Although I have unquestionably earned my curmudgeon badge—through much hard work and the occasional felony—it is also well-known I am a faithful friend to those deserving of the attention. Just the other day a close acquaintance referred to me as “the cockroach of friends.” This doubtless sincere and well-intentioned term of endearment touched me deeply and would have caused me to shed a tear, were I a panty-waisted, lily-livered, fungus-eating pussy. Because I am a man, however, I settled for a single, gasping, waterless sob that I skillfully concealed as a belch. I get along with my friends famously, and they simply cannot get enough of me. As evidence of this, allow me to relate a tale of undeniable camaraderie that occurred during my last visit to the Scene of the Crime, also known as my hometown.
I was staying with my good buddy, Paul, as is my custom when in town. A generous fellow, he is always thrilled for my visits. In the spirit of good fun, however, he always pretends to be away on business when I show up on his doorstep. The routine is always the same: I neglect to inform him of my impending arrival; I show up on his doorstep carrying all of my belongings, as if planning to stay for a year; he peers out the window, sees me, and drops out of sight below the windowsill; I continue knocking; he continues hiding; I use a credit card to slip the lock and stride into the house; he feigns despair, holds his head in his hands, and weeps.
All went according to tradition this visit. Personally, I would prefer changing things up a little, but Paul seems to enjoy the predictability and I hate disappointing him.
“So what are we doin tonight?” I struggled to keep up with him as he ran around the house in an amusing pretense of avoiding me.
“Some friends and I are thinking of going bowling.” He stopped sprinting long enough to shoot me a look that could have been either excitement or utter disgust; I couldn’t be sure. “Wait…we?”
“Of course! I wouldn’t travel all this way and not spend time with one of my best friends! I wouldn’t feel right about that.”
Paul waved dismissively. “Oh, don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine. Go ahead and spend as much time away as you like. You could even leave right now and it wouldn’t hurt my feelings.”
I felt that non-sob blech gurgle up again. It was just this manner of selflessness that made me respect Paul so much. Here he was, eager to spend time with me, and yet more interested in what I wanted to do, even if it meant not being in my presence.
“Most thoughtful of you, old chap,” I said, “but I couldn’t do that to you. I shall come along on said bowling adventure. I haven’t scored a goal in a long time.”
“Yeah, you know. That’s a bowling term for getting the horseshoe through the hoop.”
“Riiiight. Okay, so…I guess there’s no way around this?”
“Nope! You’re too good a friend to leave in the lurch.”
“Fine,” Paul said. “But if you’re coming along, you need to learn a few things about bowling.”
I stifled a chuckle. Silly Paul. Little did he know I was a renowned expert on bowling, having once belonged to a bowling troupe and batted .500 as a season average before helping my team win the league trophy in just five innings. I decided to humor him.
“No problem,” I said, giggling. “What should I know?”
“First, a hoop is in hockey and a goal is in golf. Also, I really don’t think…I mean, bowling is really dangerous and not for the novice.”
“Ah, I ain’t skeered,” I said, affecting a British accent in order to comfort his nerves.
“Besides, I’m taking Girlfriend and she doesn’t like your hair.”
“I’ll wear a hat.”
“She thinks your voice is annoying.”
“I’ll be quiet. A muzzle, even.”
Paul shook his head slowly, regretfully. “No, I don’t think…”
“I have coupons for a free game.”
* * *
Paul and I strode into the bowling alley, looking svelte and manly. We made our presence known by simultaneously stumbling into the automatic door. A group of women watched with undisguised lust as we suavely struggled to extricate ourselves from the door.
Never one to miss an opportunity, I threw a dazzling grin at the women. They inspected the grin, shuddered, crumpled it, and tossed it into the nearest trash can. Then they all marched off to the bathroom, presumably so they might swoon in private, thereby maintaining their dignity.
(to be continued)
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.