BOWLING IN THE 9TH WARD • by Micah Stack

So I’m a couple blocks from the crib, kicking it on the corner of Louisa St. at that spot in front of the house that used to be a restaurant — that yellow two-story thing. It got the sign up on the front still, BOUDREAUX’S CAJUN HOVEL, BOUDIN BALLS $5. Some joker lives in the back half of it now, and the front half’s got tables with the dirty linen still on ’em like it’s still a restaurant or some shit, but it ain’t, though. So I’m chilling in front of that restaurant/house on Louisa St. because that corner’s got that sweet air rolling off the river, at least it used to before the oil spill made the hood smell like burning mud. Anyway, that’s where I was when it hit me. I been practicing my bowling game, you heard me, going to the lanes every Tuesday and Thursday. Bowling is a game of mad strategizing. I been reading this manual about the best bowling posture that’s guaranteed to get you a better score. It even has pop quizzes at the end of each chapter. It teaches you all about that four-step approach, and using this visualization technique to focus your mind so intensely on throwing a strike that you will it into happening. And how to bowl with the curve, dog.

Bowling with the curve is the only way to go.

So like I say I been practicing that four-step/visualization combo, going to the lanes every Tuesday and Thursday for the last three months, and bro, I realized I’m this close to being able to bowl the perfect strike, a roll so pure in its execution that it can’t ever be duplicated. I walked on up Chartres Street and I seen some Mexican dudes laying fresh tar. That shiny new blacktop started to look like my favorite lane at the bowling alley, and I knew I had to roll my flawless strike right there at that intersection, the one where La Spiga used to serve that breakfast rice with the soy sauce and ham, sprinkled with green onions — shit was fire with some Louisiana sauce on it. I don’t know what it is about that block but I’m fixated on it. The houses are all fixed up so nice on that block, those bright-painted doubles and shotguns with the old school shutters. I said, Alright, I’ma taken my game to that other level, I’m officially ready to bowl the perfect strike across this spot where Chartres intersects with that other street I don’t know the name of because the sign got blown off in the storm. I had this image of how the scene would play out: my wrist action on point, smooth-ass follow-through, and a curve so sharp it could slice a line in the asphalt, this kind of shimmery line that was only there for a few seconds, like when the DeLorean vanishes in Back to the Future. Well, wouldn’t you know it: When I bowled the most genius strike ever known to man, just as the ball completed the outward extremity of its curve, a cop car passed down Chartres.

5-0 gets out the Crown Vic and peeps the huge dent where my bowling ball’s stuck in the side of it, and he goes, God damn, you really followed through there. Hope it was worth the fine.

When he cuffed me I asked him, You see how I bowl with the curve?

You know what he said, bro? He said he saw it. He saw the curve.

Man, for a minute there, the city felt just like it used to.

Micah Stack is a recent graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where he was a Truman Capote Fellow and a Teaching-Writing Fellow. His fiction has appeared in Juked, Gemini Magazine, Oxford American, and, most recently, The Pushcart Prize XLI: Best of the Small Presses (2017 Edition). He also has two story publications forthcoming in 2018, one in Alaska Quarterly Review, the other in AGNI. He is currently a continuing lecturer in the English Department at the University of Nevada, Reno.

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