Timely Persuasion - Online Edition - Chapter 1



    The parking lot was brimming with cars but devoid of people.  Reasoning that one of the cars must belong to the man, I checked the nearby handicapped spots first.  (I realize now that just because he was old wouldn’t necessarily mean he was handicapped, but that was the first thought that came to mind at the time.  Ageism isn’t a quality I’m proud of, but unfortunately it’s there.)  Peering into the first window, I was pushed and pinned against the side of the vehicle.  I struggled, then winced as I felt a sharp pain in the back of my neck.  My attacker released his grip, allowing me to whirl around in time to see the old man stash something in his pocket as he walked away.

    “What the hell was that?” I yelled while rubbing the throbbing welt left by the ambush.

    “It’s something you’ll thank me for later.”

    “Thank you?  I’m calling the police!”

    “Suit yourself, but they won’t believe you.  Nobody will.  Just go in and bowl.  We’ll meet again someday soon.”

    “Again?  You’re insane!  You watch out, I’ll...” 

    Again I was grabbed from behind.  I covered my neck, kicked back forcefully, and turned to see my bowling partner splayed out on the ground.

    “Whoa man, what the hell?” he said as he pulled himself to his feet.

    “Sorry, I thought you were with him.”

    “Him who?”

    I turned and pointed out the old man still slowly walking away. “Him!”

    “Him who?  There’s nobody there.”

    I could still clearly see the man walking away as plain as day, so my friend’s disbelief was really pissing me off.  I didn’t need this crap on top of everything else.  Either he was playing a very unfunny game, or I had kicked him harder than I thought.

    “That old man about to cross the street.  He poked me with something.”

    “Did you get high without me?  I know you think it makes you bowl better, but now you’re seeing shit.”

    He had a point.  A couple of quick hits before entering the bar to start the prebowl drink up did wonders for my nerves and had me raring to go once practice started.  And it did make me bowl better, regardless of what anyone else thought.

    “Yes, I’m stoned.  But I really was just attacked.”

    “When I pulled into the parking lot I saw you trip and fall into the side of that car, then turn and start yelling.  Nobody attacked you.  Nobody else has even been in the parking lot.”

    “Then what is this?” I said, turning and pointing to the still sore bruise on the back of my neck.

    “It’s your fat neck.  Nothing special.  No cut, no bruise, no tattoo.  Not even a bug bite.”

    I looked in the street once again, but this time the man really was gone.  Or had he ever been there?  Was this all just a stress and drug induced fantasy?  I’d never hallucinated on pot before.  I didn’t even think you could.  My fingers could still locate the tender lump on the back of my neck, but my bowling buddy sounded so serious when he said he saw nothing.

    Across the way I spotted a tan van idling at the far side of the parking lot.  It was reasonably close to where the man disappeared, so I started towards it.  A hand on my shoulder stopped me.

    “Quit fooling around.  Let’s go in there, have a beer and get you calmed down so you can bowl.  We’re going against the Blackouts tonight and need your arm for the victory.” 

    After a dramatic pause, he lifted his bowling bag above his head and added “I, Bowlingus the God of Thunder, can’t always do it alone.”  That crazy nickname came up from time to time, mainly just to get me fired up.  He didn’t need to try too hard tonight.

    “Let me check something out first.  I think he’s in that van.”

    “Too late now.”

    The van peeled out of the parking lot.  Not concrete proof of anything, but something strange was going on.

    “First round is on me,” said my partner.  “Grab Glitzy and let’s go.”

    Protesting would do no good.  I agreed, checking one last time for the man in the tan van before following Bowlingus into his Olympus.