Caitlin Hornshaw’s love is in Vane. Our marathon continues

(the waiting room to the editorial offices to the towers that remain A Word with You Press across from Friendship Square in Moscow)

Hello, Literati!

You might remember Caitlin Hornshaw as Caitlin Foyt. Marriage resulted in a name change! Caitlin plays with us from time to time and attended one of our workshops featuring Pulitzer Prize winner Jonathan Freedman. I last saw her when she visited our booth at The L.A. Times Festival of Books, still as Caitlin Foyt.

The spirit of Peggy Dobbs has coaxed her from the shadows to join us once again.  For those helping me with the countdown, this is entry number eight of the twenty four to be posted since this marathon began.

Here is

Arcade Love

By Caitlin M.F. Hornshaw


It was 1983. She knew this with certainty. This knowledge was unspoken and unquestioned, as these kinds of things often were in dreams.

It smelled like stale cigarettes and cheap street-cart hot dogs, a combination that turned her stomach. Laura was standing in a disagreeably cold and damp room, a massive, industrial basement of some kind. She couldn’t tell quite how large it was, though, because it was filled with rows and rows of brightly illuminated coin-operated game cabinets.  Chilled, she untied the jacket from her waist and pulled it around her shoulders.

She would never come here if she didn’t have to. This place made her feel like such a vulnerable outsider.

Across the room she spotted a small gathering of vaguely familiar faces, kids she had seen around before. They were cheering on whomever was at the controls and sharing swigs from a glass bottle wrapped in a brown paper bag.

Walking over, Laura was careful to dodge the clumps of chewed bubble gum and other typical bits of strange litter that covered the outer space-themed carpeting. (One time, she found a bright green acrylic nail jammed into one of the crevices on the bottom of her jellies.)

She could now see that the game was Donkey Kong: Bennie’s favorite.

But Bennie wasn’t playing. It was someone else at the joystick, a kid with a crew cut, who she didn’t recognize. She couldn’t get a look at the screen, but from the sounds of his audience, he was likely beating Bennie’s top score.

She cleared her throat. “Have any of you seen Bennie Vane?”

A dirty-haired girl with empty, dark eyes looked up at Laura and made eye contact for a moment. A bottle in hand, she took a deep sip and then looked away. Everyone else’s eyes stayed glued to the screen. Weird. It was as if they didn’t hear her.

The arcade was full of the sounds of coins being accumulated, bells ringing, beeps, bleeps, blips, boops and buzzing, but the average person could tune it out. She knew that they had heard her.

She tried again, this time adding a little more volume to her voice. “Um, hello?! Can you hear me?”


“Am I invisible!?”

There was still no reply.

“You know, it’s RUDE to ignore people!”

No one even acknowledged that she was there.

Confused and frustrated, she slowly backed away.

The lights went out. Everyone standing around Donkey Kong Kid yelled out in unison, and she heard someone bang down hard on the arcade cabinet.

A moment later, just the overhead lights turned back on, and she suddenly heard music.  Not music: hair metal. Some kind of glam metal power ballad?

That’s when Bennie appeared from behind a row of pinball machines. He was wearing a lancer front motorcycle jacket, a black t-shirt that read “POISON” in bright green letters and torn acid washed jeans. His long, peroxide-bleached hair was slightly teased with hairspray and he was wearing eyeliner. (Her hairspray and her eyeliner.)

Laura covered her mouth. She didn’t know quite how to react—or whether it was OK to laugh. Something told her that would not be the most well-received or appropriate reaction.

He was holding a cordless microphone in his hands, but it didn’t seem to emit any sound. He was lip-syncing. As far as she could tell, he was lip-syncing perfectly to a song she had never before heard in her life.

She caught words like “lover,” “paradise,” and “red roses” in the lyrics. She closed her eyes tightly as Bennie reached her, and her face turned pink as he began running his fingers through her hair.

When the song ended, he kissed her softly. His body dipped and he dropped down onto one knee, holding out a bright red velvet box for her to open.

Shaking, it took a moment for her to finagle it ajar. Inside was not what she expected: a thick, silver plated ring. Instead of a traditional diamond, the top was a long, ornate oval that looked almost like a spoon. When he slid on her hand, it covered most of her finger. She tried but failed to bend her joints.

Before she could say anything, he yanked her to her feet and guided her over to the Donkey Kong arcade cabinet. At some point the game had turned back on, and Laura noticed that it was the only game that had been restored to power in the entire room.

The screen was currently showing the games existing top scores, many of which were repeats of the game’s known frequenters: MAT, GAY (Laura always assumed this wasn’t a person’s actual initials), BEV (Bennie Ethan Vane)—but in the very top ranking slot was a brand new set of initials: LCD. Laura Crystal Deen. Her name.

He was beaming when she turned away from the screen to look at him: “Laura, will you marry me?”

She looked into his big, hopeful eyes and laughed.

“But, it’s too late for this, Bennie,” she said.

His grin collapsed and he shook his head, his face filling with panic.

“No. No. I swear, it’s not too late.”

She gave him a warm, sympathetic smile, shaking her head “No.”

“Bennie, it is. It is too late. You see, we’re already married. And this is just a dream.”

That’s when the ocean of faces surrounding them vanished. All of the high scores on the arcade cabinet began to scroll vertically, at speeds that made the white test too blurry to read. The room began to spin violently. And Laura woke up. She woke up beside her living, breathing modern man: a beautiful, balding, sleeping Bennie Vane.


12 thoughts on “Caitlin Hornshaw’s love is in Vane. Our marathon continues

  1. Parisianne Modert says:

    The warm up band is the narrative which in great detail brings us into a past where two lovers are to become bonded for everafter. This narrative introduction to a proposal set in time, location of believable characters and place won my heart and honored my sense of wishing to be part of any story as a voyeur within the scene. This is a young woman’s memory of the moments surrounding her man’s proposal to her when they were fully alive with each other in a day that was neither innocent or skeptical. Her awaking from her dream many years later does not diminish her love, but proves to us that true love endures both in dreamscape and in real life. The woodcraft here is outstanding in desciptives, in emotions and in smooth cadence. Unlike Mick singing this classic blues cover above this story is of arriving to each other from that train rather than departing on it.

  2. Michael Stang says:

    Strange the places our dreams take us. Filtered through reality into the bubblescape, the nonsense we attach can be quite amusing. I was gripped with a sense of terrible to come but delighted at the ending. Terrific writing.

  3. Mike Casper says:

    As a former pinball wizard I totally resemble this story. Thanks for taking me back to the days of Galaga, Donkey Kong, Joust and Ms. Pacman.

  4. Parisianne Modert says:

    With this entry gentlemen, you in my opinion have only Gary Clark and Michael Stang sitting on the fence of possible finalists in my opinion. The women have such richer stories of better substance and human qualities in the contest so far. I am impressed enough by this story to say that here would be one of my votes for a finalist. Gentleman, don’t feel bad, because I wouldn’t vote for myself either to be a finalist. We simply got out written by superior and more sensitive story tellers of richer experiences.

    • Mike Casper says:

      Pffffft. Geez thanks alot, Ms. Modert. On behalf of myself and the other gentlemen contributors I respectfully disagree.

      • Parisianne Modert says:

        Which of the stories are yours dear Thorn. I’m afraid you just thorned yourself above and went tilt; although there are more stories yet to be published. Bring it on gentlemen, but you will have to show rare brilliance to top Caitlin’s story above. If I had to choose a winner so far from the 50 stories I have read and reviewed alone, I would choose Kristy Webster. Good luck gentlemen. Well written Caitlin. I look forward to reading more from you.

      • Parisianne Modert says:

        Thank you for the answer I sought Mike. Among you gents, I remain a strong fan of the writings of Gary Clark, because his sensitivities really touch my heart. Judging is subjective and no one should envy the discernment of our editor in chief. I loved this story of Caitlin’s because I am a romance writer, a woman of passion who honestly believes Caitin’s story is better than any of my three.

  5. Stars Fall On My Heart says:

    Caitlyn; I remember you!

    The ending is so charming <3 There's something sweet about how she wakes up and he's no longer the wild karaoke star he was in his youth, but an older balding man. If you had ended the story with the proposal, there would have been doubt if their love would have lasted the test of time. But something so simple as the state of his hair speaks volumes. Good to have you back and congrats on the marriage! Maybe you should bring the hubby to the playground!

  6. Diane Cresswell says:

    Sometimes we have to go back to remember what we sometimes forget…what drew us together in the first place…your rendition of this is wonderful Caitlyn. And its good to know that love is still there.

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