(continued – Read Part One here)
Once free of the door, I looked around in confusion. “Where are the batting cages? This doesn’t look at all like laser tag.”
Paul sighed, the long, wavering sound seeming to rip from his very soul. “We are here to bowl,” he said. “You can’t play laser tag here until you’ve made at least three touchdowns.”
I wanted badly to correct him, knowing touchdowns were only used in roller derbies, but decided it wasn’t worth hurt feelings.
“I thought you were bringing your girlfriend,” I said. “Where is she?”
Paul blanched and ran from the building toward the parking lot, yelling something about forgetting to unlock the trunk. Not knowing how long he would be gone, I decided to gather the necessary gear. I approached the service desk.
“Can I help you?” asked the young female employee, who happened to be young and female.
“Why, yes,” I said, tossing a suggestive eyebrow. “I’m a world-famous bowler, but I seem to have forgotten my gear in the hotel room, so I’ll need to borrow some. I have a coupon.”
“You’re a professional bowler, but you use coupons?”
I smiled manfully, but held back a little so as not to melt the young female employee’s knees. “Unless you give pros complimentary games.”
“Uh, no. And you might want to know that the last guy who tossed a suggestive eyebrow at me got his balls tied in a knot.”
“Well, I’m not really into that kinky stuff,” I said, “so I guess I’ll need to rent some gear.”
“What size shoes do you wear?”
“Oh, I don’t need new shoes. I’m just here to bowl.”
The young female employee sighed. Then she glanced at my feet and handed over a pair of fuzzy, rather unstylish shoes.
“Here,” she said. “You’ve got weird feet, but these should do. Now please leave me, because you’ve got really weird hair, too. And your voice is dumb.”
Clearly, the little vixen had a thing for me. Poor lass. Her heart was destined for breakage.
Just as I was leaving the counter, Paul walked in, followed by Girlfriend. She seemed annoyed, or so I gathered from the way she kept trying to beat Paul with a tire iron. He laughed and dodged the flurry of blows.
“Isn’t she adorable?” he said, running to and fro to escape Girlfriend’s onslaught while procuring his bowling shoes.
“Yeah,” I said. “Nothing like blunt trauma to spice things up. You guys ready to shoot some pucks?”
They were and we made our way to the nearest open lane. We put on our unsanitary shoes and then Paul explained some of the finer points of bowling to me.
“First,” he said, holding his bowling ball at arm’s length, “you need to choose a bowling ball that’s not too heavy. Otherwise, you’ll end up…fuck!”
“Dropping it your foot?” I ventured.
“You’re a natural. Second, the little wooden things at the end of the lane are called pins or, as we like to refer to them in the bowling business, ‘Satan’s Toothpicks.’ And that’s pretty much all there is to it.”
Paul and Girlfriend both went before me, as I was intent on observing their technique, so as better to devise a method of victory. I had to smother laughter as first Paul and then Girlfriend shot their baskets. Both of them hit the pins! And I thought they were good at this game. When it was my turn, I hefted my bowling ball. This game was mine, baby. I drew back and let it fly.
There was a moment of silence and then Paul cleared his throat. “Uh…why did you throw your bowling ball over your shoulder?”
“It’s my secret technique,” I said, standing smugly with my heels together, my toes pointed out, and my hands clasped behind my back. “What better way to avoid hitting the Toothpicks than to throw the ball in the opposite direction?”
Girlfriend looked at me in disgust, with perhaps a hint of pity. “You’re supposed to hit the Toothpicks,” she said. “You want to hit as many as possible. If you hit them all, it’s a strike.”
I shook my head in amazement. “Geez, everybody’s got a union these days.”
“No, it’s…” Paul gave up. “Just try again.”
Somewhat abashed, I retrieved my bowling ball. The rules had changed dramatically since my days of bowling glory. Pausing to perform an ancient Native American bowling ritual, I drew back the ball and let it fly.
The pins scattered like driftwood being hit by a UFO landing for repairs.
Again, there was silence. I stood there, basking in the glory of my amazing shot. I turned to Paul and executed an unsightly victory dance. I felt a little bad about that later. After all, the dance had never done anything to me.
“How about that?” I asked. “Pretty amazing goal, huh?”
“Yes, it was,” he said, “but you’re supposed to shoot for the pins in our lane, not the ones three lanes down.”
“You know I hate rules,” I said, turning smugly away. No one was going to pour frozen molasses on my victory. Not unless they also had waffles.
Craig A. Hart writes shit. Sometimes it’s less shitty. Sometimes he thinks it might be good shit. He is the stay-at-home father of twin boys, has served as editor-in-chief for The Rusty Nail literary magazine and as manager for Sweatshoppe Media. He is the host of the Raw Writing Podcast. He lives in Iowa City with his wife, sons, and two cats. You can visit his personal website at: craigahart.com.