Bowling for Jesus

It’s probably a good thing I can write.

Not to say that I am, or have been, incapable of doing anything else.  I know how to make toast, after all.  That’s an accomplishment.  No, really, it is.  I mean, if the difference between starvation, and survival onward to tomorrow, is a slightly browned piece of bread with butter and jelly, I’ve got it covered.  Not that I’m about to break into a refrain from I Will Survive, or anything, but if you hear some crunching in the corner, that might be me.

Anyway, enough about toast.  We can all make toast, right?  Please say yes.

Good.

So, I don’t remember my sixth-grade math teacher’s name, and it’s been bugging me for an hour.  Come to it, I can’t even remember what he looks like, though I do quite clearly remember it being ahe.  Of course, I only remember one classmate–a boy by the name of Scott.  And I only remember him for that unfortunate vomiting incident that caused me to plead to my mother for new shoes, and forever altered how I respond to the smell of sawdust.  Sorry Scott.  Wherever you are, I hope you aren’t vomiting on someone’s shoes.  In an effort to actually move forward, I’ll call my teacher Mister Mister Sir, and get on with it.

Mister Mister Sir did a rather curious thing in class.  Each month he chose a Student Of The Month (the first letters were always in CAPS, lest the importance of the honor be diminished).  Now, being honored as Student Of The Month is, in almost every case, a worthy title bestowed upon the one student that either kissed enough tush, or cheated on enough tests to have the highest grade in the class.  It so happened I managed both with great skill.  But being  Student Of The Month wasn’t merely a title in Mister Mister Sir’s class.  No, it came with benefits, the most primary of which was that you got to sit at a teacher’s-sized desk near the door, and grade papers all day, after which you went into the Grade Book and entered to grades.

The awesome nature of this power cannot be overlooked.  However, it wasn’t the greatest of the honors bestowed upon the Loyal Brotherhood of the Student Of The Months.  That honor came by way of a Polaroid picture taped to a piece of construction paper (mine was red, as I recall–odd that I can remember that but not Mister Mister Sir’s real name), with a brief bio underneath.  It was a typical roll-call of information: Name, Age, Birth date, Favorite Food.  I remember looking over the list and happily making it known to the world how incredibly special I was.  They would know all the most important information about me and envy me each every one of those thirty days.  The kicker was the last question, the one that nearly defined my entire life, post-Sir’s class.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Oh, boy.  That was the question.  The Question.  But I knew the answer.  I didn’t need to hesitate.  Didn’t need to take even a second of time to contemplate exactly what I wanted to do with my life.

I wanted to bowl for Jesus.

Mister Mister Sir mistakenly translated this not-simply-a-tidbit of defining information, and noted for all to see that I wanted to be a Professional Bowler.  Much though I was honored to sit at the High Desk, and spend a month of my adolescence grading papers and not learning a damned thing, I felt it was quite necessary to help Mister Mister Sir–enlighten even–understand where he had erred.

“Mister Mister Sir, sir,” I had said to him, early one morning before class had begun.  “I believe you may have made a mistake on my biography.  I don’t want to be a professional bowler.  I want to bowl for Jesus.”

Mister Mister Sir seemed a little put off by that, or at least that’s how I perceived it.  I now know he just needed coffee.  I see that face every morning in my mirror.  “I don’t understand,” he said, which I found to be quite obvious.  Of course he didn’t understand.  I needed to clarify.

“I want to bowl for Jesus,” I repeated.  “You know, stand up with my ball of reckoning, keep my approach straight and balanced, steer clear of the gutters, and roll my way through the ten pins with a proper angel.”

“You mean, ‘angle’?”

“No, angel.”  He stared at me, which I saw as an invite to continue.  “The proper angel is important.  You can’t just take the ten pins lightly, straight on.  You have to have an angel to guide you through and help you to, you know, get a strike.”

“What?”

He wasn’t getting it, which nearly frustrated me into silence.  Months I had worked on this, trying to get every bit of it just right.  And now here was a teacher of whom I greatly respected for choosing me as Student Of The Month, understanding none of it.  “The Ten Pins?” I tried.

“What about them?”

“It’s a parallel, Mister Mister Sir.  Ten Pins, Ten Commandments.  Angels, and staying clear of the gutters–you know,” and here I whispered, “Satan?”

“Oh,” he said, rather dry and indifferent.  “This is a religious thing, isn’t it?”

I felt my shoulders drop somewhere below my knees.”Well, no.  I mean, yeah, kind of.  But not, if you know what I mean.  It’s kind of a religious sort of thing that I talked to my preacher about.  Of course, he didn’t understand either.  But I think that was just because the Idiot Gnomes got to him.”

“The Idiot Gnomes.  That’s what my father calls them, anyway.  They break into your room at night, on days when you’ve been particularly bad, and steal your brain cells.  They turn you into an idiot.  That’s why I try to be good and come up with good ideas all the time.  I don’t want to be an idiot.”

“But you want to Bowl for Jesus?”

“Yes!  I do!”

Mister Mister Sir smiled, laughed a little, then stood up and walked to the wall where my beaming visage sat in all its Polaroid-glory.  He removed the construction paper, walked back to his desk, made quite a scene of crossing out Professional Bowler with a marker, then quickly wrote something I couldn’t make out.  He walked back to the wall, and re-posted my shrine of glory.

He nodded, and returned to his desk, where he downed nearly a full cup of coffee in one gulp.  After a moment of hesitation, I walked to the wall and stared at my biography.  I stared at it for about two minutes, contemplating.

“You can bowl for Jesus all you want, kiddo,” said Mister Mister Sir, now standing behind me.  “But you damn well better write about it afterward.  Weirdness breeds entertainment, and I’m pretty sure you’re gonna breed just fine.”  After which he walked out of the room.

I’m not sure at what point in the month that Scott vomited on my shoes, but I know that it was about the same time that I decided I wanted to be a writer when I grew up.  If not for Mister Mister Sir, and his biographical misstep, then for me and my wardrobe.  I wanted to wear nice, clean, warm, slippers all day, somewhere free of random vomit, and the gag-inducing smell of sawdust,

It’s a good thing I can write.

Day Four: Sometimes you just gotta ask

I don’t know everything. Hell, I barely know some things. Life is a busy place full of an infinite amount of information that is constantly changing. Working through a manuscript is no different. I know some things. I’ll never know everything. At times, it’s like I know just enough to work my way through a world and it’s trials. I’m positive the characters laugh at me when they’re off set.

As I noted in the first post on this project, my lead character jumped ship and a feisty teenage girl took his place, altering the entire scope of the story and the genre in which it was to be. This left me a little shy on information when first I sat down to tell Agatha Blume’s tale. I mean, I had all but just met the girl. We hadn’t even had a thorough conversation. Next thing I know we’re starting a chapter with her brushing her hair and having a terse exchange with her mother. And then she drops the Keeper bomb and I stopped writing.

From Chapter Two (one revision, unposted):

It should have been the worst month of her life. All that time, just ticking away into boredom. But Agatha didn’t mind time. She could deal with time. It was the Keepers that bothered her.

Wait. What? Who the hell are the Keepers? Until that moment, I had never heard of them. I mean, I figures I knew who she was talking about, but I had never called them Keepers before. In the first run at Chapter Two, she didn’t mention anything about Keepers. But in a read through, in preparation for completing the chapter, there it was. Keepers. So, I had to stop. I had to find Agatha and ask her what the hell she was talking about.

Thus, I leave for you an interview with Agatha Blume. I get what she’s up to a bit better now. I know who the Keepers are and why she calls them that. Now I can continue.

An Interview with Agatha Blume

(for the purpose of figuring out what her deal is)

Hello, Agatha. I appreciate you taking the time to help me figure exactly who you are and what you’re doing in my story.

Sure.

Tell me a little about yourself.

Um, well, I’m sixteen—seventeen in, like, four months—and I’m a Junior in High School. Please don’t ask about college. I get enough of that from my mom. My best friend is Judy—or at least she was my best friend until I saw her out with Justin at the movies. Now, I don’t know. She knew I liked him. It’s like with my hair, you know? I told her I wanted to dye it blue, to be crazy or something, and then, like, the next day her hair’s blue. It looked good too. Justin texted me after school and was all ooh, it looks hot like I wanted to hear that. I just ignored it. Well, I had a sad emoji ready, but, I mean, what good would that have done, right? He obviously likes her more than me anyway. She’s so pretty. It’s stupid.

Gotcha. So, what about—

Gotcha? That’s your response to that? I tell you my best friend stole the boy I like away from me and you say “gotcha?” Whatever.

It wasn’t meant—

Just forget it, okay? I don’t even want to talk about it.

Fine with me. How about your mom? What’s your relationship like—

Don’t ask.

Technically, I didn’t. You like to interrupt people, don’t you?

(the glare she offers is intense, and yet somewhat humorous. As if it’s taking a great deal of concentration. She might have gas for all I know.)

I do not have gas! That’s gross. Delete that.

I was about to ask about your mother. 

Whatever. She’s fine. I love her. She does mother things, though. Annoying mother things all the time. I mean, she’s a good person, right? It’s not like I don’t realize that. She just … it’s like when I’m in my room, you know? And she just barges in. She’ll knock, of course, but then it’s like she just decides that’s enough for her to come in. I’m not twelve anymore. I need my privacy. And she doesn’t let me do anything. She used to ground me if I didn’t make all A’s.

Used to?

Well, I took care of that. I just make sure I always have A’s. It’s like keeping my room clean and stuff. I just make sure it always is when she comes in my room. If we don’t have anything to fight about…. (she shrugs)

Ah, I see. I get it. You make sure everything is the way she wants it; and if it isn’t, you just … fix it.

Yeah. Something like that.

So you correct it in time. I mean, “in time”. You actually go back and change things. Make sure you know the answers to tests and have homework done and so forth.

I don’t know what you’re talking about. (Clearly her body language says otherwise.)

It’s fine, Agatha. I know what you can do. I’m just trying to understand.

Well, understand quieter. The Keepers are watching.

The Keepers? I don’t have anything about Keepers in my notes.

Oh, well, I guess everything’s all fine then. I mean, if you don’t have them in your notes, they probably aren’t even real. Just some stupid kid with her stupid story. Whatever.

Fine. Tell me who the Keepers are.

(she seems very reluctant to talk about them, shifting in her seat, looking away as if watching someone from afar.)

I don’t know who they are. I just know they watch time. It’s, like, I don’t know. I saw one once, one of the first times I moved through time. I went back two days to try to find a, well, I had lost a ring of mom’s that belonged to her mom and she got super pissed and then cried all night about it. I thought if I went back to when I last had it I could make sure it didn’t get lost. When I got there—I was in the living room—I saw some shadowy person. Like he was there, but not entirely. Some tall looking guy, really pale, you know? Like vampire pale. He was talking to another Keeper somewhere. I never saw that one. He walked past me, almost through me really. It was like he didn’t even see me. He kept talking about an infringement in time–I think that was the word–but he couldn’t place the source. He definitely wasn’t friendly. He had some gun thing. Silver. Kinda big. I don’t know. But it scared me. I just stayed and lived the next two days again rather than risk it. I didn’t move through time again for a while.

When did you first move through time?

(she laughs) My thirteenth birthday. We had a dog named Rufus. He went on a rampage through the kitchen after Judy popped a balloon. Knocked into the kitchen table and the cake went splat all over the floor. I was inconsolable. It was a Minion cake. I love those guys. It was my first non-Princess cake, and I felt pretty adult about it. Stupid, I know. I’m still not even sure how it happened. I just had this idea later that if I could have stopped Judy from popping that balloon, Rufus would have been fine and my cake would have survived.

And what happened then?

I don’t know. It was, like, one minute I was in my bed crying, thinking about that moment, the next I was just there. Judy had the balloon, but hadn’t squeezed it yet, so I just knocked it out of her hand.

And your cake was saved?

Well, no, not exactly. I actually popped the balloon when I hit it, and, well, it all just happened anyway. Splat. Minion doom.

Did you try again?

No. I mean, I thought about it, but suddenly the cake didn’t seem such a big deal. I had moved through time, you know? Cake seemed kinda silly in comparison. The Keeper thing happened a few months later. I had done it a few times in between. I was always afraid of it, actually, so I never went far. Just enough to change simple things that seemed to matter at the time A few minutes the day I missed the bus. An hour the day I threw up in Justin’s pool. The most I ever went was twelve hours or so. It was when I went back two days that the Keeper showed up. Sort of.

So you don’t really know who they are. You just call them Keepers because of time?

Something like that. I don’t know.

You haven’t seen one since?

Maybe. I sometimes think so. A reflection here or there. In a car. In my dreams. I don’t know. Maybe I’m just seeing things. Maybe they don’t even exist, but I don’t want to take a chance. I figure if I keep it under twelve hours, forward or back, I’ll be okay. I think it’s like ripples, you know?

Ripples?

Yeah. Like, imagine you’re blind and standing about five feet into a pool. And someone gets in and the ripples on the water hit you. You can’t see so you probably have a good sense of feeling where it came from, or something. If someone jumps in, yeah, definitely. If they go in like halfway or something, probably. But, like, a toe dipped in and you’d never be able to tell. So, I don’t know, I just dip a toe in here or there.

That’s actually pretty damn clever, Agatha.

Thanks. (Her cheeks are red, she’s watching her feet sway. I don’t think she gets complimented all that often.)

So, just one more question: You said the Keeper you encountered wasn’t friendly. What do you think would happen if one of them were to find you, or discover what you can do?

(She ponders this one. I think she already has an answer, but she isn’t sure if she wants to say it.)

I don’t know. It won’t be good. That I know for sure.

How so?

Because. I mean, how many people do you know who can move through time? Imagine what would happen if a bunch of people could? Other than me, right? People would be moving through time all over the place to fix everything. And, you know, like the cake, it doesn’t always work out. Might even make it worse. Some things are just supposed to happen, right? So, the Keepers have to protect time. They won’t want me doing what I do, even as small as it is.

Oh, I see. You believe they are specifically interested in protecting time and nothing else? Almost angels of time, in a way.

Right. Right. Yeah, if angels carried weird gun things and hunted little girls who just wanted to keep their moms happy. That sounds logical. Good call.

Fair point. I guess we’ll stop there. I think I understand things better now. Somewhat, anyway.

How lovely for you. I’ll go see if I can sleep and not dream horrible dreams, thanks.

Thanks for your time, Agatha. See you soon.

Whatever soon is.

Here’s the latest revision of Chapter Two:

Chapter Two (Revised)