What the Duckpin?

Duckpin bowling

I grab a grimy ball and shuffle to the lane. Visualize! Firm wrist. Go straight. Follow through. The little ball finds the gutter. Again. A groan escapes my lips. I could be home on the couch.

Middle-aged and empty-nested, I’ve flung myself into a duckpin bowling league, and I come in last almost every week.

Of course, I already knew the basics, to roll the ball down the lane. Unlike when I brought my kids ages ago, though, no handy lane bumpers ward off the gutter balls. And, yep, gutter balls happen.

Still, I show up each week and give it my best.

I work on the simplest details. What’s so hard about not flopping my wrist? Yet it flops, over and over. While I focus on this new physical skill, my rusty brain’s on heightened alert: Wrist, arm, back, hips, and legs all have to work together to get a mark. I try to believe that every gutter ball carves not just a path of humiliation down the lane, but also a new path in my brain’s neural network, maybe even replacing an obsolete one or two.

Each week when Monday rolls around, I spend the day yearning to quit. I stink. I don’t know most of the women. I hate leaving the house. Yet those same reasons keep making me go. Every autumn the urge to hibernate hits hard, and I just want to hunker down in my safe and cozy home. So I grab my car keys and go, lace up the borrowed bowling shoes and pick up a ball.

Sometimes, I get a strike. I tend to follow up a strike with two gutter balls, and all those bonus points that dangled before me just a moment ago vanish in the silence like a firework that never went off.

What the duckpin!?

As I walk away from the still-standing pins, I take in the encouraging looks from the other women, shrug my shoulders, and smile.

Maybe next time they’ll all fall down.

About Marcy

I blog about trying to get out of my comfort zone, completing 101 things in 1001 days (and beyond), and writing my memoirs. My book: Timid No More.

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12 Responses to What the Duckpin?

  1. Abby says:

    I love your persistence! Many a lesser woman would’ve thrown in the towel. I think bowling is a good activity at any age, and I’m also pretty terrible at it. One of these days, you’ll get two strikes before the dreaded gutter ball!

    • Marcy says:

      Ha ha, here’s hoping! I do like bowling as a fun thing to do with my kids still. We went over Thanksgiving break, and we were all pining for the lane bumpers at one point or another.

  2. Linda says:

    I give you a lot of credit, those pins are tenacious! Duckpins look like they’re tough to knock down.

  3. Nancy K. says:

    Super tight, succinctly written allegory that covers so much in so few words. Impressive! The urge to hibernate is real. To stay indoors and isolated. But the getting out pays off, even if it’s just with the ability to ask ourselves why we did it.

    Because of the allegory and this line that resonated with me (Of course, I already knew the basics, to roll the ball down the lane.) I would have loved to have seen that echo… what other basics do you know that you’re doing?

    I love a piece that can, on the surface, talk about so little but go so far beneath the surface at the same time.

    • Marcy says:

      Thanks for the constructive feedback, Nancy. Great idea, to expand it into some other basics that I know. I can see how I could have explored that. I appreciate it 🙂

  4. Ellen says:

    I really like the light tone you take, and as one who, when given the chance, would hunker down and hibernate the entire year, I feel the tension that you describe pulling you home and bringing you back to the lanes. I would have liked a sentence or even a phrase saying how duckpin bowling is different from regular bowling I got distracted trying to figure it out (but not distracted enough to stop reading and google).

    • Marcy says:

      Thanks so much for the comment and constructive criticism. I love your idea that I include an explanation of how duckpin bowling is different than 10-pin. I just looked it up myself and learned something new, that the game is only in one location west of the Mississippi. So, yes, readers there, or in other countries, wouldn’t know about it, even if they were into bowling. (Edited to add: Plus, many people aren’t into bowling!)

      In general, the balls in duckpin bowling are smaller and the pins are smaller and lighter than those in 10-pin bowling, making it harder to knock them all down, and three balls are allowed instead of two. I appreciate your feedback!

      From Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duckpin_bowling

  5. Laura Neill says:

    Your voice is so energetic, and the sentence rhythm in the first paragraph really pulled me in. As previously mentioned in the comments, I’m also curious as to what duckpin bowling is exactly, especially because it is mentioned in the heading. The similie of the points disappearing like the firework that never went off made me laugh out loud. I think our bowling skills must be on par. And the urge to hibernate is so relatable. 🙂

    • Marcy says:

      Thanks so much for the kind words and feedback, Laura. I’ve known about duckpin since I was little and didn’t even realize until today how unknown it is in other areas. It’s so helpful to hear back from other writers and readers. Here’s to our bad bowling skills 🙂

  6. Parul Thakur says:

    I so love you for not giving up. You will get to it. Thanks for sharing your story with us.
    Parul Thakur recently posted..A colorful (Indi)Blogger Meet – #BergerXPMy Profile

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