Soul Bowl

(originally published in Daily Love)

Milo worked at the bowling alley, troubleshooting problems with the ball return machines and shelving the bowling balls at the end of the night.  Until a couple of weeks ago, he had been an accountant in the big city.  Suddenly Milo quit his job at the accounting firm, left the city, and started working at the bowling alley in a non-descript town.  Milo loved working at the bowling alley, as the crash of pins triggered pleasant memories in his subconscious.

About six months before, while still working as an accountant, Milo started slipping into strange bowling trances.  When visiting a museum, he enjoyed contemplating the fire extinguisher on the museum wall, as it seemed to resemble a large bowling pin.  The blackberries, plums, cherries, and tomatoes in still-life paintings looked like multi-colored bowling balls to Milo.

Milo had decided to see a psychiatrist about his bowling obsession.  On his first visit, Milo couldn’t help noticing the bowling trophies that were situated about the doctor’s office in a pattern that seemed hostile and aggressive.  The psychiatrist had launched into a pseudo-Freudian theory involving penis envy, indicating that bowling pins represented an unconscious compensation by Milo for a small endowment.  Milo emphatically rejected this theory, and had stopped seeing the psychiatrist.

As he stacked bowling shoes at the alley, Milo answered his cell phone, which had a ring-tone of crashing bowling pins.  It was his former boss from the accounting firm, Maura. “Milo, we need you back here at the firm, let’s talk tomorrow,” said Maura.  Milo began to answer, but slipped into a pleasant reverie upon hearing the 16 lb. bowling balls roll along the maple wood.

The next day, Maura approached Milo at the bowling alley as he was excavating a stuck Brunswick from a malfunctioning ball return machine.  “Why Maura, what a surprise!” exclaimed Milo, knowing that she would appear sooner or later.  “Let’s talk while I work,” he said, completing the toil on the ball return machine.

“Milo, I don’t understand why you left the office to work here,” started Maura, but her voice trailed off as she began to feel the hypnotic effect of the bowling alley:  the crashing pins, the balls rolling on wood, the chatter throughout.  Milo looked on knowingly as Maura slipped off into a bowling-induced trance, where images of her childhood in the suburbs drifted into her mind:  There were aqua-marine swimming pools situated in the backyards of houses with pastel automobiles parked in front, rubber tires lodged against the heated summertime asphalt.  11-year old Maura and her friends were in a bowling league.  The bowling alley’s cold air conditioning felt so good in the hot summer...she wanted to be there forever... Maura awoke from the trance refreshed, after Milo brought her outside to the parking lot for some fresh air.

Within days, Maura quit the accounting firm and got a job at the bowling alley where Milo worked.  As she and Milo took a cigarette break in the parking lot, a large family was walking back to their car from the sporting goods store, most of the children clad in Little League baseball uniforms.  One of the non-uniformed kids, an 11-year old girl named Marcia, felt drawn towards the bowling alley near Milo and Maura.  “This is for me, I’m home,” said Marcia dreamily, as the parents looked on in alarm, but oddly yielding.

Maura and Milo reached for her hand, saying, “Come closer child, follow us.”   And she did.