A Short Story: "I Smell a Rat In the Ball-Crawl" (working title)

At risk of losing you, I have decided to post a short story I am working on (by working on, I mean I wrote it yesterday and decided today to post it).  As I learned in his writing memoir, “On Writing,” Steven King got his start with short stories.  So why not throw around a few ideas?

Chuck E. Jesus look
at all those tickets!
Below is a first draft – not yet revised in any meaningful way – that I may try and develop into a full blown short story.  Think of it as a plot sketch.  Painting in the pieces (character, scenes, setting) may come later, if the plot is worthwhile.  Truthfully, I am really excited to share it, even in this raw form.  

I would love your feedback.  A small kernel (the corny part) is based on truth, but otherwise it is completely fictional.

We are off to celebrate the marriage of close friends in the Dominican Republic.  If I can’t stay away from eD, I’ll post from there.  

In the meantime, happy reading!  If you want to share your thoughts with me, please post a comment or shoot me an email.  I am open to ideas and even pleas for me to stop writing.

“I Smell a Rat In the Ball-Crawl” (working title)

The veranda was supported by two two-by-fours that rested on one end, the roof of an aluminum horse stable, and were hinged on the other, the original timber roof our tree-house.  To double our space and create a sturdy platform for us, our food stores, and baseball cards, we used hundreds of nails to secure a smorgasbord of scrap wood to the beams.  In order to avoid detection from the parental landowners, when we finished we simply pulled the suspended half of the veranda up, like a draw bridge, and onto the original tree-house roof. 
There were four of us, all in the third grade.  Membership was simple, it was just us.  We barrowed wood from nearby housing developments, damned up storage drains to create swim holes, and spooked horses for fun.  Our power was in our numbers.  We did not have ranks, we had no leader.  The 1980’s were soon to close and all-in we didn’t have six arm-pit hairs.

Under the cover of the massive oak tree, we sipped on marshmallow topped hot chocolate and held our first gang meeting. 

A decision to move forward with gang activity was made unanimously, or not at all.  “We are either bad ass or in class,” one of us said (identities to remain anonymous).  The pitch of our giggles spooked the horse below, which made us giggle more.

Our name was to be both realistic and intimidating.  You see, there were more than a few other crews representing the two elementary schools on our side of suburbia.  We had to get our name right. 

Through vigorous debate during our first official meeting, we decided on “Baby Warriors.”  We each placed our right hand on a ripped up Playboy (our governing articles) and repeated:

We pledge allegiance to the Baby Warriors, and to the dudes for which it stands, one gang in Suburbia, inseparable, with Alfred E. Newman, and pop rocks for all.

For our first gang operation, we asked to be dropped off behind Chuck E. Cheese’s since that was where the dumpsters were.  We were not above the ball-crawl at Chuck’s, but this particular visit was for business purposes.  “Dumpster” was our first agenda item.  Based on reputable intelligence from our school yard snitch, we learned that Chuck’s was throwing away gold. 

Rock-paper-scissors sent two of us in the bin.  It wasn’t as bad as we thought, since the real trash was heavy while what we wanted was light as air.  If the pimply high school kid who worked at the prize booth didn’t bother ripping up the tickets, we saw no harm in recycling the tiny red pieces of paper.  That first day, we retrieved one bag with well over five-thousand tickets.

Armed with pizza money and our tickets, together we walked into the parlor with wide eyes and high aspirations.  The financial opportunities on our new turf were endless.  Literally, we had a virtually infinite amount of capital since even if we used all five-thousand tickets, it would be only a matter of time before the same tickets went right back to where we found them.  The Baby Warriors found our first ATM.

Back at the tree-house, we swore to complete secrecy.  We knew that once word got out, or we became too greedy, the jig would be up.  Our plan was simple: go there every weekend, pocket the lunch money from our parents, and use the dirty tickets to buy our meals and maybe a few extra items from the stony dude in the prize booth.  Surprisingly, it was really easy. 

Before long, not only were we making a killing by keeping our food money, we were accumulating electronics, movie tickets, and party coupons.  We pimped out the tree house, and I’m proud to say that the Baby Warriors were the first crew to ever “make it rain” with Chuck E Cheese’s tickets.  We spent hours at night in the tree-house making sure the tickets were counted, noted, and stored for future trips to Chuck’s when, God forbid, there were no tickets in the dumpster.  We kept a detailed ledger of the tickets that came in, and to whom the tickets went out.  We housed our electronics, paper goods, and Candy on the roof of the horse stable, where they were hidden from view by a low hanging branch.  We were on top of the world.

Since we were careful to not overspend at the prize booth, we had a surplus of dirty tickets.  We couldn’t throw them away, as it was completely against our principles.  When we ran out of hidden space on the roof of the stable, we stuffed tickets into our mattresses and throughout the tree-house.  We even wrapped up bricks of tickets and buried them under the tree.  Eventually, we ran out of room and in an emergency gang meeting we decided that the only thing we could do was try and make the tickets clean.  We employed the schoolyard snitch to dump the dirty tickets at recess for pennies on the dollar.    

By the end of the third grade, we each had at least two sets of every baseball card we wanted, and the lot of us developed diabetes from all the pizza and candy.  The truth of the matter is we couldn’t control our habits, and not one of us could get off the junk.  Restless nights compounded by cavities and an undeniable thirst for more candy caused infighting.  Some of us wanted to pull back on operations, others wanted more.  Others needed more.

We began to slip.  Hopped up on an endless supply of blow pops, dipsticks, and atomic fire balls we caused suspicion by buying the top shelf color TV for the tree house.  It was the most expensive item at the prize booth, and our purchase caught the stony dude by surprise.  He didn’t giggle.  We lost one member to a month in solitary (grounded) when a dog picked up the scent of our greasy tickets and dug up our stash.  The parental landlords were both confused and irritated about the thousands of half-eaten tickets littered across the entire backyard. 

With suspicions making us nervous, we turned to more junk.  The candy made it all go away.  But everyone knows that the higher you are on sugar, the harder you fall when you crash.  We were doing an inventory count after a two-day binge on lemon drops, jaw-breakers, and yard sticks and we forgot to securely latch the platform to the tree house after pulling it up from the stable.  It turned out to be an extraordinarily windy evening, and a strong wind sent the platform crashing down onto the stable roof.  The stable roof turned out to be not so stable, and the aluminum framing crumbled upon impact, sending the entire supporting wall, and all of our food stores, down onto the ground below.

We later guessed that the horse probably ate at least one hundred pounds of candy before he ran into the mountains.  The damn horse even ate our tickets and Playboy.  It took the landowners almost a full day to find the horse, his red mouth gave him away.  A crucial member of the Baby Warriors was back into solitary for the rest of the summer. 

It was only after a long probation period that we were allowed to roll together.  We were banned from all the Chuck E. Cheese’s locations in the valley after our parents informed them of our activities.  We all agreed to stop banging at Chuck’s, but it would be for naught elsewhere in the valley because banging was in our blood.

Our reintroduction onto the scene was the last weekend before the fourth grade year.  We were at the Penny Arcade.  The arcade’s carpeting was a static energy generator; kids were shocking themselves left and right.  They thought it funny, maybe even scary. 

We thought it was an opportunity. 

Prior to our detection years later, an arcade game credit was triggered by dropping a coin into a metal slot.  The coin pulled a lever that connected a small electrical current to the game’s processor and a credit would be granted.  Even easier, though, was to discretely drag your shoes on the carpet and touch the metal plate where the coin was supposed to go.  The static electricity on the metal plate was enough to trigger a credit.  A blend of cotton and wool socks worked the best.  There was a new game in town, and the Baby Warriors were running it.

Categories: Short Story

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14 replies

  1. Thanks for the comments guys – great, on point, revision recommendations Goose…

  2. Hahahahaha. Love it! Though, I'd keep working on the first sentence. Slightly confusing to the reader, I think. And you don't want to say "two, two-by-fours". Perhaps "a pair of two by fours" or something. I think the story is strong, but does it get rolling quick enough? Just a thought.

  3. I really liked it! That S. King book is the one I was talking about on the way home from Jay's game that night. I'm glad you're a writer! Love you – gi

  4. Man this stirs up all sorts of memories from my days of working for the other "familia" (Familia Fun Zone). We used to barter tokens and tickets throughout the Mountain Gate burrough: Subway sandwich? 25 tokens..frozen yogurt? 20 tokens..Shakeys mojo potatos? 30 tokens. Good times..

  5. Thank you guys so much for reading, and commenting! This memory came out of nowhere, I had to write it down! And John, not ALL of it is true – though a large portion of it really is. Based on the response, there will be follow up installments in the near future (hey, 61 unique page views, aka "read more" was clicked, is not bad for eD). At risk of blowing the rubber band incident – I will say Cenzo that it was a detail I totally forgot, but is so crucial to the build up of BW fame. Not that we used the rubberbands, but how we acquired them (remember? bags and bags of them…and we had to face the music at one point. keep it on the wraps (hehehe) for now, it very well may make it into the next installment).Thanks again everyone for reading!

  6. Rubber Band Man – I'd be careful. The Baby Warriors are still alive and well. Don't be hatin' or you be sleeping with the fishies.

  7. If this were a true story and not quite so fictional. I mean, no way these responsible Chucky Cheese employees would throw away whole tickets. I've also been shocked by static electricty many times, but never was I given arcade super powers. These Baby Warriors couldn't really exist, but if they did, I would have tried to get jumped in. My Mom always had loads of rubber bands around the house. So, could have been the supplier or rubber bands…."The Rubber Band Man"

  8. all I can say is: holy atomic fire balls.

  9. Hi Dominic, I love your short story. I laughed my ass off, those are such great memories. The funny thing Is, all of this really happened. I told my wife all those stories and she never believed me. Now she does, thanks for the laughs. Hope all is well in the uk. Keep writing those stories! I'm looking forward to the next installment of the baby warriors. Possible topics: lemonade stand, rancho park golf, movie making, and of course late night B movies ( Hamburger University)etc. Talk to ya soon John

  10. I don't even know where to begin on this one except – and at the risk of blowing a gang members identity – I remember a detail that is cracking me up right now. We, err, I mean they, used to use rubber bands to keep 100 tickets together. Freaking hilarious. So Sopranos before Sopranos. I LOVE it. Thanks for putting this out there.

  11. Ah, the helicon days of chucky cheese, an era to be missed…ma

  12. Thank you TayTay! That means so much coming from you. Love you, and you BETTER come visit.

  13. Hi Uncle Nick!I thought your story was hysterical! and very clever. Love you and hope to visit soon!


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