A vodka for Jack

We were listening to Beethoven’s 9th, ( you know the one, DA Da Da DUUMMMMM! Da Da Da DUummm!) when the call came.

Lest we sound haughty listening to classical music with our Saturday morning coffee and computer time, let me begin by saying we were also listening to Sugarland and The Dirty Projectors. Always an eclectic mix, something for everyone.

I had been having a week long string of premonitions and I had heard from the girls, my sister and my two besties. Everyone was checked in; the caller ID recognized the call. This is not the way launch a weekend at the Jersey shore.

***

Three people said the same thing. “I just saw him!.”

It’s a ridiculous thing to ay but we all say it. As if he were a set of lost keys. “I just saw him and he was RIGHT HERE.

Less than a week later we were at the bowling banquet, lifting a toast to a fallen comrade. Vodka straight-up was his thing, and Joe-Bob went to the bar, conveniently located right next to our table, and got a round, including a drink for Jack. The lights dimmed and a moment of silence was held, and this was when and how most (if not all) of the couple hundred party attendees learned of their friend’s passing.

A slow parade of visitors to our table began. More than once I thought “I hope I can be remembered like this.” There was something about the group, usually fragrant with lane oil (which is distinct if you have not experienced it) and damp money (get your mind out of the gutter) that felt right on this night.

The DJ, deafening in previous years, was just right. Mourning with a Pharrell soundtrack.

One couple got up and never sat down. We even shuffled across the floor to a tune or two; when I saw the pictures, I wondered when I got so short, and about some other bodily dimensions as well.

A few people collected rewards for perfect games; Rob garnered a pair for his collection. A guy visited our table, paid his respects, and fondled the paper bowling pin sign received by each 300 bowler.

“I’d give my left nut to have one of these.”

A plethora of comments rose in my throat but I held my tongue: This was a night for the gentlemen, no added snarkiness from the ladies needed. But really, your left nut? You won’t even get a vasectomy but you would give your left nut to bowl a perfect game?

Speaking of vasectomies, that was a big topic of discussion at our table, as it is every year. Is there a statute of limitations? Shouldn’t we just publicly award a medal the way we do when women tie their fallopian tubes? Right. I thought so.

Finally, Bill had to say it. He preferenced his remark with “Well, I hate to say this” and we all knew where it was going. It was the last time they would gather before the organizational meeting for next year’s league, a scant two months away. It wasn’t said out loud, but his eyes said “Who should we get to bowl?”

This is the first time I realized this is no roll-the dice decision. You need a guy whose wife will allow him out 35 nights a year. A guy who doesn’t go “on call” for his job. Someone who’s drinking doesn’t interfere with their performance on the lane, but no stick in the muds. Sandbaggers need not apply. Someone with the right amount of competitive drive, who can hopefully maintain his average. Another drink was hoisted to Jack. He was a little guy with big shoes to fill.

***

In the Adirondacks, they store your body till the spring thaw, and then they bury you. Me? I like the idea of being sprinkled in some environmentally approved mountainous region, with a bowling banquet amount of noise and remembrance to follow.

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