It wasn’t supposed to be this way. It was supposed to be a short two week stint and then a move into the apprentice role learning how to do maintenance on the ball return machines. Instead he was here, tucked away in a shallow alcove sandwiched between the arcade and the restrooms. If he paid close enough attention, Nathan could determine what each bowler had done in the bathroom as the doors seemed to waft every scent imaginable from the facilities. Maybe he could stick it out a few more weeks. He wasn’t sure.
Three holes per ball.
An average of three hundred and twenty five balls per alley.
Roughly nine hundred and seventy five holes.
At a minute per hole, technically Nathan’s stay at each alley would keep him there for two days…..if he didn’t eat. If he didn’t step out to smoke a cigarette. If he didn’t have to pee. If he didn’t have more than the holes to tend to. If there weren’t people checking out balls. If he could keep an accurate count. Compound this with the fact that he had learned that there were seventeen alleys in his region and he was the only hole cleaner. Based upon Nathan’s ninth grade math skills, he estimated that this was more like a two and a half month gig. If he stuck it out.
Hole Cleaner. That wasn’t his official title. He didn’t have an official title. Hole Cleaner was the title he imagined his friend would give him if his friend knew what he actually did all day.
Nathan wasn’t a bowler nor did he ever have the inclination to bowl. The local bowling alley just happened to be the closest place Nathan and his bud could grab a few beers and stumble home from. This happened to be where he’d found the flyer which read read:
“Apprenticeship – Lane Technician: Must learn how to repair complex mechanical equipment. Applicants must provide their own tools and be able to lift eighty five pounds.”
Having bounced from job to job after prematurely exiting high school, Nathan had learned how to turn a wrench and considered himself capable when it came to fixing things. His sketchy employment history might indicate otherwise, but there were few background checks for the type of jobs Nathan qualified for. The apprenticeship at the alley was one such job.
“The next person that takes a shit and walks by like I won’t notice gets this fucking plastic rock thrown into their gut.” ran through his mind as he sprayed, swabbed, brushed, rinsed, and disinfected each hole.
Nathan was tired, and he’d only been on the job for three and a half weeks. He was tired of being misled, tired of the long hours, and tired of the gag inducing scents of the alley. Most of all, he was tired of the krume. Krume was the name Nathan had given to the sludge he worked from the orifice of each bowling ball. The sludge accumulated in the bottom of his tupperware container of solvent throughout the day as rinsed his tools off. He sometimes wondered what it all was. Skin? Fry grease? Boogers? Flecks of nail polish?
The amount of krume that accumulated during the cleaning process seemed to vary depending on the part of town the alley was located within. Nathan reckoned it had something to do with the amount of hand washing folks did. Maybe the lotions they used. Possibly the food they ate. He wasn’t sure, all he knew was it was the foulest substance he’d come across since he’d worked that honeywagon job a couple of summers ago.
No one had told him what to do with the pasty concoction after it had been salvaged from the balls. It seemed to be an unspoken assumption that it was just to be thrown away at the end of each day. Which is what he did for the first few weeks. The longer he spent cleaning the balls, the more his mind thought of creative ways in which to put the krume to good use. Cooking oil seasoning? Toilet seat lubricant? Police cruiser fuel system additive? They all seemed like reasonable ideas, but ultimately none of these became THE idea.
Now, when asked about what he’d done with the krume, Nathan’s response was and continues to be, “I’ve got no regrets. None.”.
Hole – A Short Story is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at http://turnoffyour.tv/2012/10/hole-a-short-story/.