Monday afternoon. I slip two tokens into the slot. Somewhere within the machine, a latch releases. Eight white balls roll down a chute and come to a stop with a clack.

I am 28 years old and I am starting my first job. There isn’t much to do, there’s time to try out streaming radio, read blogs, make Farks. I’m sharing an office with someone who is sweetly telling someone on the phone that she is going to bring food to the hospital.

The key to Skeeball is to make the ball pop. It’s not enough to roll with a straight arm. You have to make it hop down the aisle so it will really jump when it’s under the glass.

I am 30 years old. I’ve been moved to a cube on the third floor. My boss is gone and I have a new boss, and a new title that comes with a direct report. I am interviewing a young man on the phone who is so competent I know I’m going to have to get serious about work or be left behind.

The first set of throws don’t pop. The falter at the glass, they roll aimlessly into the bottom gap and score no points. That’s a warm-up.

I am 32 years old. I’m receiving an email where someone from the corporate office is asking to see my work. In a few minutes I will go into a meeting where they will tell me they are dissolving the office. In a few months, I’ll be signing an agreement to move thousands of miles away.

The next set is different. The ball is popping. 3000 points. 4000 points. That throw was crooked. I wasn’t concentrating.

I am 33 years old. There’s been a press release. I am playing Skeeball on a Monday afternoon, thinking only about points and straight lines.

5000 points. But the last three throws miss every time. A child is watching me pack up my tickets, wondering how you make a ball pop. I assure her, it’s years of practice.

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