Friday, 27 July 2012

Friday Flash Fiction - Milton

There used to be a bowling alley in the suburb of Milton. In it, if you went at the right time of night, you might see a man who looked like he was built entirely of muscle. He would be bowling alone, in a lane at the end, with a ball so heavy that nobody else could lift it, let alone bowl it. The name on his score monitor says "Thor".

The ball swung up high behind him, then curved down in a long arc. The bowler released it only when it kissed the lane, smooth as silk. Then came the rumble, deep in the boards of the lane, so low-pitched you could barely hear it. You felt it deep inside your bones instead as the ball rushed along the polished wooden boards of the lane. Finally, the ball would complete its journey with a crack as the pins flew away before it, exploding in all directions and coming to rest either spinning on the lane or knocked far back into the well. The rumble lingered on just a little longer than it seemed it should have done, and then the ball was on its way back through the chute.

Thor didn't especially like to bowl alone. It was just the only way for him. His scores were respectable, and the thunderclap of his ball was not easy to follow with your own twelve-pound ball. Thor's sixes made your strikes sound wimpy by comparison. But the main reason Thor bowled alone was that he wasn't much of a people person. Thor seemed not so much like a lost soul, but more like a lonely one. Someone for whom the normal company of other people was very difficult or too awkward.

I met the man who called himself "Thor" on the lanes late on a Sunday night, when the alley was normally quiet and clear. He was huge - a metre across the shoulders.

Thor swung back his mighty ball and propelled it down the lane with as smooth a delivery as I've ever seen. The interesting part was that his feet were rooted to the ground. They never moved, while most other bowlers would take a few steps to build up some speed, Thor's power was all shoulder.

His technique was a bit lacking, though. The really good bowlers would spin the ball so that it curved across the lane and struck the first pin on an angle. Thor bowled head on, straight line, and his heavy ball just plowed right through the pins. It was common for him to end up with a bad split.

Being a coach myself, I wanted to offer my services, to teach Thor a little finesse. I mean, power is one thing, and plenty of bowlers would have loved to have power like Thor's, but if you can't direct that power on anything but a straight line, you'll miss all your spares.

I took up the lane next to his and started easing out a few strikes. I didn't want to make him feel bad - if I had, I would have used a kids' six-pound ball - but I wanted to show him that I knew my stuff. Power isn't everything. He huffed to himself, set his jaw and swung out the most thunderous, incredible frames I have ever seen or heeard, but didn't score more than seven on any of them.

I knew he wouldn't ask for my help, and he clearly wasn't going to accept if I offered it to him, so I tried something else.

"Could you show me how to bowl with power like that?" I asked him.

He took a second for his eyes to focus, as if he had been expecting something else from me. Then he kind of smirked and picked up his ball. He wasn't much for words.

Obviously there was a lot of muscle in Thor's power bowling, but it turned out there was a lot of developed technique, too. Keep the arm bent, he showed me, until the last moment. Follow an ellipse, not a circle. Before long, I was hurling my ball down the lane at dizzying speed, and the crack of the pins as it connected was quite satisfying.

I thanked Thor for his help and watched him bowl a few more frames before taking up my lane again. I put some of Thor's power moves into play, but used them to enhance my own finely-targeted technique. It seemed clear to me that he wasn't going to ask my help, but he could watch me mix his power with my style. He could figure it out on his own, if that's what he wanted.

A few weeks later, I saw that the "perfect game" sign above the lane had changed, listing one "Thor Odinson" as having bowled a 300 game there recently. I smiled as I saw that the lane was also being repaired. A perfect game from Thor must have meant quite a punishment.

I kept going back to the alley until they closed it down years later, but I never saw Thor again. Maybe he found a new haunt, or maybe he just decided he was done with bowling after his perfect game. Either way, I can't hear a thunderstorm now without smiling. I like to think they had to close the old alley because of Thor - because their aging lanes couldn't take his particular brand of power any more - but I'll never know for sure.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - The real story of why Milton Bowl closed is more mundane than this, obviously.
PPS - I used to bowl there now and then.


Anonymous said...

Awesome post, where is the rss? I cant find it!

John said...

The news feed on Blogger is actually in Atom format. The link is on the main page, at the end, as "Subscribe to Posts (Atom)".