Bowling Club


For our first work outing, we collectively decided to go bowling.  I don’t know why.  I can’t imagine many people actually like bowling.  I mean, I’m sure they do, or else bowling alleys wouldn’t exist, but to me, bowling was a last ditch effort at fun for middle-schoolers.  “Well, there’s bowling” we’d say as we lay around on someone’s bedroom floor, the fan spinning lazily about us.  I always tried to track one of the individual blades, but would give up after my head began to hurt.  “It’s better than nothing, right?”  After a while, everyone else grumpily agrees, and off we’d go.

My parents distrusted bowling.  I’m not sure if something bad happened to them when they were younger, or if they had read that bowling alleys were full with kidnappers and sexual predators, but that’s certainly what they thought, and they would always try to discourage us from going.  “Bowling?  You don’t want to go bowling,” my mother would say, “bad people going bowling.  People that want to do bad things for you.”  We could never prove her wrong.  Who knew if the thin, fifty-year-old man in the Harley-Davidson hat was only pretending to be a sad alcoholic, when, in actuality, he was scoping out the joint, searching for kiddies to stuff into a sack and take home?


So I was resistant to bowling, but bowling won out like it always did.  I think it’s because everyone can do it.  It takes skill to be good at bowling, but it doesn’t take much to hurl a ceramic ball down a narrow corridor.  Michael made a list and asked anyone who wanted to go to write down their names so he could get an accurate count and be able to estimate how much it would cost to reserve lanes.  Everyone wrote their names down, including me.  Two of my friends were leaving Starbucks for greener pastures, and I didn’t want to miss one last chance to hang out with them.

This was about three weeks before the event.  In the time in between when I signed on the line and we actually went bowling, I spent five hundred dollars fixing my car, my rent went up, and I lost every cent I had.

I couldn’t afford go.  It was that simple, and it provided a anti-bowling person like me with the perfect alibi.  I didn’t have any money, I didn’t have to feel bad about not going to bowling.  In fact, other people had to feel bad for me because I was unable to go bowling.  It was a win-win; the perfect crime.  All I had to do was tell Michael I wasn’t going to go.

Then another week passed, and I forgot all about bowling until the very Saturday we were supposed to go.

I came into work and Chase asked me if I was going bowling. I stopped and stared at him, and then my face went through some gymnastics I wish someone would have caught on camera.  Surprise.  Horror.  Pain.

“No,” I said, “I don’t think so.  I don’t have any money.”

“Gotcha,” Chase said, ever understanding.

“Is Michael here?”

“He’s in the back.”

I walked to the back to tell Michael I wasn’t going just as he set his phone down.

“God damn it!” he shouted.  “That’s seven people who’ve cancelled, and I’m out $200 dollars.”  Then he looked at me.  My face went through some gymnastics I wish someone would have caught on camera.  Surprise.  Horror.  Pain.  Michael noticed.  “You aren’t bailing too, are you?”

“Bailing? Me?  Bowling?  No.  Bailing?  I love bowling.  When do I have to pay you?  Bowling is great.”

“Don’t worry about it.  Just some time next week.”

“Okay, great.”

Ten minutes later, while making a Pumpkin Spice Latte, I realized my mistake.  I hate bowling!  I don’t have any money!  Please, help!  I don’t want to go.

It was too late, so at 11 o’clock that night, I headed over to Pinz Bowling.


It was a relatively nondescript complex that had some impressive lights and a rather large, nicely maintained parking lot.  I was impressed with how clean it was.  I was also impressed with how close I lived to it.  It only took me three minutes to get there, and I left early, so I sat and my car, like I always do, and listened to Raw Power by The Stooges.

I got out of my car at exactly 11 and went inside.

All the bowling alleys I’ve ever been too were so full of cigarette smoke that you couldn’t even see the far wall, and lit by the sort of fluorescent lights that make you think you’re in a mental institution.

Pinz was packed with cool dudes smoking vape pins.  They had backwards facing hats and $900 leather jackets.  They wore brightly colored sneakers and drank craft beers and expensive little cocktails.  The women there wore tight clothing that accentuated their curves, had makeup on, and smelled amazing.  People were flirting, dancing, laughing.  Everyone had all their teeth, and I didn’t see a single knife or syringe anywhere.  There wasn’t even a single guy that looked like a pedophile.

And that was just the lobby.

There were twenty to thirty bowling lanes, all glowing faint neon blues and greens.  Hip twenty somethings bowled and drank in the lights embrace.  DJ lighting made strange colors dance playfully across the floor, and pop music blasted so loudly through the ceiling speakers that I couldn’t hear myself softly moan in utter shock.

I met my friends Matt and Wayne, and we went to our lanes.  I walked by more gorgeous women than I had seen in the past month.  None of them were bowling.  They were there trying to be noticed.

I used the computer in the lanes to select the theme for our bowl.  I gave matt’s lane “fairy tale”, which meant that a dragon appeared on the screen and ate a knight whenever someone got a strike.  I picked disco for my lane.  Each possible score was accompanied by a silhouette that would preform a strange dance.  Both themes tickled my fancy more than I care to admit.  Hell, the idea of having themes was hilarious.

I looked around as more people from work started to arrive.  They knew the score.  They were all dressed up, and here I was in my blue jeans and Iron Maiden T-Shirt.  The lights looked so expensive.  The sound system was amazing.  The bowling shoes were shiny and new.  I think I saw someone drinking a cosmo.

This wasn’t a bowling alley.  This was a bowling club, and strangely, even though all of this stuff must have cost more than I’ll probably ever earn in my life, it felt cheap.  I didn’t like how people were laughing and having fun.  I didn’t like how I could breathe.  I didn’t like how I could see for more than thirty feet.

We played three sets.  I was abysmal.  I’m not much of a bowler.  1:30 rolled around, and I decided to call it quits.  A lot of the club crowd had left at this point, too.  My group was having a blast, though, and were planning on staying for another thirty minutes.

I said goodbye to everyone, especially the two people who were leaving my store, and secretly vowed to never return to this terrible, terrible place.

As I left, a man walked toward me.  He was smoking a cigarette, even though we were inside.  The flashing lights and stupid blue glow of the place accentuated his orange tented glasses and receded hairline.  He looked even more thin than he probably was.  He carried a black duffel bag, and I could only imagine what was inside.  A bone saw, or maybe duct tape and a gag.  He was downright sinister.

I thought about my parents, and the bowling alleys of my youth.

We looked at each other as we passed on the stairs, and an understanding passed between us.  You can take the bowling out of the bowling alley, but you can’t take the bowling alley out of the bowling.

He went and started bowling in an open lane.  His only company was a bottle of Jack and whatever demons he brought with him.

I left him be, and returned my shoes.

“Did you have a good time?” The guy behind the counter asked me.

“Not really,” I answered, “but I think this place is growing on me.”c700x420

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