The Perfect Game

A bowling league. The way Carla saw it, getting ripped on Tuesday night in the guise of a “league” was just another way of calling her a fancy shade of stupid. And Carla wasn’t stupid. Carla was tired.

For one, she worked all the damn time. And when she wasn’t working, she was cleaning up after the twins–getting them dressed and fed and ready for school. If she ever found the time to clean up Randy’s mess, she’d usually have to drop everything because the school was calling again because another substitute teacher had fled the classroom crying while muttering The Lord’s Prayer.

But Carla wouldn’t say Randy did nothing. Sure, he was a wizard on the Xbox, with that fancy headset he kept “hidden” in the living room closet under all the vacuum filters. Thing was, Carla was getting wise to her husband’s tricks. And they weren’t so cute anymore.

So when Randy asked her to come down to the bowling alley with him, the same as he did all the time, Carla thought it was time for some tricks of her own. She flipped her hair back and fluttered her long since fluttered eyelashes and said, “Sure honey, I’ll come down and watch you bowl.”

“Okay, well I should be home around—Wait, huh?”

Carla’s smile doubled. “I said sure.”

“Oh, well, uh, what about the Donnie and Dale?”

“Deb can stay with them. Had to pay her extra though, ever since they set that wad of gum in her hair, she’s been a little skittish.”

“Oh.”

Randy’s lopsided smile looked nearly deranged as they drove down Maycomb Turnpike. Carla turned up the radio, and by the time they walked into Sins N’ Pins Bowling Alley, to the clatter of pins hitting the floor, she found that she was enjoying a rare night out from the house.

The rest of the guys, Burt, Dan, Bo, and one other guy Carla couldn’t name but would bet a twin he lived with his mother, all lowered their beers and gawked. Geez, Carla thought, the’s boys ever seen a woman before? With that she put an extra wiggle in her hips.

It was almost cute how Randy stumbled through introductions. The place was packed and loud, and Carla was stifling a yawn before the boys got into their game. She watched as Randy poured a cup of beer, met her eyes and gave her a shaky smile, took a sip.

Carla had her phone out, about to start mindlessly scrolling, when Randy wound up and knocked down every last pin. The boys pat him on the back. Dan motioned back to Carla. “Must’ve brought your good luck charm.”

Randy grinned. “Reckon I did.”

Luck would be finding a job, Carla thought, then let it go. But after Randy nailed three strikes in a row, even Carla couldn’t help giggling as the boys gobbled about like turkeys. With a shrug, she poured a beer and sang along with Bon Jovi.

Her phone buzzed. It was Deb, reminding her she’d given birth to not one, but two demons.

Randy came back for a refill. He gripped his neck. Each time he looked at Carla and shrugged. Each time she giggled. Each time he knocked down every pin.

Soon a crowd gathered around lane eight. Deb called again, and again to say she does not negotiate with terrorists. She sent several texts, each one demanding Carla  get her butt home and save her from these big head boys. The pins clacked.

On it went. Randy and his strikes, his smile and shrug reminding Carla of the night he picked her up on the day after graduation. He’d brought her to the railroad trestle where he’d packed a blanket. The way he’d smiled at her, she couldn’t get enough of his big ideas and hopeful eyes.

Strike.

At the tenth frame, Carla was up and shouting. The bowling alley killed the music. Whispers of a perfect game could be heard amongst the smokers outside. But Randy set the ball down. Carla looked around. The team threw up their hands and gave him flak. He was about to set the league record.

Randy took Carla’s hand, surprised at that his palm was cold and damp. Her heart banged away. “What are you doing, baby?”

He shook his head. “I’m sorry.”

“What?”

“I am.” He looked around. Pinched his nose. The guys moaned. Randy waved off his teammates, his eyes glossy and hopeful. “Hey, you know what, let’s go. We could go by the trestle on the way home.”

Carla couldn’t help her smile. “What do you mean? You’re doing a turkey thing.”

He stifled a laugh. “I don’t care. I’m a great bowler.” He shrugged. “So what.”

Carla was not about to cry in a bowling alley. Randy wiped at his neck, glancing over his shoulder. “Dan’s got a position open.”

“Really?”

He nodded. Carla thought he was awfully cute when he wanted to be.

It was 10:38. Carla had to be at work at six am. The music was back on and thumped over the speakers. Lane eight was in disarray. The team huddled over the last of the beer. She wrapped her arms around Randy’s neck and felt her smile widen to a place it hadn’t been in years. “You could be a professional Xbox gamer.”

Randy fixed his hat, his eyes fell to his ridiculous shoes. “Carla, I’m trying to have a moment here.”

Lane Eight beckoned. “Randy. Bowl!”

Randy kissed his wife. The bowling alley hooted and jeered. Carla kissed him in a way that said she might be awfully tired at work tomorrow, then she pushed Randy away. Her phone danced as it buzzed around on the table. Randy nodded at the phone. “The twins?”

Carla laughed, “They’re fine. Go.”

Randy fixed his hat, took his ball with wobbly steps and reared back and sent it careening down the aisle. He hit three pins.

Lane eight fell to its knees. A collection of groans. So close to 300.

Randy laughed. He kicked off his shoes as the guys consoled him. He glanced back at Carla and shrugged. They got their things and turned for the door before the ball ever returned to the lane.

It was a perfect game.

 

 

–PeteFanning/2017

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