A new form of entertainment, the man says. And cheap, too—seven balls for a penny! It’d be the perfect way to make money with…times the way they are.
Tiana is always suspicious of promises like these. The Palace was smaller since the stock market imploded—not very palatial anymore, and with a much smaller staff—but it was still one of the most popular restaurants in New Orleans. It drew people from all over the city…and rats out of the woodwork.
But the man had brought one of the contraptions with him (“Baffle Ball,” he calls it), and is letting her play a few rounds. Trying to shoot the balls into different-colored cups on the baseball diamond is…strangely satisfying, she has to admit. Still, there's something fishy about the whole thing. That “Baffle Point” hole in the top, for instance. Your entire score doubles if you land a ball in it. Allegedly.
“There’s no way to get a ball in that, is there?” she asks him, pointing.
“Of course there is! It’s just…a challenge.”
Tiana considers for a moment, then calls over the one person she knows who can’t resist a challenge, especially not a ridiculous one like this.
“Achidanza!” says Naveen after they explain the rules (and the challenge). It isn't long before his language devolves into other choice Maldonian words. “There is no way to get a ball in there,” he grumbles.
“Oh, poor baby,” says Tiana, patting him on the shoulder. This thing is fun. But its real test is against the ego of a teenage boy. “Go get your brother,” she tells Naveen. “He's washing dishes in the back.”
“Pfft. He can’t even beat me in arm-wrestling.”
“Exactly—because he uses his brain. Go get him.”
While he’s gone, Charlotte comes up behind her, puts her hand on her shoulder. “Oooh! Tia, what’s this thing?”
“You get seven balls, and you try to knock them into the cups,” says Tiana. “The one at the top is the most difficult.” She looks at the salesman, pointedly.
“That little hole there?” asks Charlotte. After three tries, the ball curves up around the top of the table and plops into the Baffle Point.
“Achidanza!” says Tiana’s brother-in-law over her shoulder. All Tiana says is, “Huh.”
Two balls later, it happens again. “Careful," Tiana tells the man, "or your face'll freeze like that." Then she tells him she’ll take two of these doohickeys.