Chuck and the Orange sat down on the curved bench changing their shoes. They had both just turned 23 and decided to gather a few of their friends and join a summer bowling league. This was week one. If this May was a sign, then this summer might be a hot one. Chuck and Ryan, or as he had become known that week: the Orange, had grown up doing junior leagues as kids and thought it might be fun to do a short twelve week league for some fun. It was good for Chuck to get away from the increasingly suffocating scene of his normal routine, which often included Sandray and Jason on the periphery of his social life. It was too much for him to take. He needed to escape, in order to find a way to have fun and maybe meet new people. He had always loved bowling and with Harrison, D and Chris on the team, it looked to be a promising idea.
The league was mostly made up of older people, which surprised everyone at first. Gordy, a tall fat old man with huge bags under his eyes and a giant cigar dangling from his lips pounded by this rookie team and grumbled incoherently to himself as he carried two black bowling balls upright by the finger holes to his team’s appointed lane. Harrison overheard him grumble something again and then begin to wheeze violently, which caught the attention of everyone else. No one was sure if they needed to run over and prepare to enact CPR, or if things would settle down. It turned out that he was laughing and all was okay.
Everyone else having tightened their bowling shoes with the 1980s Velcro straps wandered off to buy several pitchers of beer for the first game, leaving Chuck to try and figure out how to enter in each player’s names onto the electronic scorekeeping system. The last time he had bowled in the small town he grew up in, scorekeeping was still done by hand. He was not sure what to make of this. Little by little the names went in. They had already decided on the team name and the order they would bowl in. He typed in TORGO for the team name. Torgo is the stumbling bumbling bellhop from the terrible MST 3K movie “Manos: the Hands of Fate.” Torgo looked like he had pillows shoved down his pants and stuttered odd things about “the master” as he bounded slowly through life. The Orange would be the lead off man, he requested to be Chin Ho or Wo Fat from Hawaii Five-O, but The Orange is the name he got for wearing an orange shirt one day – the same day we saw a man standing in a decommissioned telephone booth off of 39th Avenue with an orange crate placed over his head. D was an easy type in for the second slot. Harrison was often known as the Iron Fist dating back to a threat he made against Ox who had made him miss his chance to talk with the ravishing Julie Woo earlier that year so Chuck typed “The Fist.” He looked around and saw that Chris had come back from the bar or bathroom or somewhere and was commenting about the intense smell of Pine Sol that was making his eyes water.
“What do you want to be tonight?” Chuck asked Chris. He had only recently met him, as he was a friend of the Orange’s from college.
“How about ‘Doug E. Fresh?” responded Chris, as everyone else filtered in around the scorer’s desk.
“Perfect.” Chuck replied, as he typed in “Dougie.”
Chuck was set to be the anchor and he hadn’t thought of a name for himself. He looked over at Gordy in the adjacent lane, who was once again wheezing loudly. The alley had opened up the lanes for practice bowling and one of Gordy’s teammates had just missed a spare shot. Gordy shouted out “I’ll give you a T for Trying” and launched into another extended death defying throat clearing gasp for life. Chuck typed in “Gordo.” He glanced up at the screen above the lanes. Team Torgo was set to bowl against Steve, Mandy, Bill, Wendy and Tom from the Mike’s Café team.
Chuck stood up and took in the surroundings and felt strangely energized by the horrifically loud crashing of pins coming from all sides. It’s no wonder everyone that works at bowling alleys wear hearing aids. He glanced back at his new hero Gordy and started contemplating the idea of taking up cigar smoking. His teammates were all similar to him, but not as gregarious, or huge or loud. They looked to be bowling against a Filipino family going off as Team El Tigre. It would’ve taken at least three of their teammates to measure up to the sheer girth that was Gordy’s mid section. In the other adjacent lanes to their right, Chuck watched as a couple walked up to the lanes. They looked to be a married couple maybe in their early 30s, both of them clad in blue jeans and matching T-shirts. They were introduced to their much older teammates and began to get themselves ready. Chuck watched as someone typed Melissa up on the screen. He didn’t pay any attention to her husband’s name. He stood there with his mouth open and all the silly chatter and odd running commentaries from his teammates faded away. Melissa had shapes that Chuck had never seen in person before. It seemed as if all of her assets were always on the verge of bursting free and he silently rooted for them to do so. Her jeans were skin tight and starting to split just underneath her shapely backside. Her white T-shirt hugged her waist and was stretched beyond its means around her chest.
Chuck never did bowl a practice ball, as he watched Melissa without ever averting his gaze. He watched her roll her ball and it made him nervous and self conscious.
“There’s a hunger inside you!” Harrison screamed, as he slapped Chuck hard across the back. “Are you fired up? I’m fired up!” He shouted and they began a hand bleeding series of hand slaps over and over as the Fist repeated his fired up mantra.
Everything became a blur for Chuck and he began to sweat and become nauseous. He frantically rolled his first ball and scored a messy strike. He looked back over at Melissa who was leaning over and talking to her husband who was sitting on the bench framing their two lanes. Chuck felt like he was sweating pure testosterone, as he was struck with pure lust.
Another crashing strike flashed before Chuck’s eyes, as he heard a loud turkey call gobble from behind, along with shouts of “Annie Oakley” and “Blood in the water” all from his teammates. Chuck had opened with five straight strikes and all the shouting was gaining the attention of the other teams. Chuck turned around, essentially oblivious of what was happening. He saw that Melissa was smiling at him and he lost himself into a daydream of her running over to him and smothering him with kisses. He could feel saliva pooling up inside his mouth as he walked toward the back of the lanes high-fiving people all along the way including an intricate specialized celebratory greeting with D. He had lost the ability to swallow.
In the sixth frame, the rest of the team was riding the momentum. All four of them had rolled powerful strikes and it was up to Chuck to score a perfect star frame for the team and a sixth straight to start the league. He had never bowled six straight strikes before. He still had not. This time, he left the five & eight pins in the middle and quickly rolled a simple spare. As he walked off the lane, Melissa applauded his start and high fived him as he went by. Her husband was in the back buying some beer. Chuck stomped by his teammates and shrugged off their comments about dropping the mashed potatoes and slipping on spilled gravy and how there had been too much butter on the biscuits. He threw his shoes off and went outside into the warm dry air after a hot day. The evening had started to cool the edge off a touch, but it was still just as warm outside as it was inside the stuffy old bowling alley. He sat down against the side of the building, beneath the tiled figures of people-like shapes purportedly heading toward the entrance into the alley. He took a few deep breaths watched the traffic streak by and felt himself calming down a bit – at least enough to regain some composure.
After returning to the fray, Chuck managed to finish the two and a half remaining games without having to leave again, but was still driven to distraction by the presence of Melissa nearby. Team Torgo was on fire and Chuck led the way with all three games coming in above 200, easily the best bowling of his life. The real Gordy even wheezed his approval for the new Gordo.
Chuck felt his senses returning to him after he had watched Melissa walk out the door with her husband and with his friend’s and teammates all wandering around trying to decide what to do next. They had all piled uncomfortably into Chuck’s car, so they all had to agree about what to do. They’d all decided to grab a bite to eat at Sir Loin’s off of Sandy Boulevard, but there would have to be stops at bank machines and convenience stores for smokes and such.
Chuck turned the ignition and “Deep Black” by the Smithereens was still playing from the ride over.
“Deep black jealousy
Every time you look at me”
These were the first words they all heard and Chuck turned the volume way down.
By the time they reached their third brand of bank, it was Chuck’s turn to grab some cash. He stepped out and wandered up toward the ATM with his head down. He knew someone was getting cash ahead of him, so he wanted to look and act as harmless and possible. What he was soon to realize is that this person was Melissa from bowling. She smiled when she recognized him as well.
“Hey, fancy meeting you here!” she smiled. “Great bowling tonight!” She glanced over his shoulder and could see his teammates all standing around outside his ’83 Ford Ltd. Smoking cigarettes and attempting to figure out if Sir Loin would be open and if so, what exactly what we would find inside. She waved to them.
“Thanks, it was quite a surprise,” he replied, embarrassed.
She touched his forearm as she said that she looked forward to seeing him next week and trotted off to her car. Chuck watched her bounce all the way there in the dim twilight. She waved again as she sped off out of the bank’s parking lot. His teammates all watching her leave as well.
Chuck turned to the ATM and stuck his bank card inside the slot. It asked for his pin number and despite having had the exact same account since his mom had helped him sign up for a checking account when he was in the 8th grade, he could not think of what it was. He typed in the first thing he thought of. He tried another when that failed. He began to sweat again and attempted another set of numbers with futility after the machine had spit his card back out. This time it did not return his card. His three strikes were used up. He was now on record as a man trying to steal from his own account.
Melissa had wiped his mind clean.
Part I can be read here
Part III can be read here