In Defense of Bowling

Further Adventures from the Casebook of Dottie Nettles, Bowling Shop Proprietress

by Eric Suhem

Monday, June 13, 1958, was like any other day as I maneuvered my avocado-colored sedan into the bowling center parking lot. There were plenty of open spaces in which to park, but I wasn't satisfied with any of them. "I need strategic positioning," I murmured, as my huge Chrysler slowly circled the lot.

Suddenly the news on the car radio was interrupted by a special bulletin: "Attention all bowlers, it has been reported that there is a conspiracy by Communist organizations to alter the lane conditions at all bowling centers in order to guarantee higher scores and more pin action for leftist bowlers." (I imagined left-handed bowlers.) "If you are witness to any inappropriate alterations of lane conditions, contact your nearest American Bowling Association office, and we'll send out a combat force!"

I thought to myself, "Hmm…interesting, but how is this going to concern me?"

I entered the bowling center and bought a pack of wintergreen gum from the vending machine. I was met by a line of people, each demanding something. A quivering shadow of a man approached with his bowling ball. "Dottie, Dottie! I need to have this thumbhole sanded for tonight's tournament! Can you do it in time?"

"Not a problem," I calmly replied.
"I. . . I need it sanded and nobody else in town can do it." He trembled like a bowl of tangerine-flavored jello.
"Sit down!" I ordered.

It was then that I saw them, skulking past the Bowler's Accessories machines. They were the subversive bowlers, preparing for team league play, and an attack on our American way of life. Instead of using their real name, "Workers Struggling for Better Bowling," they were calling themselves the "Alley Cats." I knew they were smuggling nonstandard red bowling balls into the alley, which guaranteed greater pin action and higher scores.
"Dottie, Dottie . . . . Are you all right? Wh-what about my thumbhole?" the quivering man was asking, but I didn't hear him, I was deep in thought.

"This subversive activity is making me…mad!” I whispered, fist clenching.

"They're not a threat, are they?” asked my assistant, arranging bowling shoes on a shelf.

I had faced up to threats since I was four years old, when a lump of shirts on the back of the chair in the middle of the night, formed a menacing presence. I defeated that threat, and I would defeat this one too. "There's always a threat," I replied, spitting the wintergreen gum out into a plastic ashtray.

I then slowly realized that the gum had been drugged by the subversive bowlers with a substance concocted in a remote Siberian gulag. I slipped into hallucinations, staring at the pinball machines in the bowling center . . . . The pilgrims danced around the nectarine pinball machine, calling out the names of all the poultry quality-control inspectors that they knew, thus they were silent. The silver ball bounced around in the nectarine pinball machine as red-suited insurance salesmen congregated ominously . . . .

I was shaken from this reverie by the leader of the subversive bowlers, who had taken the bowling shoe off of his left foot (size 8.5) and slammed it on an alley-side table, yelling, "We will bury you!" He then put his shoe back on and returned to league play.

The subversive bowlers won all 3 of their games, by very questionable means in my opinion. As league activity completed, they packed up their red bowling balls and exited the alley. They got into their Volga compact car and attempted to leave the parking lot, but were obstructed by my huge Chrysler, parked in front of their exit path. "I knew I had a good reason for parking it there," I said, leisurely walking into the darkness of the parking lot, swinging my bowling ball bag to and fro, soon implementing my own version of mutually assured destruction.

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