Timely Persuasion - Online Edition - Chapter 2


Two Of Us

    It was something sharp, definitely not his bare hands.  I remembered him taking his mug with him when he left the bar.  Broken glass used as a weapon?  When was my last tetanus shot?  Or was it something worse, like a new drug in a syringe?  I did feel three feet thick.  Hopefully not AIDS or some biological warfare agent.  Maybe a steroid?  No, steroids should make me bowl better, not worse.  And anyways, they probably wouldn’t have taken effect yet.  Then again, I never actually saw a needle.  For all I knew he just scratched me with a sharp fingernail.  But for some reason I felt I knew this was definitely an injection.  The whole attack didn’t make much sense, but the memory was too vivid to have been made up.

    There would be plenty of time to ponder after bowling was done.  For now the pain had subsided, allowing me to make a mock bowling motion with the newly taped ball.  Satisfied with the feel, I returned to the lane to take my shot. 

    Not wanting to waste more time or endure further heckles, I marched past the other leaguers and assumed the starting position without even so much as a glance at anyone.  After a deep breath to get focused, I carefully started my approach and launched a beauty just right of the head pin.  I thought about turning around for dramatic effect, but this shot felt so good coming off my hand it would be a crime to not witness the impact.  The ball curved majestically towards the pocket, and went right through the pins.

    But they were all still standing.

    The ball had literally gone THROUGH the pins, as if they weren’t even there.  I turned to my partner with a look of disbelief, but he didn’t seem to notice.  Instead he got up to take his final shot. 

    “What the hell?  Did you see that?” I asked.

    He ignored me and took his spot at the starting line.

    “It’s still my turn, man.  Do I get to take it over?  How did that happen?”

    He continued to ignore me and started his windup, drawing his arm back and stepping forward even though I was still standing on the lane between his body and the pins.

    “Hold it!  What’s going on?”

    Undeterred, he walked right through me without making contact, just as my ball had passed through the pins.

    Dumbfounded, I whirled in time to see the last pin topple off the back of the rack as Bowlingus pumped his right arm in victory.  A small gathering of other league members surrounded him, each offering high fives.  I tried to join in, but my hand passed right through his.  I tried to touch my left arm with my right and had no problem.  I pinched myself, yanking out an arm hair in the process and feeling the pain I expected.

    Looking up, the electronic scoreboard flashed 270.  Congratulations were announced over the intercom system.  A sea of outstretched arms waved in a show of solidarity.  I overheard someone mention it was too bad I wasn’t here to see it.

    “Not here?  I’m right here!  But he didn’t just roll a 270, that was a month ago.”

    More people walked through me as I just stood there stupidly.  My heart raced in disbelief.  I noticed the Rollin’ Blackouts a few lanes down playing with the Protestant Girls.  Our lane was shared with the league leading Explosive Nines.  I grabbed my head and tried to think, absentmindedly grazing my neck bruise again.

    Suddenly I was falling, and found myself sprawled out on the floor of the bar.  Dazed, I staggered to my feet and ran back down to the lanes.  Spotting my cohort, I grabbed him roughly by the shirt, brimming with great relief upon feeling his collar between my fingers.

    “Can you see me?”

    He gave me a very strange look that indicated he could, but didn’t actually respond. 

    “You can’t see me!”

    “Yes I can see you. Quit spazzing,” he said through clenched teeth as he pushed my hands away, trying for discretion but failing.  “Take your turn and finish them off.  I shouldn’t even be talking to you.”

    “I did go, but nobody saw.  Nobody could see me!”

    He gave me another incredulous look, similar to the one he had given me when we first met up in the parking lot.  “C’mon man, I just need a spare from you.  Where’s your ball?”

    Good question.  Where was my ball?  I didn’t remember having it with me when I ran over here.  Suddenly I felt a lot less crazy, as my missing ball was proof that something had happened.

    “I already threw it.  It went through the pins, but they didn’t fall and it never came back.”

    “You’re starting to scare me.  Call the desk and ask for a ball return.”

    “You don’t understand.  I’m serious.  I already went, threw it real nice, but it missed.  It couldn’t have, but it missed.”

    I had awoken the fury of Bowlingus.  He was pissed.

    “Stop talking crazy and throw the fucking ball,” he replied in a quiet growl.

    “But I don’t have it!”

    “Use mine!”

    He shoved his overweight weapon into my gut.  I walked up to the line with the unfamiliar ball and promptly sent it into the gutter.

    My teammate put his hand on his head in disgust.  “I don’t think you’ve ever thrown a gutter ball on an opening shot.”

    My head spun with all kinds of thoughts. 

    The 270. 

    The ball going through the pins. 

    The man and the attack. 

    The lottery numbers. 

    The needle and the damage done. 

    The Future. 

    I couldn’t take it. 

    “I’m sorry, I don’t feel well.  We have to forfeit the match.  I’m going home.”

    Amidst a variety of astonished looks and protests, I left.