And I refuse to leave this roller rink birthday party until I've done so.
So far, I have played thirty six games against my son's friend Dustin, and all thirty six games have ended in humiliating defeat. I tell you, my son's friend Dustin is damn good at air hockey, despite him constantly saying that he barely ever plays this “stupid game for babies.” Seriously, do not believe him when he says the only reason he played me was because there was a line at the Killer Instinct machine. This kid is a shark.
It'd be one thing if these games were close, but we're talking shut outs here. I have literally never scored a single goal on Dustin, even when he's eating slice after slice of thin crust pepperoni pizza with his off hand. Even when he's talking to his friends about Minecraft he clowns on me. This chubby cheeked little wunderkind is holding court talking about some stupid fire sword he found and he's sinking puck after puck. He can barely see over the table but he's clowning on me like he's Wayne Gretskey. And to make matters worse, he's young enough that he wouldn't get that reference.
Each game we play, it takes more and more out of me. After the first loss, I'm surprised. Maybe he just caught me on a bad day. Loss number five, I'm starting to think that maybe he's not a kid, but a little person in a Beyblades t-shirt and untied Keds. Loss number ten, I'm rattled. Who is this guy, the son of Tony “The Flick” Flickowski, 2016's Air Hockey Player of the Year as voted by Air Hockey Magazine? By loss thirteen, my button down is completely drenched in sweat and I'm going outside for smoke breaks between games. I quit six years ago. Loss seventeen and I have to buy him that boom box at the prize counter just so he'll keep playing. Loss twenty and he starts giving me pointers just so I can score one lousy goal. I'm swearing so loud that I have to palm the teenagers that work there fifty bucks each so they wouldn't call the cops. Loss thirty and my son Nicholas is trying to get me to leave, claiming I'm “embarrassing” him and that the party “ended an hour ago.” But he shut up real quick when I let him smoke a couple cigarettes.
By number thirty one I can tell Dustin is actively trying to throw the game. He's barely tapping the puck and he's leaving the goal completely open. But the goddamn air is blowing all my shots back into my own goal. I'm screaming in Dustin's face, accusing him of fixing the table. I know that's not true, but it's the only thing I can think of to save face. Game thirty six is cut short when the roller rink employees insist on closing for the night. The adult in me wants to give Dustin a ride home, but the competitor in me backs over his foot in the parking lot.