W.A.R. Part Two - The Cold Winter

(2nd edition)

Chapter Three - Birthday Bowling Bash

by Jeff Wilson

I called Brett to ask if he wanted to stay overnight after bowling. I was happy when he said that he could, and that he would bring his stuff over before we went bowling that night. As soon as I hung up the phone, I felt a little bit guilty that I'd not asked Dustin if he wanted to sleep over too. But there were many days of Christmas break and there would be other nights. I was sure I could find the time to get Dustin to sleep over. At any rate, I asked Brett not to tell Dustin or Joey that he was going to sleep at my house. I didn't want to start anything.

Around four o'clock, he arrived at my house, carrying his overnight bag on his back. He was wearing his old Yankees ball cap and he had brought a winter coat. He warned us that there was supposed to be a big storm that night and his mom had made him bring a change of clothes in case he got stuck at our house longer than expected. He also brought an assortment of Nintendo games, a few of which he would probably leave behind when he went home. That was how I amassed most of my collection.

He seemed in a good mood. It was like the old Brett was back, and I was glad! He was laughing and joking with my mom and dad just like old times. It seemed that the bus incident was forgotten. That was the great thing about Brett. He didn't stay down for very long. His natural cheerful disposition was infectious. You just wanted to be around him because every minute of life was something that he wanted to enjoy to the fullest.

We played Mario Kart on the N64 for a while before dinner. Brett kicked my butt! It was his game, after all. It made me feel so much better to see him happy again. Maybe it really was just a phase he was going through? Maybe he was finally getting over whatever it was that had turned him so angry.

Joey's dad dropped him off at the house around six o'clock. Joey's dad was a pretty important lawyer in the town. He was the solicitor for the school district. He was around even less than Brett's mom, but Joey's mom had been a stay-at-home mom when Joey was little. Now that he'd grown up, she had returned to her job working as an accountant. They were fairly important people in community, but Joey was cool. I made Brett hide his overnight bag so Joey wouldn't know Brett was staying. Joey wouldn't have cared, but I didn't want him to tell Dustin. Brett and Joey's dad had a little conversation about how Brett's mom was doing while I invited Joey to help me with Zelda. I was having a hell of a time beating the Water Temple, which Joey defeated fairly quickly. I was both grateful and jealous of his skill. Brett joined us after a while and we played another round of Mario Kart before it was time to go.

At seven o'clock, we piled into the car with dad. Poor mom was left behind and dad got to take us to the bowling alley. Mom said she had a lot of party planning to do while we were out having fun. We picked up Dustin, who brought his own bowling ball with him. I asked Brett why he hadn't brought his stuff, but he told me he rented a locker at the bowling alley. Dustin jumped into the backseat behind me, leaving poor Joey squished in the middle with Brett on the other side.

The rowdiness was already at a high level when we showed up at the bowling alley. Dad had a high tolerance for horseplay. If I'd acted so unruly when mom was around, I'd have been yelled at. But dad knew it was a special occasion.

Dad got a couple of lanes and rented some shoes for himself, me, and Joey. Then he left us alone. Any of our moms would have been hovering around to keep us out of trouble. But dad got himself a lane far away from us and told us to have fun. I saw him meet up with his boss, Mr. Nicholson and Donnie Barnhart, and I laughed. He hadn't told mom he was going to be bowling with his friends instead of watching us.

While Brett and Dustin had their own bowling balls, Joey and I had to go ball hunting. Joey was born a few days after Brett and had taken over his role of shortest boy in our class since Brett had gone through his growth spurt. With their brown hair and handsome Irish looks they actually looked a lot alike. They could almost pass for brothers, if you didn't know any better. Of course, Joey had brown eyes and straight hair like his mom and Brett had blue eyes and his hair would get curly if it got too long like his mom. And of course Brett was from New York City and Joey's family was from the Donora area. Joey was a nice kid and always polite to whomever he met. He'd been raised well and he and his parents were active in their church. There was one thing that he was more interested in than church though...

"Check out the tits on her!" whispered Joey as nudged me. I looked and saw a girl who looked a few years older than us. Her shirt was only buttoned twice, and she was obviously not very modest about showing off her breasts. A small puddle formed on the floor from Joey's drool. He held a ball in front of his pants and adjusted himself. Yes, `church-boy' had quite the steeple forming in his pants.

I looked back toward our lane and saw that Brett had begun slowly entering names in the computer. They weren't our names, of course. Brett was now known as Phil McCracken. I became Ben Dover. Dustin was Heywood Jablome. Joey would be called Hugh G. Rection, which was quite appropriate.

"Brett's in a lot better mood tonight, isn't he?" I asked.

Joey barely paid attention to me, as a girl with shorts cut so short you could practically see her clit was bent over at the water fountain. "Huh? Brett who?" he asked. He lifted his jaw up off the floor and regained his composure. "Oh, you mean Reilly? Yeah I guess so. Is it hot in here?"

"Can you go a few minutes without undressing a girl with your eyes?" I asked. "I thought you were supposed to be a good Christian!"

"If God didn't want me to be so obsessed with girls he shouldn't have made them look so good!" he replied. "I can't wait to get married. My poor wife's not going to be able to walk." He smiled and nodded at the girl walking back from the fountain and she laughed. It was no wonder she laughed at him, it was obvious he had a raging hard-on.

I found a bright pink ball and handed it to Joey. "Here's the one you were looking for," I said.

Joey laughed and handed me a ball that weighed about three pounds. "Found yours, too! Let's go."

"Hurry up, Hugh! You're up!" Brett yelled across the alley. He and Dustin shared a laugh.

"Looks like they're getting along for once," said Joey.

"Yeah, I don't know what their problem has been," I replied, continuing my search for the perfect ball after putting the one Joey had given me back on the rack.

"You don't know what their problem is? You look in the mirror lately?"

"Huh?" I asked. But before I could find out what he meant by that, Brett yelled at us to hurry up again. But the thought had never strayed far from the front of my mind that night. How was I the problem? All I wanted to do was be their friend and get along.

We had a lot of fun that night, more fun than I'd had in forever it seemed. Joey and I both sucked horribly, but we were having too much fun to care. He was busy staring at whatever cute girl he saw walk by. He'd elbow me and direct my attention to whichever girl he was undressing with his eyes at the moment. I'd look, make a smartass comment and move on. Then he'd nudge me again and point out some other girl. Eventually, he disappeared into the bathroom for like five minutes and came back looking a lot more relaxed for some reason. Dustin was acting sillier than I'd ever seen him. He was an awesome bowler, and got more strikes in a row than I'd gotten in my life! He threw four in a row, then went down to where my dad was bowling and taunted him jokingly. Dad and his friends laughed and congratulated Dustin on his good game.

Dustin bowled over two hundred. Brett bowled a one-seventy five. That was a very good game and was over a hundred pins higher than I could ever hope to bowl, but he wasn't happy. I could see that while he congratulated Dustin he wasn't happy for him. Brett wasn't very good at hiding his jealousy of Dustin's athletic skill. Brett suggested that we play doubles the next game and recommended that he play with Joey and Dustin play with me. I felt a little hurt that he didn't want me as his partner, but Dustin was ecstatic.

Together, Dustin and I beat Joey and Brett. Well, more like Dustin beat them and I tagged along. Dustin was real supportive and gave me a high five anytime I made contact with the pins. Brett kept telling Joey to pay attention and that if he would concentrate on the bowling instead of the girls they might have a chance. But a group of older high school girls had settled in the lane next to ours and Joey was lost for the night.

We traded partners for the last game. I bowled with Brett and Joey bowled with Dustin. I could see that Brett was getting increasingly agitated by losing. I kept trying to get him to lighten up but he snapped at me and told me to just bowl. I got so rattled that I ended up throwing six straight gutter balls. Brett was fuming, but he was managing to keep us in the game by bowling five strikes in a row. He was bowling his best game ever.

Sometime during my streak of patheticness, dad and his friends finished their game. Dad sat behind us to watch us bowl. Every time I threw a gutter ball, I turned around and there he was. It wasn't helping having him back there, ashamed of me. Brett was no help either. He had a towel over his head and was peering out from under it. Dustin just laughed and reminded me that it was just a game and to relax and have fun. Joey was too busy with the ladies to even notice there was a game going on.

I threw one more gutter ball and dad announced that he was going outside to smoke a cigarette. I was humiliated and a little angry. As we entered the tenth frame, surprisingly, we still had a chance to win. Dustin had kind of given up and was just fooling around with the girls in the next lane and didn't bowl nearly as well as he could. Brett was even more intense than before. And Joey was at the snack bar, sitting next to some girl and trying to get her number.

It was my turn. I was so mad at those pins! I just wanted to run down there and kick them all over. I lined myself up with the dots on the floor and threw the ball as hard as I could over one of the arrows like Dustin and Brett had told me to do. The ball slid down the lane, maybe turning over once, and crashed right into the head pin. And then to my surprise, every pin toppled over and I had my first strike of the night! I jumped up and down and high fived Brett and Dustin. Joey came back from the snack bar and congratulated me as well saying, "even a blind squirrel can find a nut sometimes." I looked around, but dad hadn't come back from his cigarette. That kind of pissed me off. As usual, he'd missed me doing something good.

When Brett's turn came up, he needed to get two strikes and then one pin to win the game. He was on a roll, but getting two strikes under the pressure he was putting himself under was not going to be easy. He threw the first strike easily. He turned around and smiled for about the first time since we'd started bowling. The second strike was a little more difficult. When he let go of the ball, I heard him yell, "Fuck!" The ball sailed far from his target, crossed over the lane, and hit the head pin on the wrong side. But to our astonishment, the pins all fell down and he got his second strike!

"Brooklyn!? Are you kidding me?" Dustin laughed. A Brooklyn strike is when the ball hits the wrong side of the head pin like Brett had done. I guess you're supposed to be ashamed of doing it. But we didn't care. All Brett had to do now was hit one pin and we were going to win.

"Easy money!" laughed Brett.

He lined himself up and threw the ball the same way he'd thrown the first strike. The ball sailed down the lane, but it never hooked back. It kept going further and further right. Further and further right! Further and further!! "NO!" Brett yelped. But it was too late! The ball clanged into the gutter and rolled harmlessly past the pins.

Dustin and Joey burst into laughter, "Oh my god! Reilly missed!! He threw it right in the gutter! That's so awesome!!"

Everything kind of slowed down. It seemed like Brett stood up there for an eternity, as if trying by some force of will to turn back time and undo the embarrassment he was feeling. The high school girls in the next lane pointed and laughed. I didn't care that we'd lost. I hadn't expected us to win. I was more concerned about Brett than I was about the game. Even as he was facing away from me, I could tell he was about to snap. The back of his neck kept turning more and more red. He seemed to grow bigger like a volcano full of pent up frustration and violence. He'd held back on the bus out of fear of Mrs. Smith. But now there was no one to stop the eruption.

"MOTHER FUCKING GOD DAMN SON OF A BITCH!!!!" Brett exploded with rage. He turned around and kicked the ball return as hard as he could. "FUCKING STUPID ASSHOLE!!!" He ripped his hat off his head and sent it sailing back at us. "FUCK! FUCK! FUCK! FUCK! FUCK!" He kicked the ball return with each curse.

"Oh my gosh, relax dude!" Dustin said, now laughing more out of nervousness than at anything funny. He wasn't as shocked by what was happening as the rest of us. He bowled with Brett all the time and knew how competitive he could be and had seen his temper tantrums before. The other people there who were bowling were now watching Brett like passers-by gawking at a car wreck. Dustin said, "it's just a stupid game."

"Shut the fuck up, Dustin!" Brett snapped. "Nobody gives a fuck about you or what you think! You don't even own a pair of shoes that fit your big ugly feet, so shut up! Fucking asshole!"

"Dude, calm down," Joey said.

"You calm down!" Brett shouted. "That was so fucking stupid! Billy pulls a lucky fuckin' strike out of his ass and I can't hit one goddamn pin? That's fuckin' bullshit!"

"Hey!" I shouted. "What are you ripping on me for? I didn't do anything!"

"You're fuckin' right you didn't do anything! You threw it in the gutter more than you threw it on the lane! You're pathetic!" Brett snarled.

"Oh, I'm pathetic?" I asked. I could feel the anger rising in myself. Of all the people he could have chosen to provoke, why'd it have to be me? I didn't want to get into a fight, but I wasn't going to stand there like a chump and be insulted. "I'm not the one acting like an asshole because I threw a gutter ball! You're having a temper tantrum like you're three years old! I'd say you're the one who's pathetic! What the hell is wrong with you?"

Brett glared at me viciously. "YOU'RE what's wrong with me! I swear to god, you just nag and nag and nag! Why can't you just shut up and leave me alone?!?"

"Fine! I will leave you alone!" I barked back. "I'll leave you alone forever, if that's what you want! You've been an asshole since school started and I've had it with your shit!"

"Fuck you, Billy! Fuck all of you fucking assholes! I fucking hate all of you!" Brett screamed. "I hate all you fucking people! I hate this whole stupid fucking loser town!!! You're all a bunch of fucking losers and fucking assholes!" He pointed at Joey, "all you fucking talk about is getting laid, but you've never even touched a fucking tit and no one gives a flying fuck about the fucking cunts in the next goddamn lane!" He poked Dustin in the chest, "you're such a fucking fake ass bitch. All you do is bitch about how much your fucking life sucks but you don't do anything about it. You're a fucking fraud, man. No one gives a shit about you, not even your fucking bitch of a mom or your fucking loser dad!" Then he walked up to me. "And you're the biggest loser of them all, Billy, `cause you fucking string the rest of us along and think you're such a fucking hero, but you're a fucking dork! You suck at everything you do except fucking school! Even your dad had to leave because he couldn't stand to watch his fucking loser-ass kid try to bowl! If I was your dad I'd have fucking left too!"

"AT LEAST I HAVE A DAD!!!" I shouted, no longer able to contain my rage. I didn't care. I just wanted to hurt him as bad as I could and that was what came out of my mouth because I knew it would destroy him.

After that, everything seemed to go into slow motion. Dustin smirked and Joey started to laugh, but the look of humiliation and hurt on Brett's face is something that I'll always remember. I'd just nuked him in front of as many people as possible. The hurt look turned into one of pure white hot fury. I don't think anyone has ever hated me as much as he did in that moment.

Then it happened. He punched me right in the mouth as hard as he could! I could see it was coming but I couldn't stop it. I think it shocked me more than hurt me. I stumbled backwards, tripped over Brett's bowling bag, and fell on my butt to the floor. If I hadn't had braces, it probably wouldn't have even left a mark. But I did have braces, and I started bleeding from the inside of my mouth like he'd stabbed me! My blood poured down my chin and all over my favorite shirt. I held my hand up to my mouth, and there was blood everywhere. Never hit a kid with braces in the mouth. It's quite messy!

Brett stood there for a moment, frozen in time. The whole place turned deathly silent. I think he was more shocked than I was that he'd hit me. He never expected me to bleed all over the place. We looked at each other for what seemed like an eternity. We may have said more to each other in that second just looking at each other than we'd said in our whole lives. We didn't say anything out loud to each other. We didn't have to. We both knew we'd gone too far. We each knew we'd just fucked up pretty bad.

Then he ran. He ran right out the door in his bowling shoes. By that time Barry, the owner of the place had shown up. "Dustin, what the hell's going on?" he asked.

"Reilly flipped out and punched Billy in the mouth!" Dustin replied.

"Well hell! Go get some ice and paper towels from the snack bar! Fucking kids..."

Joey and Barry pulled me off the floor and helped me to sit down on a chair. I looked down at my favorite shirt that I'd worn just for this special occasion and saw that it was ruined. Now I was mad. I angrily pulled the collar up to my mouth and tried to wipe off the blood from my inner lip. It looked a lot worse than it really was. I was more embarrassed than hurt. Dustin returned with the ice, and Barry made a make-shift bag from the paper towels and told me to hold it to my lip. The bleeding wasn't stopping, and I didn't feel any better.

I was determined not to cry. I was hurt more on the inside than from the punch. Sure it hurt, but everyone was watching me. Inside, I was aching. If Brett didn't really hate me before, he sure had to now! In our anger, those awful words had just poured right out of us and we couldn't stop them. I stuffed a paper towel in my mouth between my teeth and cheek, hoping to stop the bleeding. There was something very unsettling about people being able to see my blood. I didn't like that something that was supposed to be inside of me was now visible for all to see.

The door opened and Brett walked in with my dad. Dad put his hand on Brett's shoulder and steered him towards us. A flash of anger swelled inside me. I wanted so much to punch him just like he'd punched me. But when he got closer, I could see that same look on his face that he'd had after Mrs. Smith had yelled at him on the bus. His eyes were bloodshot and puffy and his face was red. He'd been crying. I made him cry! I'd made Brett cry. I mean, sure, he cried all the time, but I was the one who'd made him cry this time! I felt lower than shit on a bowling shoe. Brett walked back to our lane. "I'm sorry for what I said and did," he mumbled. "I didn't mean it, and I apologize." He sniffed. He didn't even take his eyes off the floor. He grabbed his hat and tugged it down as low as it could go to cover his face, then grabbed his ball and put it in his bag. He pulled his bowling shoes off and then sighed when he saw that someone had untied his street shoes. He tugged them on and walked away without tying them, taking his bowling things back to his locker. I saw him walk back to my dad, who was talking with Barry, his shoes still untied.

"That was quite the little temper tantrum, huh?" dad quipped as he put his hand on Brett's shoulder.

"Quite the right hook, George," Barry replied. "He socked your boy pretty good."

I joined dad and Brett at the counter. Neither of us looked at each other. Brett still hadn't taken his eyes off the floor and his hat was pulled down over his eyes. I watched a tear roll down his cheek and drip down to the floor. Joey and Dustin cleaned up the lane and joined us as well, glaring at Brett.

"He'll be okay. My boy's pretty tough. Poor kid! Of all the things he could have got from me he had to get my temper. At least he got his mother's looks!"

"Well he's your kid, George. He was bound to get himself punched in the face a time or two!"

Dad mussed up my hair and laughed. I just stared at him viciously. I was already hurt, why he have to insult me too? And why wasn't he angry at Brett for hitting me? "Yeah, the boy has even tried to take on his old man a time or two, but I still love him. Second time this year he's busted his face up, though. My wife's gonna kill me when I get home. I remember you and me getting into it a time or two back in the day Barry."

"Those were some crazy days, George," Barry laughed. "Whatever got into us?"

"Girls, most likely," dad replied, "and booze of course. It wasn't fun unless the cops were called back then."

"Yeah. Me and ol' Donnie had to bail you out more than a few times, George."

Dad laughed, "Thank god for Paula. I'd be dead by now if not for her. So what do I owe you?"

"You don't owe me anything. Ed took care of you earlier," Barry said.

"What about the boys?" dad asked.

"He got them too," Barry smiled.

"That son of a bitch!" dad laughed. "You boys ready?"

Joey and Dustin said they were ready to go. I couldn't talk with half my mouth full of tissues so I nodded. Brett just stood there with his hat pulled down to cover his face and still looking at the floor. He kept sniffling and wiping his eyes real quick, hoping nobody would see. We left the bowling alley much more subdued than we'd arrived.

I've had better birthday parties...

Well that escalated rather quickly! Comments? I'd love to hear them!

You can reach me at: jkwsquirrel@yahoo.com