Secret Bowling Gangs Hold Court Underneath the Frick Museum

Beer-bellied evil sits and waits its turn. Bad dudes. Mutants waiting for their chance to take back territory. It’s dim down here in subterrania.

Across from me, in this bowling alley underneath the bowling alley hidden below Frick Museum, is a man named Len Crilley Boxx. A sort of PR thug for the cabal known as “Infinite Lane.” There’s a gooeyness about him that I can’t quite explain. Makes me want to throw up. 

Like most guys in here, Len’s skin is taught and shiny-red from alcohol bloating and a high sodium diet. He’s got somewhere around thirty pieces of hair left. Thick black cords like spider legs raked across his head. He’s wearing a white and blue bowling shirt with his initials stitched just above the nipple. 

“Jesus, man,” I say taking a sip of my Milwaukee’s Best. “This is some heavy shit. I never knew how heavy the chips and candy game really was. 

“People get killed over much less,” he says smiling. He’s got a gold tooth. 

Len has just got done explaining to me Infinite Lane’s mission, which from what I can understand is a nasty plot to take back what they see as rightfully theirs. An American institution—the concession stand.

Len takes a deep drag from his cigarette like he’s getting ready to lay something huge on me. Kind of feels like I’m in some dumb noir film. 

“Bowling alleys,” he says tapping his bowling-gloved hand on the table, “were where all these foods came to be. Fake neon cheese. Dehydrated hot dogs. Microwave burritos. This is the food of our people, and we’ll be dammed to let the profits slip thought our fingers any longer.”

“You guys invented all that stuff?” I ask, a bit skeptical.

“Yes!” he shouts. He almost explodes, but remembering himself, collects and smiles again. “I understand this is not known to most people, but the bowling community’s inventions have permeated American culture for a long, long time. It was our power before the government took it from us. If you control the snacks, you control this nation—in a certain way.”

“Maybe, yea.”

I’m distracted. All around us are the sounds of small plastic thunder. There are gold chains around fat necks sparkling disco-bright.

This place is the opposite of the remote dreamlands thought up in the minds of those living above. Its rotting wet existence is like chum for people like Len. The walls sweat and the people sweat and they all become one big amoeba. A blob of mint-colored rayon and pomade. Chest hair. Chins. 

“You see,” Len says trying to win back my attention, “before us, people didn’t have it so good. They went to a baseball game, or a movie, or a concert, and they were lucky to get a beer and some stale peanuts. But us bowlers have always lived outside the system. Because of this we had the ability to think up entirely new food-like items. We went to places no one had ever seen before. We risked our lives back in 73 to travel over to the jungles of ‘Nam to retrieve some of the stuff their scientists were working on. I think they call it Polysorbate 80 now. People take this stuff for granted. They are used to cheap cheese and meat at their entertainment venues, but many brave bowlers died bringing back the chemicals that allow such things to exist.”

“Who are you working with to get this all done? The re-takeover. I mean, there has to be like, millions of concession stands in the U.S.” 

“You sure ask a lot of questions. Let’s just play a game.” 

“Sure.” I start to pick up my ball.

Len puts his hand on my chest to stop me. “Not here. Let me show you something special.” 

We get up and he takes me to a door in the back with three white circles painted on it. Behind the door, the room is made completely of sick shiny golden wood. Every single strip, one-inch wide. The architectural lines jutting down at us from above are somewhat Brutalist. I smell nothing but oil.

There’s one lane in here. There’s one ball. It’s up on a pedestal. 

I look at Len and he nods. “Go on. You have first roll.”

I go to the pedestal. There’s a little gold plaque underneath that says “Rock of Methuselah.”

I look back and Len nods again. 

“It’s nothing!” he says. “We just thought it sounded scary. Grab the ball. You get a turkey in here and we’ll even put your name on the wall.” 

There’s only one name on the wall next to me. Norm Duke. 

I realize then how great it is to be able to see these things. To know just how horrible every facet of our country can become if left to such creatures. No pretzel is safe. No accountant. No slip of paper or paperclip. The TV is not safe. The airplane. Pop music is not safe. Our government, is surely not safe. Little leagues and cars and dentists. Everything has an underbelly.

Understanding that Len behind is a part of one of these underbellies, that he has the power to kill me at any moment, I decide it’s best to do what he asks. I dip my fingers in the three holes of the all-black ball and feel a prick. Immediately, I taste metal at the back of the throat and I feel waves of nausea. I’m sure I’ve just been drugged. 

Drifting down into darkness, back inside my eyes, I see the Len standing above me. Smiling. Then, it’s totally black and I see Hawaiian shirt prints wrapped around the Rocky Mountains. Massive bowls of salted peanuts. I see classic thunderbirds spitting sparks and flame. 

When I wake up, I’m in my apartment. I’m in my same clothes lying on the couch in my New Balances. The TV is on. It’s playing some sit-com from a while ago where people not there with you laugh at what’s happening on screen. I feel OK. 

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