"No Quarter" by Marc Alexander Valle

“See that?” the kid said, pointing at the sit-down arcade game, Pole Position II. “That’s my initials. R.J.F. I’m number one.”

“Cool,” I said. “What’s your name?”

“Everyone calls me Troy.”

“Oh. What’s the ‘R’ in your name for?”

“You play this game before?” he said, ignoring the question.

“Yeah.”

“Cool! You want me to help you get the high score?”

“Yeah, I guess.”

“I’ll just help.”

I let him help. We shared the one-person seat, both hands on the wheel.

The game was over before we could catch up to the last car.

He turned to me. “You got more quarters? It’s hard with both of us in here.”

“No. That’s okay.”

“Yeah, but you wanna see the ending? The ending is cool.”

I inserted another quarter.

In under a minute, my body was out of the machine, hands still on the wheel. I had no control. Just my hand going up and down, trying not throw off Troy.  

He crashed again.

“Yeah,” he said, “this game is hard today. They make it harder on Fridays just to get more quarters, you know that? You know they do that?”

“Yeah?”

“You like Dig Dug?” he asked, pointing at the game. “I’m good at Dig Dug.”

“No, I’m bad at it.”

“Then let’s go play Dig Dug. You got more quarters?”

“Yeah. But I hate Dig Dug.”

“Yeah, me too.” He looked at the game behind him. “You like Commando? I’m the best at it.”

“Yeah, so am I. Wanna see?”

He paused for a second, expressionless.

“You like Pac-Mac?” he said. “I’m good at Pac-Man.”