Where there's a Willesden there's a way

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Showdown at The Junction

I knew him from somewhere, that was pretty certain. Maybe some other late night in some other pub, or maybe Mr Motivator had fallen on hard times. Best not to bring it up, I thought, as he slapped the table and yelled "Bring it on!"
The Kid didn't flinch, and cooly blew smoke into his face. I stayed out of it and studied my pieces with trepidation.

The Junction's a pub where things just happen People talk, jostle and sing as cocky bouncers work hard to pull the underage clientele. lt's loud and hectic, but unlike most pubs with Atmosphere you can still talk and, if you don't fancy the full Junction experience, there's a massive garden. Inside, there's a decidedly unfinished theme serving as a reminder of the number of times it's closed since l hit 17. Outside the garden is still marked out with parking spaces. It has an improvised atmosphere other places in Harrow just can't match.

Back at the fusball table, things were getting intimidating. I should have guessed it would turn into a grudge match the moment The Kid asked for my help to “take“ Mr Motivator, whose loud aggressive playing had been drowning out my conversation. He can't have been more than 17 and I'd been introduced to him five minutes earlier as a friend of a brother of a friend. Ordinarily I wouldn't have touched this one with a bargepole. But fusball is my game- my only game, and for all the shouting Mr Motivator didn't seem that good. I agreed and shook The Kid's hand firmly. Then I saw the look that flashed between them as he put down a pound coin.
"I'll defend", l said.

Remembering my record in defence, I strode up to my pieces and shook hands with Mr Motivator and his Gangly Partner. I took the poles and realised the defence pole barely moved. I pointed this out to The Kid in the coolest manner l could. "Won't matter", he said, lighting a cigarette.

The game began, and within thirty seconds I'd heard the clang of ball on baseplate twice. But I hadn't actually seen a thing, and I felt too embarassed to ask the score.

It became apparent we were winning when Mr Motivator entered the bargaining phase. A promise of a lucrative cash bet for The Kid not to use his middle striker, and we were at 3-3.

My only involvement in the match flashed by. The ball lingered in my half long enough to hit it, and I struggled to bring my defensive line to life. One creak later and we were 3-4 down. I tried to avoid eye contact.

The Kid pulled it back, and we'd won. Sort of. Mr Motivator was angry, and Gangly Assistant backed off.

"Two on one!" he yelled, banging the table. I backed off. "One on one" I insisted.

Me and my mate had meant to leave, but the grudge match was compelling. The Kid got two quick goals, but Mr Motivator began to play up even more. The table bounced and beer flew. The third ball was particularly bad tempered and seemed to last forever.

But once it went in I realised the tide had turned.I would have bet on The Kid, and very nearly did. But for all his coolness, he just couldn't go in for the kill, and Mr Motivator's sheer force and bluster were, ultimately, unbeatable in what became the best fusball game I've ever seen.Or it might have been that defensive line.


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