Artwork: ghost


Author: FOD '24
As seen in: The Mental Health Issue #

I walk in every morning and the arcade carny asks me, “what’ll it be?”

I reply, the memories of too many wasted tokens in my mind, “brother, the usual.”

The arcade carny hands me a big bag of tokens in exchange for my hundred-dollar note. That’s the only good part of each day, when I’m walking over to the whack-a-mole machine and the coins are jingling and it feels like I’m worth something. I could pick any game, I think to myself. The basketball machine could be fun. Skee-ball never ruined anyone’s life. But then I reach the whack-a-mole machine and proceed to spend every last coin I have in a frenzied orgy of mole destruction.

When I step away from the machine eight hours later, dazed and hyper-sensitive to bright lights and any sudden noises that resemble the squeals of the moles, I feel so dirty. I don’t even collect my prizes anymore, I just throw the tickets in the trash. What would my wife say if they knew where all those dozens of lollipops and rubber bouncy balls came from? I feel sick and fall to the ground, throwing up on the ground near the motorcycle racing game where you actually ride the plastic motorcycle. The kid riding the motorcycle ignores me – even he knows I’m scum.

Maybe if I were better at whack-a-mole, my life would be different. But when you miss the moles every single time, something in the human spirit just compels you to keep going. At the end of the day, it’s not about the moles at all – it’s about proving my worth to my only son. I’m all out of tokens, though, so that’ll have to wait for another time.