“Action is eloquence,” wrote Shakespeare. I always thought he was referring to my sister. She could skate, swim and dive. She could bat, catch, steal bases and even pitch while in a cast. I cringed whenever anyone threw the ball in my direction and have been known to actually hop over it in an effort to avoid direct contact.
Time alters all. She finally met her Waterloo. At a bowling lane. My average score is around 130 and, unbelievable as it sounds, I’m ahead of her for once. She was wrangled into substituting for a friend on a five pin bowling team. Her baseball skills did not serve her well.
Long, long ago, she learned to bowl in socks. (“Learned” is an exaggeration.) This time, she was forced to don the gaudy shoes that announce your size to world.
I’ve always hated this, being a size eight. Where else are we forced to proclaim personal measurements? I’ve never seen a Speedo bathing suit with the bust size written across the chest in Gothic letters, or men’s jogging shorts with inches in frontier script, so why bowling shoes? Perhaps this was on her mind as well and may account for her fall from grace.
I’ve seen people knock down the plexiglass barrier, even cause a chain reaction and bring down two or three. I myself have dropped the ball and cringed when it rolled backwards toward the seats. But I’ve never seen anyone bring the entire building to a shocked standstill like my sister did.
When it was her turn to bowl, she stumbled and lurched her way toward the line, then with the power of a demolition crane released the ball directly into the gutter. After each throw, she became more self-conscious. (Now that bowling scores are kept by computer on a large, overhead screen, pseudonyms might be appropriate.)
Focusing every grey cell she could muster on the correct footwork, the fault line, and placement of the weird shoes, she tore up the lane and threw the ball with all her baseball prowess…overhand. Past her own gutter, past the next lane’s gutter, and into the alley beyond.
Complete silence followed the ensuing crash. All eyes turned. She managed to lift her head enough to see if the manager was bringing her street shoes and coat. When he sputtered from shock into laughter, the clientele joined it. My sister slunk to her seat. “Would that be a zero?” asked an opponent. My sister resisted the urge to tell her to put a sock in it. No one commented on the next fourteen gutter balls since they were in her own lane.
After such a public display, it was easy to talk her into a few days out of the country. A friend convinced my sister to join her at Hinkley for gambling. What the heck? She’d already broken all the odds.
We drove her to the bus stop at 7:00 a.m. My sister enquired at the desk, “Has the bus for–” “It’s loading now,” interrupted the clerk, not looking up from her novel. My husband carried my sister’s suitcase outside. He advised her to check with the driver.
“It this the bus for taking a gamble?” asked my sister.
The young driver looked offended.
“Are you going to Hinkley for gambling?” repeated my sister.
“No,” said the driver. “We’re going to Duluth for bowling.”
“Oops,” said my sister. “I’d wind up black-balled in two countries. The only thing I’m doing with this arm for the next three days, is pulling the slot-machines.”
I hope they gave her a lot of room. I wonder if she gambled in her socks.
Published first in 1991 in the Chronicle-Journal/Times-News.