Bowling for Brozo

I leaned against the brick wall as the bright neon sign above me flickered. I always hated bowling ever since I was a kid, but I promised my brother Joel that I would meet his fiancee tonight now that they were back in Sacramento. He said that we would meet at the bowling alley at 7 o’clock but it was already 7:30 pm and he hadn’t answered any of my texts. It was probably because of Tegan again, she always found a way to be an inconvenience. Whenever I tried calling my brother our conversation would usually get cut short by Tegan directing the attention back to herself somehow.

Joel’s love life has been entertaining to say the least. I don’t think he has any idea what kind of girl he wants to be with, so each new girlfriend is a polar opposite of the last. He had this stint with this sweet girl-next-door type that my family adored, until we found out she was an Amish runaway. Well that obviously wasn’t gonna work out. Girls like that usually lose it, ditch the guy and run back to the farm. Before that was the jack of all trade girl. She could sing, dance and model. What a girl like that saw in my boring brother beats me. Each time I meet his temporary girlfriend I end up catching that glimmer in their eyes when Joel makes them laugh, like they’re revolving around him. Guys try to give me that look and I laugh right at them, it’s just pathetic. Our family likes to make fun of me for all the guys I’ve turned down. For every weird girl Joel has brought home an equally weird guy has asked me out. The difference between Joel and I is that I’m not into crazy people. He’s sane enough, but he’s just drawn to them I guess. They bring out his wild side that I’m not used to. It’s like each of them are changing him little by little. The other day he asked me if I wanted to get sushi… he always hated seafood until he met Tegan. Joel is a good guy, but he’s never been able to dedicate himself to one thing, even when we were kids. He switched his major so many times in college that he just ended up dropping out. His latest idea involved starting a fast food business. Luckily, Tegan’s parents were willing to help invest in his idea. I really hope it all works out for him this time even if I’m still on the fence about his fiancee.

Just when I was about to leave his car pulled up. The elusive looking woman sitting next to him was wearing a leather jacket and had bright blue hair. I recognized Tegan from my round of Facebook stalking the night before. She was constantly posting about how well her Etsy business was going which made me doubt it even more. Joel had met Tegan at a speed dating event in San Francisco a year ago. I thought he was crazy that he was so into this girl after just a quick introduction in under a minute, but a year later and now they were getting ready to tie the knot. But hey, who am I to talk? My boyfriend is almost never around, one of the many sacrifices of dating a pilot. I’ve been even busier now than ever after the last promotion I received at the office. It’s actually a good thing he’s away, I wouldn’t even have any time for him really.

“Hope you’re ready to lose tonight.” Joel said with a devilish grin as we walked into the bowling alley. I had never seen a bowling alley so at war with itself with what kind of theme it was going for. The actual lanes looked somewhat newer but completely clashed with the rustic log cabin feel of the rest of the room. There were several dead deer heads above the bar.

“Wow, what a dump.” I scoffed

“Oh come on, it’s not that bad. It just has… character. I come here all the time for my championships. Everyone here already knows me for my legendary moves.” Tegan said as she winked at me.

“Like toothless Billy over there?” I pointed to an unfortunate looking man sitting by the bar.

“Hey! Tom is a great guy, and yes, he does need some dental work, but who said truckers have to have perfect teeth?” Tegan retorted

“This is the kind of place that I fantasize about being murdered in… or maybe we’ll get trapped in here since there are at least a dozen fire codes being broken.” I said grimly.

Tegan rolled her eyes. “Well you’re a real treat”

I couldn’t help it but the smell of greasy pizza from the snack bar made my mouth water. At the far end I could hear a bunch of children singing around a birthday cake in a foreign language I didn’t know. We put on our sad gross looking bowling shoes and got a pitcher of cheap beer for our lane.

“First things first- nicknames!” Joel exclaimed while rubbing his hands together.

I looked at my brother and imagined him with a bright red wig and a cherry colored nose. Then I typed in “Brozo” for Joel. He typed in “Buffy” for Tegan. Lastly, Tegan typed “Grandma” on the screen for me.

“Am I really supposed to be “Grandma”?” I asked while crossing my arms

“Are you sure you won’t need some kiddie bumpers?” Joel snickered.

I ignored him and picked up the cold heavy ball, walked up to the lane and thought of Tegan’s goofy blueberry looking head on the pins. I chucked the ball as hard as I could. It flew down the lane and straight into the gutter. Joel and Tegan burst into laughter.

“Hey c’mon! I told you I’m the worst! Can’t I just watch you guys?” I moaned

“No way! Joel promised me I could kick both of your butts tonight and that’s what I intend on doing.” Tegan said as she stuck out her tongue at me.

Of all the things the three of us could have done together it had to be bowling. Anything else and I would have been able to keep up some semblance of my dignity.

“Now watch a real professional work some magic.” Joel announced as Tegan walked up to the lane in her beat up grey bowling shoes.

Tegan’s goofy smile was immediately replaced by a serious look of determination. The next minute, the crash of the bowling ball sent the pins flying, along with any chance of me winning back my brother from this oddball.

An hour later the score read: Brozo — 95, Buffy — 127 and Grandma — 51. It was a bloodbath. Each time it was Tegan’s turn I wanted to look away out of embarrassment, but I was just so mesmerized by her. By the end of the game, it was clear that I had definitely lost to Tegan. Joel had gotten bored and wandered off into the noise and bright lights of the arcade machines.

“Well you tried your best,” Tegan said with a straight face, “and that was pretty pathetic!” She burst out laughing.

I went to grab my coat and leave when Tegan stopped me. “Hey we were just messing with you. I didn’t mean to be annoying, Joel just brings out my competitive side. That was a lot of fun.”

“Well I’m glad you had fun at least… But you couldn’t have gone a little bit easier on me?” I laughed.

“Did your brother tell you how he met me?” She asked

“At a speed dating thing right? I thought those things never work”

“It’s kind of a funny story, I was actually addicted to it. I used to have so much fun showing up and just straight up lying my way through every guy I talked to. It was fun coming up with different names and backgrounds each time. I was never serious about meeting up with any of them, until I met Joel. I could tell that he knew I was lying. I guess I really can’t pass for being a real estate agent. It was cute of him to try to lie about himself too, most guys assumed I was just telling the truth every time.” Tegan said

This struck me as weird since all of the other girls he dated seemed about as deep as a kiddie pool. Maybe Tegan was different from them after all.

“You know, Joel told me how proud of you he is for everything you’ve accomplished for yourself. I know things are gonna take off for him too really soon. I believe in him. He’s been working so hard and he just wants everything to be perfect.” Tegan said. “He wanted me to meet you before everyone else in the family because your opinion matters the most to him.”

“He really said that?” I asked

“Of course Bridgette, it doesn’t have to be a competition, your brother can have both of us in his life at the same time you know.” She said with a smile. “Well I think I deserve a celebratory drink after that amazing win. Let’s get a drink!”

“Sure, I’ll get us some beers, I’ll be right back.” I said as I walked over to the bar.

I gave our table number to the bartender and felt someone tap on my shoulder. “Wow, I’ve never seen you in here before.” A man with an awkward looking mustache said. “I’m Alvin. What’s your name?” He reached out his hand to shake mine but I immediately crossed my arms.

“Uh..” I took a step back and looked at Tegan for help but she was too busy trying to control her laughter. “Its, uh, Debbie?” I said anxiously, hoping to get away from him as soon as possible.

“Well Debbie, let me get you a drink” He said.

“I’m flattered but I’m already with someone.” I said quickly trying not to make eye contact.

“Well I don’t see him anywhere.” He said with a creepy wink as he moved closer

“Veronica!” I called out while waving at Tegan. “I need you for a sec”

“Yeah, what’s up?” Tegan asked slightly confused.

“I just missed you babe” I said as I put my arm around her waist and leaned on her shoulder affectionately.

“Oh.” was all that Alvin had to say before he turned away embarrassed.

We both burst out laughing as we sat down with our beers.

“Thanks I really owe you one” I told Tegan

I was suddenly embarrassed for how caught up I had gotten in the game earlier, not just over bowling but over my brother too. For a split second I imagined their wedding- Tegan’s biker chick bridesmaids covered in tattoos and neon hair sitting across from tiny Great Aunt Ruth and our normal traditional family. I laughed at how over dramatic I had been. Maybe Tegan wasn’t going to be the sister-in-law from hell that I thought.

Just then Joel came out of the arcade room with two stuffed animals, a teddy bear and a lion. Tegan let out a girlish gasp and ran over to Joel.

“A teddy bear! Joel you’re so sweet” Tegan said as she squeezed the life out of the plushie

“I guess the lion is mine then?” I asked.

“I know you think these are for kids but it’s a better prize than a yoyo right?” Joel smirked. “It reminds me of you, always strong and trying to protect me from crazy girlfriends.” He said as he waved the lion playfully at Tegan

“Thanks Joel, I love it” I replied as I hugged him.