Daisy was staring blankly into her closet, lost as usual, when the door bell rang.
“Aw, man…” She looked at her watch then back into her closet. “Come on Daisy, pick something,” she mumbled to herself.
Grandma Rose answered the door. “Hello there, Connor, don’t you look handsome tonight. Come in. Daisy is not finished dressing yet. She’ll be out in a minute, I’m sure.”
“Yes Ma’am, thank you. How was your day Grandma?” Connor sat at the kitchen table with Rose as she cut vegetables to chat while he waited.
“I had a wonderful day. Joe and I are planning another Red Cross trip to the desert soon. We won’t leave until after Thanksgiving, of course. I do hope you and your Dad will have Thanksgiving dinner with us next weekend. I also invited that cute Coach Peggy. Daisy likes her so much, you know,” Grandma Rose rambled on and on as she prepared dinner.
“Yes Ma’am, Coach Peggy is great. I know Daisy is crazy about her. Hey… does Daisy know I’m here? Can I go check?”
“Sure dear, just holler down the hallway, she’ll hear you.”
Connor left the table and went down the hall. “Daisy, I’m here. Let’s go girl. What’s taking so long?” Connor spoke through her bedroom door.
“I’m going as fast as I can…” Daisy moaned “…but I can’t pick out a shirt. What are you wearing?”
“Oh brother, any shirt will do. I’m wearing my black, long sleeve skate shirt. Hurry up!”
“Okay, okay, okay. I will wear… I will wear… this one.” She grabbed her pastel pink sweater and quickly pulled it over her head. It looked pretty with jeans. She ran out of her bedroom door so fast that she almost ran right over Connor on the way out!
“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” Connor stopped her in the hallway. “That looks nice.” He smiled approvingly. He touched her shark tooth necklace to straighten it. “Look what I have Day-Day.” Connor pulled another shark’s tooth from his pocket. He had already attached a little wire to it so that he could attach it to the leather strap around her neck. “Turn around a second. Let me add this one.” Daisy turned around and held her hair up. He struggled with the knot for a while but finally got it untied. He added the second tooth and put the necklace back around her neck.
Daisy reached up to touch the two teeth around her neck. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome.” A sly smile crept across Connor’s face as they walked back down the hallway.
Daisy knew what he was thinking. “Don’t say it, Connor.”
“I have to, babe.”
“No, you don’t either,” Daisy warned.
“Daisy… babe… darling… why does it take you so long to get a shirt on?”
“Grrrrr…I don’t know. I just want to pick the right one. That’s all. Difference between diligent and slow, remember? I can’t help it,” she huffed.
Connor passed her an amused glance. “Why do you get so upset about it, babe? Everything looks great on you.”
“Every event is different. You have to match the right shirt with the right event.” Daisy rolled her eyes as though everyone held her point of view but Connor.
Connor kissed her hair and whispered near her ear, “I’ll say it again, babe. You look great in everything.”
“Thank you.” Daisy smiled at the compliment then turned towards the kitchen.
Grandma Rose was standing at the kitchen entrance drying her hands off on a towel.
“Grandma, we’re leaving okay?”
“Okay dear, see you later tonight.” Rose smiled at the two of them as they left.
Connor and Daisy picked up Willie and Grace and drove to the bowling alley. Upon their arrival, they were shocked at the amount of people scoping the place.
“Geez, I didn’t realize bowling was so popular,” Grace said with surprise.
“It must be one of those ‘Free Friday things’ Dad always talks about,” Connor mumbled as he searched the crowded parking lot for a spot.
“Free Friday! Alright, now that sounds like my kinda night, man,” Willie said as he pointed to an empty parking spot. “Over there. That spot’s empty.”
“Well, not everybody is free. It’s like a once a month blue light special thing. If there are four or more people in your party, one person can go free,” Connor explained as he turned off the car.
“That ‘free guy’ would be me then.” Willie grinned as he helped Grace out of the back seat of the car.
“Suit yourself, but we are a group, which means you’re paying for all the rest of us.” Connor chuckled and swung his arm around Daisy’s shoulder and led the way to the door.
“Why should I pay for your skinny butt, man?” Willie opened the door for everyone.
“Cause you did the invite ’in, that’s why. The inviter does the paying to get in and the invitee, which is me, buys the food. That’s called manners man, and you need some.” Connor grinned at his unhappy comrade as he passed him through the doorway.
“Well… just to let you know…me and Grace here are pretty doggone hungry.”
“Yea, I haven’t had dinner,” Grace chipped in for Willie’s benefit as she looked around the busy place.
The bowling alley had an energetic, friendly atmosphere. Children ran here and there as their parents bowled. Teens ate along thin counters against the wall. People hovered around pinball machines laughing and playing. There was a big counter to the side where you could order fast food or beer if you were old enough. The bowling alley was obviously a hub of many varying activities for all age groups.
Way in the back, on the last lane, Connor’s Dad, Davis, bowled with his team. You couldn’t miss them really because of the matching blue, button down, team shirts. With obvious enthusiasm they scrutinized every move their teammates made then cheer loudly when a roll went as they had anticipated.
While standing in line to get shoes, Willie observed Davis whoop ’in and holler ’in with his teammates and said, “Is your Dad, always that happy?”
“Only when he’s winning man, only when he’s winning.” Connor chuckled.
After getting shoes, they spent a decade finding balls that suited them. Daisy, being the most indecisive of the bunch, took the longest. Connor tried to be patient, but eventually he couldn’t take it anymore and picked a ball for her.
“Are you sure that one is the right size for me?” she questioned with a worried look on her face.
“Yes, Daisy,” Connor sighed, “I am absolutely, positively sure, that this is the right ball for you.” He kissed the top of her head and nudged her along, hoping that she could finally move on from the ball rack to the bowling lane where Grace and Willie were waiting for them. “Let’s get started before the place closes down, babe.”
“Kay.” Daisy carefully examined the ball Connor picked for her as she followed him to the bowling lane right next to Davis’s lane.
“Hey, Dad, how’s it go ’in?”
“Connor,” Davis boomed, “introduce me to your friends!”
“Willie, Grace, this is my Dad, Davis Bailey.”
Davis smiled at each of them then back handed George lightly in the belly. “This bowler here is my friend, George Palmer.”
“Pleased to meet you both,” Willie politely greeted George and Davis.
“It’s always nice to meet some of Connor’s buddies. Have a good game.”
No one in Connor’s group could bowl worth a hoot, but they had fun trying anyway. They laughed at each other every time a ball went down the gutter. They changed the rules around to suit them. Against Connor’s better judgment, they ate chili dogs and curly fries. Willie insisted that the situation called for a little junk food, and Connor complied reluctantly. His only argument had been that he didn’t think he ran as well after eating junk food.
“Oh, brother. We aren’t running tonight man, relax,” was Willie’s brush off reply. “Besides man, you promised me dinner when we got here. Don’t think I forgot all that, inviter/invitee crap!” Willie marched off to the counter prepared to order everything in sight.
It was Daisy’s hungry face that pushed him over, though.
“Okay, okay, do you want something babe?”
“Yea, I’m starving.” She smiled sweetly.
“Well, we can’t have that, can we.” Connor returned her smile.
Connor bought the group enough junk food to last a life time. He even succumbed to a mile long chili dog himself.
“Not bad,” he mumbled with a full mouth.
“Told ya man.” Willie dipped his curly fries in ketchup. “Want some?” He passed them around, and the girls took a few.
After eating, Willie started making fun of Connor’s health food kick. “Oh no! My legs! My legs! I can’t feel ’em! Oh no, they won’t move! Connor! I can’t run! What do I do, man! Quick, find me some vitamins, man! Hurry!” Willie grabbed Connor and started shaking him as he hollered out his fake health conditions with mock horror.
“Get away from me, man! Let go of me!” Connor laughed at Willie’s joking.
“I’m serious, man! My legs aren’t moving!” Willie continued. The girls giggled, and Connor rolled his eyes.
“One of these days you guys will believe me, man. Certain foods help you run fast and certain foods slow you down. It is a documented fact. Ask any doctor,” Connor defended his view hopelessly.
“I believe you, man. I feel those curly fries in my knees already!” Willie laughed and the girls did too.
“Shut up you guys.” Connor laughed.
“No really Connor, tell me what’s up with you and this super extreme eating kick you’re on? Why so extreme?” Willie looked him directly in the eye for an honest answer.
“Besides the obvious running benefits, you mean?”
“Yea, besides that, man.”
“Well, I guess I don’t need to be so extreme. It’s just that when Daisy found out I was drink ’in and mess ’in around, ya know…and I uuuh…well, I almost lost her friendship. I decided to quit everything that wasn’t good for me. You know, like alcohol, junk food, mess ’in around, I quit it all. It’s easier to just go cold turkey and quit everything all at once than to pick a little here and a little there. It’s just easier that way.” Connor put his arm around Daisy and squeezed her tight. “I guess…I am sort of an extremist, but it’s the only way I know, to hold it all together, ya know?”
Daisy returned Connor’s squeeze and whispered into his chest, “I love you, Connor.”
He smiled and kissed her head, “Love you too, babe.”
Willie stuck his knuckles out to Connor. “Put ’em there man. You got a good thing go ’in on. I guess you gotta do whatever works.”
“Whatever works, man,” Connor said as they walked back to their lane for more bowling.
They resumed bowling, flirting and poking fun at Connor’s strict eating habits. Honestly, Connor couldn’t care less if people picked on his extreme habits or not, because when the day was done and everybody went home, it was him kissing Daisy good night.
Coach Peggy and her team members arrived in their matching purple uniforms ready to bowl. They took the lane right next to Connor’s lane. As Coach Peggy greeted Connor, Willie, Grace and Daisy she noticed Davis’s bowling group.
“Hey ladies, there they are,” Coach Peggy pointed towards the last lane.
All the ladies in Peggy’s group began to light up with big grins as they waved across Connor’s lane to Davis’s lane. It became clear to Connor that this bowling alley had become some kind of a meeting place for his Dad that he had not known about.
“And here I thought Dad had given up on girls,” Connor mused to himself.
Coach Peggy’s team seemed just as serious about bowling as Davis’s team was. The ladies studied the moves and rolls of each of their teammates just like Davis’s group did.
Connor noticed, that every time Coach Peggy had a turn, his Dad would holler congratulations over Connor’s lane to Peggy on her score. Davis watched her every move as though she were part of his own team. Connor sat in the semicircle chairs designated for the middle lane that he was in and watched his Dad with his eyebrows up. He was surprised at the subtle flirting between the two bowling teams, his Dad and Coach Peggy in particular.
Daisy noticed the odd look on Connor’s face so she sat down next to him and questioned him, “Why are you making that face?”
Connor’s eyes continued to pop out as he watched the scene before him. In between bowling turns he shared his new revelation with Daisy. “Daisy, watch my Dad on this side and also watch Coach Peggy on that side. Just watch them for a while.” Connor’s eyebrows were still pushed up in shock as he watched silently with Daisy.
They watched Davis disappear to the food court and meet up with Coach Peggy, paying for her corn dog. They watched how they strolled slowly back to their groups, deep in conversation. They watched them cheer for each other whenever one of them made a good bowling move.
Connor leaned into Daisy so that she could hear him over the noise, “Do you see what I see?”
Daisy had a huge grin on her face when she asked “How long do you think this has been going on? I mean, I am assuming you didn’t know this until tonight, right?”
Connor’s eyes were still bugging out in surprise. “I had absolutely no idea that they were…well…what is this, Daisy? Does my Dad have a crush on Coach Peggy?”
“Looks like it to me,” Daisy agreed with his conclusion and giggled. “It will be fun to watch them next weekend when they both come over for Thanksgiving.”
Connor shook his head in disbelief. “My Dad…likes…Coach Peggy,” is all he could say.
He sat back in his chair, put his arms out across the backs of the adjacent chairs and watched just like he were watching a tennis match. Every now and then he would get up to take his turn at bowling, but mostly he watched his Dad with amusement.
By the end of the evening, Connor had gotten over his shock and was enjoying the thought of his Dad finding a special friend in Coach Peggy, just like he had found in Daisy. Coach Peggy was really a very sweet lady once you got past all the sports talk. He could see how his Dad might like her. Everybody but Coach Timbers liked Coach Peggy.
Willie and Grace announced to Connor and Daisy that it was late and that they needed to get home. The teens moved around through the three different bowling lanes saying good night to Davis’s team to one side and Coach Peggy’s team on the other side. Once all the goodbyes were said, the four of them strolled out happily. They had enjoyed this evening of fun, games and revelation very much.
During the drive home, they all agreed that bowling was nice for an evening but they preferred running hands down. There wasn’t so much waiting involved when you ran.
“You can just go and go and go with nothing to hold you up or get in your way,” Connor explained as he drove along, “just the air blowing by you…the straight path in front of you….”
Daisy smiled. “Yea, there are no decisions to make when you run. You just go and go and go leaving all the decision making behind. Running straight ahead, for as far as you can go.”
“Yep, those curly fries are gonna take me a long way tomorrow, man!” Willie threw in just to bug Connor.
“Curly fries are a big bag of greasy nothing, man!” Connor hollered.
“They’re potatoes, man!” Willie returned with laughter.