APRIL 2000 | VOL. 4, NO. 4
ROBB KERR, an attorney and businessman, began writing fiction just over a year ago, but has jumped in with both feet. He is currently working on two young adult novels, which he hopes to begin to market soon. Kerr, who lives in Houston with his wife Mimi and four daughters, is a contributing writer to Renaissance Online Magazine.
At the Palace Lanes bowling alley, the five-man teams in the Friday night "A" League were setting up. It was the league's first meeting of the new 1967 year and 24 teams were competing. Chuck Garfield had placed his 15-pound Brunswick ball in the ball-return rack of lane six and was checking the accessories in his bag. He took out his shoes and leather wrist-strap and looked over the other items: the hand towel, baby powder, small cleaning cloth, and tape. He was the captain of the Falcons, a team comprised of teachers and coaches from Pershing Junior High, where he was Principal. And he was one of the best amateur bowlers in the city, consistently averaging over 200 points per game.
Chuck was lacing up his shoes, his burly forearms bulging, when he saw Sonny Armour arrive. Sonny rubbed his free hand playfully over Chuck's manicured crew cut as he carried his 16-pounder to the ball rack.
"Happy Birthday, Gar," Sonny called out. "The big 6-0, is it?"
"Twice your age on the nose, and I'm still laying the strikes down."
"I'll get there. I'm new to this, remember."
Sonny, a lefty, stood six feet six inches and had exceedingly long arms. On his college basketball team he had been renowned for his hook shot, but rarely started because he neglected the other aspects of his game. Frequently now, when he was coaching the Pershing team, he would let the boys play by themselves at one end of the court while he sank hook shots at the other end, reliving past glories and unrealized dreams. Chuck, who had two grown daughters, had come to think of Sonny almost as his son in the years since he had hired him straight out of college.
Chuck sat at the scorer's desk, filling in the team's line-up with one of his newly sharpened pencils. "Remember, Sonny, you get better spin action if you lift your middle and ring fingers just at the release."
"And don't bowl at too high a speed -- 15 to 20 miles an hour is optimum."
"Aw, c'mon, Gar, I like hearing those pins fly around."
"They'll fly right over the other pins instead of into them if you bowl too hard. Let your big Brunswick do the work. It'll do everything but cook the hot dogs at the snack shack if you let it."
"How can a slower speed be better than faster? Doesn't make sense."
"It's been proven, Sonny. Dick Weber said excess speed is the number one reason for not getting a strike on a pocket hit."
"All right, Gar, if you say so. I'll try to slow it down a little."
The other Falcons arrived and the match began. Sonny was first up. He stood straight, gripped the ball, and assumed his stance.
"C'mon, Sonny," Chuck exhorted him, winking at one of their teammates, "it's only ten sticks at the end of a 60-foot runway."
The teammate laughed and chimed in, "That's right-just ten little 'ol sticks."
With three steps and a long slide, and a great swoop of his left arm, Sonny released the ball. It traveled at breakneck speed, hooking perfectly into the number one and two pins for a strike. Chuck was up next. He raised his ball to just below his black-rimmed glasses. His approach was slower and smoother, the ball spinning almost noiselessly alongside the right gutter more than half way down the lane before hooking into the number one and three pins for another strike.
"You look like Don Carter," Sonny said as he sauntered back from the snack bar with two Schlitz beers. He handed Chuck one. Sonny was already perspiring. He took out his green and white hand towel -- the Pershing team colors -- and dabbed his forehead.
"Where are the little ladies going tonight?" Chuck asked, taking a slug of his beer.
"A&W Root Beer, Sally told me. Pizza was last week."
"Blanche sure enjoys spending time with Sally and your boy." Chuck laughed. "That's about the best thing about your being on this team."
"You and Blanche have really taken us under your wings and we appreciate it -- I mean that." Sonny pulled a pack of Lucky Strikes out of his white shirt pocket. He lit one and waved the match out like a wand. "Little Chuck will be two years old next week. Growing like a weed." Sonny took a swig of beer and deeply inhaled his cigarette. "He's a strong little fella, like his namesake."
Sonny held out his beer bottle and the men clinked. Sonny took another drag from his Lucky.
Chuck said, "Let me see that pack."
"You don't smoke, Gar." Sonny handed him the cigarettes.
"I sure as hell don't. Have you ever read the warning they started putting on the package a couple years ago?"
"Of course I've read that," Sonny sighed.
"What do you think it means?"
"I don't believe everything some expert says. Just like bowling speed -- I get my strikes fine without inching the ball down the lane at a snail's pace."
Chuck looked at the warning. "They wouldn't put that on there if it wasn't true, would they?"
"They might, who knows? Besides, it says may be hazardous, so it may not be hazardous, too." Sonny grabbed the pack back. "I'm not too worried about it."
"You're just rationalizing a bad habit you don't want to give up. Listen, Sonny, I admire your sunny demeanor, but those smokes are damn cancer sticks and you know it. You bowl any way you want to, but when it comes to that little boy of yours, you'd better make damn sure you'll be around for him."
"Jeez, Gar, let's change the subject, all right?" Sonny picked up his ball and assumed his stance.
[ CONTINUED: Timeless Advice ]