It's evening in the later summer. The familiar parking lot behind a catholic church you've never been inside of but have driven past a thousands times. Covering the blacktop is row after row of identical rented tented booths, each filled with a unique, and at the same, happily predictable vendor. There's corn dogs, a bath fitter, funnel cakes, fries, hot dogs, deep fried Snickers, chili, ice cream. All of them doing their best to make their little slice of asphalt unique. There's a general murmur of happiness, save for the crying child or two. The ground is always covered in little slips of paper at these things. Sometimes spent lottery tickets, other times a business card for a gutter-cover business. In the distance a shaky roller coaster and some variation on a "make you spin in circles" ride making, weirdly, not much noise. You can't remember ever riding one of those rides, and you certainly wouldn't trust your children riding them either, but yet they exist. Someone must pay for the experience to feel dizzy, sick, and terrified. But that's not your speed.
And then you hear it. The sound of games. You know these games are rigged, they're difficult, and they're not designed to give out prizes. But you can't help but to love them. Walking down this row full of games makes you feel like a child again. Perhaps its a connection to an idyllic time in American history when kids could go down to the penny arcade along the waterfront and just enjoy being a child. Maybe this America never existed, but the idea certainly did. And does. In this moment of pure happiness, the taste of a delicious smash burger still playing in your mouth and the smell of popcorn and the crisp summer evening filling your nose, you spot it. The shooting gallery.
It was never quite your game, though you enjoy it well enough. The worn wood of the stock feels nice in the hand and the trigger always seems a little sporadic on these communal rifles. The shooting gallery always felt a little over priced for what amounted to a rented BB gun, but it was fun enough to watch others take aim. The 'ping' and the 'ting' coming from the gallery is exactly what an arcade is supposed to sound like. It's a giant cedar in a Bob Ross painting, it completes the picture. While taking all of this in, you hear a very steady, particularly even, burst of shots being fired into the range that comes to a stop. And that's when you notice them.
Two men, middle aged, at the far end of the gallery. One with the rifle in his hands and the other one leaning against the railing next to the shooter. If there was anything of distance involved you would have said the one without the rile was a spotter, but their needs seemed obvious enough to both of them to have no real need for spotting. The man holding the rile, a bald man with glasses, smart looking, you imagine someone might say, pays the young lady working the booth for another round. The spotter, a slightly overweight man you can tell would have been very attractive in his prime but now, someone who enjoys life, says something to the shooter and then looks back to watch the action unfold.
'Ping'. 'Ting'. 'Ping'.
One by one the targets across from the shooter disappear. His movement is perfect. Mechanical. The entire lower half of his body doesn't move an inch while his upper torso twitches in micro movements as he finds his next target, lines up the shot, and pulls the trigger in an instant.
'Ping'. 'Ping'. 'Ting'.
The targets fall so quickly it's hard to focus on which ones are even being shot. They disappear almost as soon as you recognize they are there. From one target to the next the shooter takes his shot.
That's when you realize what's happening. He's not hitting every shot. In fact he's missing on most of them. But the precision in which he's moving through the targets overwhelms the fact that they can't all be hit. Target after target, shot after shot. It's efficiency in a way you've never seen before. The spotter, for his part, makes a comment every once in awhile, which again, seems more useless than useful.
The bell rings and the shooter quickly drops the rifle from his shoulder. The young woman working the booth hands the spotter three prizes, two large stuffed bears and one smaller stuffed rabbit. The two middle aged men seem happy enough with their haul. Their body language suggests they're seasoned pros at this but even they seem happy with what they were able to accomplish. As they walk away they notice you. Maybe they had always noticed you, but now they see you watching them. The shooter walks over to you and gestures with his hand from the spotter to you.
The spotter walks over to you, barely able to hold all of the prizes together in his arms. With a big goofy grin on his face the spotter leans over, and says in a thick dutch accent:
And that's when you realized you'd never forget the time you first watched Gerrard Njikamp work a transfer window with Ron Jans.