Tenth Frame Spare, fiction by Timothy Gager

Ben­ji watched Kevin scratch his crotch with his left hand while he poked his meaty fin­gers into a 16-pound bowl­ing ball with his right. The semes­ter had just begun and the place was packed. “So how do I look?” he shout­ed. “I’m a big King Pin.” Mary turned away from his stu­pid fuck­ing stu­pid shit and drank from one of his left­over beers. “Fuel!” Kevin said drown­ing his words with a chug from a dif­fer­ent Har­poon pint.  Kevin stepped up and bulled down nine pins, almost stum­bling with the effort.

It’s like bowl­ing with my alco­holic father,” Mary said loud enough only for Ben­ji to hear. “We need to talk…”

Not sup­posed to drink out­side the bar area,” Ben­ji said to Kevin. “It’s the rules.”  Mary placed her beer out of sight.

169,” Kevin butted into Benji’s face. “You only need a mark to beat me.”

I knew this was a bad idea,” Mary said, her mousey hair tied in a pony tail which hung like a drip­ping faucet.

Yes, Benji’s way too seri­ous about these sil­ly lane rules,” Kevin added. “Come on Ben­ji, light­en up!” He reached up to high-five him but Ben­ji wouldn’t look at him as he walked past. Ben­ji had a slow­er approach on the lane. He hooked the ball into the pock­et and left only the ten pin stand­ing.

I have you,” he said to Kevin qui­et­ly before retriev­ing his ball. His next shot was as delib­er­ate as the first and Ben­ji clipped the pin, knock­ing it up against the side wall. He pumped his fist in the air.

I wish you’d been this seri­ous about study­ing!” Mary yelled to Ben­ji as if she were urgent­ly warn­ing him about some­thing lying in the high­way. She was sur­prised by how angry she sound­ed.

I got a 2.7 last semes­ter,” Ben­ji protest­ed. He strolled down to the foul line and grace­ful­ly threw the last ball into the gut­ter to win by one.

It was a 2.66,” Mary respond­ed.

It rounds up.”

Lazy, lazy,” Kevin said. “Make sure you do all your work in pen­cil first. Look at the score. You need­ed three pins on that last one to beat me! I claim total vic­to­ry,” Kevin chid­ed as Mary shift­ed uncom­fort­ably in her seat. Ben­ji looked hurt, not sure if she was with him or against him, but then he noticed for the first time her tak­ing a quick drink.

Mary, you shouldn’t be drink­ing!” Ben­ji asked.

I don’t want to talk about it here,” she said.

It’s OK,” Kevin said to him. “It’s real­ly OK. She’s not preg­nant any­more. We have plen­ty of time to have babies, right Mar? Shit, we ain’t even mar­ried. Maybe try again after.” Mary said noth­ing.

You can have anoth­er drink, hon­ey.” Kevin said.

Mary smiled, but her face fell after he left. She stared down at the score sheet and her eyes welled up. “I’m sor­ry, Ben.”

Ben­ji moved next to her and placed his hand on her knee. “What hap­pened?”

I had a mis­car­riage. I’m sor­ry I should have called…Kevin has been here for two days. He wouldn’t leave. He want­ed to be there for me. He has no idea it’s ours.”

You know we could mar­ry if that’s what you want. You shouldn’t be so scared of that.”

Mary shook her head. “I’d like to get things right, first.”  Kevin came back with their drinks, almost falling down the step lead­ing to their alley.  He hand­ed Mary a gin and ton­ic. “I’m sor­ry if I need more than one,” she said.

Tim­o­thy Gager is the author of eight books of fic­tion and poet­ry. He lives on www​.tim​o​th​y​gager​.com, his home­page which promis­es to super­size you.

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One Response to Tenth Frame Spare, fiction by Timothy Gager

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