A New High Score
Lucas Taylor felt a spring breeze move through the parking lot, as he studied the neon clock above the entrance of the Essex Avenue Diner. His quizzical expression was warranted. The clock that had been there for years was now imperfect. Its blue and red glow flickered. It lacked its attraction, and could only confirm the time.
Studying this defect made him appreciate things about the rest of the building, however, like how large the windows were, and how the light from inside the diner created an inviting effect if viewed from outside. He stepped back. He looked up at the night sky for a moment, and backed up a few more paces to take in the whole building. He dropped the book he had been carrying in his left hand, picking it up before going inside.
The smells that the diner offered almost supernaturally heightened his memories of the place. He closed his eyes for a moment, took in some air, and then exhaled.
It had been a very long time. Ten years.
He walked to the room’s center, finding a table.
He tried to remember why so many years had passed since he’d visited the diner. Then, it was suddenly evident. He took off his glasses, and rubbed his eyes. Something important had happened here, and he had almost forgotten it.
He looked down at the book he had placed on the table. Then he looked across the diner’s interior again.
Plates and silverware clinked, and the half-audible conversations of others in the diner helped him focus somehow. There was an old-fashioned juke box, sporting its green, orange, and yellow – giving the basic, rounded metal structure a pleasing focal point. In a corner, there sat a pinball machine with faded artwork on its wooden frame. And, probably where it sat last, was “Galactic Armada.” He stared at the arcade game as one might an old girlfriend they’d once thought of marrying, but decided not to ….
“What’ll it be, honey?”
Lucas shifted awkwardly in the waitresses’ direction, searching his head quickly for a response.
“Oh. Uhhh. B.L.T. Onion rings. And, uh, water. But not that fizzy stuff with flavors like peach and that sort of thing, I mean just plain water.”
“Gotcha. I’ll be back with it in a bit. And there is no problem with you playin’ them games if you want. They still work. The juke does, too.”
Lucas got up and walked toward “Galactic Armada.” He adjusted his glasses again, and looked down into the game’s imbedded screen. Then he rolled the track ball with a quick swipe of his palm without putting coins in.
“Would it be there? How high?” he thought to himself, biting his bottom lip slightly.
He waited for the game’s demo to run its course. Then the high scores displayed: LT 80,960.
It was only 8th now, but he remembered the feeling he had when it was 1st, sitting at the top of the other scores with a star field moving in the background. He was pretty sure that God had tried to tell him something that day, and he now knew enough to make total sense of it. Those runaway guesses could now be combined to form a solid conclusion.
He recalled the emptiness, as he stood in front of the arcade game full of junk food and plastic joy. Beating that game had only given him a second of satisfaction. The game made some weird noises. Then, it flashed and held the score there, but that was it. Back then, the realization was veiled by immaturity, but there was enough to jolt his spirit – to speak to him. He thought that life can’t be cool lights, weird sounds, empty goals, and who knows what else. Ten years ago, he had shaken his head, walked out with the rest of his quarters, and went home disappointed. However, the message had been sent.
Lucas opened the book he had brought into the diner. It was the teacher’s edition of a Sunday school text, and the lesson’s memory verse read: Matthew 16:26 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?
He took a bite of his B.L.T., and began to prepare his lesson for the next morning. He’d now have a nice anecdote to contribute.
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