I had been pleased to find that both our rented shoes had velcro; at other bowling alleys my shoe size was kid-sized, so I got velcro while everyone else got laces. He wore a size ten, I wore six-and-a-half. ‘Nice,’ I nudged him while we had slid our shoes off the counter. ‘Look how stylish we are.’ The woman with scraggly yellow hair behind the counter rolled her eyes while she swiped his card.
‘Down to the left, the second to last lane,’ she said laconically. Lazily she flicked her wrist in that direction as she handed back his card. Pocketing it, he and I meandered to our spots.
‘Where are the bowling balls?’ I asked over the victory screeches of the people in the lane next to us.
He looked around, shrugging. ‘Dunno,’ then, pointing: ‘There!’
We trudged over the ugly carpet to the colorful balls. A large sign stapled to the wall behind the display read “DO NOT STACK BOWLING BALLS,” with a picture of the bowling balls arranged in a pyramid.
‘Who would do that?’ I wondered aloud. ‘And honestly, if they could stack it in that formation, that’d be pretty impressive,’
James mimed a bowling ball falling on his toes and winced exaggeratedly. ‘It would,’ he agreed. He rotated the balls to the their weights. ‘What size do I even need?’
‘Uh,’ I pondered. ‘My experience with bowling is on the Wii. I don’t know.’ I scanned over the assortment, and picked out a bright pink ball. James snagged a green one and swung it at arms length, testing the feel. He put it back and selected a blue one instead. This one was deemed acceptable; we headed to the lane.
‘For all I enjoy bowling, I’m really terrible at it,’ I warned him.
He laughed. ‘Me too. You might beat me!’
‘You’re on,” I said.
The computer connected to the score board asked for our names. C A R M I N A, I typed, then J A M E S. I considered putting L O S E R for his slot, but decided against it. This was only a few dates in; I didn’t want to scare him off.
Up first, I tossed the ball lightly in my hand. Calling back to him, I laughed; ‘I probably could have gone with a lighter ball. But there’s no going back now. Now it’s a matter of pride!’ Wedging my pointer finger and thumb into the holes, I lined up my throw. Also the ball had been pink. That was it’s greatest advantage.
As the game continued, I was in the lead. James began to catch up, soon surpassing my score. Bantering, we ribbed each other mercilessly, applauding for our fails most of all. I popped up, tugging my eight pound ball from the return chute. BANG, went the ball. SHICK, went the gutter. Silent, stayed the pins.
‘GUTTERBALL,’ I bellowed, putting up two peace signs and giving my best Nixon impression. Sauntering back to the wooden slatted seats, I high-fived him. My blue bowling shoes with the words ‘genuine patent leather’ stamped into the soles squeaked on the waxed tile. ‘Well!’ I huffed, falling onto the bench beside him; ‘It was really a mercy. Those wooden pins won’t know what hit them next.’ He nodded good-naturedly.
‘Gotta leave one of the troops to go back and warn the battalion,’ he told me. ‘Put some fear into them.’
“For sure,” I grinned. “Dead men tell no tales.”
I was a ruthless, but incompetent, tyrant. While going for strikes I more often got gutterballs. James seemed to favor less brutal, but more consistent tactics. He usually got five the first time, then felled four more his second try.
“I’ve got a fifty-fifty chance, either nine or nothing.” He grinned lopsidedly, his eyes brightening with mirth. “That’s how it’s gone so far.” Lining up, he eyed the lane and took a calculated step backwards, then bounded forward and released the ball. With a WHAP, his green ball went careening down the shiny waxed lane, curving to the left and hitting the farthest pin. Shrugging, he loped back towards me.
“Well, at least you broke your streak,” I said. “That definitely wasn’t a nine.” I grinned and quirked an eyebrow.
“Yeah,” he laughed. “Definitely not a nine.”