The din of the crowd around alley five dropped to almost a whisper as the tall, long haired blonde picked up her ball and advanced to the foul line. The championship for the Blackwood County Mixed Winter League had come down to one final game between the Ashford Rockets and the Clayville Bluejays. With only the bottom half of the tenth frame left for the Rockets to bowl, the score was still too close to say for certain which team was going to walk away with the trophy.
All eyes were on Dana Craig as she stood motionless for a moment, then sent her bright green ball toward the ten pins only sixty feet down the lane. A last minute substitution for Carol Smith, who injured her wrist in the semi-finals last week, most of the focus on Dana could be attributed more to her dress than any particular skill with the ball. She had taken the team T-shirt and, not only cut off the sleeves, but knotted the bottom as to expose her midriff. What remained of the shirt, which was also at least a size too small to begin with, strained against an ample bust that threatened to spill out at any moment.
A few low groans came from the crowd as only three pins fell. A total that was only one less than Dana had knocked down with her second ball. With the score as close as it was, every pin counted.
"Tell me again why we agreed to let her play," Georgia Wood said to her teammate, Moira Cassidy as she waited for the automatic pin setters to do their work before heading up to the line to take her turn.
Moira's silent answer was a glance over her shoulder to the tall, equally blond haired man that Dana now had her arms around. Timothy Carpenter was considered by many to be the best bowler on the team, if not the league. It was his insistence that made his girlfriend the team's sixth player, rather than just taking the blind score in Carol's stead as the league rules allowed.
"Oh yeah, right," Georgia grinned as she followed Moira's gaze and watched Timothy give Dana a kiss as a reward for her performance.
Three inches shorter and twenty-five pounds heavier than Dana, Georgia knew that most of the attention that followed her up to the line was due to skill rather than her appearance. It was something that she took a great deal of pride in. Gifted with brains, skill and a man who appreciated all of her charms, Georgia didn't need to put her boobs on display to feel justified.
Eight pins went down with her first roll, with the second picking up the spare. Six more pins on the extra ball added to the still rising total. Heading back to her seat, she shot Dana a smile whose sarcasm was unfortunately lost on the airhead.
Nate Johnson followed Georgia. The forty-two year old black man had been bowling since his teens and the strike and nine pick up pins drew a loud cheer from the crowd. With only forty points now separating the two teams, it was Moira's turn.
Shorter than both Dana and Georgia, Moira stood only five one and had a compact body that matched her height. Cute as a button was a phrase the supermarket clerk had heard all her life, but it was an accurate description nevertheless.
A 7-10 split turned the recent cheer back to a groan, but all was not yet lost. The diminutive redhead managed to pick off one of the two, but had so wanted to get them both.
"It was a good try," Joseph Kirby said as she sat down next to him.
"Thanks," Moira said with a small smile, thinking that at least she hadn't gotten a field goal and missed both of them.
Quiet returned as Tim Carpenter walked up to the foul line and took aim. With an air of certainty he went into his delivery and without even waiting to watch them fall, knew that all ten pins had fallen.
Waiting for his ball to roll back onto the ball return, Tim turned to look for Dana, only to find her not in her seat. A quick glance around the alley found her standing up by one of the racks, engaged in conversation with one of the onlookers. At least she seemed to be engaged, the tall, muscular twenty-something young man she was talking to, seemed to be more interested in the oversized globes that Tim could see, even from this distance, had finally exceeded the limits of her tattered shirt.
The bowler took a step in her direction, but was held in check by Nate Johnson handing him his ball. Shaking his head slightly, he turned and once more sent it hurling down the lane, now anxious to get the game over with and take Dana out of here.
A loud gasp from the crowd filled the air, causing even Dana and her admirer to look up. Instead of the expected clean sweep, six pins still stood. It was the most he had left standing all night.
Angry, Tim let his frustration get the better of him and rushed his next shot instead of taking a few breaths to calm himself down. The result was even worse than before as, for the first time in years, his ball sailed by without touching a single pin. With the Bluejays still ahead by seventeen points, it looked like the trophy would be going home to Clayville.
Every eye on the Rockets turned to Joseph Kirby, the last man on the rotation. Only an average bowler, the forty-eight year old had the lowest average of the three men on the team. He ran his hand across his close cropped brown hair and flashed a smile that said he would do his best. Just before he rose to his feet, Moira leaned over and gave him a quick kiss on the cheek.
"For good luck," the twenty-six year old said.
Joe took a long breath as he lined up his shot, then sent his cobalt blue ball down the lane with a silent prayer. Not so much a wish that he'd save the game as much as a plea that he didn't screw it up.
His eyes never left the ball as one by one, pins fell in every direction until only one remained. The number four pin refused to follow the rest, but it was good enough for him. Unlike Tim, Joe carefully lined up his next throw and a roar came from behind him as the number four finally fell.
It all came down to the next ball, they would win with eight and lose with seven. Joe looked over his shoulder and saw looks of encouragement from Nate, Moira and Georgia. Tim and Dana were having a heated discussion over on the side and seemed to have lost interest in the outcome, thinking their loss a forgone conclusion.
A conclusion that Joe proved wrong as only two pins remained after his final roll. He stood there stunned, just staring at the scoreboard as the computer tallied up the totals and declared the Rockets League Champions.
"I can't believe they gave Tim the MVP award," Moira said in disgust after the League Coordinator finished giving out the last of the trophies and the post tournament party began to wind down.
"Well he did have the high score," Joe replied, still working on only his third beer of the evening.
"Big fuckin' deal," the slightly intoxicated woman objected. "If it weren't for you, it wouldn't be the Rockets name that they're going to be engraving on the trophy."
"I'm just glad we won," Joe smiled. "Besides, I'm sure that little piece of plastic means more to him than it ever would to me."
"It's still not right," Moira insisted.
"What's not right?" Georgia asked as she came up from behind the two of them, her husband at he side.
"That they gave that selfish prick, Tim, the MVP," Moira repeated. "It was bad enough that we let him stick us with his bimbo girlfriend. I think that they should add her score to his and then average it out. We would've been better off with..."
"I think you'd be better off with a couple of cups of coffee," Georgia cut her off, never having been one to hesitate saying just what was on her mind. "We won girlfriend, lets just enjoy that. Next year we'll have Carol back and all will be right with the world."
"Still not fair, Joe here deserves the trophy," Moira went on, refusing to let the matter drop.
"Well be that as it may, what's done is done," Georgia said, refusing to let her teammate spoil her own victory celebration. "Me and Harry here were just coming over to say goodnight. We're going to take our party home with us were we can celebrate in private."
"The two of you have a safe trip home," Joe said, shaking Harry's hand and giving Georgia a friendly kiss on the cheek.
"It might not be a bad idea to call it a night as well," Joe said after the married couple had left and he noticed that Nate and his wife were also already gone. "It looks like aside from us the only ones left are Tim and Dana."
Moira looked over to the front of the bar where a crowd of well-wishers were still buying Tim victory drinks, or where gathered around Dana to admire her outfit, or lack of it.
"Want to bet she's on her knees blowing one of those guys before the nights over?" Moira said in a sarcastic tone. "It wouldn't be the first time."
"I wouldn't know," Joe said, never having been much for prying into the private lives of people.
"Are you really leaving?" Moira asked, changing the subject.
"I guess so."
"Then I guess I am too," the redhead replied. "I'm certainly not going to hang out with this bunch."
"How are you getting home?" Joe asked out of concern.
Moira looked up at the taller man and smiled, appreciative of his concern. "Well I'm not going to drive, if that's what you're worried about. I might be a little plastered but I'm not stupid. I'll leave my car here and call a cab or something."
"That's good," Joe replied, visibly relieved. "But how about I just drop you off myself. There's no telling how long you might have to wait for a car this late on a Friday."
.... There is more of this story ...