Jim Meirose's work has appeared in numerous magazines and journals, including Permafrost, North Atlantic Review, Blueline, Ohio Edit, Bartleby Snopes, The Fiddlehead, Witness, Alaska Quarterly Review and others, and has been nominated for several awards. Two novels, Mount Everest and Eli the Rat, were released in 2015 and 2016, respectively, by Montag Press. Three more are under contract with Montag for 2016-2017 release.
How Bowling Balls Are Made
I’m running to my job up at this bowling ball plant and here comes some Bastard from the shadows all yelling to the crowd God and the Devil are women! God and the Devil are women! Brother! Listen! God and the Devil are women! And I slide by putting a couple of fatties between me and him and he disappears back into the crowd until I am coming home at the end of the day and here he is again yelling Danger to men! Danger to men! God and the Devil are women! Beware the virgin birth—the virgin birth of Jesus was a sign—
The next day I take the same path and there he is again preaching his noise out from atop a box, saying God and the Devil are not immortal—they go on forever but they are not immortal—understand? You must understand, men! You must understand! God and the Devil are women and they use the virgin birth—
I go up to Bouncy Ball at the bowling ball plant and as we load the core molders I say What does it all mean, this noise I’m hearing? About God and the Devil? About the virgin birth?
Bouncy Ball says It all means nothing—he is a nut! It all means nothing—
I go to the end of the line and I knock the solidified cores out of the molds one by one until the end of the shift, and on the way home I shuffle slow by him and I hear the Bastard say Danger men—men are superfluous—they are out of a job—they are no longer needed to kick off reproduction—listen men, danger men—the virgin birth now in heaven, to be brought to earth soon—by God and the Devil—
I get home to my flat and put on the tea water in the red kettle and I think, this Bastard must have some motive. He is coming from someplace. He is so passionate! Such passion cannot be totally empty! I must climb in his head! I must climb there! My dinner is eaten cold that night as I am anxious to start off tomorrow and I will grip him and yell in his face, What does it all mean? What does it all? Bouncy Ball at the plant always says I am impulsive—but Bouncy Ball at the plant is obese too. I sleep and then I am out there again and I just go up right up and buttonhole the Bastard shutting him up and I back him up saying No danger, no danger—I just want to know more. He backs up looking oddly pleased to have been heard at all and we stand in the mouth of an alley and he speaks with bad breath saying Listen and listen good—God and the Devil are women who reproduce and create new Gods and Devils to carry the flag and once they have created a new God and Devil to carry the flag they wither on the vine and fall away into the past that swallows everything and they do this by means of virgin births that came to earth once for the birth of our savior but that can come to earth again but for all and there will be no need for men on either heaven or earth! Women have the equipment for reproduction start to finish but men only have the equipment to kick off the process then they can wither on the vine and fall away like they will when all women on earth conceive by means of virgin birth automatically, spontaneously—this is it man you need to be afraid that is it man, be afraid—the race of men will wither on the vine fall away into the past—not even needed to kick off the process—
And I let him go, and I drift into the general people flow and he comes out still yelling into the air above the masses as though I hadn’t been there saying God and the Devil are women God and the Devil are women and I get out of range and I get to the brick faced plant and as I stand under the thirty foot steel ceiling in the bright neon light drilling the pinholes in the bowling ball cores to suspend them in the second molds I tell Bouncy Ball who stands to my right, readying the molds and clamps. I tell him right out everything I was told by the Bastard and he says, firmly—So what? He is a nut. Nuts know everything. For each and every crazy idea in the world, of which there are many, there stands behind it a nut. After he says this, he stands there ruddy faced and beaming and I laugh and say I suppose that’s true—and I move down and start pressing the cores into the second molds and locking down the top halves with big black clamps. But as I work, the harder I work, the more sense the Bastard makes to me. The liquid polymer blend in the molds takes days to harden around the cores then, so I wait around picking my fingernails telling Bouncy Ball I don’t think the guy is really a nut and Bouncy Ball just kind of shrugs and gives me the look; you know that look that you get that says believe what you want to believe just don’t bother me with it so after days have gone by I undo the clamps and open the molds and there it is, the ball, all white and unfinished. It bounces down into a steel bin of them, and there are lots of them, so the bin fills, and the shift ends and I flow out into the street again and I get up to the Bastard who’s still standing preaching something about the fine details of his theory, you know the little parts that are between the deeper parts about Jesus and Joseph and Mary and how Joseph was the model for what men will become all passive and accepting and nonessential; who prays to Joseph? Who actually honestly prays to Joseph—and I go up to the Bastard and I say Yes, yes—I have thought about it and you make a great deal of sense, and he smiles and nods in mid-sentence and I must be like an old friend to him now he probably doesn’t have many no he doesn’t and when I get home I have a fat kielbasa I like a fat kielbasa my Mother used to make a great fat kielbasa, and I think as it boils up and I wait for the heat to finish with it that what if this Bastard is right, no, worse yet, this Bastard is really really right and I go to the window and watch the night fall and the stars all come down and I can barely sleep imagining just a world of women, no men, just a world of women like that who are all different than women are today because they don’t have to dress or act or look in any way that would attract or fascinate a man, because they don’t have to; this world full of bland plain women where there are no men and no sex and really, very very little fun. And for the first time I realize consciously: women are really a whole lot of fun, and I get to Bouncy Ball in the morning and tell him while I am putting the balls into the third molds which add a veneer of performance polyurethane to the balls how worried I really am, I really am, that what the Bastard says will turn out to be really true, and I go at Bouncy Ball as he opens his mouth and locks down the third molds and I know from his eyes he means to tell me I’m crazy for being worried, the whole idea is so far-fetched, so I go at him first all rabid and passionate and pumped up from hearing the Bastard in the street telling the passing-by men they should beware, and in seconds the veneer is solidified and I put the balls into an oven as I tell Bouncy Ball The Devil is a woman too and I tell him We can’t forget the Devil oh no because there needs to be a different kind of evil in this world of no men from the kind of evil we have today; and the evil is so evil and it has to do with what will happen to those virgin births that unfortunately produce males; what will happen to those males—the Bastard told what would happen to those males and it amounts to their being left to wither, wither on the vine to falling off into the past that disappears and swallows up time as it flows by, whatever that meant. And I sense the withering won’t be at all pleasant and the Bastard talked about this again and again and it strikes a gong in me as I put the balls into the spinning grinders, and once that is done I shut up because I can tell Bouncy Ball is tired of listening to all my worries, and the next day while the bowling balls go up the lift system to get into the sanding machine he comes at me after I tell him he should really come down with me and hear the Bastard speak; he comes at me with both barrels blazing and says You are stupid and gullible what you are being told can’t possibly be I want you to shut up with it yes just shut up with it rubbing his belly hard the way he does when he gets really agitated, and Bouncy Ball doesn’t act like my friend anymore—he just acts like you would act when dealing with a nut he didn’t used to do that we used to laugh together about the nuts in the world as we worked but now he thinks I am a nut and it strikes me square in the heart and I decide after two full days of watching the trademarks get stamped on the balls, and of watching the spinning sanding and polishing buffing the balls’ surfaces to a gleaming shine is done, that I will tell the Bastard on the way home that night what poison he is spreading; how he made me crazy and made me lose a friend, and how wrong he is and I get to the end of the shift and I rush down the street and buttonhole him right there in the street yes I buttonhole him right there and tell him he is stupid and he has me all brainwashed and because of him I lost my best friend and he should get off the street with this trash about the virgin birth and Jesus and Mary and Joseph being a big evil sign to warn men and I shake him yes I shake him and Yes he says surprisingly calmly There’s nothing about it that’s evil really, as he backs into the dark alley and stays there until I am done telling him and I go on feeling clean just showered somehow, though I am really filthy from the full day of work, and when I get home I have more kielbasa, I bought a lot of kielbasa a month’s worth from Costco because I figured what the hell I don’t really care what I eat; it can be the same damned thing every day just like my job; and as the food cooks up and then while it slides down I think how sad I am because it all had made so much sense for a few luscious moments, it all had made a great deal of sense, especially the part about the virgin birth come on earth with Jesus and Mary being a sign and it was the only thing I’d heard that really made sense of any preachers I’d heard; I’d heard preachers that made a lot less sense than the Bastard and I really feel bad I had buttonholed the Bastard like I had and I am afraid what if he had had a knife or a gun or something like that and I go to bed lying cold in the dark and the next morning, after stretching myself awake in the cool of the sheets, I rise counting myself lucky to be alive again, not dead like in the bed, it’s a lot like being dead you know, all nothing you can’t realize the instant you fell asleep just like you will never realize the instant that you die, when it’s finally time for that—and I go to work; and the earsplitting sounds of the finger hole driller fill my mind that day, as they grind their way into the rock-hard balls one by one; and that is what I think of as I walk, what I look forward to, because that is the step we are on; and I walk past the Bastard looking forward to this and the Bastard is there talking but I don’t hear him; the Bastard is talking about Mary and Jesus and Joseph but I got him tuned out the grinding of the hole driller drowns him out and I don’t hear him and I notice the sidewalk is all cracked there, all crumbling, and I get into the plant and tell Bouncy Ball I am cured, I have been made right, I have tuned out all that shit from the Bastard and the bowling balls are just about now all done; and Bouncy Ball smiles and says as he works Okay now can we stop talking about it then and I say Yes, I can stop; but when I stop the world becomes a little bit smaller of a place somehow, and when I walk on the street to and from work now, there is an emptiness in the street, it’s a grey hole ahead of me receding pulling me into the future moment by moment as the dead past falls behind gone and empty and lost and when I pass the Bastard I never hear him, never hear him anymore, just like Bouncy Ball wants I am what he wants me to be not what I am no more what I am as I pass the Bastard in the street that is not as interesting as it was before but at least I have kept a friend; and all this shit from the Bastard is just that as I pass him by and disappear into the great grey mass, from his point of view, gone and forgotten merged in with all the others who will never listen to him who never listen to him and eventually he gives up and is gone thinking Well I’ll be dead before the worst of it so what does it matter to me anyway just like I think that what does it matter to me anyway because by the time it has all come true I will be down in some grave gone withered and forgotten back in the grey gone past just now left some bones in a hole is all I am anymore as the factory keeps on functioning the same one day after the next after the next after the next, and the balls ultimately find their way to the bright lit lanes, into the hands of bunches of neat shirted clear eyed bowlers; this is what has been important all along, it generates my weekly check and for that I am grateful.