Down at the Bowling Alley
By: Cameron A. Straughan
He grasped the bowling ball tightly, nervously, perspiration almost causing it to slip away. He saw his intended target, straight ahead. Concentration was foremost; he had to prepare. But it was almost too much responsibility. His realization was slow, but terrible. His legs dangled below him. He was supporting himself, hovering above the lane. Barely able to get a grip on himself, the bowling ball disappeared, only to be replaced with a certain fear he could hardly describe. Had he waited too long? Is it possible to prepare too much? Quite suddenly his fears were confirmed. He straightened when cold fingers entered into him. Pulling him back and thrusting him forward, plunged into it too quickly, he was no longer a player but an unwilling participant.
He couldn’t think of anything good to say, rocketing towards her. He sped by, imagining he caught her smile, and crashed into the pins behind her. Several strikes were needed to get her attention and players picketed for her affections regularly. It was all pins and needles. For every time she got cross, she’d set down her knitting, tug the yarn, and the lion resting below the trophy case would roar.
His feet dangled, as the players carried him back for the next attempt. They rubbed baby powder on their hands, normally, but now they were all out. Looking towards the priest, they were happy to see him baptising the next victim to be immediately crushed and ground, so that fingers could slip easily into holes. The priest, wiping his hands after performing the baptism, lights a cigarette and steps forward. He thinks he’s quite the work of art, checking on the scores. He’s thinking about some brothel in Leningrad where people are glued to the floor to stop the spread of good will. He is holier than it all, but munches on a piece of smoked eel he keeps in his coat pocket, a curious habit.
Pins and needles. Like some pregnancy, he is weighted down by thoughts and morals, unable to move, only to roll, if the players let him, and not far. Rocketing past her, the pins fly up. She knits busily, paying no attention to the racket behind her. She creates and he destroys. But he couldn’t manage it without the help of all the other men. Yes, the little girl down the lane has chosen a difficult lifestyle, perhaps that’s most of her appeal. She must lift her legs each time he is hurtled towards her. Angered by the inconvenience, she pulls on her yarn and the lion resting below the trophy case roars again.
Pins and needles, and the place is alive with some real characters. One man has a bowling shirt with a jaguar on the back, or so it seems; it’s really a complete body tattoo made to look like one. But no, that’s not it either; it is a real live jaguar attacking a man just as he was about to serve. No one knows how it transpired, but it was undoubtedly the player’s fault. A convenient distraction on a boring Saturday night at the bowling alley.
The priest ran the bowling alley and did anything for a buck. In one of his more recent scams, he sold photographs of Abraham Lincoln’s feet. You couldn’t tell if they were authentic or not, aside from the coroner’s tag around the big toe, but that could have been forged. Yes, the priest was a timeless character, always in the mood for fun. Always running between lanes, blessing this and that, he checks up on all the scores. But with his interference, it’s difficult for a fellow to score at all. His theory of creation? What came first, the chicken or the egg? Probably the Beatles, he said, because they’re more popular than Jesus. He also ran a confession booth, just like any good bowling alley. But confessions were often interrupted. The priest oversaw every detail of the operation and if new customers came in he’d leap up to rent them some shoes. One size fits all, he insisted, but not without a great deal of pain. No sense complaining about it. He’d just rush back to the confession booth to comfort some poor soul who started crying during his absence. He recommended that everyone hail ten Mary’s, which is easy because such a common name is rampant in bowling alleys across the nation. In fact, if you hollered something like “Hey, Bob!”, 33 % would turn and look. If you hollered “Hey, stupid!”, everyone would look. If you hollered “I’m sick of this place and now I’m going home to think for myself!”, you’d be thoroughly beaten.
Suddenly, the lion roars and everyone looks. It had nothing to do with the little girl down the lane, still knitting avidly. The lion consumed the team captain, when he wandered too close to the trophy case. Pins crash, balls grind, baby powder on and off, and fingers slip in and out. He is lost in the game. Dizzy, helpless, he can hardly find the strength to call out to her as he rockets past. And she’s so busy with her knitting. They are like two ships passing in the night; again and again he is forced to make that voyage. But relief does come, if only for a moment. A player, about to throw a strike, lets him fall to the ground. The player forgot that his car was on fire, his children locked inside. A quick vote, and someone is chosen to cover for him while he runs out to the parking lot to check. He’ll be back.
Such a male dominated sport troubles the little girl down the lane. There seems to be no hope for her, but she can’t help but develop a fondness for the young man who keeps rolling by her, even if he is tossed by the others. She pulls on her yarn and the lion resting below the trophy case roars. Again and again the lion roars, because she is rushing to put the final touches on her knitted bowling shirt. The lion roars with less vigour, his fur coat disappearing towards the young girl down the lane who weaves it so carefully. Soon the lion will cease to exist at all. Yes, the girl creates, he destroys, but you must also destroy in order to create. Soon his shirt will be ready for him, and she has decided it’s for him, on the account of his tenacity and perseverance. He was an oddball, but likeable. And all the other players will go home empty-handed. No trophies for them, for she has nothing to spare.