Nov. 02, 2009

Continued from Chapter 2: The Dinosaur Goats, the Amphibious Goats, the Single-Celled Goats

But, see, there's still the problem of clothes. Looking normal at one of these places probably makes you stand out. So, before work ends, I sneak into the kitchen to fashion futuristic formal head wear (of perhaps less than ideal quality should a real need emerge, but sufficient for everyday purposes) out of tinfoil. It is fortunate for my self-esteem that nobody is around, and even more fortunate that my bag is large enough to contain the helmet as a sort of bucket, in which most of the rest of my bag's contents now reside, protected - seemingly - from any alien probing devices lodged deep within the Earth's core (except, of course, my unfortunate purse, which bravely covers much of the expanse of the visor). Note to future self: building things that are not flat out of tinfoil is hard.

Upon returning to my office, I find Barbara already there, looking distressed at my empty chair.

"Aha!," she says as I approach. "I thought that you had vanished. Finisimo!" She giggles.

I say, "Fine. Yes. Are you ready?"

She looks down, "Bad news, mi compadre, I forgot, tonight's bowling night."

Futuristic bowling night? I say, "Oh, no problem."

She says, "Yeah, see, it's good for the old hip, you know? Swinging it all around - it stretches it like a wonder!"

Great. Now, it's going to look like I'm stealing tinfoil... my team all assembled when I get here tomorrow. "Listen, Rose, we know you're having a hard time at home, but don't throw your career away over a relatively inexpensive kitchen item. You need some tinfoil, you just talk to us. We'll hook you up." "Yeah, Gus knows a girl over at Shandong Loften, don't you Gus?" "Yeah, old college buddies. She can hook you up with any tin foil you might need." "See? Just, let's not ruin things for everyone, okay, Rose?"

She says, "Well..."

"Rose! We're throwing you in jail for your voracious and unassailable appetite for theft."

She says, "You could always come bowling with us!"

"Rose! We've implemented the death penalty for stea--" Wait, what?! I say, "Umm..."

She says, "I know, sounds like a bunch of old crones yammering about cats, but it's a real pimpernel, a whiz bang of a good time!"

I say, "Umm... sure..." And, though inaudible and unseen, I add, "...?"

A light descends from the heavens onto us, only to be shadowed by the joy on her face. "Great! Let's boogie!"

I fiddle around for anything I might have left. I am going bowling. I haven't been bowling in real life since I was, like, 10. I mean, bowling still happens? That's still a thing people do? I thought I saw it on the endangered species list. A guy shooting a bowling ball on the 10 o'clock news. Incense! Outrage! A message from the NRA: "Guns don't kill bowling; drifting societal trends kill bowling!" ... Wait, what am I looking for? I say, "Umm..."

Barbara says, "You got everything?"

I say, "Yes." Probably.

And, we head out. She's driving ahead, since she knows where she's going, and I'm slugging on behind. I hate following people. I'm always terrified that they're going to screech ahead and leave me in a completely foreign part of town with some kind of howling wolf-monster army approaching from all sides. Or, something less dramatic, maybe. Some fog drifting in, a bunch of rain, some kind of strange teleportatic tornado that leaves nothing of Barbara's old Accord but a whiff of dust, and a half-hearted bang.

The place actually isn't that far away, a place that I drive past every day but never noticed. "Concurrence Bowls" with all that fancy neon of a bowling alley desperate to not bid this fine capitalist world good bye.

When we get inside, there are a couple of ladies, around Barbara's age, gray-white hair and wrinkles everywhere. They greet her happily, and she greets them happily, and she introduces me giddily, and everyone else, and I'm trying to hard not to look like a buffoon, I don't even listen to their names. Laura? Vernon? No, Vernon probably isn't right. Great. That's not going to come back and bite me in the ass. While Barbara and L-name and V-name are chatting about their cats, another old lady arrives. Despite my inability to correctly interact with human beings, I do manage to collect the following pieces of information:

  1. L-name is actually named Delores. So, not L-name at all. She is wearing a giant butterfly broach.
  2. Our green-dressed late-comer with the twelve rings is Nancy.
  3. Nancy keeps looking pointedly at V-name.
  4. V-name has a lot of cats.

After a time (forever?), Delores looks sweetly at me and says, "So, looks like we've got a fivesome here tonight! Anyone mind sharing a turn with our lovely young newcomer?"

V-name says, "No, we should give her her own turn. I'll share a turn with Nancy."

Nancy stares pointedly at V-name.

Barbara says, "Lovely! This is going to a hoot!"

I... This is not going to be a hoot. I really should speak up here.

Nancy says, "No, if it's all the same to you gals, I'll share with... Rose, is it? My knee's still giving me the wanks."

Speak up, Rose!

V-name says, "Oh, honey! Say it ain't so! You've been without a walker for, what, two weeks now?"

Nancy says, "Yeah, still on the kinks, though. The old shell doesn't rejuvenate like she used to."

I say, "Umm..."

Delores says, "Yes, dear?"

I say, "I... I'd prefer not... I mean, I don't want to be a bother... I'd, I'd really just like to watch."

Delores says, "Oh, don't be silly. We're all pleasant here. Except Barbra," she winks, "but you're already used to her."

I say, "No, really. I'd really just prefer to watch."

Barbara says, "Well, I think we're settled then, if Nancy's knee can take a full game?" (God, I love this woman.)

Nancy looks pointedly at V-name. She says, "Sure."

And then, they go and get their shoes, and I'm allowed to loiter invisibly behind them. You know that scene in "The Big Lebowski" in which Saddam Husein works at a bowling alley with an infinitely ascending wall o' shoes? The guy here is wearing the exact same beret and has the exact same mustache! The shoe wall is not nearly so impressive, though. I wonder if he'd give me an autograph as "Saddam." Would that be a weird thing to ask?

When we get a booth, I choose the back seat, farthest from the action, and the ladies start to don their shoes and special bowling gloves and pull their customized balls out of their customized bags. A set of matching uniforms, and these girls would look like an professional team, maybe showing up on ESPN. I used to play this game online, and it always made me feel like I was on TV, and there were lots of people just waiting for me to, like, drop the ball on my foot:

Created by:
ESPN Arcade

So, anyway, I watch as these old women start getting one strike after another and yelling inappropriate slang like "Hootenanny!" and "Balderdash!" with every strike. Nancy and Delores are partners, as are Barbara and V-name. From the looks of things they're probably tied, but I honestly have no idea how to read those little score thingies.

It's also way boring to watch bowling in real life. Honestly, after a few minutes, I'm not even sure whose turn it is. (Which should be pretty obvious, right?) So, I figure, I'll just stand up and get some fresh air. I go to grab my bag and see an unfamiliar glint from inside. The helmet! Yeah, why the Hell did I think that we were going to a future bar? Why did I spend an hour making this stupid helmet thing?


I guess the least I could do is put it to some kind of use. ... the ladies here look a bit preoccupied to notice if I disappear for a few minutes. So, I stand up, with my bag, and walk outside. The air is cool and smoke-free in that way that makes you realize that you were in a place that either allowed for or didn't actively prohibit smoking inside. That like, "Oh, hey, air! I remember you!" feeling.

And, looking around to make sure nobody's in sight, I pull the helmet out of my bag, dump its newly-subterranean-alien-vulnerable belongings back into my bag and don the thing. It fits surprisingly snugly, since I didn't bother to compare it against my head earlier. And, it's surprisingly warm in the cool night. A girl could get used to this.

I say, "Take me to your leader!"

I say, "I am Vulcar, daughter of Vulcar, son of Vulcar the Vulcar!"

I say, "Prepare for... " (and now a robot voice?) "inv-as-ion!"

Someone else says, "Run for your lives! It's got a helmet!"

I-- holy fuck do not trust your eyesight when it's dark, rose you stupid fucking idiot

Someone else says, "Please, have mercy on the children!"

She walks into the faint, purple light. She says, "Hi!" She looks, maybe my age?-ish? and she's got this funky hairdo going with a sort of wave going up the left side of her face and down the right side to cover her forehead. It's actually kind of stylish, honestly. More than I do with my hair, at least.

She's wearing a red coat, around the hue of my face, most likely, only not quite so fiery.

Like, not with the fire of a thousand suns.

Maybe five.

She says, "So... You invade here often?"

I says, say, I say, "I... uhh... I didn't mean..."

She says, "If you're going to be all alien-dressed - and I'm not complaining here - I recommend not giving yourself away in the light of bowling alley neon."

I say, "I didn't... I wasn't..."

She says, "The dark is way freakier, plus, people who know you can't recognize you and start thinking that you're crazy pants."

I say something akin to, "..."

She says, "I'm Sen."

I say, "Rose."

She says, "Nice to meet you Rose. Where are you from?"

I say, "Hereabouts..."

She says, "No, I mean, which planet." She winks. God.

I say, "I'm..." Uhh, what was that? "Vulcar."

She says, "Oh, nice! And, that's near, what else?, maybe something I've heard of?"

I say, "Vulcar is bordered only by planets named Vulcar. Its sun is also named Vulcar."

She says, "Wow, not very original."

I say, "Soon this planet too will be named Vulcar."

She says, "I've always dreamed of living somewhere other than Earth."

Nov. 03, 2009 →



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