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[Short Story] Sonya
She hears the wood crack under the leaden stone.
[Originally published at Surely Magazine]
When her boyfriend shows up at the bowling alley he is drunk and has brought his mates. 80s pop is pounding in the background, reverberating across the alley into mush. He fake-whispers over it at her: “Sonya, spare lane for me and the lads?” She says quietly: “It’ll be ten dollars each.” He glowers at her but his friends are circling him and he pulls out a crumpled fifty and pushes it at Sonya. She blushes and unfolds it. Meanwhile, her boyfriend stares up the new girl in charge of the shoes. She is covered in tattoos like Sonya but she’s younger.
When they descend the stairs she turns to the shoe girl and apologizes. Before she can stop herself, she makes a tiny wish.
When his mates miss a pin he cackles and when he does he swears. When children gutter ball in the lane beside him he laughs at them. “Wanna roll one, baby?” he roars. She pretends to mishear him and waves. The beat of a drum machine rises in the background.
Three turns in his fingers get stuck.
He is pinned like a prisoner to his swirly green bowling ball. It shouldn’t be possible but there you have it. He can feel it pulling hungrily against his knuckles. He yells: “help me, hurry, hurry, hurry up, help me." Around here it happens maybe once a week and it could just be a coincidence. Sonya isn’t hurrying. She is watching.
His mates are circling him again. “Sonya, get this fucking thing off me.” He tries to lift it but it is like lead. He yanks and it comes out of the dispenser but it only pulls him to the ground. The music is still playing and absurd snatches of vocals about love and comfort surface above the noise of the bowlers, who are just now stopping to watch. The girl next to Sonya walks slowly to the manager’s office. The manager is trying to write next week’s schedule. Usually he gets Sonya to do it but tonight he feels ambitious.
Sonya thinks it is good that there is a soundtrack to what is happening below her but does not know why she thinks that. She feels a feeling she has never felt before when she hears the wood crack under the leaden stone. Her boyfriend yelps. It sinks further into the wood and Sonya realizes it is getting heavier by the minute. This makes sense to her.
The manager takes one look then goes back into his office to call the fire department. The friends are pulling the boyfriend. He is yelling at them to get off, stop, he’ll lose his fingers. One part of Sonya thinks it is unreasonable for him to hope to retain his fingers. His hand is through the wood, up to his wrist. It sinks very gradually and he screams. The wooden splinters are dragging against his palm and wrist and she sees blood jump out of the hole onto the glossy wood.
Then the bowling ball stops. It has hit the concrete.
Sonya thinks about it and concludes that once it breaks through the concrete the bowling ball will move quickly through the black earth underneath, and she isn’t sure what will happen to her boyfriend after that. This is when she walks down to their lane, and squats next to him.
His eyes narrow. “You did something.”
Sonya shakes her head. “I just wished you’d go away.” She sees how splotchy-red his entire forearm has become with the pressure.
“Well wish it to stop.”
Sonya shrugs. Around them she can hear the squish and tap of bowling ball shoes running as parents rush their children out of the building.
“Look, I know I’m an asshole sometimes. But if I lose my hand, you’re worse.”
The friends nod.
One friend: It is true. Vengeance distorts the soul.
Another friend: Yes. And mercy redeems it.
Sonya: I’m telling you. I’m not doing this.
There is a dreadful sound from below like nails on a chalkboard yet so low they can only feel it in their chests.
Sonya: Why are we even talking about my soul? How am I the problem?
The friends: You should be grateful. The chance to transform is a beautiful opportunity.
Sonya: And if I refuse?
The friends: You will transform one way or another.
Somebody mercifully turns off the music. Sonya turns to survey the silent bowling alley. Her manager is outside to welcome the fire department. The remaining families are huddled together on the far wall, holding each other, watching. The girl in charge of the shoes is staring like a mask.
Sonya: Wish it yourself.
She walks out. When she gets in her car she starts to shake. The night sky is a dead blue. She drives towards her apartment but then she keeps going. She drives until she falls asleep, around seven in the morning. When she wakes up she decides to go a little farther. She crosses the border easily. It will be years before the border guards do anything other than wave people through. A day later, she arrives at a little Canadian town. She gets a job as a cleaner at a motel. Around that time the bowling ball reaches the earth’s core. It is the heaviest thing on the planet. It will never melt. When Sonya closes her eyes, she can see it glowing below her, a tiny white dot, screaming.