My Man, Bowling

A Short Story by Dan McClenaghan

bowlingballsRuth and Ellis invited their next door neighbors, Clete and Juanita, out for a couple of friendly frames of bowling, losing couple buys the burgers after the game. They rolled down in Clete and Juanita's car, and crossed the sun-baked parking lot and slipped inside, escaping the smoggy summer heat in the cool darkness of the Loma Alta Lanes, on Old Highway 101. The double-daters sighed in four part harmony as the air conditioning froze the moisture on their sweaty backs. They paid for their rental shoes, while Ellis insisted he needed a pair of size fourteens, when in reality he wore seven-and-a-halves.

"You know what they say about a guy's shoe size," he grinned, winking at the woman at the shoe counter.

The woman rolled her eyes, and Ruth, a woman who would know, said, "Then you ought to get yourself a pair of size threes.”

Juanita and the girl behind the shoe counter snickered. Clete stifled a laugh and wandered off to find a suitable ball. Ellis scowled and took his size fourteens down to their lane. And Ruth said to Juanita, "That idiot's gonna look like a clown in those stupid shoes."

Ruth was right. The rental shoes extended a good six inches beyond the ends of her husband's toes, and curled upward, like something a court jester would wear, rendering Big Foot Ellis—as he began calling himself at the start of the first game—clumsy and unsteady of foot, and causing him step over the foul line into the alley in the fourth frame, onto the oiled wood, where he commenced to slipping and sliding, his body writhing, his arms jerking every which way as he tried to maintain his balance.

"My man," Ruth groaned, rubbing her fingers on her temples as Ellis went down hard with a seismic thump that caused Juanita's ball in the next alley to jump six inches off the wood and veer into the gutter.

"Son-of-a-bitch!" she shouted, as Ellis, on his hands and knees, crawled up the slick wood, and Clete said, "Don't worry 'bout it, Juanita. That cheap-assed SOB'll do anything to get out of buyin' us a burger."


About Dan McClenaghan

I write stuff. I began with my Ruth and Ellis/Clete and Juanita stories in the early 1980s. At the beginning of the new millennium I started writing reviews of jazz CDs, first at American Reporter, and then (and now) at All About Jazz. I’ve tried my hand at novels, without success.

I’ve been published in a bunch of small presses, most notably the now defunct Wormwood Review. This was in the pre-computer age, when we whomped up our stories on typewriters, then rolled down to Kinkos to make copies, which we stuck in manila envelopes, along with a return envelope with return postage attached. Times have changed.

Aside from the writing, I am married to the lovely Denise. We have three wonderful children and four (soon to be five) beautiful grandchildren; and I am a two-time winner—1970 and 1971—of the Oceanside Bodysurfing Contest. Kowabunga!

Photo credit: Bill Harrison via a Creative Commons license.