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angry, lonely—Daniel Asa Rose and his sons are reeling from the recent
family breakup. But in a closed bowling alley on Christmas Eve, they
open their hearts and find seasonal cheer.
mother wanted to have a few hours to herself, so I left the little
rat’s nest I was subletting in New York and drove three hours to take
our two boys to a bowling alley, one of the few things open the
afternoon before Xmas. But the sign on the door said CLOSED.
charged through the two sets of unlocked glass doors anyway. This was
in East Providence, Rhode Island, and the three natives who ran the
place, lounging around the shoe rental counter with tall glasses of
beer, seemed accosted by our entrance. Most of the lights were off, they
were beginning to relax in the half-light of a long Xmas weekend, and
the last thing they expected was to have three blurry figures barge in
through the CLOSED sign. A robber with two midget sidekicks, maybe?
Instinctively they reached for something with which to arm themselves,
before the man in the blue shirt rallied.
“How you gents doing?” he called.
now not so good,” I said with mounting irritation. “I called from the
highway a couple of hours ago and was told you were staying open till
The two cronies piped up on either side of the man in the blue shirt.
“We had to close early—no business.”
“Also we just steam-cleaned the carpet.”
were overruled by the man in the blue shirt who said, with masterful
calm, “We can open up the last lane for you. What size shoes do you
“You sure?” I asked, my anger evaporating.
“Sure thing. Just avoid the center of the carpet where it’s still wet.”
“Thank you, guys. I appreciate it—almost nothing’s open the afternoon before Xmas.”
as many games as you like,” the man in blue said. The other two tilted
their glasses to their lips and seemed okay with his decision.
there in the dying light of Xmas Eve, we prepared to bowl, and I was
glad because I wanted this to be a successful outing. The family
break-up was still fresh and we needed something good to happen. Every
time I said goodbye to the boys these days, the older one hugged me
tight, pressing his cheek to mine so I couldn’t help but notice a few
sharp whiskers. “Don’t always leave!” he moaned. His cheeks were
rough-smooth and enflamed with adolescent flush, a combination of
shyness and hormones. At fourteen he was raw and gangly with a mouth
full of braces, but I would feel the softness of his cheek imprinted
against mine, warm, for hours afterward.
for the twelve year old, I was concerned that he was even more than
usually cheeky, to use an old-fashioned word. Impishly bold. A certain
amount of retaliatory cheekiness was fine, but I worried he was forcing
instructed, we stepped around the wet center of the carpet, where the
blue was darker. The margins were more fun to walk on anyway, festooned
as they were with decorations of party hats and bright, colorful
streamers. When we got to the last lane, we filled in names for our
automatic scoring, selecting noms de bowl
off the top of our heads, as was our habit: “Love Machine” for the
little one, “Nervous Wreck” for the older, “Powder Keg” for me. But the
older one said he wanted to be “Powder Keg,” so I had no choice but to
become Nervous Wreck.
bowled for an hour, having many laughs. The little one, Love Machine,
would shake his butt at us each time he threw the ball, then lick his
fingertips and touch them to his butt as though it were sizzling. Powder
Keg kept complaining that Love Machine was throwing off his game by
aiming his laser pointer on the pins. “I’m just excited by it,” Love
Machine said. It was a Hanukah gift from the week before and the novelty
of being able to point a red beam anywhere he wanted had not yet worn
off. Our scores were comically low, and sometimes we took potshots to
make them even lower. The whole time we bowled and bantered, the three
guys at the counter talked authoritatively among themselves about car
engines with their East Providence accents. They were enjoying their
afternoon at leisure.
started a second game but decided to stop after one frame, when all
three of us suddenly realized our bowling yen was satisfied. We wrenched
our street shoes back on and walked the perimeter of the carpet back to
the shoe rental counter.
“That’s okay, it’s on me,” said the man in blue.
“C’mon, you’re kidding,” I said.
“You gents have yourselves a merry Xmas,” he said.
we were infected with the Xmas spirit. Love Machine beat us to the car
and when Powder Keg and I got there he was dancing on the roof. But
inside the car Love Machine’s mood suddenly crashed, and he declared he
wished he were Christian so he could celebrate.
think a lot of Jews feel that way around Xmas,” I said. “It’s a really
nice holiday and we feel left out. That’s why there are so many Jewish
parties in New York on Xmas Eve.”
Powder Keg peered into my eyes, as he did these days, frank and hurt. “Are you saying you’d rather be there?” he asked.
“Of course not,” I said truthfully. “There’s no place I’d rather be right now than here with you two.”
all thought about that for a minute, waiting for the car to warm up.
“Of course, I do have to get back there tonight after I drop you off,
but for now there’s no reason we can’t take part in the feeling of Xmas.
How about we go spread a little cheer somehow?”