Ben Segal

Some Very Good Bowlers

Some very good bowlers are Mark Smith and John Harper and me. I can bowl perfectly. I believe this. I can bowl 900 over three games.

Mark Smith and John Harper have both won bowling championship titles. I have not won a bowling championship title. I do not know if I will ever be a champion of bowling in the scorebooks or have trophies or plaques. But I know in my heart that I am a champion.

My father says bowling is just for the union guys—all that shouting about strikes. I say Spare me the politics, Dad. We laugh at that one.

I have never actually bowled 900 over three games. Let me set that straight. Let me clear that one up.

I have bowled strikes. I have bowled strikes in a row. That is proof that I can.

My father is in a swimming pool. My father is in the middle of a natatorium. I am with him in the natatorium building. I am on the wood bench poolside. I do not wear a bathing suit. I wear jeans. I wear a long-sleeved shirt. My father is like a cat. He is lapping. Cats do not like water. I am like a cat. I am more like a cat than my father.

When he is resting, my father is dispensing advice. If I listened. If I only please listened imagine what I might live like. Or who.

I think of strikes. I knock those pins down and down. I spread them rolling and leaping into different lanes. My father is talking about industry.

But what I am thinking then is dust to dust, in dust, a dusty tree. A gray dusty tree hung full of bowling trophies. The faux-gold men on them are just about to release their many hundreds of balls. There are hundreds of men and they are dusted. They are polished. The men are frozen shining.

The wind is whistling in the bowling trophies and I am dusty among them, rag-handed and cleaning. It is so hard to keep so many trophies bright! And my father's hand is wet on my shoulder. My father's hair is wet across his too-broad chest. And his voice is droning kindly.

The bowling trophies in the branches would surely gather birds to them. Such gleaming little men—are there more perfect perches? Are the birds to shit on the trophy-men's heads? Surely they are. Surely this will happen. My father has returned to the pool. It is hard to tell if I am a sadness in his life.

Half-watching my father swim, I realize that the trophy men are perfect bowlers who will never bowl a perfect game. Am I a trophy man? Am I too more suited to the drizzle of wet shit down my face? I look up at the sky in the hope of birds but all I see is a moist white ceiling, a duct for ventilation, the inscrutable braille of dead insects in electric lights.

Ben Segal is the author of 78 Stories, co-author of The Wes Letters, and co-editor of the anthology The Official Catalog of the Library of Potential Literature. His chapbooks Science Fiction Pornography and Weather Days were published by Publishing Genius and Mud Luscious Press, respectively, and his short fiction has been published by Tin House, Tarpaulin Sky, Gigantic, and Puerto del Sol, among others.

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