Timely Persuasion - Online Edition - Chapter 2


Two Of Us

Glitzy was my bowling ball, named for her flashy shine and the letters GLTZ at the start of the engraved serial number.  By the time I rolled my fifth warm-up ball I had more or less calmed down.  Although still concerned by what had happened in the parking lot, for the moment I was content to let my subconscious ponder it while the rest of my brain worked on strikes and spares.  I was in the thunder zone, landing my shots in the pocket and either obliterating the pins or leaving easy singles for marks.  My confusion and aggression seemed to be channeling well.  Bowlingus thought it was the beers that soothed me.  I figured it was the remnants of my high that allowed me to compartmentalize so well.

    When it came to bowling, we weren’t that good but we weren’t that bad.  We owned that middle ground where non-bowlers thought we were savants and league bowlers thought we were—pardon the pun—out of our league.  Our averages didn’t inspire fear in anyone (I was at 158, he at 161), but when we got hot we could do some damage.  Case in point: the God of Thunder had rolled a 270 in the third week that somehow still stood up as league best for the season.  He was pretty excited that we were scheduled tonight on the very same lanes on which he had completed that historic accomplishment.

    Unfortunately I hadn’t been there to witness it, as I had to work late.  (And considering my lack of employment, a lot of good that did me.)  He was still a little bitter that we lost the match despite his gem.  Normally it would have been strong enough, but his other games were only about average and we were playing the top team.  All three games were close, and even a slightly below average showing from me could have earned us both a sweep and bragging rights.

    Our dynamic duo was known as the Bowling Stones.  Team names in our league came in a variety of distinct styles.  Some kept with the theme of the sport, including the Explosive Nines, Rollin’ Blackouts, Splitters, and Gutter Balls.  Others added a suggestively dirty spin to the bowling reference such as the Ballsacks, All Seven Digits (I don’t even know what that means), or my personal favorite: “Bowler? I Hardly Know Her.”  Then there was Team 8, who just went by Team 8.  I hoped this was because they didn’t know how to work the electronic scoreboard, as it’s not all that hard to come up with a team name.  Rounding out the league was the only all female pair known as the Protestant Girls.  Bowling league wasn’t really a place to pick up women for most guys, except for Bowlingus, who had done some fucking with the Protestant Girls.  I preferred to focus on the sport of it all, especially tonight.

    Practice finished.  We each gave the treasurer our six dollars for the weekly sidepot and wished the Rollin’ Blackouts good luck, rhetorically confirming that our usual beer frames and losers buy drinks rules were in effect tonight.

    The Blackouts were a fun team.  A couple of reckless tattooed biker guys who heckled and drank heavily but could still roll with it.  We were evenly matched on both bowling and drinking ability, and were separated in the standings by a mere two points.  If we could take three of four tonight we’d crack the upper echelon and be tied for fifth place. 

    I led off, feeling confident that I still had the ‘A’ game I flashed during practice.  Tightening my grip on Glitzy, I dropped my right arm back and started my approach.  Three quick strides to the line, a hard foot plant...and I fell flat on my face.  The ball swung wildly to the left, clipping two pins.

    “Nice shot, Blondie!” yelled one of our competitors.

    I hate it when they call me Blondie.

    Trying not to make eye contact with anyone to spare further embarrassment, I picked myself up off the ground and limped back to the ball return.  My next approach was more tentative, but I overcompensated and tossed this one wide to the right.

    “Hey Goldilocks, you want the ones in the middle,” was the dig I heard this time. 

    “At least someone else is finally the butt of a blonde joke,” giggled the Protestant Girl Bowlingus knew best.  I ran my fingers through my now popular pale hair and hoped the night would be over with quickly.

    “God of Thunder” Bowlingus lived up to his name when he opened with a booming strike and marched back to the table trying to hold back a big grin.  I just nodded, slapped his hand, and hoped I could do the same on my next turn.  We rarely spoke to each other while bowling, especially when someone had a perfect game going.  One strike does not a perfect game make, but you never talk to or about a guy throwing all strikes, just as you never talk to or about a baseball pitcher working on a no hitter.  If you do and he blows it, the jinx is on you.

    I picked up my ball and waited for the Blackout on the opposite lane to finish his shot, but backed off and put my ball down when he ended up with a split.  Our other big bowling superstition is to never throw an opening shot when there is a split on an adjacent lane.  Splits are contagious, and catching a bad case of them can ruin your night.  My opponent playfully shook his fist at my ritual, then finished off his turn with a field goal.  I didn’t even have to look to know that someone behind me would have thrown their hands in the air like an NFL referee.  I grinned a bit through closed lips, delivered my shot towards the pocket, and headed straight for the bar without looking.  I thought I had nailed a strike, but was humbled when it ended up being a split despite my precautions.

    Bowlingus rolled another strike on his second turn, but his toe crossed the foul line, negating the shot.  The loud buzzer censored the majority of his tirade.  I handed him a beer and shrugged, then marched up to shakily resume my game.

    I continued to flounder and still had nothing through the ninth frame, ruining the beautiful pastiche of Xs and /s that Bowlingus had going on our side of the scoreboard.  My line boasted six consecutive open frames including four splits, a couple of embarrassing turns converting half the pins or less, and an absurdly undeserved strike leading into the final frame.

    My accomplice still refrained from talking to me, partly due to my rough showing and partly due to his game being ruined by a second foot foul in the seventh.  If I could talk I’d tell him we somehow still had a chance of winning this game due to his performance thus far, but he probably knew that already.  Eyeing the scores and the handicaps, my bowling math told me we needed thirty-five pins between us for the victory.  Normally I can’t add to save my life, but pincounts plus bonus balls are almost second nature.  My next shot counted twice, so a strike from me now would all but put it away.  Otherwise any mark would still leave us looking good pending Bowlingus’ final turn.  Normally I’d say we had it in the bag, but the way I was rolling tonight nothing was easy.

    Pulling Glitzy from the ball return, I noticed that her thumbhole had been chipped.  I showed the others and asked permission to tape it up before my final roll.  They agreed and I was on my way, but not before reminding me that I needed all the help I could get.

    At the pro shop I borrowed a roll of tape for some impromptu surgery.  While in the process of fixing the hole, I sat on a stool at the bar with the ball in my lap and tried to analyze what I was doing wrong tonight.  It was ironic how our league bowling routinely went like this.  Tonight I was having my worst performance of recent memory and we still had a shot in the tenth.  But a few weeks ago Bowlingus hit a level we can usually only dream of and we still got beat.  Why couldn’t he do it again this time?  A blowout like that would have been amazing, even with the potential for sandbagging accusations by the other team.

    This thought was interrupted by a throbbing pain in the back of my neck, centered on the fresh bruise.  Concentrating on the match had allowed me to forget the incident temporarily, but apparently my preoccupation was contributing to my lack of bowling ability.  As I rubbed the bump with my cold beer mug it was all I could focus on.  Who the hell did that guy think he was?  And what did he do to me?