Timely Persuasion - Online Edition - Chapter 6



“Are you doing alright?  It’s not even your night to bowl.  Don’t you have a job?”

    “I’m on sabbatical.”

    I nodded, smiled politely, and held out my beer in a toast-like salute to hammer home the point to the bartender that I’d essentially become a regular at the bowling alley bar.

    “Regular” probably wasn’t the right word, as I was far exceeding even the Cliff and Norm definition of the term.  Since returning from Seattle early Saturday afternoon, I had been here waiting for the man anytime the bar was open.  I was drinking like it was my job, and in a way it was.  The actual “job” was a stakeout, with the drinking just something to do rather than a true desire to drown my sorrow.  My alcohol tolerance was so high I was practically immune to the effects of light beer, but I couldn’t very well sit at the bar all day and not drink.  Besides, I needed to be there in case the man showed up.  A definite long shot, but what other option did I have?

    “Can I expect you at your usual time tomorrow?”

    “Probably not.  I’m waiting on a friend, and with any luck tomorrow I’ll be leaving on a jet plane.”  I fished out my lottery form.  “Can I play five more?”

    I was gambling a lot, unreasonably figuring that retracing my actions from our first meeting would be the best way to get the man to reappear.  Considering I only intended to gamble but didn’t actually place a bet on the day of our first meeting indicated that this plan was also far fetched, but it was a logical companion to the gambler’s fallacy.  At least it was something to do besides sip beers all day.  Though my numbers never came up all at once, I had more or less broken even by landing a few pairs.  Yet even the dull repetitiveness of my new routine wasn’t much of a comfort.  I needed answers, or at least a sense of direction and purpose.  I was singled out for a reason.  But why?

    A group of bowlers entered to start their pre-match drinking, but I didn’t recognize any of them.  This was Monday, my league was on Tuesday and didn’t have any dual-leaguers like these guys.  They were giving an older fellow a hard time, saying he had his chance at immortality on the previous Thursday and it would never come again.

    He had tossed a pair of perfect games and was well on his way to joining the ultra exclusive 900 club, but he choked on the last ball, closing with a 291 game and 891 series.  A stupendous feat, but it’s known to all league bowlers that the only way to score 291 is by picking up nothing more than a single pin on the thirty-sixth and final throw.  I wasn’t about to participate in the ribbing, as I’d be thrilled with a single perfect game and wouldn’t care if I finished off the series with a pair of rare double-digit scores.

    In need of a break (and wanting to verify I still had the power), I used the recent library memory to blink back to the Thursday in question.  In my world he’d at least have his chance at greatness again, though he’d inevitably be doomed to repeat his failure.  I had an hour to kill before the league started, so I walked the lanes for some fun.  Took a look at the pins up close, tried in vain to will balls that were gutter-bound into being strikes and balls that were strikes into being gutter balls.  It was fascinating to note that the bowling lanes were well kept and well built, as my feet stayed perfectly in sync atop the level pine and maple boards of the playing surface.

    After becoming bored with having no effect on the games in progress, I wandered through the pinsetter and into the back room behind the scenes.  I had always been curious to see what goes on back there but too shy to actually ask an employee for a tour.  Quite an amazing piece of machinery, with all sorts of gears and pulleys on the pinsetter and the ball accelerator.  There was some space for a mechanic to get in there and check things out if needed, but not a whole lot.

    Done with my snooping, I was returning to the lanes in search of the near 900 show when a red bowling ball in the middle of the pathway behind the pinsetters caught my eye.  Glitzy?

    Reaching for her tentatively, I was able to nudge the ball into a slow roll.  I picked it up, and my fingers fit perfectly into the custom drilled holes.  There was fresh tape on the chipped thumbhole.  I rocked my arm back and smiled.  A glance at the serial number confirmed what I already knew.  This was my girl.

    I shouldn’t have been so surprised.  My ball was essentially right where I had left it after throwing it through the pins, the wall, and the pinsetter almost a week ago...or make that two days ago based on my current time.  And the fact that I could touch it, hold it, feel it in my arms...what did that mean?  I supposed since both myself and the ball were displaced in time we were real to each other.  Or maybe it was because I was the one who had displaced it to begin with. 

    Excited to have a new project, I carried the ball out to the front of the lanes.  Carefully placing it on the bottom shelf of a ball rack didn’t work, so I left it on the floor and partly inside the ghostly rack before blinking myself back to the present. 

    I was back at the bar where I had started, with the older bowlers still razzing their buddy over his big choke.  I ran out to the rack where I had left my ball moments (days) ago, but it wasn’t there.  A beat up yellow rental ball sat in its place. 

    As I considered the physics involved in this, a little YABA girl walked up to the rack and struggled to pick up the yellow ball.  She awkwardly succeeded and ran back towards her baby-sitter at a bumper lane.  Sitting in place of the yellow ball was Glitzy, as if she had been nestled inside.

    I picked her up without any problem, making me think that maybe I wasn’t here.  I took the ball to the bar with me, resting it in my lap as I ordered another drink.  The bartender happily complied, so obviously I was visible.  I was also sitting on a stool and resting my arms on the bar.  I tried to set the ball on the counter, but without the support of my lap it fell straight through to the floor and rolled away.

    This was getting curiouser and curiouser.  I had retrieved my lost bowling ball, but it wasn’t really of any use to me since only I could interact with it.  Maybe I could steal some pins to bring back in time with me as well.  Or maybe not.  If the pins and ball were from different times they may not be able to interact either.  Clearly the ball traveled in time with me initially, but could it travel back?  What purpose would it serve to have an invisible object in the present?

    Presuming I wasn’t the only time traveler out there (a known fact counting the old man), I wondered how many other pieces of time traveler debris there might be.  This whole room could be littered with secret items only accessible and visible to the unique person that left the item behind.  Maybe the old man had a whole collection of knickknacks in here that nobody knew about.

    Just then it hit me how stupid I had been.  All I had to do to find the man was blink back to our first meeting and confront him there.  It certainly shouldn’t be hard, as it was far and away my most vivid memory of the recent past.  Smiling, I slid my hand back towards my neck bruise.  As I was about to make contact, someone grabbed my arm and twisted it away from my neck.

    “Don’t, or you’ll ruin everything!!”

    I turned around and was eye to eye with the old man.

   “Ruin what?” I asked, trying not to wince from the improper bend in my elbow.

    “Don’t do anything.  We can’t talk here.  Meet me outside.”

    He slowly released my arm from his grip, then walked past the bar and through the wall to the parking lot where it all began.  I started to follow, but was interrupted by the bartender.

    “Are you sure you’re okay?”

    “Um, yeah.  It’s just something about my neck.  I need to get some air.  Keep my tab open.”