The back room was Will’s domain, and Will’s alone.
Aside from the main arcade room, a complex labyrinth of bulky, aging arcade machines and dim lighting, The Arcade also boast a partial kitchen, which housed a small griddle and a single, table top fryer that William used to fix his guests something to eat should they get hungry while they passed coin after coin f rom their heavy pockets into his waiting machines. The fare was simple enough, burgers, tots , fries, onion rings, chicken sandwiches or some frozen tenders he bought down at the grocery, stocked in a standard fridge/freezer combination that used to sit in his house. The freezer held the food, while the fridge he kept stocked with cans of soda, which he pretty much sold at cost. The only other room was one of more mystery. Nestled between the kitchen and the bathrooms, Will had made a small ‘work shop’ nicknamed the pit. The pit was the focus of a monthly fiasco during which Will would reveal the newest machine to added to the arcade. Always machines of a second hand nature, always bought by Will with some small amount of repair work needed, and always a top secret to do during the weeks before the big reveal to get the machine in the back door and secured before anyone could catch a glimpse of make or title. Then like clockwork, on the first Saturday of the month, at 3:21 pm, a drum roll would still every breath within the walls of the Arcade as the doors to the pit were swung open and Will wheeled out his newest machine.
Well Saturday was coming, and with screw driver in hand, and a bright light shining over a wooden work table littered with arcade pieces as though spare bolts down at JR’s lube, Will worked diligently at the control mechanism of his latest procurement. The machine itself rested beneath a heavy, white sheet, tucked in a corner behind a curtain drawn around it. Aside from the spot line shining down on the desk, the rest of the pit was doused in a thick blanket of darkness, and though a small radio blared Candlebox’s You, sounds of the arcades in the next room bleed through as though the walls made of paper. He wiped at his brow, looking towards the door as he heard the voice bleed through the sounds of alternative 90’s rock, and the chips and bells of nearly a dozen monotone arcade machines sounding at once.
Nimble fingers returned screw driver and joystick assembly back onto the white towel that held the rest of the missing pieces as he stood up from the stool he had been sitting on for nearly an hour. His back stretched as he stood, and he let out a small grunt as muscles form to position by time were suddenly coaxed into manipulation of form, and before he stepped into the main room of the Arcade, he wiped his hands on a second, white shop towel. As he exited the door to the pit, being sure to close and secure it quickly behind him, as though to keep something live and loose within, he plucked his hat off a hook resting on the outside of the door, meant to serve as a signal that he was within, and should he be needed: holler.
Will, in spite of his time at the arcade, was in excellent physical health. His face was slender, his cheeks smooth, free of wrinkle or sign of his age. His upper lip and chin bore a week’s worth of facial hair resembling a young goatee and mustache of a nearly black color, but no other hair marred his smooth face. His arms were slender, yet well-muscled, as though he always lived an active, athletic life, without concern for strength beyond that gained throughout the day to day chores of life. He spent no time at gyms, but chose to keep active, to eat right. He ran in the mornings, as was made obvious by his slender build, and his nightly routine included a brief stented workout designed to both maintain and strengthen long, lean muscles. The truth was he was in his mid forties, but judging by appearance, he looked to be nearly a decade younger and when he plucked the wide brimmed, brown hat from the door, and returned it to his head, his age seemed to fluctuate again, making him the bane of the age guesser booth attendants at the county fairs.
“Well, we can’t have you wasting away on my account, Hen,” Will spoke, as he came to rest against the opposite side of the bar from where Henrietta sat. The bar that separated the kitchen, as well as the pit, from the main room was a solid mahogany piece, highly polished and well built, as though yanked from the finest establishments in old Savannah. It was highly polished, darkly stained, and though the rest of the arcade was devoted to games, loud noises and excitement, the dark stained bar brought a sense of calm sophistication to the place, an odd construct that everyone wondered about, but nobody asked. Oh the rumors flew, as they often did in a town such as this, that Will opened the Arcade in the wee hours of the morning as an after hours pub…that the bar dated back to old Prohibition days, when The Arcade had served as an old staging building for the local post. Some claimed ol’man Travis built it out of a tree that fell in his back yard, while still others claim he won it in a bet with a man from Savannah. To Will, it was a touch of sophistication, but he would hardly tell anyone else that. When asked, he would simply smile and deflect the question as he always did, turning attentions to the new high score on this game or that…
“So what’ll it be,” Will asked, stepping to the swinging door between kitchen and bar, to reach and grab an apron hanging upon a hook just within the kitchen, and as he sat to putting it on, he looked up to see the celebration: the high score has been beat.. the challenge issued.