The Bowl-A-Drome lies on the fringes of the old meat packing district, not far from the Chiselers’ home arena. The giant red pin getting knocked over by the big blue ball on the sign lit up years worth of broken bottles in the parking lot. Part of the neon tubing was out, so every time it got hit, the pin changed for a moment into some sort of foreign calligraphy.
I stepped inside and the smells of waxed hardwood, stale beer and rented shoes hit my nose like a fifteen pound house ball with no spin on it.
It was league night. The usual assortment of embroidered synthetics were well represented. Some teams looked like slobs with matching shirts while others were just a few sequins away from being dressed to teach ballroom dancing. I spotted Oma and Tommy down in lane six, wearing our signature yellow shirts with the green trim and distinctive “NWR Lane Lizards” logos on the backs. BD was a no-show, as usual. She’d been resistant to participating on a bowling team to begin with. The realization that bowling shoes did not come in 5 inch pumps had sealed the deal. I noticed Wing Far over in the racks trying to find a ball to suit him.
Wing was also known to BD as “Wingman”, “Wing-A-Licious”, and “Everybody Wing-Chung Tonight”. He was the cook from the restaurant below our offices. His small frame was a good fit for the boss lady’s bowling shirt. It so happened that the lack of two finger tips on his ball hand resulted in a wicked hook. His spoken English was limited, and it had taken Oma a few frustrating weeks just to get the concept of bowling across to him. He must have kept the shirt somewhere in the restaurant because it reeked of #17 Mongolian Beef and Brocolli.
“How’s the investigation going, guys?” I asked, eager to hear what they’d been able to turn up. I hoped they wouldn’t be expecting too much from me.
Oma and Tommy looked at each other with tired eyes, then turned back to me.
“Have you ever considered reading a newspaper, One-Point?” Oma asked.
I frowned my reply. Answering a question with a question is one of those things that always tripped me up. I was never sure if I was supposed to answer the question with yet another question, or if it was rhetorical or what.
“The mayor retracted his resignation,” Tommy said. “After some consideration, he felt it was best for the city and for him to stay in office the rest of his term.”
Oma chimed in, “It had to be a dame. Some hot tamale had him dancing around like a puppet on a string.”
“Yeah, now he’s back with his dumpy wife and kids, the other woman’s moved on, and we’ve got squat. We can’t find out the name of that chippy if she’s gone, and lord knows hizzonor aint talking.”
I said “I guess your fancy corner office up on Stateside is gonna stay empty for a while then, huh?”
Oma chose to ignore me, and glanced over to lane seven at the King Pins, sizing them up. Tommy chose re-tying his bowling shoes in favor of acknowledging my comment. Over on five, the Guttersnipes were whooping it up because the fattest one of them had managed to pick up a spare.
Wing strode up and proudly showed us the house ball he’d picked for the evening, a bubble-gum pink number with the name “Joan” engraved in script below the thumb hole.
“Dis my rucky bar – It named Joooan!” he cried.
Wing’s proclamation had lightened the mood considerably. As we took on the King Pins, a distraction kept gnawing at me. I had a bunch of seemingly random thoughts in my head from the past few days but I couldn’t shake the notion that they were all somehow connected. I was getting up to take my turn buying a pitcher of Foam Eez Lager just as Wing let the pink orb go sailing down the lane, perilously close to the gutter.
“You stay on wood Jo-oh-oh-oan!” he called, mustering all the body language he could. Apparently a good listener, the ball not only stayed on the wood but took a violent curve inward at the last moment, scoring Wing a strike.
I turned toward the bar with Wing’s words echoing in my head. By the time I had the pitcher filled, I’d figured it out.
– * –
The next morning we sat at our desks, trying far too hard to come up with something funny to write about to possibly succeed. I stood up and faced Oma and Tommy, then cleared my throat.
“Guys, you might not believe this, but I think I figured out who the mystery woman is.”
Tommy took a pull of his coffee and winced.
“The mayor’s chickadee?” he asked.
He glanced across at Oma, who was leaning back in his chair with his fingers laced behind his head, waiting for me to continue.
“Yeah,” I began. “The other day, I was at Finn’s with BD. She’s sitting there, sipping a Dirty Mo, when her phone rings. Only it’s not the usual ringtone.”
“You mean the actor saying ‘Ring’, right?” Oma said.
“Exactly! This new ringtone was music. It was the Beatles, but I couldn’t place the song right away. BD referred to the caller by the name ‘Teach’, then high-tailed it into the lady’s room before I could hear anything else. Then last night Wing kept calling his ball Joan. I was buying a pitcher of suds and that name triggered it. The Beatles song on her ringtone was ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’. BD didn’t say ‘Teach’, she said ‘Teej’ as in ‘TeeJay’! As in Mayor Thaddeus J. Maxwell”
Oma leaned forward in his chair now. “You’re trying to tell us that the mayor’s piece of side tail was…”
“He’s right” said BD, appearing behind Tommy in her office door. “For what it’s worth, I thought I might have loved him once. Turns out, when TJ Max actually decided that he wanted to leave Mrs. Country Club and the crumb-snatchers, I was the one with the cold feet.”
The three of us stared at her in disbelief as she continued.
“I worked my way up in this arm-pit of a town, building this blog from nothing and giving you three losers jobs. I’d only known one way to get ahead in this world and that was by scratching and clawing. Bedding down with Mayor Maximus sure looked like an easy alternative, but it backfired. He fell for me, and he fell hard – you can’t blame him, any guy would.” she smiled to herself.
“All of the sudden, Thaddapuss wants to throw all of that power and status down the crapper and move away with me to some dumpy little bungalow in the country” she said, her voice starting to crack.
BD turned back into her office, pushing the sunglasses up the bridge of her nose as she went. She slammed the door and the silence was palpable.
Tommy took a sudden interest in his cuticles while Oma re-organized the three pens on his desk. I pulled off my clip-on tie and tossed it in the trash.