We used to wake up before the sun every Sunday morning.
It was a ritual, nothing special about it at the time.
Caught a glimpse of the red neon sign in the decreasing darkness
Because a dollar a game could not be passed up.
Freshly brushed teeth and mangled hair
Ready to bathe in the scent of recently returned used shoes.
Clashes of white pins consumed the air in every direction.
Brown and tan lanes filled with grease with each turn.
Forced to wear special hand braces because God
Forbid the ball go in the gutter on your watch.
Surrounded by strangers on both sides.
Watching the half bounce that followed each release.
An even mixture of happiness and frustration
With each round hoping to give you the perfect score.
White fluorescent lights on the lane go down.
Clock strikes twelve, the special is over until next week.
Each week your lungs filled with the various fumes.
Did the smell of the shoes give you the cancer?
Anticipation each weekend, never taking a day off
Even though your body was begging for a break.
No inclination that your ball was weighing on you
Throwing the twelve pounds had become too much.
That smile present each morning quickly faded into
Memory, feeling like an unexpected gutter ball.
Can we play just one more game, please?
I’d settle even for one frame.
Eyes instantly lit up once that old gray Toyota
Would creep up the driveway.
Left now looking through the window hoping
To hear the sudden squeak of the old brakes.
Never realizing that the Sundays would end
Leaving a string of gray skies in its place.