party plans.
“May I have a cup for these?”
“Just take ‘em over there and the lady’ll weigh them.”
“Yeah, so’s you can see how mucha got. Then youse can pick out a prize.”
“You don’t understand. I want to take them home and save them. My kids want the Looney Tunes Lava Lamp and that costs 2500 tickets.”
“Suit yerself, lady.”
Back at the table I dive into Cosmo. “Take Our Pleasure Quotient Quiz And Fire Up Your Sex Life…TONIGHT.” Hmm. I look around guiltily, then back down again. OK. Why not? Let’s fire it up.
"Do you feel free to tell your man exactly how you want it?"
“Hold these tickets.”
I had managed to close the magazine in time so he couldn’t see the soft-core porn pictures accompanying the article. I think I want to be the art director for Cosmo.
“You can’t hide those lyin’ eyes…”
OK, back to bed.
“When your partner penetrates you from behind, do you ever…”
Jesus! I jump a foot out of my Formica seat and look up, my face flushed.
“Wanna watch me play Cruisin’ World?”
“Uh, no, that’s okay. You enjoy it. Go ask your brother.”
“He’s playing Soldier of Fortune but don’t tell him I told you.”
“It is?? I thought you said no gun games!”
“Huh, well…whatever…go have fun, Sam.”
“Uh, yeah right, Sam, run along now.”
He’s gone. Whew. I look around. Does anyone notice me having sex over here? Doesn’t look like it. The other parents are either staring slack-jawed at their nachos or yelling at their kids.
“When you and your guy make love, do you usually lubricate spontaneously or do you need…”
I slam the mag shut again as another satisfied FUN AND GAMES customer walks past. Thankfully, though, she’s too busy yelling at her kid to notice me panting.
“Luke we’re leavin’ right now get in the car I told yew five minutes ago we were leavin’ don’t start with me boy keep it up and yew’ll have som’thin’ to cry ‘bout dammit…”
I wonder if she’s going to fire up her sex life…TONIGHT.
"The night Chicago died. Na na na na na na the night Chicago died"
"How would your lover react if you reached into his jeans under the dinner table and began to caress his…"
“What’s the matter?”
“Why are you sweating?”
“Come on, let’s play Skee-Ball.”
Closing the magazine for good I head over to the Skee-Ball games. I drop in my tokens and hear the satisfying thunkTHUNK of the ancient wooden balls rolling down the chute. Then I realize that’s about the extent of the satisfaction I will be getting…TONIGHT. And my sore knees came from clocking them on the table leg and not from the carpet burns of a fired up sex life.
“Big girls, don’t cry…yi...yi...they don’t cry…”
Oh yes, they do.
Need more Kelley? A hefty collection of her great essays, What's the Matter With Mommy?, is now available on Amazon.com.
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