BOWLING SHOES

“Come on Bobby,” his mother said. “You gotta get upstairs and get changed right quick. We’ve got bowling tonight and we’re already running late.” She was busy clearing the rest of the plates from the table and loading up the dishwasher.

Bobby took a forkful of baked potato, put it in his mouth and pushed his plate away. He was dillydallying as he’s known to do, and his brother and sister were already in the living room ready to go. “But Momma do I have to? Why can’t I just skip tonight?” He looked at her back as she stood over the sink. She turned to see him with a puppy dog expression, appealing to her with what looked like every fiber of his being.

“Bobby, we’re in second place. After tonight we may very well be in first. Dad’s waiting there and you know we all need you for the team. Plus your friends are all gonna be there and you can wear your new shoes too.”  She shut the door of the washer and turned it on.  “What am I supposed to tell everyone if you don’t show up?”

John and Mary took bowling very seriously. And they always made Bobby feel like a little squirt. They were in high school and several years his senior and they got wild on the lanes with their yelling and carrying on, and their high school friends were always coming around and picking on and making fun of him.

His brother and sister usually chimed in too, even egged it all on.

Bobby ran up the steps and pulled off his catholic-school uniform and threw it on the pile and changed into his jean shorts and t-shirt. He sat on the edge of the bed and laced up his new bowling shoes. That guy Mr. Weber bought them for him last week and tonight was the first night he was gonna use them. He was a nice guy that Mr. Weber, Bobby thought. He bought him a foot-long hot dog too and Bobby piled it up high with chili and onions and both ketchup and mustard.

He never could decide so he always put on both.

They walked in the front door of the lanes to the sound of pins dropping and kids screaming and general pandemonium.  Dad was already seated in their lucky lane number three, with his head down, diligently completing all the relevant information on their scorecard. Bobby took a look around the place- the usual suspects. He saw Mr. Weber in lane six smiling his way and Bobby waved.

I’m gonna have to thank him for the shoes, he thought.

John and Mary were high-fiving their friends and yakking up a storm as they made way over to join their Dad. They all sat and changed into their rented shoes and Bobby’s father said, “Okay young man, you’re the one with your very own shoes so you’re up first!”

“Oh Dad, come on don’t make me go first!”

Bobby was shy. Well he didn’t fit in is how he saw it. The other kids were way too silly about bowling, plus he felt like he had a red x on his forehead, being the brunt of jokes and rabble rousing from everyone. The only person that took him seriously was that Mr. Weber. Even his parents joined in the fun of his getting teased. This was the last place he wanted to be.

He picked up a ball and shot it down the lane.

Seven pins down. “Good one Bobby!” his father yelled. He heard catcalls and wisecracks from the crowd that was watching and they only increased along with laughter as his mother came up and hugged and kissed him. He picked up his ball for his second play and stepped into position. He was sweating so much he thought the ball might drop right out of his hands. He looked around and saw Mr. Weber giving him the thumbs up.

The place quieted down.

His right arm went back and he let it go with all his might. Those pins never saw it coming.

“Again! Good one Bobby!” his father yelled. He hit all the pins and the spectators cheered.

He sat down next to his mother. “That was great Bobby, those shoes are doing their thing aren’t they honey? Now aren’t you glad you came?” She reached into her purse. “Why don’t you go buy yourself a dog?”

Bobby took the money and made way to the snack bar. The line was long so he stopped in the restroom for a pee. It was empty and he stood at the urinal doing his thing when heard the door open behind him.  Mr. Weber came up to the urinal next to him and smiled down on him. Bobby nervously finished his business and zipped up and Mr. Weber said, “Looks like those shoes are helping out your game, eh champ?” Bobby was washing his hands and looking in the mirror as Mr. Weber sidled up behind him.

“Yes Mr. Weber they’re great, thanks,” he said into the mirror.

“Well you don’t look that happy Bobby, is everything okay?” He had a look of concern. “You just bowled a spare and that’s great.”

Bobby blushed. “Yeh I guess so.” He grabbed some paper towels and dried his hands and threw the towels in the wastebasket. He turned around and by then Mr. Weber had his arms around him and was pressed up against him.

Bobby smiled to himself and got that feeling again in the pit of his stomach.  Then he broke free and ran out the door.

He had totally forgotten about the hot dog.

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4 thoughts on “BOWLING SHOES

  1. Ugh. I got a feeling in the pit of my stomach as well. Pretty realistic, I would guess. Alienated kid, over-solicitous adult and oblivious parents. It’s a cocktail for disaster. Well-written, Pete.

  2. Pete, I read this earlier and came back to it. Wanted to think on it a bit. I don’t know if disturbing is the right word, maybe anger-inspiring is better. Which I don’t mind at all. Excellent build-up to an unsettling conclusion, and I like the way you write clueless people. Mostly I like the way you sell the characters. This is a really good story, can tell that you get storytelling in and of itself (as different from writing I guess). Certainly has stuck in my head.

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