The Two-Ninety-Nine Kid

The pin wobbled in a manner which would tantalize another man,

But he knew, surely as he knew his own name,

Knew in the very maw of his soul,

That it would remain implacably upright.

He was right, of course, the seven-pin standing erect as a toy soldier

In complete defiance of tenets of physics and divine mercy.

He’d been down this road before, more times than he’d care to remember:

Some occasions of his own making, short-arming the last ball,

Having it hit the head pin too flush,

Or going Brooklyn and leaving the ten unscathed,

But equally often seemingly the victim of random fate or its like,

Where he’d the pocket just so, with all the action you’d need or could muster,

Yet somehow the pins would bounce off the wall in patterns

Inexplicable via the laws of physics, the work of gremlins or voodoo,

Perhaps the vexatious ghost of some manual pin-setter of long ago.

He’d put together eleven straight strikes on every lane in the house

A half-dozen times at the very least,

Some nights when the boards were as giving as a rich and doting grandmother,

Other times in sport conditions where no one else even sniffed two hundred

(On one such unfulfilling evening, he’d scored a perfect game o

On the quarter-eating ancient shuffle-alley game

Tucked into a corner of the bar, celebrating, in a manner of speaking,

By taking chunky, sad-faced Penny Marie from the payroll office

Up against a wall in the dimly-lit alley behind the building.)


After enduring the usual consolation and confabulation,

He left the alley, walking up the hill to the old two-story on Fifth St.

Which he shared with his mother and other memories,

Though the house bore little trace of his existence, present or otherwise

(His mother had, just once, put a few of his trophies and plaques

Out on display on the mantelpiece in the parlor;

He’d insisted that she take them down forthwith.

Buncha goddamn plastic and stamped tin, he’d snapped,

Don’t mean a goddamn thing to no goddamn body.)

He’d nodded to her on his way through to his room

(She still, out of force of habit, still waited up for him,

Part simple inertia, part hopeful belief in the talismanic nature of the maternal)

Grunting Y’know, one of those nights in reply to her inquiry

As to how well or otherwise the evening went.

He’d undergone the usual bedtime ministrations

(An indifferent shit, the near-frenzied tooth brushing

Which failed to remove the bad taste which invaded his mouth

Courtesy of bad bar pizza and Rolling Rock)

Before another evening of fitful dreams

Consisting of hazy yet glorious episodes

Which never seemed to reach fruition before the advent

Of an unwelcome and vaguely malevolent sunrise.







9 thoughts on “The Two-Ninety-Nine Kid

  1. W.K., Your writing calls up such vivid images, that I can’t help but be reminded of films that come to mind. This one reminds me of Vincent Gallo’s character, Billy, in “Buffalo ’66.”
    Excellent stuff,

    1. Those “pins bouncing off the walls in patterns.” Could it get any worse than being out bowled by a lady who dances to king crimson’s moon child? Oh yeh, it could. The Bills could lose another super bowl. Buffalo 66-great to hear that reference Bill and great to think about that movie again. A topic often discussed-the desolate male rescued by a dame’s will to live and her overall magical seductions, but what a unique of way telling the topic. I feel the same way about this poem minus the happy ending. Maybe this poem due to the Rolling Rock is Christopher Walken from the Deer Hunter living a different dimension. The Russian roulette didn’t kill him and he returned to Pennsylvania to endure all that grey matter.

        1. Well, the first course I took in beer drinking was with Blatz and then when i got that right, they bumped me up to Miller. I guess that’s what happens when you grow up in Milwaukee. So i wouldn’t kick Dinero out of my tv room if he brought over some rolling rock puma piss. Cheers!

  2. this line: “Inexplicable via the laws of physics, the work of gremlins or voodoo,” made me remember high school physics, Newton’s laws, and Maxwell’s demon. and then the damn peppermint schnapps that overtook after a standardized test for college (the ACT). curious ~

  3. I like the name of the thing, The Two-Ninety-Nine Kid. I liked the part about the trophies a lot, where he gets angry and throws the trophies. Is that an allegory to Moses smashing the tablets? (Just kidding about that last one.)

    Anyway, it took me a third reading, and then I finally grasped the meaning of what you wrote, and, man, I just wanna tell ya that it’s now one of my favorite W.K. Kortas writings! What a great idea, the idea that the poor luckless schlemiel could get 299 but never that elusive perfect game.

    I LOVE it, and that’s not an exaggeration. This is great stuff.

    I’ve never really been crazy going bowling. I stink at it. One the reasons is subtly stated in the line where you state that it defies physics, that you can hit the pocket so perfectly, and yet the damn pins stay up like tin soldiers, as you also stated.

    You know what I’ve noticed? I’ve noticed that the big brawny guys who want to show off for all their friends about how macho they are and trying to mow down those pins at 487 miles per hour usually do worse than the guy who has a more gentle approach. So many times I’ve noticed this. And they use perfect form, yet.

    And then, right after Mr. Macho rolls and knocks down only eight, some little 16 year old girl is giggling in self-conciousness in the next lane, goes up to the foul line, looks back at her friends as if to say “Oh, PLEASE don’t LAUGH at me, now!” and then looks as nonathletic as hell as she puts the ball between her legs like a foolish idiot and releases the ball barely past the foul line and the ball rolls and the ball rolls and people look at their watches and realize that it’s almost suppertime and three guys who were born at the time when she approached the foul line are now getting bar mitzvahed, and somehow, somehow, all ten pins manage to sloppily fall down with the grace of a fart.


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