By Jon B. Knutson (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Summary: Kent goes to the bowling lane, er, Kent goes bowling with Lois Lane. :-)
with acknowledgment to Zoomway for the title
Lois Lane knew something was up when Perry walked over to her desk with a big grin on his face. She edged over to Clark's desk and nudged her partner. "Perry wants something…"
Clark Kent glanced at Lois, then back at Perry, and decided Lois was right: That grin was his "kids, I've got a favor to ask you" grin… he'd seen it before.
Individually, Lois and Clark braced themselves for the worst.
"Kids," Perry said, "I've got a favor to ask you."
Lois and Clark exchanged a brief look which they thought Perry wouldn't notice.
No such luck. "Now, don't give me that look… this is a fun favor."
Lois leaned back in her chair and rolled her eyes. "Fun favors" usually weren't. "What is it, chief?" she said, resigned.
"The Daily Planet has been challenged by the other Metropolis publishers to a bowling tournament."
"Uh-oh," Lois said.
"Now, Lois, don't 'uh-oh' me… I know for a fact that you were in a few bowling tournaments in college, and took your share of trophies."
Clark looked back at Lois. "I didn't know you were a bowler?"
Lois frowned. "I bowled for the same reason I learned line dancing… and not another word from you about that!"
Perry chose to ignore that comment from Lois. "So, I figure between you and me, we've got the makings of a great team."
"Don't you usually need four on a bowling team?" Clark asked.
Perry put his hand on Clark's shoulder in a fatherly manner. "That's right Clark… I was hoping you'd join the team as well… Jimmy's already committed to it."
"Chief, I'd be glad to do it…"
"Great, Clark… meet at Metro Lanes for practice tonight at 8:00 sharp!"
Perry was already halfway back to his office by the time Clark finished saying, "…but I've never bowled before."
Lois rolled her eyes at Clark. "Don't feel too bad, Clark… I'm sure there weren't any bowling alleys in Smallville, after all."
"Actually, my parents used to bowl in a league… I just didn't have time." "Clark: I was kidding, okay? Let me know if I'm going to fast for you, all right?"
Clark smiled at that. "Will do." ***
Lois offered Clark a ride to his apartment after work, using the excuse that she could start passing on some bowling tips for him on the way. She used the same excuse to pick him up for the bowling practice later that evening. Clark was certain Lois did this because she simply liked the chance to show Clark that she knew something that he didn't. Lois wasn't certain herself, other than that she was beginning to hate driving by herself without having someone like Clark to talk to.
The two of them showed up at Metro Lanes 15 minutes early, having managed to catch green lights the entire way. When they walked in to the building, Lois carrying a brown bowling bag, Clark made a joke about the bowling alley being so quiet you could hear a pin drop, which earned him a grimace from Lois.
Lois led the way to the front desk. "Are there lanes reserved for the Daily Planet?" she asked.
Clark had to choke back the urge to make a joke about how he's ever met a reserved Lane successfully… for some reason, he felt compelled to make jokes this evening.
The teenage boy behind the counter checked his list. "Yeah, there we go… lanes 15 and 16. You need shoes?"
Lois told the boy she didn't, but Clark did. After Clark picked up his shoes, the two of them headed for lanes 15 and 16. As they put their bowling shoes on, Lois said, "Now, Clark, when you pick a ball, you should pick the heaviest one you're comfortable with… and make sure the finger holes aren't too tight… Perry wouldn't be happy if you got your fingers stuck in a ball."
"Got it," Clark answered, and started checking over the house balls to find one in the right weight and hole size. After several minutes of searching, he finally found one that was just a little tight around the fingers.
Clark glanced back and forth to see if he was being watched. Satisfied no one was paying attention to him, he inserted one finger at a time into each hole, and worked it in semi-circles at super-speed, making the holes large enough to accommodate him. A brief burst of super-breath cleared the dust away and simultaneously cooled the ball, which had heated slightly from the friction.
Clark brought the ball back to the lanes and set it down. Lois was already taking a few practice throws… and apparently, hadn't forgotten much from college. She had thrown a spare for the first two throws, but made strikes the next three tries.
She turned back to Clark. "Go ahead and take a few practice rolls while I put us into the scorer." Lois sat down at the scoring console and started entering her name, Clark's, Perry's and Jimmy's. She looked back up at Clark and said "Wait!"
Clark, who was just ready to release the ball when Lois yelled at him, threw his ball directly into the gutter. He turned back at Lois, an annoyed expression on his face. "What?"
"Your stance is all wrong… and you're starting your approach way too close to the line." She got up and pointed at a spot with her foot. "With your steps, you should start about here." She then backed off to give Clark room.
"Now we've got to work on your stance."
"What's wrong with it?" Clark asked.
"You're starting way too tensely for one thing. Here," she said, picking up her ball and going to the next lane over, "look at me."
Clark wasn't going to argue.
"Look at the way I'm holding my ball… you want to be able to look at the top of the ball and at the pins while only moving your eyes, not your entire head."
Clark adjusted his stance.
"Ok, that's better. Now bend your knees a little bit… not that much! Perfect."
"All right, I think I can remember that. What next?"
"Watch how I make the approach." Lois looked back at the pins, and started towards the line, taking a few steps while gracefully bringing the ball back, then back forward and releasing it. Her ball rolled smoothly down the lane to hit the pins square in the pocket, knocking them all down. Lois turned back to Clark. "See? And make sure you're not looking at the ball while you make the approach… look at the pins."
Clark started his approach.
"And keep your wrist straight!" Lois suddenly said, which distracted Clark again, causing him to send a second ball into the gutter. "Well, at least you're consistent," she said with a wry grin.
After several more practice throws, Clark had managed to earn Lois' okay on the basics of making the approach… but Lois was still unhappy with his aim. "But we can work on that… this is just practice, after all," she said.
Lois looked at her watch. "The chief and Jimmy are late," she announced. "May as well have a beer while we're waiting… first round's on me!" Lois flagged down a lane waitress and ordered two bottles of beer. While they waited, the two of them sat down.
"Why does Perry treat us like we're required to do him favors?" Lois suddenly asked.
"This doesn't seem like such a sacrifice to me," Clark said. "I think it's kind of fun, actually."
"You would, Clark… I only got into bowling because my roommate thought it'd be a good way to meet guys."
"So you said… you let your roommate talk you into doing things you didn't want to do a lot?"
"I didn't think so at the time… but I've begun to think differently lately."
Clark smiled. "I guess I just find it hard to believe you'd let anybody talk you into anything you didn't really want to do."
Lois gave Clark a quizzical look. "What are you saying — that I really wanted to learn how to bowl, do line dancing, play darts and do karaoke?"
"Darts and karaoke aren't bad… you do sing very nicely, you know."
"Thanks, Clark… actually, it went from bowling to darts to karaoke to line dancing… I think it's a law or something. After you finish bowling, you go to the bar to play darts… then you start playing in dart tournaments, which sometimes gets you into bars where they do karaoke… and some karaoke bars have a large enough dance floor that they have line dancing whenever someone thinks they're Garth Brooks or whoever."
Clark laughed. "I didn't know it worked that way… I guess that means the next thing Perry volunteers us for will be darts, eh?"
Lois shot down that suggestion right away. "No way in hell, Clark… I was a lousy dart player!"
The waitress returned with their beers. As Lois paid for them, the waitress informed them they had a call at the front desk. Clark volunteered to take the call.
When he returned, he said, "Bad news, Lois… it seems that Perry was driving Jimmy over here, and they got a flat tire… and Perry's spare is leaking, too, so they're not going to make it. So, it's just the two of us."
"Well, isn't that just dandy… Perry gets us over here and now he and Jimmy aren't going to be here."
"Maybe it was all a ploy on the chief's part to get us together alone?" Clark suggested humorously.
Lois laughed at that. "That's funny! The chief playing Cupid! I can just picture him with the diaper and wings, shooting his little arrows!"
The mental picture that Clark formed in his mind got him laughing, too, which fed Lois' laughter even more.
Once the two of them finally stopped laughing, Lois said, "Well, we're here, and we paid for the shoes… and you can certainly use the practice, so we may as well make the best of it." She took a sip of her beer, set the glass down, and walked to the approach. Picking up her ball, she made a perfect throw, and was gratified to see all the pins fall.
Lois returned to the scoring console. "That's how it's done, farmboy. Your turn."
Clark picked up his ball and threw it, keeping Lois' advice in mind. His ball rolled down the lane fairly straight, but hooked to the left when it was about 10 feet away from the pins, knocking down five of them. Clark turned to Lois and shrugged.
"It's not that bad, Clark… you can make that hook work for you, if you try. Maybe if you started your approach from the next arrow to the right?"
The ball returned, and Clark tried Lois' suggestion… but this time, he only managed to hit three pins… the ball rolling perfectly straight the whole way down this time. "Got any more advice, teach?" Clark asked.
"We'll work on that." Lois' next throw only knocked down nine pins, leaving the 10-pin, which she picked up on her second ball. "It's all about control," she told Clark. "Try to keep your right arm as straight as possible, and pivot only from the shoulder."
Clark tried again… this throw was better than the last frame, but resulted in five pins down again. He managed to do better with the second ball, hitting four of the remaining five. "Better?" he asked.
"Better… maybe next time you'll pick up the spare." Lois followed up her spare with her second strike of the game. "Looks like I'll take this game for sure, Clark."
"It's a little early to decide that, isn't it?" Clark asked. This time, Clark managed eight pins with his first ball, and picked up the spare.
"There you go, Clark! You're learning!" Lois encouraged.
In the fourth frame, Lois echoed Clark's last frame, while Clark made his first strike, which encouraged him even more. The next frame, Lois had her first open frame, hitting seven pins and then two, while Clark managed a second strike.
"Fast learner," Lois said. As if to meet Clark's sudden challenge, Lois threw a strike herself, while Clark hit his third one.
When Lois made a gobbling noise, he looked at her and asked, "What was that for?"
"You threw a turkey — three strikes in a row. It's a tradition." Clark could tell by this that Lois was beginning to enjoy herself, in spite of her earlier protestations.
Lois threw another strike in the seventh frame, while Clark hit an eight and two spare. Lois spared in the eighth frame, and Clark made another strike. In the ninth frame, they made identical spares, hitting half the pins with the first ball, and the remaining five with the second.
In the tenth frame, Lois threw another spare, six and four. Clark started to make the "gobble" noise, but Lois stopped him. "That's only for three strikes, not three spares."
"What's three spares called, then?"
"I don't… it's called three spares, silly!"
Clark started to walk to the approach, but Lois held up her hand. "Not yet Clark… I have to throw my extra ball first… tenth frame."
"Oh," Clark said, sitting down. He was right back on his feet again when Lois threw a strike, giving her a final score of 196. Clark threw a strike, and followed up with a six and four spare, giving him a 195.
"I almost tied with you," Clark noted.
"Almost doesn't count," Lois teased. "Besides, I haven't played in years… I'm still about 50 pins off my average."
Since their beers were empty by that time, Clark ordered another round. They decided to rest for a few minutes before starting the second game. "I forgot how tiring this was when only two people are bowling," Lois said. "It's a lot easier with four."
Clark, of course, was not tired at all, but agreed to rest anyway. "So, Lois… Perry said you racked up a few bowling trophies… you must've bowled for some time… especially with an average around 250."
"Well, it was fun, okay? I was enjoying it after the first league was over, and I kept up with it for a few years."
"After this game, I can understand why. I've heard it's actually pretty good exercise, too… assuming you're already in good shape, that is."
The beer refills arrived, and Clark paid for them. Lois took a drink from hers and almost choked on it, suddenly laughing.
Clark made sure she wasn't choking, and asked, "What's so funny?"
"You just reminded me of the argument my roommate used when just 'meeting guys' wasn't enough to convince me."
"What was that?"
Lois looked embarrassed, and covered her face with her hands for a moment, giggling. "I can't believe I'm going to actually tell you this… but she said bowling helps you keep your legs in shape." Lois covered her face again and giggled some more. "I knew I should've had something to eat before we headed over here… this beer's affecting me way too fast."
"So let's get a sandwich or something before the second game," Clark suggested. "I'll get something from the restaurant… be back soon."
"Didn't you eat supper either?"
Clark stopped. "Actually, I did… but you know me, I can eat any time."
Clark returned a few minutes later with chicken salad sandwiches on wheat bread with lettuce, and a side order of potato salad, on Styrofoam plates. He pulled a pair of plastic forks and several paper napkins from his back pocket, where he'd stuck them when he ran out of hands to carry items.
"Thanks," Lois said, taking a bite of her sandwich. "Mmmm… this is good!"
Clark took a bite himself and agreed. "You should try a California-style chicken salad sandwich… with avocado and sprouts instead of lettuce."
"Sprouts? That's for salad, not sandwiches."
Clark, in the midst of chewing another bite, shook his head. Swallowing, he said, "Ma used to always put sprouts instead of lettuce on my bag lunches when I was in high school… lettuce would always be limp by lunch time, but the sprouts would stay crunchy."
"I guess you couldn't exactly run home to the farm for lunch, could you?"
"I could, I… I mean, if I forgot my lunch, Pa would bring it in with him if he had to go into town."
"I wish my mother had made me and Lucy sack lunches for school… she was always too busy, and we had to buy lunch every day… it's not such a treat when you do it all the time. I used to tell Lucy if I had to eat one more pronto pup, I'd die!"
"What's a pronto pup?"
"It's like a hot dog, except it's cooked in the bun… like if your mom made rolls, but put uncooked hot dogs in them before baking."
"That doesn't sound too bad," Clark offered.
"It is if you eat them every week… bleah!"
Lois took a bite of the potato salad and winced. "The potato salad is as awful as the chicken salad is good."
Clark took an experimental bite himself. After swallowing, he said, "You're right… ma's is much better than this… of course, homemade potato salad is always better than restaurant or deli potato salad."
Lois looked as though she was about to say something, but stopped herself. Instead, she finished off her sandwich and dumped the plate in a nearby garbage can. "Let's get going on this second game… you go first this time."
Clark and Lois started out fairly closely on the second game. In the first frame, Clark threw a spare, followed by a strike in the second frame, then two more spares in the following frames. Lois did the opposite, throwing a strike, then a spare, followed by two strikes. In the fifth frame, Clark threw a strike, which Lois also managed, after which she looked at Clark and gave him the okay to gobble for her turkey.
In the sixth frame, Clark threw another strike, followed by two spares, two more strikes, and a final spare. Lois threw a spare, then four strikes, and a final spare herself.
Looking at the final score, Lois said, "Well, Clark, it looks like your average would be around 202."
Clark compared his 207 score to the 196 from the first game. "Wouldn't that be 202.5?"
"There's no point fives in bowling… and you always round down."
"I see. Still, 202 is a pretty good starting average, isn't it?"
"It's pretty darn good, Clark… I didn't average 202 until halfway through my second year. You must be a natural."
"I've got a good teacher," Clark insisted.
The two of them looked at each other, smiling, for several seconds. Each began to think this was a "moment," but it was interrupted when the waitress stopped by and asked if they wanted another beer.
Lois began the third game fairly well, starting with two strikes. Clark managed the same. In the third frame, Lois threw a five and five spare, while Clark threw a nine and one spare.
In the fourth frame, Lois threw a nine and one spare, while Clark threw a strike. In the fifth frame, both threw a strike, and in the sixth frame, Lois made a strike while Clark spared.
"Keep this up, Clark, and you'll be the Earl Anthony of Metropolis," Lois said at this point.
"Earl Anthony… he's a famous pro bowler from Washington… the state, not D.C."
"Ah," Clark said.
They both threw strikes in the seventh frame. In the eighth frame, however, Lois had an open frame, only hitting four and five, while Clark threw another strike. In the ninth frame, they both threw strikes again.
In the tenth frame, Lois threw a spare and another strike, which left her with a 206, while Clark threw a strike (his fourth in a row for that last game), followed by a spare, giving him a 244.
"Good game, Clark," Lois said. "I still beat you overall, though."
"By four pins… that gives us a nearly even average, though… only one pin difference, right?"
"Right." Lois put her ball in its bag and started changing her shoes. Clark followed her lead, changing his shoes and returning the house ball.
"This was fun, wasn't it?" Clark said, trying to break the sudden silence.
Lois looked up at him after putting her shoes in her bowling bag. "Yeah, I guess so." Suddenly, Lois seemed to give in. "Okay, you're right… it was fun. But next time, Perry and Jimmy better show up!"
"I don't know… it was kind of fun to just have the two of us here… with no story to write, or any other distractions… gave us the chance to talk just about ourselves, you know?"
Lois stood up, bowling bag in hand. She smiled at Clark. "I know… it was nice." She started for the front desk.
"Nice?" Clark asked himself. "Just nice?" He followed Lois to the front desk, where they discovered that Perry had made arrangements in advance to pay for their bowling… and Clark was reimbursed for his shoe rental.
As they walked to Lois' Cherokee, Clark said, "I suppose you would rather have been bowling with Superman than me?" As soon as he said it, he regretted it.
Lois stopped in her tracks and turned to face Clark. "First of all, Clark, I don't think Superman would go bowling… he could just use his super-breath to direct the ball where he wanted it to go."
"I didn't think of that…"
"And second of all, I didn't say anything about preferring to bowl with anyone else… stop being so hard on yourself, okay?"
Lois' smile of encouragement made Clark smile as well. "Okay, Lois."
"I mean, nobody in their right mind can try to compare themselves to Superman, can they?"
"When you're right, Lois, you're right," Clark said, smiling.
Oh, yes, before anybody asks, I worked up the scoresheets for Lois and Clark in advance, so the scoring is accurate!