Monday, November 22, 2010

Striking Out Now Available on Smashwords


Welcome to Striking Out, a comedy about a man who is head over heels . . . for a woman who is not his wife!

Please enjoy this sampling. If the first ten chapters from the original serial interest you, please visit Smashwords where the entire novella is available for download. You can now get Striking Out on your eReader!

Thank you for your interest.

-Matt Bloom

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


You have reached the site of Striking Out, Matt Bloom's comedy about a young man who is head over heels . . . for a woman who is not his wife!

The novella was published serially, every Monday and Thursday, from March 3rd to August 7th in 2008.

For those of you who have been here before, you'll notice the site has a new look. And you can now features original illustrations by Kerry LaPrees HERE!

For more by Matt Bloom, visit

Thanks for visiting!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

#10. The Party, Part III

#10. The Party, Part III

Patrick and Susan went back out on the deck. “I’m a little tired of having to shout at you,” Susan said, raising her voice above the din.

Patrick felt the thumping in his chest resurge. “What do you suggest?”

Susan pointed at a tree on the edge of the yard. “Let’s sit down. I’m starting to get tired of people anyway.”

“So you’re going alone?”

“No, you’re not people. You’re person. C’mon,” she said, and put a hand on Patrick’s shoulder, sending shockwaves through him.

They crossed through the line of tiki torches and nestled into separate nooks at the base of the trunk, a thick root between them. It was like a natural chastity belt, Patrick thought.

“It’s starting to get chilly,” Susan said.

“You’ve got goosebumps,” Patrick said, and touched her arm. His heart beat even faster.

“I’ll be all right,” Susan replied, seemingly unaffected by the touching of which Patrick was so conscious. He took a deep breath and told himself he was overreacting. Everything was going to be just fine.

“So are you a party-girl?” Patrick asked.

“What do you mean?”

“Well, you know about party tips, at least.”

“Oh, I don’t know. I go to them on occasion, when I’m invited. It’s not like college, where there was always something going on.”

“Was there?” Patrick said. “I suppose I’ve heard rumors that people are really social and whatnot in college, but all I seem to remember is studying my brains out to get that 3.9 and spending every free waking second with April.”

“Oh well, you met somebody. That’s great,” Susan said. “Did you have a class together?”

“No, actually. April didn’t go to school. She had intended to follow her dad’s advice and work at the factory out of high school, but when it closed down, she was stuck. That’s when she started waitressing. But I actually had class with her older sister, Jackie, who went her own route because she sort of hates her father.”

“Oh, isn’t that nice?” Susan said.

“Yeah, it’s a real interesting family dynamic. But anyway, I met April through her.”

“You had a crush on Jackie first, didn’t you?” Susan smiled.

Patrick raised his eyebrows, impressed. “I don’t know how you . . . but, yeah. Good looks do run in the family. Even my mother-in-law is a good-looking lady. But I never went out with Jackie or anything. I just fell into a group of upperclassmen – that included my now sister-in-law – to have lunch with. A few times April came to visit and we really clicked. Then April started visiting more often. Before long she was having lunch in the university cafeteria almost five days a week.”

“Aww, that’s so cute,” Susan said, looking at him as one would a Dalmatian in a fireman’s hat.

“Cute, sure,” Patrick muttered, and sipped his drink. “Our relationship is like a puppy. A teddy bear. Just bursting with cuteness.”

“Sorry,” Susan said as she grimaced into a frown and sunk a little.

“No, no, it’s fine. Sorry,” Patrick said, embarrassed. “I guess – I just don’t share the sentiment. It’s too hard, too much work, too much commitment for me to think of our marriage as cute. That’s all. You’re allowed to think whatever you want.”

They stared off ahead in silence for a moment, watching the dancing and laughing by torch light on the deck. Then Susan squinted, and said, “Tony said something about marriage the other day.”

“Whoa,” Patrick replied. “That’s scary.”

“Well, I’m pretty sure he just meant someday. Like it’s a goal, you know? I’m pretty sure.” She paused. “Still – marriage is a big word for a relationship that’s not really serious yet. The boy lacks tact somewhat, I think.”

Patrick laughed. “Yeah, sounds like it.”

“He reminds me a little too much of my ex-boyfriend.”

“Oh yeah? What was he like?”

“About Tim’s size. Played baseball. Loved to drink – a real passion in life. Frat boy. Juvenile, but able to hide it when he wanted to. Manipulative. That’s what I’m afraid of with Tony, the manipulation. I’m always wondering if he’s really as embarrassed as he comes across, really thinks it’s that important to please me, or if he just wants to seem that way. I don’t really know how to explain it, just that there’s more there than he lets on. But I don’t know, maybe he’s just not ready to open up just yet.”

“You sure you weren’t a psych major?”

“Thought about it, but then I realized I don’t like people enough,” Susan said, shrugging a shoulder toward Patrick. “Just learned a few things about relationships, that’s all.”

Patrick nodded. “So what happened to Mr. Ex?”

Susan sucked on her straw, swallowed. “He went to jail.”


“Well . . .” Susan began, looking up into the branches, “my theory is that it was when he realized manipulation wasn’t working anymore – you know, when I decided I was going to be a smart girl for the first time ever – it was then that he first thought hitting me might do the trick.”

Patrick leaned back, stunned.

Susan glanced over at him. “But the good part of this story is that its heroine decided immediately on impact that she was not about to be in an abusive relationship, and pressed charges. So that’s how my first serious relationship ended, in the county lock-up.”

Patrick put his hand over his mouth, shook his head. “Wow. That had to have been hard.”

“Oh yeah. I cried for . . . probably three days straight,” she said matter-of-factly. “For him, for me mostly, for all the time I’d wasted and for how stupid I’d been. I cried for my education, which had been severely damaged by the whole mess. Luckily I managed to get my GPA up over 3.0 by graduation.”

“What happened to him?”

“Gone. I told him I didn’t want him here, and it was one of the best things he ever did for me when he respected that and moved back to his home town.”

Patrick nodded. He didn’t know what to say.

“It’s in the past now, though. Susan’s doing just fine, now,” Susan said.

“That’s good to hear,” Patrick replied.

He looked at Susan and tried to imagine what it must be like to go through something like that. To get into a serious relationship with somebody who could hurt you so deeply. He couldn’t help but compare himself to this guy, and to Tony. Patrick wasn’t overbearing, he thought. He wasn’t out to hurt anybody. Certainly not April. He had absolutely no intention of hurting her.

Patrick was getting used to the smell of Susan’s perfume. The darkness was dimming her eyes. He was beginning to feel all right again.

“Hey, speaking of parties –” Patrick said, breaking the silence.

“Were we speaking of parties?” Susan replied.

“A few minutes ago. It’s a perfectly good segue. Anyway, I happen to know of a party – of sorts, anyway – that happens every Tuesday night.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Two words: cosmic bowling. Three more words: 10th Street Lanes.”

“Is that right?”

“That’s right. I go with my friend Wendell – and all the random people he brings along. We’ve got a decent-sized following these days.”

“Wendell? How’d he get a name like that?”

“I’ll let him answer that one himself.”

Susan shrugged. “Okay, sounds good. I need stuff to do mid-week.”

“Yeah, I figured you’d appreciate chances to meet people, with all your college friends moved away and all.”

Susan smiled. “You remembered. What else did I tell you that night I have no recollection of now?”

“That you used to be a lesbian.”

“Shut up,” she said, and punched Patrick’s arm.

The two of them sat beneath that tree and talked for another two hours before they agreed it was time to go home. When he got home, Patrick climbed into bed beside his sleeping wife and felt good about everything. Absolutely everything.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

#9. The Party, Part II

#9. The Party, Part II

“Yes, m’lady?” Derek replied to Susan.

“I’ll have what he’s having,” she said, glancing over at Patrick.

“Right away, miss,” Derek replied.

“And I’ll buy the gentleman’s drink,” she said, smiling.

“Very well. Let me just scribble this down – yes, here’s your bill, miss,” Derek said, holding up an imaginary slip of paper.

“Put it on my tab, will you?” Susan replied.

“Of course,” Derek said, and handed her the reddened glass. “I daresay your word is as perfect as the face God gave you.”

Susan smiled brighter. “You schmoozer.”

“I’ll not deny it.”

Patrick cleared his throat. “Hi there,” he said.

“Hey. Didn’t know if you’d be coming,” Susan replied.

“I wasn’t sure either, today,” Patrick said. As his heart beat faster, fueled by the perfume filling his lungs, he was determined to say something about his wife immediately. “April’s sick. I was going to stay home with her, but she said she’s feeling better and told me I should come.”

“Oh,” Susan cooed. “That’s too bad she couldn’t make it. Sweet of you to want to take care of her.”

Patrick puffed up. “Well, I try.”

“Hey,” Susan said, excitedly. “You have to check out the deck.”

“Do what she says,” Derek said. He spread his arms. “Enjoy my sanctuary.”

Susan started away from the bar and Patrick followed, hearing Derek shout from behind him, “Bar’s open, folks!”

Patrick glanced down at the drink he was holding. “That was all joking about the tab, right?” he asked over the music, which was increasingly loud as they approached the back of the house. “I mean, does Derek want to get reimbursed at all?”

“I sure hope we were joking,” Susan replied, looking back as she led. “But party tips help well enough, I’m sure.”

“Party tips?”


“What do you mean?”

They walked through the open patio doors onto the deck, around which Derek had set up tiki torches and on which stood four large beach umbrellas with fiber-optic lights underneath them. The effect was the appearance of a dance club, as the colors fluctuated beneath a dark canopy.

“Isn’t this awesome?” Susan said, gazing up and around her.

“Holy crap,” Patrick said, looking all around, feeling his chest pound with the subwoofers stationed on either side of him.

“You don’t know what party tips are?”

Patrick shrugged. “I can’t say I’ve ever been to a party like this. I mean, not since high school, really. And those were pretty lame by comparison.”

“Yeah, no kidding. Anyway, it’s just a few bucks to give to the host as a thank you for throwing the party, defray the cost a little.”

“Oh, sure. Good idea.”

They stood and sipped their drinks as they watched people dance across the deck and out on the lawn. It was a warm night and everyone was having a good time.

“So where’s your boy toy tonight?” Patrick asked.

“Oh, I don’t have a boyfriend.”

“Well, I mean that guy you were seeing.”

“How do you know about him?”

“You told me. That night, at the restaurant.”

Oh, she mouthed. “Right. Him. Tony. I . . . don’t know where he is tonight. Probably at home.”

Patrick nodded with raised eyebrows. “Not too keen on Tony, then?”

Susan sipped her drink. “I don’t know yet. Just seems a little shady, is all.”


“Yeah. Calls a lot. Like almost every day. He brought flowers to my apartment once, after we’d only been on a few dates and said, ‘I was hoping these were your favorite.’ They were lilies. I told him they were very nice, and thanked him, but then he said, ‘Are they your favorite?’ Like he wouldn’t drop it. And I said, ‘Do you want me to tell you honestly?’ and he said ‘Yes’ so I told him I like lilies very much, but my favorite is actually white roses. He seemed really embarrassed then, almost upset.”

Patrick looked at her incredulously. “Okay . . .”

“Yeah, like all that mattered was that he’d gotten it wrong, and he wasn’t paying attention to the fact that I actually appreciated the gesture. Eventually I convinced him that he was sweet to bring me flowers, and it was okay after that. We’re still going out. It’s just that little things like that are still coming up. He tries to order for me in restaurants and sometimes he gets it wrong, so for his sake I had to ask him to stop. Just a little awkward, you know?”

“Sounds like it, yeah,” Patrick replied. “But you like him? You’re still seeing him?”

“Hmmm, yeah,” Susan sighed. “I’m not sure how long it’s supposed to take before sparks fly. For that reason I’ve never been good at knowing when to pull the plug.”

Patrick nodded musingly. “Don’t ever go into nursing.”

Susan laughed. “Doesn’t the patient’s family usually decide that sort of thing?”

“Never start a family.”

“Ooo, harsh,” Susan said, laughing still.

Patrick put up his free hand. “I’m kidding, I’m kidding. Sorry I went the morbid route.”

“Sometimes things just slip out when you’re nervous,” Susan said.

Patrick looked at her. “Am I nervous?”

Susan pursed her lips. “I don’t know. Maybe it’s just me. I still haven’t gotten to know many of these people yet.”

“Oh, right,” Patrick said, lowering his eyes. “Well, I could introduce you to a few people, anyway.”

“That’d be good. If I do recall, I believe the last time I had the chance to meet people from work, you monopolized my time all night,” she said, pointing at Patrick accusingly.

Patrick put a hand to his chest. “I sincerely apologize. I don’t even like Monopoly.”

It wasn’t funny, really, but Susan laughed anyway. Patrick smiled and began taking her around to meet their coworkers. The introductions went on rapid-fire for about an hour, until Patrick found they couldn’t seem to sustain a three-way conversation, as Patrick and Susan would hit on a good topic and the third wheel would inevitably drift away. When they got to talking about their favorite drinks – both settling on Long Island iced teas as decidedly in their top five, if not top three – a giddy smile appeared on Susan’s face and she said, “Let’s go find Derek.”

She grabbed Patrick’s arm. It was the first time she had touched him all night – and ever, for that matter.

They passed through the crowd searching for their host and found him as drunk as they had expected he would be. Patrick clapped him on the back to break him free of the conversation he was in with two other guys. “Hey Derek,” he shouted over the din.

Derek’s head swiveled from side to side as he tried to figure out where the voice was coming from. “Eh? What’s that, now?”

“Turn around.”


“Do you know how to make Long Islands?”

“That I do not,” Derek said, putting a finger in the air. Then he lifted his arm over the crowd and pointed back toward the bar. “But Bruno does.”

“Bruno?” Patrick said, looking over the crowd to see a 250-pound linebacker type standing behind the black countertop. “You mean Tim?”

“Yeah, Tim, whatever,” Derek replied, and turned back around.

This time Patrick led Susan to their destination. They pushed between the now occupied bar stools and ordered. Tim was an actual bartender on the weekends, but had taken the night off for the party. Patrick was impressed at the ease with which Tim eyeballed his pours, gracefully combining the liquors, sweet n’ sour mix and Coke. He produced their drinks in well under a minute.

“I feel like I should tip you,” Patrick said.

“Maybe just a kiss from the lady,” Tim said, leaning in Susan’s direction. “Small price to pay for a Tim’s Long Island.”

“Settle for a high five?” she asked.

“Fair enough,” Tim replied.

The two slapped hands, Susan smiled – that gleaming white smile – and she and Patrick walked off together.

“Wow,” Susan said, after sipping through her straw. “This is amazing.”

Patrick wanted to say, You’re amazing. He shook his head like an Etch-a-Sketch to erase the thought. “Yeeeah. Tim-Bruno really knows what he’s doing.”

“He may have just propelled Long Islands to the top of my list. This is a life-changing experience, here.”

“Life-changing,” Patrick echoed. He felt a little dizzy as he sucked on his straw. She likes me, he thought. We’ve been inseparable all night. She likes me. Shit.

“Shit,” Patrick whispered. Susan didn’t hear.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

#8. The Party, Part I

#8. The Party, Part I

Over the next week Patrick stopped trying to talk to Susan. She was busy, he was busy, and there really was nothing to say. Maybe she was going next Saturday, maybe she wasn’t. Either way, Patrick was going with his wife. He had a date. And besides, he thought, Susan would probably come with that guy she was seeing. He was probably a great guy. Sure he was.

On Friday night, April came home from work feeling light-headed, and went to bed right away. A few hours later she was feverish, and Patrick measured her temperature at 100. Patrick fell asleep beside her and awoke early to hear her vomiting into the trash can beside the bed, first puke, then mumbled cuss words. She came out of the bedroom mid-morning to lie down on the couch and watch cartoons next to Patrick, who sat cross-legged in the chair by her head. This scene changed little throughout the afternoon, as April passed out of and back into consciousness, and Patrick listened to the fan blow over the low volume of the TV. Neither said anything about the party until that evening.

“Hey, what time is it?” April asked.

“About six.”

“That late already?” she said, and paused. “I thought I’d be better in time for the party.”

“You did? Are you kidding?”

“I’m an optimist.”

“You haven’t eaten anything in almost twenty-four hours. Now you want booze?”

“Oh god, don’t say that,” April replied, and sat up, clutching her stomach. “No, I don’t want to go.”

“I never thought you would,” Patrick said. He swallowed. “I guess we’re not going.”

April said nothing. She just got up and walked to the bathroom, shut the door. Patrick waited. He looked at the clock again. He sighed and looked back into the TV screen. When April returned she sat down in the same spot again and stared at the TV along with Patrick. The familiar scene from the previous twelve hours took shape.

“You know, I’m feeling better. I’m definitely not going out, but I’m better anyway. You don’t have to stay,” April said.

“What’s that?” Patrick looked at her.

“You should go, it’ll be fun. You’ve taken good care of me today, I think,” she said, and smiled weakly.

Patrick smiled back.

He made April a dinner of chicken noodle soup, crackers and Diet Coke, ate a sandwich, took a shower because he hadn’t all day, threw on party clothes – the nice jeans, the tight ones with the frayed bottoms, the dark blue button-down shirt, the brown casual dress shoes that April had picked out for him – said goodbye and got in the car, checked his part, cleared his throat.

Derek’s house wasn’t hard to find because, though it was yet early for prime party hours, the street was packed with cars. Patrick had to park almost a block shy of the house and walk the rest, but when he arrived he was greeted with a warm reception.

“Patty!” Derek exclaimed when he opened the door. “Wait, can I call you Patty? Do people call you that?”

“Um, no,” Patrick replied.

“Oh, I see,” Derek said, and feigned embarrassment. “My my, what a faux pa. Bad host,” he said, slapping his wrist. “Do entrez, Sir Patrick.”

“Am I knighted now?”

“Of course. All the men here tonight are knights, all the women ladies. Nobody trumps my guest list. Nobody.”

Patrick walked into a crowd and beheld with wide eyes a spacious living room that opened into a kitchen/dining room almost as big. Everything was black and white, with the exception of red shades and lamps. Patrick felt like Alice in Wonderland.

“Drink, Patrick?” Derek said, leading Patrick through living bodies into the kitchen. “I know I made a big deal out of the refrigerator full of beer, and I must apologize for that.” He put his hand on Patrick’s shoulder. “It was a gross understatement.”

Derek turned and put his hand on a small, black bar with white stools in front of it. He walked behind the bar and opened the windowed cabinets set into the wall and exposed an extensive liquor supply.

“Gin, vermouth, rum, vodka – I’ve got about a thousand mixers in the mini down here – I know, I know, you can tell me you’re impressed later. Patrick, it’s time to tell me what you’ll have. You name it, it’s your night.”

“My night?”

“Yes it is, Patrick. You and every other sexy man here. But don’t you worry,” he winked and pointed at himself. “Straight as an arrow.”

Patrick laughed. “I’m kinda partial to vodka cranberries.”

“Don’t be embarrassed about that,” Derek said, getting to work. “It’s fruity, it’s delightful. We can’t all be alcoholics who sip straight whiskey through straws” – here he gestured to himself again – “but anyway, here you are.” He handed Patrick the drink. “And if you get tired of liquor, don’t you worry, the right-hand refrigerator is indeed fully stocked with three imports and five domestics.”

“Hey barkeep,” said a voice at Patrick’s shoulder. He turned to see – and deliciously smell – Susan not twelve inches from him.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

#7. Cosmic Bowling

#7. Cosmic Bowling

Patrick and Wendell got to the bowling alley and walked into darkness illuminated by black lights and multicolored lasers shone through billowing smoke from the machine by the door. The smoke only filled about half the room, leaving the far-side lanes to a pathetically laserless fate.

Patrick looked at Wendell skeptically. Wendell shrugged. “Eh, it’ll do.”

They got their shoes and balls and took a lane. All that was left were the far lanes, where red, purple and blue eyes moved around ineffectually. Though Wendell muttered something about this being lame, Patrick didn’t care much. He was even a little thankful they could see each other better in the smoke-free pale light.

“So what’s new with you?” Wendell asked as he tied his shoes.

The first thing Patrick thought about was Susan. “I don’t know,” he said. He wanted to tell Wendell about her, but how? This wasn’t like in college, when it was expected he would bring tales of romantic glory back to the dorm. Now he felt sheepish about it, stupid. It isn’t cool to talk about crushes when you were married, Patrick thought. There’s no fun in it. Actually, it seemed a lot scarier to think about it coming out of his mouth, becoming real.

“How’s April?” Wendell asked.

“She’s . . . she’s okay. Hates her job, still. Complains about it a lot. But we’re trying to save up for a new place, so she just keeps on with it.”

“What kind of place? Another apartment, or are you guys thinking house?”

“Just a bigger apartment. Yeah, she wants a bigger place, but she wants a kid, too. I mean, we want kids, but there’s barely any room. So I don’t know. We’re just working and working and saving and on and on like that, feels like.”

Wendell laughed. “You make it sound so exciting.”

“Exciting isn’t exactly a word I’d use,” Patrick said, and reached forward to set up the computer for a game. “Good, though.”

Wendell sighed, as theatrically as he could. “I wanna get hitched, Pat.”

“I know you do.”

“The girl with the eyes – aquamarine. She’s in here Pat, I can feel it. I mean, somewhere along the timeline, the one that starts here and goes on for months, years – however long it takes – she’s on it, here. Do you know what that means? It means we must return. I means we must come here each and every week. We must cosmic bowl me into a wedding band. Preferably platinum. My rich bride will not skimp.”

“You go first,” Patrick said.

“My sea nymph shall have treasure unparalleled beneath the sea, my good friend. And Poseidon himself shall be my father-in-law.”

“You need to replace that copy of The Little Mermaid, pal.”

“I have really been jonesin’ for it,” Wendell said, and stepped up to bowl.

“I’m getting a beer,” Patrick said.

From that point on, Wendell and Patrick did go every week. April never went because she almost always had to work, and even when she had the night off she chose to stay home because A: she could not bowl and B: she could only stand so much of Wendell’s “artsy-fartsy talk.” So it was just the two of them for about a month, until Wendell started bringing strangers along. Literally, the people Wendell tended to invite had been complete strangers to him until he presented himself to them in a bar or coffee shop the week before, or sometimes the same day. Sometimes his guests just didn’t quite fit, like Harry and Cindy, a middle-aged couple who thought they needed a Tuesday night activity and thought Wendell was just too adorable to say no to. But people like that didn’t stick with it. The regulars included Kristin and Christina, best friends to the point of almost being conjoined; Charlemagne, Christina’s 16-year-old younger sister with few social prospects outside of her older sibling; and Robert, who didn’t seem to have any friends at all. They were all chain smokers, and Patrick was a lot slower to tolerate them than Wendell was to treat them like family.

With every newcomer, Wendell never missed the opportunity to share the desire of his heart, to meet his aquamarine beauty and have ten children with her. It touched everyone’s heart to various degrees, and all vowed to help Wendell find her. In the meantime he was quite content to make out with Kristin on occasion.

Meanwhile Patrick was dying for the opportunity to spend time with Susan again, and all he could think of was inviting her bowling. There were so few chances to talk to her, though, that he just couldn’t figure out how or when to ask nonchalantly. He knew it wouldn’t do to ask her as if for a first date – he needed bowling to just come up in conversation. He needed to drop in a suggestion, not actively invite her. He decided that if his vows meant anything, they certainly included not asking women other than April out on dates.

Then Patrick got lucky. Derek, one of the few FOP workers determined enough to reach over cubicle walls to create any social interaction, passed around flyers one Friday inviting everybody in the call center to another office get-together: this time, at his house. Derek had been working at the FOP for long enough and was now making enough that earlier that year he had decided to take out a mortgage on a house. The result was a very impressive bachelor pad, complete with three bedrooms, two baths, a finished basement with a flat-screen TV and game room, a spacious back deck, a full-width front porch and two refrigerators: one for food and one for beer. Patrick was ecstatic. It felt like going back in time to a high school party, in a real house, but this time he was actually invited. And Susan would be there.

Patrick didn’t want to want Susan to be there. He wanted to be excited only about the social gathering and about free beer, and be only passively interested that someone he knew – this Susan person – was probably going to attend as well. He knew perfectly well that he was married, and as such, he went straight to the wife to ask her if she wanted to go.

“Holy shit, he’s got a finished basement? That rocks!” April said.

“So you’re in?”

“Hell yes, I’m in. Sounds like your work friends aren’t as lame as I thought.”

“Yeah, should be fun,” Patrick said, and began furiously erasing those green eyes from his mind.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

#6. Patrick and Wendell

#6. Patrick and Wendell

The next day was a lot like the last. Patrick barely said a word to Susan all day. He was sitting at home, anticipating another boring night, when his friend Wendell called.

Wendell had been Patrick’s roommate in college and had done even less with himself than Patrick had since graduation. Wendell was an artist and refused to be anything else. Having never entertained any illusions of living on his own after graduation, he moved back in with his parents and immediately got to work painting full-time. At this point he had only sold one work, through a coffeehouse gallery, for $20. It was his least favorite work: a 5″ by 8″ daffodil floating above a green field, backlit by moonlight provided by a vanGogh rip-off starry sky. He bought a DVD of Dude, Where’s My Car? with the profits.

“Hey man,” Wendell began, as always.


Around a group, Wendell was quite gregarious. Until he got warmed up, however, he came across much more as hard thinker, slow talker. “So . . . I heard they’ve got cosmic bowling down at 10th Street on Tuesday nights.”

“Listening intently.”

“And, uh, dollar drafts.”

“Yeah, okay.”

“Well, what do you think?” Wendell asked.

“Of what?”

“What do mean, of what?”

“I’m kidding. Sure. When do you want to go?”

“I was thinking . . . now? You know, if that’s cool with you.”

“Now’s good,” Patrick replied.

“All right.” Silence.

“You need me to pick you up?”

“Yeah man, that would be great. Mom and dad are on a cruise.”

“Okay. See you in a bit.”


Wendell lived half an hour away, in the next town over. His parents had a terrific ranch-style house there, with a spacious basement apartment that had been his studio for the past two years. It had been Wendell’s dad’s idea to install an exterior stairwell leading directly down into the apartment, so he could enjoy the semblance of independence. April said his parents were just asking for Wendell to never grow up, but Patrick often thought it was a pretty nice setup. The parents barely charged anything for rent, and he didn’t have to worry about utilities or even food. He didn’t have to maintain a car of his own because he just borrowed the family sedan when he needed to, and rode his bike the rest of the time. He was just free to do what he wanted, be it painting or relaxing or making out with a new girl every month. Wendell’s shaggy good looks and carefree lifestyle would be enough to make Patrick intolerably jealous if Wendell weren’t such an infuriatingly decent human being.

Patrick didn’t bother knocking, just pushed the door open and started down into Wendell’s lair. Clothes, canvases, paint, toys – remote control cars, Legos, Nerf footballs – crowded a narrow pathway leading back to the entertainment center, where Patrick invariably found his friend when he came over.

Patrick stopped beside the couch, where Wendell sat staring at the TV. He was watching some Japanese game show in which, at the moment, people dressed in bright green and pink jumpsuits and helmets were storming through walls of huge white paper panels, hoping to miss by luck the one panel in each wall with brick behind it.

“Oh, man,” Wendell muttered to himself, as a middle-aged man smacked his helmet into the wrong panel and fell to the ground. His body was framed with animated chirping birds.

“Hey,” Patrick said.

Holy shit,” Wendell replied, dramatically throwing his arms into the air. He turned to see Patrick standing by the couch.

“Guess you didn’t see me.”

“Geez louise, Pat. I can taste my heart,” Wendell said, pointing to his throat.

Patrick laughed. “Cosmic bowling?”

Wendell shook off his shock, put his thumb up. “Right on.”

They got into Patrick’s car and began the trek all the way back toward the vicinity of Patrick’s apartment, which was only two minutes from 10th Street Lanes.

“So what’s new?” Patrick asked.

“Um.” This was often Wendell’s response when asked a serious question, followed by at least half a minute of silence as he mulled over possible responses. “I broke my vegan streak.”

“Was it red meat again?”

“Yeah. I always seem to go all the way when I break the diet. Never fish, not even eggs – steak, it’s always what does me in. My grandparents sent us the meat, straight from the farm. Oh, holy of holies, this cow. This was delicious bovine. This was meat nirvana.”

“It’s okay. I understand.”

“No you don’t. You can’t really appreciate meat until you’re a vegan.”

“What about Denise?”

“Um . . .” long pause, “her best friend died.”


“Yeah, her best friend since fourth grade. So she dropped out of school here and went back home. Couldn’t handle it.”

“Wow,” Patrick replied. “Was that hard to handle? I mean, for you?”

“Uh . . . no. No, at that point we’d only been on two dates. I don’t know at what point the best friend dying is rough on the significant other, but I wasn’t even significant yet anyway.”


“Yeah, she told me in an e-mail.”


“Damn, she was cute. I finally found a girl with two good dimples, and . . . oh well. Maybe I should concentrate on eyes next. I’ve always wanted a girl with aquamarine blue eyes. I wrote in my diary once when I was four that when I got married it would be to a girl with aquamarine eyes. Or a mermaid. You know, actual marine life, but with breasts. This is the girl I will find cosmic bowling. I can feel it.”

Instantly Patrick began thinking about Susan, and what it had been like to have her pale green eyes all to himself for the better part of an hour. He smiled, half at Wendell, half at the face in his mind.

“I’ve never seen a mermaid bowl,” Patrick said.

“Fine, just the eyes, then. You’re right, it’s a far more realistic goal.”