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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Illustrate the meaning of “All that Glitters is Not Gold” (without using the actual phrase or literal example). (01/24/08)

TITLE: In the Gutter
By Catrina Bradley


“Mom, I’m bored. I like my new job, and I’m not sorry I moved here, but I haven’t made any real friends yet.” Becky twirled the phone cord around her finger. “Most of the women my age at the church are married, or just not…my type.”

“I’m sorry, hon. But don’t get discouraged. You’ve only been there a month. Give it time.”

“Yeah, I know. I did see a flyer at church for a women’s bowling league. Maybe I’ll sign up.” Becky sighed. “I hope they take beginners.”

“Becky!” A chubby blonde trotted toward her across the small bowling alley, waving her arm in the air.

Becky recognized Monica Patterson from her new Sunday School class, and timidly waved back. “Hi, Monica. How’s it going?”

“Great! This is going to be so much fun. Come on, we’re about to choose teams.” Monica grinned mischievously. “I see you’ve got your own ball. You must be a pro.”

“Not really. To tell the truth, I just bought this stuff over the weekend.” She half lifted the heavy bag slung over her shoulder and shrugged. “It was the cheapest ball in the pro shop, but it’s really pretty. Bright blue with pink swirls.”

Monica laughed. “You’re going to fit in just fine. We started this league to have fun, not win awards. Well, most of us anyway. Laura, though … let’s just say she knows what she’s doing.”

Becky trailed Monica to the growing gaggle of women at the far end of the bowling alley. Please don’t let me be on Laura’s team. I would die.

Becky fidgeted and bounced her knee up and down. Her new shoes were so neon-white, she was sure everyone was staring at them. Her teammates gabbed and giggled like the old friends they were, and Becky felt like an outsider. She lucked out and was on a team with Monica, but, alas, Laura was also on the “Alley-Oops.” The fourth member, Riley, seemed sweet. At 23, Riley was the youngest of the four, but only had Becky beat by a year.

Finally, or all too soon maybe, it was Becky’s turn to bowl. As she stood, she wiped her sweaty hands on her jeans, then grabbed her pretty blue ball from the return. To her dismay, she fumbled and almost dropped it. When she heard laughter behind her, she wanted to disappear.

“Hey, Riley, remember that time I dropped my ball on my foot?” Monica’s infectious laughter rang out. “I had to wear that silly bootie for a month.”

“Yep, and I remember how ‘good’ you bowled in that that bootie too.” All three dissolved into a fit of giggles, and Becky found herself starting to chuckle. Maybe this won’t be so bad after all.

Three games later, Becky had three new friends and didn’t feel so much like an outsider. She did, however, feel like a failure as a bowler.

She had studied Laura’s perfect form and smooth release, and then watched her red and black ball cruise across the lane and back, landing in the pocket almost every time. Laura had explained that this “hook,” as she called it, was possible because of her ball. She had called it a “Hammer.” At $250, it would certainly hammer Becky’s pocketbook, but if that’s what it would take to knock down more than three pins at a time, she was willing to make the sacrifice.

“Rats. Another gutter. Sorry, girls. I just can't figure it out.” Becky sulked and pouted as she slithered back to her seat beside Laura. “I’m letting my team down.”

Laura put a comforting arm around her shoulders and squeezed. “Becky, you’re not letting anyone down. We don’t care about the score, but we do care about you.”

Riley and Monica came close to add their love. “Yeah she’s right. It’s just a game,” Riley assured her.

“I’ve been using this ‘Hammer’ for two weeks now, but I’m getting worse instead of better. Laura, you said the expensive ball was what made you so good.” Her warbling voice gave evidence of threatening tears.

“Oh, sweetie!” Laura hugged Becky again. “I’m sorry; I gave you the wrong idea. It’s not just the ball. It helps me, sure, but my dad teaching me to bowl when I was six is the real reason for my scores.”

“Do you think… Would you teach me?” Becky lifted her eyes hesitantly to Laura’s.

“I’d love to! But you’ll need to start over with your pretty, blue ball.”

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This article has been read 1062 times
Member Comments
Member Date
LauraLee Shaw01/31/08
This is a great piece!!! Right on topic and fun to read. This is my favorite line:
Her warbling voice gave evidence of threatening tears. What a description!

You know what else I noticed? YOu managed to nail last week's topic AND this topic both at the same time. STRIKE!
Joanne Sher 02/01/08
Clever and fun - I love the bowling team's name, and the last sentence especially. Nice characterization of the MC especially.
Leigh MacKelvey02/01/08
Nice story and it read so smooth! Little touches such as the contrast in the line
"finally, but too soon" added to the realness and were cleverly written.
Betty Castleberry02/04/08
I would like to go bowling with these gals. I'd drop the ball on my foot, too. This is an entertaining read. Well written, too.
Karen Wilber02/04/08
You really captured the women's voices well. I like all the chatty dialogue and could feel Becky's discomfort when she first joined in.
Jan Ackerson 02/04/08
Highly entertaining chick-lit!

I don't see the topic--was it the bowling ball?

Nevertheless, I was drawn to this lovely group of women, and especially to Becky, as I understand the feeling of friendlessness.
william price02/04/08
I really liked the story. Something tells me you know a thing or two about the sport. I was sympathetic with your MC and liked her as well as her supporting cast. For red ink, I did find the dialogue a little awkward and not as smooth as the rest of the story. A great story however that touched my heart. Great title too. God bless.
Sharlyn Guthrie02/04/08
Fun story! I enjoyed the chatty dialogue and the attempt of the other women to make the newcomer feel welcome.
Pat Guy 02/04/08
If this is chic-lit you certainly brought it to life! I almost felt part of the scene!

And I'm guessing it wasn't the expensive ball that held the promise of a good performance.

I really enjoyed the dialog and progression of this entry and I don't even LIKE chick-lit! ;-)
Joy Faire Stewart02/04/08
Excellent dialogue between the team-mates...smooth flow making the characters realistic.
Marita Thelander 02/04/08
"Becky trailed Monica to the growing gaggle of women..." This was my favorite line. Great story.

I though chic-lit was a gum. j/k
Kristen Hester02/04/08
Cute story. I was glad to see Becky accepted by the new friends. THe story had a nice progression and pacing. Good job!
Beckie Stewart02/05/08
I love bowling and at 7 my daddy took me and taught me. I was never good like Laura, but enjoyed the game and still do. I loved this delightful story of these women reaching out and making her feel welcomed and accepted.
Beth LaBuff 02/05/08
This is just plain down-home fun! I love this phrase, "growing gaggle of women".
Loren T. Lowery02/06/08
You mean a nice looking bowling ball doesn't make you a good player? Now I know what's wrong with my game : )
I love the way God teaches us lessons at our level...coming to where we are in words and circumstances we understand. I like too, the way your story unfolded to show that those things we don't expect to have much value (ie friendship) end up being the most important afterall.
James Dixon02/07/08
The thought that a better piece of kit improves one's game must sell half the stock in a sports shop. If only I could get a better keyboard.