Human Gutterballing


by Pablo Harris


“Damn, man, you’re still here?”


“Don’t you have a bed? A house? I know you do. Why don’t you try and visit it sometime? I mean, shit man, you know you’re welcome here but sometimes, I just want to open the door, come home from work, walk into my place, and not have this lazy fuck sleeping, crop-dusting on my couch. So you just been laying around, dropping ass in here all day? Open a window or something, man.”

“Yeah, uh, sorry.”

“Do you even remember last night?”

“Most I think. Not everything.”

“So, what do you remember?”

“Well, I know it was a pretty good birthday. I love it when you open the doors and step into Country Club Lanes – “

“You mean Tweaker Lanes. Get it right.”

“Right. Walking into Tweaker’s, the wafting of grease from the fryer that hasn’t been changed since the Reagan Administration, the resounding echoes of pins crashing, the “ker-chungk” of the pin sweep, and there was even a working cigarette machine stocked with soft packs of Benson & Hedges and Lucky Strike; I dig that place. And, come on, I wasn’t expecting those girls to want to celebrate Erika’s birthday there of all places.”

“Well, I’ll give you that; those girls were hot and they don’t look like the type of girls that go out bowling and shooting Jameson on a Thursday night. I know you work with your boy Tubbs at the Bar & Oven, and I met the birthday girl of course, but who were the others? And did those girls not smell like, I don’t know, vanilla and patchouli and that hippy shit? Those girls kind of smelled like some classy hippy broads, if there is such a thing, but they don’t look like no hippies.”

“Uh, yes and no, I guess. They got a New Age-y business in Midtown. Erika teaches yoga, Joslyn does massage/skin/make-up, and Ellie does holistic medicine.”

“Yeah, Ellie, I like! For a white girl, Jesus Cristo, she’s got some ass, yo! I’ll sponsor a bowling team just to watch her roll, man. And I think you had a chance there. You dropping all that ‘Frisco, restaurant, gay-ass wine and art history shit you know. She was into you there for a while, man. Until, of course, you went into the bar for a pack of smokes and we had to go get you away from some ol’ lady who had ran more tracks & field than Carl Lewis.”

“Well, shit, Eddie the barkeep got me a couple of birthday shots.”

“How many times have you been there?”

“I’d been there maybe once or twice before but never been into the lounge.”

“What the – ?”

“I got friends in low places, I guess.”

“Fuck your country music shit! Alright, that’s kind of impressive that you just met these barflies, been there twenty minutes tops and you already got this old man buying you drinks. That’s fine and all but you could’ve been getting ready to serve Ellie up a chorizo breakfast. Your priorities are all screwed up.”

“Fair enough.”

“Alright, then, what else happened?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, yes, I know what happened, but do you? ”

“I don’t know. We played one more game, drank a couple more beers, and got a taxi back here. All I know is I’m in f-ing pain. I can’t move. What is it, the quads? Hammies? I feel like I tore everything up in my legs. I can’t get up. I really can’t move. And it feels like there’s a hole in my chin. I guess maybe I fell out of the car or tripped going up the porch and cracked my jaw on the top step? I don’t know.”

“That’s what you think? That’s what you remember?”

“Yeah. Sure.”

“All right, then. I’m going to tell ya right now.”

“Hold on, then, let me get a beer.”

“Why don’t you get some coffee or something.”

“Nah, just a beer.”

“Sientate, cabron! There is no ‘just a beer’ with you. Come on, you must remember the dive of glory, que no?”

“Haha, yeah, is that what you call it?”

“I saw that look in your eye, that glassy-eyed faraway stare, I know that look. Something bad’s gonna happen. Like Dirk in Boogie Nights in that botched drug deal scene.


You had that look. You and Erika were talking about your birthdays, birthday wishes, drunken shit. Then you said something like, ‘You know, Erika, I’ve always wanted to run down the alley and knock over the pins’.”


“Then she started jumping up and down, hanging all over you. Her friends started chanting ‘Pablo, Pablo’ so Tubbs and I went over to the shoe counter. Tubbs walked right up to the guy there and tried to explain, ‘Hey I just want to apologize beforehand. You see, my friend over there, he’s always wanted to do this and today is his birthday and . . . Oh, there he goes!’ and you took off down the alley.

I saw you launch yourself Pete Rose style a good ten feet from the pins. I guess you thought the lane was slick so you could slide into them head first, hands out front to knock ‘em down but you just stuck with a fucking ‘KUH-KAWH’ like thud of your chin on the deck. You didn’t move. Then you rolled over and the sound of you moaning ‘AAARRRRGGHHUUUH!’ drowned out the whole bowling alley.”

“I don’t remember the moan.”

“Then you like did this army/belly-crawl up to the 1 pin, swatted it, ‘Aaagh’, and we had to wait for your broken ass wobbling back up the lane like The Crippled March of the Penguin. Had to get you out of there.”

“I guess that’s where it all gets fuzzy.”

“Fuzzy? Shit, you might have a concussion, man. You hit the lane fucking hard. ‘KUH-KAWH’! You know, I saw this Stupid Human Trick on Letterman, back in the day. But that guy had a helmet and a skateboard. You’re lucky. You would’ve really fucked yourself up had you hit the pins.”

“And I only got a one?”

“Mark it one, Smokey.”


“A world of pain. You know, those girls wanted to go to the Press Club, go dancing, but you couldn’t even f-ing walk. And Joslyn was coming around to me but . . . fuck it. I had to work today anyway. Tubbs wins. But, anyway, speaking of work; aren’t you supposed to be at work right now? It’s Friday night. Aren’t you bartending or serving tonight?”

“Yeah, I’m supposed to be on the floor tonight but that ain’t happening.”

“Do you still have a job?”

“I don’t know. It’s alright, though. I’m moving next month, anyway, after graduation.”

“Are you even graduating?”

“Eh. If not, I’ll buy a degree on Khoa San Road.”

“And what’s this shit about moving? Where? When did you decide this?”

“Last night, talking with Eddie and Fern in the lounge. It’s kind of why I had to do the dive of glory. Something I’d always wanted to do. Something I felt I had to do before I leave the country.”

“What the  . . . leaving the country? What the fuck are you talking about?

“Come on, let’s talk about it at the Raven. But first, let’s get a taco.”






  1. Man, you have such an excellent way with dialogue, I always wanna flip the page and begin the next chapter. Write a god damn book already!

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