Anyway, here's the first chapter. It's turning out to be a tale of nihilistic noir. Any thoughts are appreciated.....by me.
BOWLING NIGHT CONFESSIONAL
By Chris Rhatigan
I bowled with Mackey and Slade Wednesday nights. It started because we had all worked at the Pump ’N Munch together. Now I was the only who worked there.
Slade was the best bowler. Usually rolled 200-plus. Could put spin on the ball, make it curlicue. I don’t know why he bowled with us instead of in a league. Mackey and I rarely broke 150.
After we’d bowl, we’d go to the bowling alley’s bar and drink a few pitchers of beer. That’s what we were doing this particular night.
The bar was empty, and the bartender clearly wanted to go home. His elbows were on the bar, hand propping up his head, which looked like it could fall off at any moment, start rolling around on the brown tile floor. His droopy eyes were affixed to a touch-screen game of Keno.
I talked work, Slade talked women, Mackey talked the price of cigarettes, we all talked nostalgia.
We cycled through those topics quickly. Each one felt staler than the previous. We were not drunk enough.
Mackey polished off his glass of beer and poured a refill. He wiped a bit of foam off his mustache. “I break into houses,” he said. “Used to be once in a while, but now it’s a habit. Do it at least once a week.”
Slade said, “So what do you take? Jewelry, electronics, that kind of stuff?”
“No, I don’t take anything. I watch people sleep.”
“So, what, like attractive women?”
“Anyone, really. I like to see the rhythm of their breath. The way couples fight for the covers. How they get up in the middle of the night to take a leak and walk right past me.”
“How do you do it?”
“Break into houses.”
Mackey cracked his knuckles one by one. “I’ve gotten good at picking deadbolts. But usually I don’t even bother—people leave side doors and windows open.”
Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run” played over the speakers. Fucking terrible song. Must have been the fourth time it played that night. I don’t know why places do that. There must be a million songs they could play, but goddamned “Born to Run” is somehow deemed better than all of them on four separate occasions.
A muscular guy with a mullet on lane 24 rolled a strike. His skanky girlfriend in a garbage bag mini-skirt pranced over and embraced him. Good for them.
“I murdered a stranger,” I said. “About five years ago.”
Mackey said, “How’d you do it?”
“Waited behind a dumpster in that alleyway between First and Jefferson. Some tall guy in a brown suede jacket and jeans passed by. I snuck up behind him. Beat him with a tire iron. Found out later that his name was Rudolph Penscott.”
“That’s a terrible name.”
Slade ordered another pitcher. The bartender grunted. Managed to tear himself away from his game. I thought another pitcher was pointless—none of us were going to get drunk.
Slade popped peanuts out of their shells and into his mouth. “I was driving home one time. I was pretty lit. A kid was crossing the street, a boy, no idea why he was out that late or what the fuck he was doing. I mean, where are the parents these days?” He stacked the shells in an obscene little pile. “Anyway, I hit him. He smacked the windshield hard, rolled off. I kept going. Then I put it in reverse and backed up over his body. I thought it would make a crunching sound, but it didn’t.”
Springsteen mercifully stopped singing. Only sound was the low whine of the ceiling fan. The couple on lane 24 had left. I wondered if they were banging in the parking lot. I hoped so. I wanted a look. The bartender had returned to his game.
The three of us stared at the patterns on the casino green rug, poster of some Nascar guy we could have cared less about, the flashing lights on the pinball machine.
We had a smoke outside on the sidewalk. Quiet night. Hot and muggy. Air hung around like it was waiting for a bus.
We went our separate ways.