He tilted the pint over my glass. I watched the amber wave of liquid grain splash into the ice cubes I rattled from side to side.
“When,” I answered. “Want to hand me the coke now?”
“I can do that, nef.” He slid the jumbo plastic bottle to me.
“Have you thought about my suggestion?” asked Clyde.
I took up some time concentrating on pouring my mixer into my Calvert’s Extra.
“You don’t remember, do you?”
Placing the bottle of coke back on the table I slowly guided my glass to my lips and poured a hefty amount into my mouth.
“Whoa, unk. You poured too much in my glass,” I coughed out.
“I poured like always, like it ain’t mine,” he replied. “Well?”
I couldn’t stall any longer. I didn’t know what he was talking about.
“I gave it some thought. I just don’t know, with school and all.”
“What’s school got to do with it?” He knew I didn’t have clue. It was just his way of making me stew a bit.
“Hell, unk. College is hard. I’m flunking a couple of course. I never flunked anything in my life.”
The smirk got me. I knew he knew.
“That don’t cut no ice. It won’t take that much time out of your schedule. Besides if you had to study or something we could get a substitute.”
I sipped my drink.
“Well, I don’t know. How much will it cost?” I had him now. He couldn’t answer without revealing what we were talking about.
“Not enough to be a burden,” he said the twinkle in his eye growing brighter. He had me. He hadn’t revealed a thing.
“Let me be the judge of that. Tell me what it’s going to cost.” I smiled back figuring he’d let something slip.
His smile spread wider. He watched me squirm while he slipped the pack of smokes from his shirt pocket. He tapped the pack against his left hand. Three cigarettes slipped up through the opening. He placed the highest between his lips and pulled the pack away and in my direction offering one. I took it. He continued to watch me as he clicked his Zippo open and snapped his fingers over the steel wheel producing a flame. He lit his and held it out for me. I pulled the flame into the tobacco. We both exhaled.
“I’m waiting,” he said breaking the silence.
“Ah, hell! I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“I knew it. You were too drunk last time to remember.”
“Yeah, yeah, so what is it then,” I asked, giving in.
“Bowling,” he said. “We talked about bowling.”
“What about it? You know I’m not very good at it.” My highest score, ever, had been 120. I never could manage the curve ball and my straight ball went into the gutter as often as down the center.
“We discussed forming a team and signing up for the league games. We have to decide soon because the signatures have to be in by next week.”
“A bowling league? I’m not good enough to join a league.” My surprise came through at the top of my voice.
“Don’t get excited. Who cares how good you are. We’d be in it for the beer frames.”
“Beer frames? What’s that?’
“That, nef, is the beauty of bowling. With several members in our team we get the chance to drink beer for free.” He ended his sentence with a flourish and several smoke rings. He was beaming.
“How does that happen?” I was somewhat dubious.
“Whoever bowls the lowest score buys the beer for everyone.”
I looked at him pointing to myself,” Not a good bowler!”
“Maybe not at first, but everybody gets better with practice. Besides I’ll help you when you have to buy.”
“Don’t forget,” I said pointing at myself again. “Student. No income.”
“No problem. Until you’re throwing strikes, I’ll buy your rounds.”
“How much is it going to cost to join this league?”
“Not that much. I’ll pay your way until you can pay me back. What do you say?”
He watched me with the twinkle in his eye.
‘I’ll probably regret this,’ I thought to myself. “Well, OK. When does it start?”
He beamed as he picked up the phone. “In two weeks. Just enough time to wrangle up some other members and get shirts. While I’m talking be thinking of a name for our team.”
A name? What kind of a name, I wondered. Clyde continued to dial the phone until he had a quota of members aboard.
“OK,” he said. “Did you come up with a name?”
“You said it’s for the beer frames right?”
“How about The Beer Drinkers?”
“Mmm, no. I’m more inclined to the Calvert Extras.”
“No. It’s beer drinking we’ll be doing. How about The Beer Hallics?”
“That’s even worse.
“What about The Booze Hounds?”
“I don’t like it. How about something in German? How about The Beer Hall Putz?”
“Hell no!” he said. “Sounds like Hitler.”
“Um, how’s this then? The Roller Schnaps.” I grinned as I said it.
“What the hell is that?”
“Well, bowling ball rolls and schnaps is a drink. I thought it would be good in referring to a bunch of drunks bowling.”
“Hey, wait a minute. How about The Drunk Bunch?”
“Sounds common. Let’s spice it up using a foreign phrase.”
“Like what? Die Drunken Bunchen?”
“How about simply, The Drunks?”
Clyde looked at me. “How about el Borrachos?”
“What’s that,” I asked. “Sounds like Spanish.”
“It is,” he said. “I kinda like the sound of that. It means the drunks in Spanish.”
“How do you know that?” I asked. “You studying Spanish in your spare time?”
“Naw, one of the guys at work called me that. I like the sound of it.”
“OK. We will be the el Borrachos. It does have a ring.” It might have had a ring but was a bastardization of the Spanish word since the el should have been los and Borrachos is an adjective and not a noun. For us it was good enough.
“Now the shirts have to be designed.”
“How about a big red dot on the back with the name at the top and bottom?”
“I like that,” said Clyde. “We can make the shirt black and have the red dot, from the red dot stores, on the back. El can be on top and Borrochos on the bottom curving with the circle of red.”
“Perfect!” And with that el Borrochos came into existence.
Our team had fun. Beer frames were always the aim of league night, at least for Clyde and me. Things began to change as we neared the end of the season at the bottom of the league.
“Hey, Clyde!” It was one of Clyde’s friends from the Navy Yard. “Can I talk to you alone,” he said watching me start on my first beer.
I put on my shoes and found a ball that fit my hand while they talked. His friend was waving his hands in the air and pointing at me on occasion.
As I placed my ball in the lineup Clyde came over to me.
“Yeah,” I answered as he stopped beside me.
“Uh, the fellas want to get a little serious about the games. They don’t like being dead last in the league.”
“What does that matter? I thought we started this as a beer frame night.”
‘Well, we did. But they don’t think it’s so fun being so far down the ladder. They think everyone is laughing at them.”
“So? It’s the beer frames. Right?”
“Maybe, when we started.”
“So we have to make an effort to win? That kind of defeats the purpose of why we wanted to bowl every week, doesn’t it?”
“Well, yeah for you and me. But I’m the head of the team and have to go along with the group and they want to start getting serious. Maybe they could win a most improved trophy or something. Think you can bowl your best tonight?”
“I’ll do what I can but I’ve never taken this seriously since it was beer frame night on my calendar, not bowling night.”
“Yeah, I know but would you give it your best?”
“I take it there will be no beer frames tonight?”
“Well, yeah. They say you get wild with your throws the more beers you suck down.”
“OK, unk. You’re the boss.”
I bowled my best that night. Everyone was happy because we won our match. Almost everyone.
The next day I met with Clyde.
“You did pretty good last night.”
“Thanks. I’m resigning from the team. Here’s my bowling shirt.”
“No, nef. You don’t want to quit.”
“Yeah, I do. It was fun in the beginning but I saw the serious looks on the rest of the team’s faces. Even yours took on a bit of determination. I had fun. I liked the beer frame idea. All I ever had in mind was the fun of getting together having a few drinks and throwing a ball at some sticks at the end of the alley. I’m glad we did it but it’s time for me to get serious about my studying. I’ve pulled my grades up a bit and need to do more.”
“Well, OK, nef. If you think you hafta.”
“I do. You guys win a trophy or something.”
I swear I heard a sigh of relief as I walked out the door.