Split the Difference

[Fiction] Friday Challenge #154 for May 7th, 2010

A man aspiring to be a pro bowler loses to his young daughter.

Steve entered the bowling alley with a little black rain cloud in tow.  The sulky weather system named Laura drifted in with her arms folded, earphones plugged in and the hood of her jacket pulled up.

“Dad, why did I have to come with you?”

“You know why.  Your Mum had to take your brother to the doctor and there was no one else to look after you.”

“But Samantha’s parents let her stay home by herself.  Everyone else’s parents let them.”

Steve wanted to trot out the Parent One Liner Guide Book to Trump Your Teen and use the “If everyone else was jumping off the cliff, would you do it too” line but thought better of it.  Instead he went with the truth.

“I’m not quite ready to let my just-turned-thirteen year old daughter stay home all by herself.”

“That’s not fair,” Laura replied.

“Fair or not, that’s just how it is, sweetheart.”

“But Dad…” she whined.

“I’m not going to argue this with you.  Sorry you have to be here, but that’s just how it is for tonight.  Can’t say having you here particularly thrills me either.  Bloke’s night and all.”

Laura’s face widened with teenage indignation at her father’s off hand comment.  She parried the blow with the sullen, silent treatment and folded her arms after burrowing into her earphones.

She rolled her eyes and chose to ignore the other members of the bowling team as they arrived in their matching purple and gold shirts, a fuddy duddy boy band on too much red cordial as she described them.  Mack “The Knife,” Peter “Wrench,” Jono “Dog Nuts” and her father, Steve “Goose” chatted jovially and set about their practice round, shining balls, adjusting shoes and strapping on gloves.

The four men set about their game and Laura watched the scoreboard set up something that resembled algebra, with numbers and “x’s” and dashes that was as confusing to Laura as the da Vinci code.  Her father had talked of going pro some time soon, but Laura had not bothered to understand.

As the first game drew to its conclusion, Laura’s boredom teamed up with her offended nature to speak up.

“Can I have a go?”

The boys smiled condescendingly but couldn’t think of a good reason to refuse her.  Steve stammered but no words really came out.  Self assured but not yet with the sassiness of a teen decided to challenge her father.

“What?  Are you afraid you’ll be beaten by a girl?” she said.

Laura pushed at the buttons she knew her father would respond to and he gave no quarter.

He gave her a few basic pointers and techniques, chose her a ball from the rack and let her up to bowl.

Her father asked, “Would you like the bumpers up to bowl sweetheart?”
She looked at him from under her eyebrows and turned back to bowl.  She measured the lane with her eye, swung her arm back and released the ball.  The clatter of pins resounded triumphantly as they fell, leaving two off to the right.  A smattering of polite applause came from behind.  Taking her second shot, she eyed it off and delivered the shot, clearing out the frame.

“Good bit of luck there darling,” her father said.

Steve’s first shot went slightly wider than he had anticipated, leaving an awkward seven-ten split.  He prepared the shot but only cleaned up one.  From the second frame, Laura’s confidence grew while her father’s weakened.  She channelled every ounce of teenage indignation of not being allowed to stay at home all by herself and delivered each ball with conviction.  Spare followed strike, but not everything that glisters turned to perfection.  Steve’s first frame set the pattern and there was no recovery.  Laura smiled smugly at another failed attempt to convert a seven-ten split and the boys shifted uneasily.

The last pin failed to fall and Laura whooped in celebration.

“I beat you.  You should have left me at home.  I beat Dad,” she gloated in a sing-song voice.

The Knife, Wrench and Dog Nuts clapped her on the back and were very thankful their children hadn’t been there.

“Don’t worry, Steve,” said Wrench, “You just had a bad game.  It happens.”

“I can still ground her for being cheeky and a sore winner,” Steve laughed as he took Laura’s hand and headed home.

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6 responses to “Split the Difference

  1. Pushing the mind to develop a narrative is a good thing. For this one, I felt that there was something missing for me to get this prompt along. I worked out that it needed some conflict, hence a bit of teenage angst.
    This one needs some work. I got to where they were about to bowl and had no idea how to play it out (pardon the pun). The ending is rushed and lacks the punch it needs.
    Wanted a bit of Dad daggy-ness (that’s a very Australian term) in there and tried to include some “Dad jokes.”

  2. Very well written 1st draft. I liked the Daddy “daggy ness.” (is that what you called it? May need an explanation on that term. Is there an Aussie translator out the that I can download?)

    Thanks for the welcome. Now that I’ve started writing again, I’m kicking myself for letting the past several years slip by with no words on the page. Although, living a full life is good fodder for my future attempts, I suppose.

    • The term “dag” in its literal definition is all the rubbish that collects around the wool on the back end of a sheep near its bum. The colloquial definition is someone who is uncool, who tries a bit too hard perhaps. It’s used in Australia also a term of endearment if you do something a bit silly, “Oh you dag.” It’s not considered rude or crass here, just colloquial and humourous.

  3. My favorite part of the piece was “The Knife, Wrench and Dog Nuts clapped her on the back and were very thankful their children hadn’t been there.”. I laughed out loud with the use of Dog Nuts as a nick-name. Having a night out with the guys and not wanting to be beaten by your child, especially in front of the guys, felt very natural and fun.

  4. Oh I love this! I was taken bowling by my bowling parents at a young age, and can only imagine how annoyed my dad would have been if I’d managed to beat him.

  5. You really catch the character and attitude of teens and the generation gap. I also like the way you added the fatherly touch of taking the time to show her a few techniques and such. The characters are very real. Great story!

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