One of my earliest "warlock" moments occurred when I was in high school. I had been set up on a date with a girl that was a horrible match for me. Even though she seemed enthralled with me, I had little interest in her but, since it was a favor to my family, the date went on.
To make matters worse, instead of going to a movie or even dinner, she chose to go to the state fair. I quickly found the fair to be a great for people watching, but not much else. However, this didn't stop her from dragging me onto every ride she could and eventually asking me to win her one of those giant stuffed bears.
Bored beyond compare, I decided to make an attempt to do exactly that and began walking along the games boulevard for something I seemed to have a decent chance at. Finally, I stumbled across a carnie running a game where you popped balloons with darts.
At this time I had been playing darts pretty regularly and I felt comfortable with my skill so, with only a little trepidation, I approached the wooden booth. However, just before I got to the table, one of my friends ran up to me and grabbed my arm. "Don't go to that guy, he waits until you get to the last dart and bends the tip right in front of your face so you can't break anything but a sweat. Goddamn cheat," he said.
I looked long at my friend and then back at the carnie, "Thanks for the warning, it'll be a big help," I said before I finished walking to the booth.
Quietly, I laid two dollars on the table and, after dealing with another customer, the carnie came over and spread three darts out in front me. I took my time with the darts, trying to get the feel for the game and ended up only breaking two balloons. My prize was a cheap stuffed dog that easily fit in my shirt pocket.
My date began to tug at my arm, "Come on, let's try a different game, no one wins these," she said. I motioned to her to give me one more shot, placed two more dollars on the table and was given three more darts.
This time, there were no mistakes. Three darts, three balloons. The carnie, having heard the three balloons burst came over and said, "Hey, we got a winner!" and handed me a four-inch high stuffed lion. "However," he added, "you can give this back and get three free darts to play for the next level if you'd like."
I tapped the table twice, "I'll take three more darts."
The carnie smiled lightly, "I like you kid, here you go," and pulled three darts from the board and spread them on the table.
The second time, the results were the same, three darts, three balloons.
This time the carnie wasn't all smiles, he threw down a foot-tall animal of unidentifiable species and grumbled, "Once again, you can give it back and this time play for the next level, which is those bears up there," as he motioned to the giant teddy bears hanging from the ceiling.
My date's eyes lit up and I knew it was what she wanted. Meanwhile, I felt like I was being challenged. "Three more darts," I said and he responded by tossing two onto the table.
Both of those darts hit their mark and at that point, the carnie, practically infuriated with me, took another dart from the wall and bent the tip of it before tossing it on the table, "Here's your third," he said before turning to help another customer.
My date, upon seeing this, had decided to start flirting with a guy sitting at the next booth. Unfazed, I calmly closed my eyes and threw the dart against the wall with all of strength.
The whole booth seemed to halt, the other players halted their throws and the carnie nearly dropped the money he was holding. Even my date, who I thought was too far away by this time, dropped the guy she was hitting on and ran over to me.
"I want the blue one," I said to the carnie.
The carnie didn't say a word, just shot me a series of dirty looks as he grabbed the step stool and plucked it from ceiling.
At this point my date started jumping up and down excitedly, "You won me a bear! My favorite color too! Oh thank you! Thank you! Thank you!" she practically screamed.
"I didn't win you anything," I said coldly, "If you want a bear, maybe he'll win you one," I said as I motioned to the guy she was just hitting on. "As for me, I'm done with you and this date. Your ride will be here soon enough."
As I turned and walked away, my friend, obviously excited, grabbed my arm again. "How'd you do that? I saw him bend the tip of the dart."
I quickly ushered him over the side of the booth. There, I reached into my right sleeve and pulled out the bent dart, "You mean this dart?"
A look of confusion came over my friend's face, "Yeah. But, I don't get it."
The first game I played, I only threw two darts, I stuck the third into my jacket sleeve and since he was so busy and there was another dart close to mine he didn't even notice. Then, all I had to do was switch the two darts out on the last balloon when the carnie turned his back.
His eyes lit up with excitement, "You're a genius!"
"Not really, I just know how to cheat a cheater. By the way, how much did you spend on the guy?"
He paused for a second to think, "About ten dollars. Why?"
"Here then," I said handing him the hear, "I think you deserve this more than me."
"Thanks, my girlfriend will love it!" he said with a huge smile. "But what are you going to get?"
I reached into my shirt pocket and pulled out the small dog, "I already have my souvenir."