Tarbert Fireball

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Fireball really does exist. I once operated a pinball gallery, and it was our most impressive and popular machine, with flippers and bumpers galore, a rubber spinning wheel in the middle of the playing field, and a great huge demon on the backflash. We were located directly across from a high school and at least once a week the vice-principal would run over to clear the place out and get the kids back to school. Naturally, we opened the back door so he wouldn't catch any of them. We therefore realized and appreciated the social disturbance caused by this mighty representation of the dark forces. Just as they did in Seamesville County as related in The Tarbert Manor Fireball: A Purification Decision in Seamesville County.



The Tarbert Manor Fireball: A Purification Decision in Seamesville County

Minutes of the Three Hundred and Thirty Fourth Meeting of The Right and Prosperous Order of the Tarbert Manor Jaybirds. Reported by Houston Brophelius, secretary. Guvnor Walpatter, Counsel. 

The Honorable Judge Emolio Tecumseh Madison, presiding 

Subject at Hand: To approve or disapprove Money-making Machines at Orestes Platimus’s  Five and Dime  

Madison: I hereby call this meeting to order at 7:00 pm on the matter of whether to approve or disapprove the installation and operation of money machines at the Platimus Five and Dime. Yes, Guvnor? 

Guvnor Walpatter: Your honor, for the record, please refer to these as ‘pinball machines’ so that future persons reading this chronicle might better understand the matter at hand. 

Madison: So be it, pinball machines so ordered. The machines on record are hereby defined as “Fireball,” “Quick Draw,” and “Big Brave,” am I correct? 

Walpatter: That you are, sir. 

Madison: The matter at hand is that Mr. Platimus has installed these three machines at his store. They are coin operated, and Mr. Platimus, in addition, offers a cash prize weekly to the person achieving that week’s highest score on a given machine. For the record, Mr. Platimus, how do the economics work for this venture?” 

Platimus: Sir, we net a given amount of money per week per each machine. I take 25% of that amount and give it to the winner, per machine, of course. And, I must add, ten percent of our final net income gets tithed to the church. 

Madison: Now the reason we have gathered here tonight is that there is a complaint, voiced by Mr. and Mrs. Cornelius Meeshack, that these machines contribute to the delinquency of minors, as I understand it. Mr. and Mrs. Meeshack, will one of you be so good as to be the spokesman and come forward to voice your complaint? 

Mrs. Meeshack: That would be me, sir. We have a complaint against each of these three machines. ‘Fireball’ has the image of the devil on the playing surface, meaning, of course, that children are literally playing with the devil. In a god-fearing community such as ours, that cannot be tolerated, sir. ‘Quick Draw’ glorifies weaponry. Children who play this game try to shoot down other cowboys whose faces are on targets. There is also a horseshoe target, which could encourage them to shoot horses. We can’t allow that, can we? And ‘Big Brave’ is a big problem, too. Even though we have no more Indians in this county, the game disrespects them. Players of this game roll the ball over feathers painted on the game board, and we all know feathers are sacred to Indians. The ball even rolls over an Indian’s head and hits him on the bumpers, too. How would you all feel if someone did that to a Black man? 

It comes down to this. In this town, we don’t glorify the devil, advocate shooting horses, or believe in racism. These games encourage our children to do all three, and we want them removed. 

Madison: Thank you, Mrs. Meeshack. Would any in this audience care to address these issues?

Platimus: I do wish to say that any negative judgment here at the Jaybird’s Lodge would cause me major economic hardship. I bought me two beat-up Fireballs just to salvage some parts to make one of them work. In terms of Quick Draw, I believe it is a legal game, considering our second amendment rights. And looking around, I see several gentlemen known hereabouts for their hunting prowess on small game that might agree with me.  

Now about Big Brave, I challenge anyone here to fight that warrior. You all come down to the store and get a load of what he looks like. On the backflash, he’s big, mean, is waving a tomahawk, and has a bow and arrow, too. Ruffle his feathers, and he’s gonna get mean. I think any Indian --- if we had any --- would be down here playing this game just to see him light up and get angry. That game is pro-Indian, not anti-Indian! 

Madison: So Mr. Platimus, what do you have to say about the devil inside of the Fireball? I do believe you’re going to have to address that issue.  

Platimus: Playing with the game doesn’t mean you’re playing with the devil, sir. 

Madison: Does anyone else have a comment to make about this Fireball business? How about you, Reverend Ditherump? 

Rev. Ditherump: “I have a measured response, Mr. Madison. On one hand, Mr.Platimus, who pays his tithes as well as makes contributions to this august body, has made a significant cash outlay for these machines. As he has opined, there are second amendment issues at stake, as well as an allegedly offended population that has no presence in Seamesville County, east or west. In term of the tithes paid by Mr. Platimus, those machines produce a certain amount of money that goes to the church. For the most part, they are doing the Lord’s work. 

Mrs. Meeshack also has some valid points. In particular, the Fireball needs to be addressed. We don’t know if the devil is in it or not. But here in Tarbert Manor, we don’t want to be rolling the bones with our youth. I therefore think that an exorcism is needed on the machine itself. I believe a just verdict would be to allow Mr. Platimus to enjoy the profits of the machine once it’s gone through a thorough and proper exorcism. 

Madison: Thank you reverend for your good council. Mrs. Meeshack, what is your response to the reverend’s recommendation? 

Mrs. Meeshack: Sir, I beg you. The game doesn’t need to be merely exorcised. It needs to be washed in the blood of the lamb! Revelations 1:5, as the reverend knows, says “And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood.” There ain’t nothin’ about no exorcism in the Bible, and Lord have mercy on our souls if we call ourselves God-fearing, yet surrender our souls to mammon. [Mrs. Meeshack now slams her Bible on the lecturn] In Matthew 6:24 the Bible says “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” 

Gentlemen, the good book makes it clear. You wash that godforsaken machine in the blood of the lamb or no good will come of it. And I believe the esteemed Reverend Ditherump will agree.  

Rev. Ditherump: Brothers and sisters, I do believe there is a solution, but, Mr. Platimus, you may not be entirely in agreement. Next to me sits Boaz Snodgrass the Fourth, who as many of you know, is the pastor of the Purification Tabernacle in the west county. Reverend Snodgrass, would you kindly address this body, with a nod to the last comments made by Mrs. Meeshack. 

Rev. Snodgrass: Members of the righteous order of the Jaybirds and esteemed assembly. As the founder of the Purification Tabernacle, I admit to being in accordance with Mrs. Meeshack’s comments regarding exorcism, a practice once common in the past, but today deemed old-fashioned and ineffective in the eyes of many Christians and lay people alike. It don’t work. Being washed in the blood of the lamb requires a Baptism and that’s why God give us a river. You just haul that Fireball machine over the Galen Spincter Pass one day to pay us a visit. We’ll take it to the Gobabis River, give it a holy baptismal, then you can take it back to your store and use it to further the Lord’s work. It will be cured. The Lord guarantees it. 

[Sounds of moaning coming from Mr. Platimus, who can be heard crying “Oh Lord, oh Lord.”]

Madison: Reverend Snodgrass, I applaud you for your sanity, reason, and intelligence in this matter. The matter stands like this, as I see it. Mr. Platimus may keep the Big Brave and Quick Draw money machines --- and I believe by that I mean pinball --- in operation. Fireball may be reinstated once the machine is baptized in the river. Before we formally vote on this resolution, is there any more commentary? 

Mrs. Meeshack: Lord have mercy, this isn’t to my 100% liking, but with two men of God feeling Jesus’ power today, I will accept the judgment of the lodge. 

Mr. Platimus: Gentlemen, if the machine gets baptized, the electrics will be compromised. It may never work again if we do that. In fact--- 

Madison: Nonsense, Mr. Platimus. If your machine doesn’t work, I think the reverends and Mrs. Meeshack will agree that you haven’t prayed hard enough. Go into your closet and trust in the Lord. 

Folks, you’ve heard the resolution. All in favor say aye [many ayes are recorded]. Any nays? [Mr. Platimus is hereby recorded as the only one]. 

Vote carries. Mr. Platimus, make your arrangements with the Reverend Snodgrass for a machine baptismal. The sooner the better. This officially ends this meeting [bangs gavel]. 

. ___ . 

Early the following Sunday morning, having made the necessary arrangement with the Reverend Boaz Snodgrass the Fourth, Orestes Platimus began his travels heading west on county highway G-6. He was riding in the passenger seat of Moe Satterwhite’s tow truck,  hitched to a small trailer holding the Fireball machine. G-6 runs east through the Mortium Hills and Galen Spincter Pass, down to Cretan’s Ferry, where it connects with the G-9 for the ride south to the Blemko Beach and General Recreation. And that’s where the baptizing of his poor machine was going to occur. 

Hiram Grenacius Blemko was a god-fearing man who allocated Sunday mornings for baptisms to be held adjacent to his boat launch on the Gobabis River. The boat launch, therefore, was always closed until noon on Sunday to allow Reverend Boaz the Fourth to conduct cleansing services. On such days, the Reverend’s church bus, followed by a convoy of automobiles, would pull up to the boat ramp at sunrise. Songs would be sung, prayers would be offered, and baptisms would take place. 

And so it happened on that bright, clear, beautiful Sunday, that Moe Satterwhite’s tow truck pulled in shortly after 9 am. Everyone in west county, it seemed, had heard of the Jaybird Council’s edict. There were dozens of cars, two church buses, and somewhat unpredictably, a truck marked with the seal of the Seamesville County Sheriff. Platimus got out of the tow truck, serenaded by a rousing version of ‘The Old Rugged Cross,’ but noticed immediately that all eyes were turned to the sheriff’s truck. A massive wooden chair was being unloaded from its tailgate and carried down the boat ramp to the water. A few moments later, Reverend Boaz the Fourth began his oration. 

“Dear Lord, we are gathered here today in your honor to rebuke the devil. With your guidance, we humbly carry on your work today to glorify you, the Holy Ghost, and the son who bore his stripes for you. Somebody shout hallelujah for me! Baptized today will be a sister from the far north, a fine Christian woman with the courage to admit she backslid and asks your forgiveness through holy baptism. We also have the tools of the devil in our midst, machines associated with sin and iniquity --- electric machines, if you will. They are here to be purified and released from the clutches of Beelzebub himself. The one, the scourge of our brothers and sisters of Tarbert Manor, is a danger to their children and an illness to their community. The other, an electric chair delivered by the state into the care of Sheriff Ed Farnacle. It was taken by train to the railhead at Calamrion Depot, dropped into Sheriff Ed’s truck, and Sweet Jesus, it’s here today. Shout Praise the Lord, somebody! Let us begin by taking a look at that chair. 

“Many men died on the seat of this unholy and woe-begotten piece of furniture, wearing not a crown of thorns, but a bonnet of electricity. The state availed itself of your guidance, oh Lord, and decided to end the reign of terror of this chair, which they call ‘Old Sparky.’ Praise be unto you, it will soon be installed in the state prison museum, where visitors may reflect on the lives of persons living and dead, residing here on earth, in your kingdom above, or the hell below. Satan, I rebuke you in the name of Jesus! We have four strong men, praise the Lord, who will now, under the guidance of Sister Rehoboth, now baptize this chair, purify it, and remove the demons that live within its bowels. Congregation, ‘Bringing in the Sheaves,’ please.” 

As the multitudes began the chorus, Sister Rehoboth Snodgrass led four stout men carrying Old Sparky down the boat ramp and into the murky flow of the Gobabis River. When it was completely immersed, Reverend Boaz shouted “God now in the name of Jesus, I rebuke the devil who resides on this chair. With this baptism, I call it done. Sister Rehoboth, you may remove the chair now. It’s been cured. Shout Praise the Lord, somebody!” 

The men struggled getting Old Sparky back up the ramp, scraping the bottom of its oak legs on the ribbed concrete. It had taken on water. The sheriff’s truck backed down the ramp, the chair was hoisted on its bed, and it drove for several hundred feet, where it remained for the rest of the service, right under the sign that said ‘Blemko Beach and General Recreation, Hiram G. Blemko, Proprietor.’ 

With that, the Reverend cued Moe Satterwhite. “Mr. Moe, you may now do your bidding.” Satterwhite backed his tow truck and trailer halfway down the ramp, affixed the big hook to the trailer holding Fireball, and winched the trailer down to the water’s edge. 

“Behold the machine!” intoned the Reverend. “Behold the face of the devil as it gazes at the purifying waters. This machine, when baptized, will again be present at Brother Platimus’s Five and Dime in the fine Christian God-fearing town of Tarbert Manor. The Lord, in his grace and wisdom, has chosen not to remove it from the place of business. Through prayer, the Lord had decreed that it be a source of tithing, once purification and baptismal has taken place. Sister Rehoboth, will you assist Brother Satterwhite as he lowers this sinful example of the Devil’s work into the muddy and sanctified waters of the Gobabis. Congregation, ‘I Shall Not Be Moved,’ please.” 

The small trailer holding Fireball was lowered by winch into the Gobabis River until nothing was left to view, as the multitude joyfully sang the hymn. After several minutes, the Reverend again qualified the purification. “God now in the name of Jesus, I rebuke the devil who resides in this machine. It will, from this moment onward, be beholden to doing the Lord’s work, being hereby sanctified in the holy waters of the Gobabis River. It will bring tithes to the storehouse and souls to the Lord. Idle hands are the Devil’s plaything, and those who would caress the flippers oversee the bumpers will now bask in the glory of the Lord. With this baptism, I call it done. Sister Rehoboth, you may remove the almighty Fireball now. It’s been cured. Give me a Praise the Lord, somebody!” 

Accompanied by the resumption of ‘I Shall Not Be Moved,’ Fireball was winched up the ramp to the waiting tow truck, its backflash covered with algae, numerous wires dangling in a soggy mess and falling to the floor of the trailer. Under the load of the water, the backflash finally and loudly fell off the machine and into the rear of the trailer as water gushed out the sides, an act soundly applauded by the congregation. Someone shouted “The Lord done smote the machine!” and the crowd responded “Hallelujah!” 

Boaz the Fourth again looked at the less-than-exuberant store owner. “Brother Platimus, the machine is now a servant of the Lord. With our blessings, you may now return home to place it in the Lord’s service. And now, we turn to a fallen sister from the north who had the courage to reinstate her relationship with the Lord. She came to Seamesville County to investigate a crime, but Lord have mercy, there was none to investigate. She came to investigate, if you will, an alleged offense against a little girl who was firmly and deeply rooted in the service of the Lord. There was no criminal, there was no offense. She came, this sister from the north did, to reap the treasures of Mammon. But here, near the banks of the Gobabsis River she found only the Lord.” 

Platimus took a brief moment to gaze back at the boat ramp, where a comely and well-endowed woman dressed in muslin was being led to the River Gobabis on the arm of sister Rehoboth. Then he turned to Moe Satterwhite. “Let’s go home, Bro. It’s already been a long day.” 

To the dying strains of ‘Rock of Ages,’ they motored back to Tarbert Manor with the drenched machine in tow. For miles, water sprayed out the back of the trailer. A big gusher inundated the back of the cab as they descended down the Galen Spincter Pass. When they arrived at the Five and Dime, they unloaded it on the front porch. Orestes Platimus wanted the whole town to see it, dripping wet, broken backflash, a mess of soggy, tangled wires, and all. “They got what they wanted, Moe. Now you just go home.” 

Two days later, Platimus moved what was left of Fireball into the store, right next to Quick Draw and Big Brave. Of course, nobody could play it. It had been destroyed. And it stayed in the store for a month, that way, so the Jaybirds and everyone else could see that the Lord’s work had been done well and good. 

When the first chill of late Autumn arrived, Platimus closed the Five and Dime for a couple of days. He’d bought himself a new furnace to heat the store. The sign out front said, “store closed for two days for heating reparations.” The heatermen istalled the furnace on day one. That evening, under the cover of darkness, the storeowner exchanged the crappy old “parts Fireball” that he had taken to the river, and replaced it with the original working Fireball that he’d kept under a tarp in the service shed for a couple of months. The hand-truck he’d converted to move pinball machines worked beautifully. It was a one-man job. And on Monday, there it was, working and collecting money. People marveled at how Platimus had managed to restore the machine. “Just a few new working parts and some elbow grease,” he said. “And prayers. I did it with the Lord’s guidance,” he was careful to add. 

Monday night, Platimus sat down with the missus for a good dinner. “Platimus, you old scoundrel,” she said, “Somehow you managed to pull it off, and I didn’t think you could. How did you manage to keep this whole thing a secret from everybody including me?” “Simple, my dear, simple,” said the shopkeeper. “The Lord did his work in seven days, and I did it in two. Now let’s just enjoy our supper. The Lord seriously fucked with me, however. Shitcan the grace for now.”


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