I haven’t posted anything in a while, I’ve been busy working on side projects. This was one of them. This was my Second Round entry into the NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge. I didn’t make the cut into the third round. I wasn’t surprised by that, while I like the end result and find it a fun story, I didn’t expect to move on – I’m not a mystery reader or fan. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a good plot twist, love Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, and admire Agatha Christie’s writing. But I just don’t get into reading who-done-its and watching crime shows or movies, so my heart just wasn’t in it, or more accurately, I just didn’t have the confidence I needed for this one. But, I still like the end product.
So, to recap, the challenge randomly assigned the competitors to groups of approximately twenty-five writers. Then each group was randomly assigned a genre, character, and subject/item. The top five from each group moved on to the next round. My assignments were: Mystery, a bowler, supplement. My entry is below.
Dad calls me and Gram to dinner. Tuesday is spaghetti night at our house. It’s simple, but it’s one of my favorite meals. Grandmom enters the kitchen in more of a rush than usual. For as long as I can remember, Tuesday has meant spaghetti and Gram goes bowling. I don’t think Gram’s ever missed a league night.
“Peter, have you seen Brunhilda? I can’t find her,” she asks.
“Brunhilda?” Dad questions, setting a giant bowl of spaghetti on the table. You’d think he was cooking for more than just the four of us.
“Brunhilda Brunswick, my bowling ball,” Grandmom answers.
Dad shakes his head. I’m not sure if he means “no” or if he can’t believe his mom has named her bowling ball, “No, Mom, I haven’t seen it, er, I mean her.” I can’t help but giggle.
Dad and Grandmom have had the hardest time adjusting to our move into her house. It’s been quite a transition, but we decided, as a family, that it was best. Mom travels a lot for work, and Dad couldn’t take care of our house and help Grandmom with hers. Sarah and I were ok moving to a new school; it has a much better athletic program for Sarah, and there’s a program that allows me to get some college credits through the local college.
Gram loves having a full house again, but I think she sometimes feels like we’re in her way. She got used to living alone after Grandpop died. We still haven’t sorted through all our boxes. I think she thinks we’ve been getting rid of her stuff as we make room for ours. But we haven’t.
“Honestly, Peter, she didn’t just walk off!” Grandmom says. I can tell she’s aggravated. She stomps into the hall to look through the boxes of winter coats, boots, and umbrellas we’ve yet to unpack.
“Did you check the closet Grandma? I think Sarah chucked a few things in there when she was looking for her running shoes,” I say, trying to be helpful.
“Bowling balls don’t get chucked anywhere!” she mutters, “I don’t know why you bought her those new sneakers when she just keeps wearing those grungy stinky ones. She won’t even let me wash them.” Sarah’s sneakers would probably disintegrate if washed. Sarah claims that if she trains in the old ones, it’s like slipping into comfy slippers on race day when she wears the newer ones. She’s explained this to Grandmom a million times. Grandmom always replies, “If you say so, but makes no sense.”
The sauce tastes different tonight, “This doesn’t have meat in it, does it?” I ask.
“No,” Dad tells me, “There’s meat sauce on the stove for Sarah. That reminds me, when I was picking up those protein bars and the muscle rebuilder stuff for Sarah, I got some protein powder for you, for breakfast smoothies.” I roll my eyes. “Hear me out,” he continues, “Between trying to keep your sister fed, man, that girl can eat, and trying to get Mom to eat better, I sometimes forget to take care of you and me. I thought smoothies might be a good switch from those sugary toaster things you eat in the morning. Don’t worry, I checked, this one uses pea protein…”
He’s interrupted by Gram exclaiming “Well she-it!” Her drawl is back. That usually means she’s mad, or tired. I don’t think she’s tired. She stomps into the kitchen. For such a petite woman, she sure walks heavy. She shakes a sparkly purple vinyl bag with “Dottie” embroidered on its front at us. “Brunhilda’s missing! She’s been kidnapped,” she says plopping into a chair and dropping the obviously empty bag onto the floor.
“Kidnaped? Was the bag unzipped when you found it?” Dad asks. Grandmom glares at him.
“I’m just trying to help,” Dad says defensively, “maybe it, she, rolled into the living room. Or maybe the cat was playing with her?”
“I think we would have heard that.” Grandmom says, throwing her arms up in the air.
She’s right. A bowling ball is too large to roll under most of our furniture. If the cat had played with it, there would be damage, broken stuff, or dents in something. At least I think there would be. Besides, Boots puts the “scared” in scaredy cat. He wouldn’t have snooped around in the closet. He’s not used to his new home yet.
The ball could have rolled between boxes, but it’s not likely. I shake my head, “It’s, I mean, she’s bright pink! I think we’d see her if she got stuck somewhere.”
Grandmom looks at her watch, “Where’s Sarah. Maybe Sarah took her.”
“Don’t be silly Mom. Why would Sarah take your bowling ball?”
“I don’t know. For an art project? She’s funny like that.”
“Mom! I told you to stop saying that. You can’t go around calling people funny if you don’t mean ha-ha funny.” Gram waves her hand, dismissing Dad’s comment. They have this conversation often. Grandmom means well, and she doesn’t upset me or Sarah as much as my dad.
“It’s ridiculous how much she trains. I don’t get it,” Grandmom says. Another familiar conversation. She continues as predicted, “A young girl should be dancing at parties and meeting boys; not training, eating those things,” she waves at a box of protein bars on the counter, “and worrying about muscles.”
I look at my plate and try not to laugh. It’s amusing that Grandmom doesn’t see the resemblance between herself and Sarah. Sarah could be her clone. Except for the clothing, it’s difficult to tell who’s who in old photos. Even Aunt Alice, Grandmom’s younger sister, frequently starts stories with, “Did I ever tell you about the time your grandmother…” as she connects one of Sarah’s antics to something Grandmom did when they were young.
Kidnapping Grandmom’s bowling ball is something Sarah would do, but why? Usually there’s a reason for her pranks, some sort of inside joke. But I don’t recall anything that would make her think stealing Brunhilda would be funny. And where would she hide a bright pink ten-pound bowling ball?
Dad answers Gram with a sigh, “Practice must be running late. There’s a big meet on Saturday. Some scouts will be there.”
I heard some of the other track kids talking about doing hills today to train for Saturday. Sarah’s not the only one on the team hoping for a scholarship. The hills they run are across campus, it takes them longer to get back to the locker rooms when they finish. “She probably took the later bus,” I explain.
Dad pushes a plate towards Grandmom, “Eat something,” he says, “You know you’ll be up all night if you eat pizza.”
Grandmom ignores him. I know she’s “saving room” for pizza. She likes having pizza and beer with her friends at the alley. Can’t say I blame her; they do have the best pizza around. But I’m not the one arguing with her about the differences between heartburn and a heart attack at one in the morning.
Grandmom looks at her watch again, “That girl is the slowest walker I’ve ever met. Watching her walk you wouldn’t know she’s hoping for a scholarship for speed. Aren’t those power bar things supposed to make her faster?”
Dad chuckles, “If she’s not home by seven, we’ll notify the authorities.”
“Brunhilda’s still missing.”
“We’ll tell the authorities that too.”
“Ha Ha. Don’t be smart!” Grandmom replies snidely.
Dad hands Grandmom one of Sarah’s protein bars, “Here. Eat this on the way, it’ll at least absorb some of the grease.”
“Bleh, those things taste like cardboard.”
“Chocolate fruit filled cardboard,” I say brightly.
Grandmom stands and peers into her empty bag, “Are you sure you didn’t take her?”
“Yeah, Mom,” I can hear the sarcasm in Dad’s voice, “this whole time I completely forgot that I sent it, er, her to get waxed.” He turns and looks at me, “That’s a thing, right?” I shrug.
“No. It’s not,” Grandmom says sharply, “they get polished, not waxed.” She sighs, frustrated.
“Jeez Mom, relax. She’s gotta be around here somewhere. How far could a bowling ball go?“
I take a good look at Grandmom. Fresh hairdo. Cute earrings. “Tropical Sunset” lipstick. New jeans. Socks with bowling pins and “STRIKE!” in comic book action bubbles. “Ooo, is Richard going to be there?” I ask.
“Who’s Richard?” Dad asks in a sing-song voice.
Gram scowls at me, “He’s on another team. Hannah met him when she had to pick me up ‘cause my car was in the shop.”
“Is he cute?” Dad asks me.
I laugh, “Hubba. Hubba,” I say, raising my eyebrows like they do in movies. “He’s the most eligible bachelor over sixty-five in the league. I mean, he’s old Dad, but he’s a looker. Who’s that guy, you know, that one everyone was crazy about? Indiana Jones. Han Solo. That dude.”
“Yeah! Him. Richard looks like him, sorta. All the ladies are gaga over him. Some of the men too, full on bromances.”
“Hey Mom, maybe you should share that energy bar with him,” Dad says pointing to the bar in Grandmom’s hand, “sounds like he could use some stamina.” Dad smiles and winks. It’s fun to see him tease his mom like this.
Gram makes a disapproving tisk noise as she frowns at us. “Just call me if Sarah knows anything about Brunhilda,” she says as she storms out of the house. We hear her car door slam and burst into laughter.
After dinner, Dad clears the table and I start my homework. I’m still wondering where Brunhilda could be when we hear keys jangle in the front door. Sarah’s right on time, it’s just before seven. The door opens and we hear Sarah shuffling around in the hall. Suddenly, a loud dull thud rattles the house.
“Ooops.” Sarah mumbles. She enters the kitchen, a protein bar in her mouth and hopping on one foot while trying to remove the shoe from her other foot. She pulls out a kitchen chair and slinks into it, “What’s for dinner?”
“Uhm, what was that thud?” Dad asks.
“That thud, just now, when you were in the hall,” I answer, “and please don’t say what I think you’re gonna say.”
“What?” She asks, digging into her bowl of spaghetti, “I forgot I had Gram’s bowling ball in my backpack,” she shrugs.
“You’ve got to be kidding me?! Why? You know she bowls tonight!” Dad says bewildered.
“No, she bowls on Tuesday,” Sarah says pointedly through a mouthful of pasta.
Leave it to Sarah to forget what day it is. “Today is Tuesday,” I say, “Why did you take a bowling ball to school? And how did I not notice you were carrying it on the bus?”
“Oh,” Sarah shrugs again, “I needed it for practice. The others were using dumbbells or kettlebells, but we don’t have those.” She stands, holding her plate in one hand and twirling spaghetti with the other, “I guess I should call Gram, huh? Let her know Brunhilda’s safe.”
“Let me get this straight, you’re weightlifting with a bowling ball?” Dad asks. He’s as confused as I am.
Sarah snorts, “Don’t be ridiculous, we have a weight room for that. We carry extra weights in our backpacks when we do hills. On race day, when we don’t have the weights, we run faster. It feels like flying.” Sarah puts her plate down and pulls her phone, and the half-eaten protein bar, from her hoodie pocket. She dials, paces the kitchen, and finishes the protein bar as she waits for Grandmom to answer.
Dad shakes his head. “At least now Mom will have a good story to break the ice with Richard,” he whispers to me.
With the phone to her ear, Sarah says, “Richard? He’s a cutie. Gram has the hots for him.”
“Well, she-it, she is a funny one.” I say, imitating Grandmom.