Foosball Guy
A Short Story by Tim Josephs
Written using the suggestion "Flatter"
Originally featured on 01-15-2008
As part of our series "Relatively Forced Holiday Laughter"

“The truth is it’s really more mental than physical.”

I bristle when I hear his voice.

“It’s true, if you can predict what your opponent is going to do before he does it, you already have the advantage.”

I’ve heard this guy everyday at lunch since I started at the company about a month earlier and he never fails to irritate me.

“Like if you know he’s right handed — which most people are — he’ll favor the bar he’s using with his right hand.”

He’s really on a roll today. I put down my ham sandwich and book and turn around. I’ve looked at him before but it wasn’t much more than a passing glance. He’s probably in his mid-thirties, not very tall, pudgy, goatee, glasses, going bald in the front but long ponytail in the back. In short, he resembles a slightly thinner Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons.

“That’s why I can play one-on-three and still win,” he’s says. He’s leaning against the table and jiggling the white ball in his right hand while three similar-looking fools hang on his every word.

It’s hard to believe this is a real person saying this, that a grown man is seriously talking about strategy for foosball. If this were a movie or TV show he’d only be around for comic relief, an exaggerated, somewhat unbelievable nerd. But this guy standing about twenty feet from me is stunningly real. A new game starts and, as advertised, Foosball Guy is taking them all on.

“Oh! There’s one!” he says, grinning like a jack-in-the-box. “I told you.”

“Wow,” the shortest of the three mutters. They are actually in awe of this moron.

I try to go back to my book but his voice and the subsequent rolling and smacking of the ball is too distracting. I’ve sat at every table in the cafeteria/game room, but that loud, nasally voice finds me every time. And unfortunately I’m at the mercy of the schedule makers and can’t change my lunchtime. I’ve thought about eating out or maybe taking my lunch to my car, but why should I have to do that? Why should I have to rearrange my life because of this blowhard?

“Look at that! Did you see that? Oh my god, that was great!”

I put my book down again and peek at my watch. I still have thirteen minutes left. If I go back to my cubicle too early and Mrs. Peterson sees me just sitting there, she’ll wonder why I’m not working.

I stare at Foosball Guy and suddenly have a stroke of genius, a plan to once and for all put an end to this annoyance: I’m going to take up foosball. Sure I’ve played before for fun but this will be different, this will be serious. I can see it all clearly. First I’ll start by buying my own table. I’ll play with friends or just by myself four, no six hours a day. Ten on weekends. When I can’t play I’ll do hand and wrist exercises. I’ll get foosball books and videos if they exist. Every waking moment will be devoted to becoming a foosball champion. When I sleep I’ll dream about tiny, plastic soccer players.

And then, when I’m ready, I’ll challenge him. I’m sure he’ll accept but for some reason if he doesn’t I’ll flatter him, tell him I’ve heard all about his foosball prowess; he’ll surely take that bait. I’ll make it seem like we’re playing for fun, that we’re just fooling around, after all, how could I possibly beat the foosball master?

I’ll lose the first few points on purpose and say something like, “Wow, you are really good;” trying to inflate his ego a little more than it already is. Of course he’ll begin pontificating on his style and technique, spewing his usual nonsense.

Once he’s nice and over-confident, I’ll slowly start to assert myself. I’ll reel off a few quick points and when he stares at me in disbelief I’ll shrug, “must have gotten lucky.” Of course he’ll think it’s only a fluke.

For a while I’ll play him even, match him goal for goal, just stringing him along. I’ll notice his smile fade slightly as he begins to get a little frustrated.

And once word spreads around the building that Foosball Guy has some competition, that a real game is being played, a crowd will form. His flunkies will stand behind him and cheer him on. Maybe the whole office will come out to see if their hero can defeat the hotshot upstart.

The crowd’s support will buoy him for a point or two; his smile and swagger will return. But it will do no good. When he sees how great I am and it finally dawns on him that he could lose, he’ll slip. I’ll glance at him and see an expression he’s probably never worn while playing his beloved game: fear. A bead of sweat will form on his large forehead, surely the same bead that grows when he’s at Starbucks and the pretty barista smiles and asks if he’d like something else and he shakes his head, although what he wants more than anything in the world is an espresso brownie or three.

With nerves taking over, he’ll start getting sloppy. He’ll miss easy opportunities, misjudge where the ball is headed, grab the wrong bar. I’ll let him win the next point or two, build up his confidence again just so I can rip it down.

When the time is right, when I’ve toyed with him long enough, I’ll go for the kill. I’ll amaze and dazzle with my handwork as I twirl the bars, my tiny men kicking and scoring, acting as an extension of my body. No mercy will be shown as I destroy perhaps the only good thing in this poor, pathetic creature’s life. And to top it off, he’ll be humiliated in front of everyone, including all the saps who used to worship and adore him.

After he’s lost, he’ll force himself to smile and say something like “I must be off my game today.” Then he’ll stumble away, beaten, broken. He’ll never play foosball again. Soon he’ll begin to question everything in his life, searching for a speck of meaning. He might even kill himself. I wouldn’t want that but if it happens, it happens.

 

I smile as I pack up my lunch sack.

“I told you man, what did I tell you? Did you see what I did there? I invented that move!”

I stop as I pass by the foosball table and sigh. Suddenly I have a better idea. I walk over to Foosball Guy and whack him hard in the back of his head with my book.

“It’s foosball, jackass,” I say and head back to my cubicle.

Read More By Tim Josephs

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