“Spare Time”

Clara Kent Age 8

Rated PG-13

Written 9/5/2005






Jonathan Kent pulled his truck to a stop outside The Book Nook – Clara’s favorite new and used bookstore.  He tapped on the horn.  From amidst the milk cans on the back of the truck, Clara hopped down to the sidewalk then, after checking for traffic, ran to the driver’s side door.  She smiled up at Jon and waited for him to talk to her.


Jon said, “You can stay inside the book store for half an hour, then walk up the street until you pass three stop lights.  Look for a building with a big milk can over the door.  Then go inside that building and wait for me.”


Clara said, “Okay Daddy, I’ll be good.”


Jon said, “I know you will be, Honey.”


Clara said, “I’ll pretend to read real slow so no one will be suspicious!”


Jon said, “That’s good.  Mrs. Grant who runs the store knows you.  She is very friendly so you can ask her to tell you when your half hour is up.”


Clara answered with a smile then ran around the truck and into the store.  She waved to Mrs. Grant.


Mrs. Grant said, “Hello, Clara.  You’re looking mighty pretty today.”


Clara said, “Thank you, Mrs. Grant.  My Mommy told me to wear this dress.  She made it for me.  Ummm.  May I please look at your books?”


Mrs. Grant said, “Yes, certainly!”


Clara asked, “Mrs. Grant, could you tell me please when one half of one hour is done?”


Mrs. Grant said, “I surely will, Dear.”


The half hour passed quickly.  Clara found a book called “Gray’s Anatomy” and memorized it.  When Mrs. Grant told Clara that the half hour was up, Clara carefully put down the book, waved goodbye to Mrs. Grant and ran out the door.  She quickly headed down the street in the opposite direction of the diary.  Three stoplights later, she saw the large bowling pin over the entrance to Bill’s Bowling and Billiards.  She thought that the “milk can” looked funny … and the sound of thunder coming from inside made her nervous.  But she went inside to wait for her Father like he had told her to do.  She found a chair near the door and sat down.







A young boy limped up to Clara and said, “Are you going to bowl or are you just going to sit there?”  The boy sounded nervous despite his fake bravado.  He never looked Clara directly in the eye.


Clara said, “I’m waiting for my Daddy.  I don’t know bowl except for food like cereal.  I like cereal.”


The boy said, “You don’t know about bowling?  What planet are you from?”


Clara answered, “Daddy said not to say.  … Ummm …  I like to learn new things.  Tell me about bowling.”


The boy said, “It’s easier to show you.  Got any money?”


Clara said, “No.  Not here.  It’s in my pig bank at home.”


The boy said, “I could give you a free lesson.  My Uncle Billy runs the place.”


Clara said, “That would be nice.  You are a very nice person.”


The boy turned and shouted, “Uncle Billy, could you let me use lane one for a while?”


Billy answered, “Sure Whitney.  The place is almost vacant at the moment anyway.”


Whitney took Clara’s hand and walked her over to lane one.  He said, “The game is to knock over as many pins … those white things … as you can with balls like the ones here by rolling the ball down the lane – the wood part between those things … which are called gutters.”


Clara said, “The pins look like little milk cans.”


Whitney said, “Milk cans?”


Clara said, “Like the milk can over the door.”


Whitney said, “Whatever.  Here, let me show you.”  Whitney took a ball in both of his hands.  He walked up to the line.  He spread his legs and swung the bowling ball back between them then forward and let it go.  It slowly rolled down the lane and knocked down five pins.


Clara said, “My turn!”


Whitney said, “No, I get two turns then you get two turns.  That’s the way it works.  If a bowler knocks all the pins down the first time, that’s called a strike and their turn is over.  If it takes a bowler two times to knock down all the pins, that’s called a spare.  The tenth time a bowler gets a turn is a little different.  I’ll explain that if we get that far.”


Clara asked, “Do you want me to go to get your ball back for you?”


Whitney said, “No, it comes back on its own.”


Clara asked, “When the ball rolls back down the lane, do you want me to catch it for you?  Daddy says I’m a good ball catcher.”


Whitney said, “It doesn’t come back on the lane, it rolls back up the track between the lanes.  No one has to catch it.  It stops up here with these other balls.  Here comes my ball now.”


Clara said, “That’s wonderful!  I want to learn how it does that!”


Whitney said, “I can take you back and show you later. The machine also gathers up all the pins that fall down and stands them up where they are supposed to be.”


Clara said, “REALLY?!  That’s AMAZING!  OH!  … Shhhh!”  Clara said, “Look at that man over there.  He doesn’t know how to bowling.  He is walking and throwing … not standing still and putting the ball between his legs like he’s supposed to.  Maybe you should give him a lesson.”


Whitney said, “That’s how adults do it.”


Clara said, “Why can’t we do it like that?”


Whitney said, “You ask a lot of questions.  Let me bowl my second turn.”  Whitney rolled the ball again and knocked down three more pins.”


Clara asked, “Why did you leave two standing up?  Oh!  That rake knocked them down for you!  Was that supposed to happen?”


Whitney said, “I left two standing because I’m not very good … and because you make me nervous.”


Clara said, “I’m sorry.”


Whitney said, “That’s okay.  At least you talk to me.”


Clara said, “I like talking to.  Can you tell me why I can’t throw like that man does over there?”


Whitney picked up a ball and held it out towards Clara.  He said, "Look at the ball.  There are three holes for two fingers and a thumb.  Put your thumb into that hole.”


Clara asked, “Will I pull out a plumb?”


Whitney smiled and said, “No.  Just do it.”  Clara did what Whitney told her.  He said, “Now put your first two fingers into the other two holes.”


Clara said, “They are too far from the thumb hole!”


Whitney said, “See!  If you want to throw like a grown up, you would have to push your fingers into the ball to make a hole for your smaller grip.”


Clara said, “Okay.”  Clara pushed her fingers into the ball, then asked, “Now what?”


Whitney said, “What did you do?!!”


Clara said, “What you told me to do.  Now show me how to throw it like an adult.”


Whitney said, “You’re not strong enough.”


Clara said, “Am too!  Show me!”


Whitney said, “I can’t.”


Clara asked, “Why not?”


Whitney answered, “I can’t walk right.  Someone else will have to show you.”


Clara asked, “Can I just walk and throw the way that guy does?”


Whitney said, “You can try?”


Clara said, “Okay!!!”  Clara walked with the ball and threw it the same way the she had seen the other bowlers throw it.  Her form was professional but the ball only went a couple feet and stopped.


Whitney laughed.  He said, “You looked really good, but you just aren’t strong enough!”  Whitney pushed the ball with his foot.  It fell into the gutter and rolled down the track and out of sight.  He said, “That’s called a gutter ball.  Now the best you can get is a spare.”


Clara said, “I could throw it a lot harder, but Daddy says I have to be careful and watch my strength.”


Whitney said, “Not in bowling!  In bowling you have to throw the ball as hard as you can.  That ball is heavy!”


Clara asked, “As hard as I can?  You think I should?”


Whitney said, “Yes!”


The ball came back up the track and Clara took it.  Whitney’s Uncle Bill had been watching in amusement.  He saw the little girl walk up to the line then saw the ball disappear.  Immediately, the pins at the other end of lane one exploded with a deafening sound into a cloud of white powder that spread out through the entire bowling alley.  Bill thought that a bomb had gone off.  He yelled for the patrons to head for the exits.






Whitney took Clara’s hand and walked her down the aisle and into the service area behind the pin setting machinery.  He said, “We’d better wait back here until Uncle Billy calms down.  I’ve never seen pins explode like that before!”


Clara asked, “Why do you walk like that?”


Whitney said, “I don’t like to talk about it.”


Clara said, “Oh … Ummmm …. I’d better go look for my Daddy.  I’ll get money from my pig bank and pay for what I broke next time my Mommy or Daddy brings me into town.”


Whitney said, “Forget about that!  Uncle Billie has tons and tons of pins.  Don’t go.  I’ll tell you about my leg.  I used to run good but one of those meteor rocks came from the sky and hit my leg and burned it pretty bad.  I had a few surgeries, but my leg muscle has a trophy now.”


Clara looked very sad.  She said, “I’m sorry.”


Whitney said, “It’s not your fault.”


Clara said, “Yes it is.”


Whitney said, “No, it isn’t.”


Clara said, “Yes … it IS!”


Whitney said, “Then you can make it up to me.”


Clara asked, “How?”


Whitney said, “You can be my girlfriend.  I never had one.”


Clara said, “I’ve never been one.  What would I have to do?”


Whitney said, “Girlfriends and boyfriends play doctor.”


Clara’s eyes opened wide and she said, “REALLY!  I want to play doctor!  Okay, I’ll be your girlfriend!”


Whitney said, “Okay!  I’ll be the doctor.”


Clara said, “I want to be the doctor!”


Whitney said, “That’s no fun.”


Clara said, “Oh. … I’d better go look for Daddy.”


Whitney said, “Okay, okay!  You can be doctor first and then it’s my turn.”


Clara said, “Okay!  Do you have paper?”


Whitney asked, “For what?”


Clara said, “To sign a release form in case I hurt you.”


Whitney said, “You aren’t going to hurt me!”


Clara said, “I’ll try to not hurt you … but sometimes … no pain, no gain.”


Whitney said, “Oh, you’re kidding.  What do you want me to do … doctor?”


Clara said, “Take off your pants.”


Whitney said, “Oh!  You know this game.”


Clara said, “No, but I read a lot and I like to read about doctor stuff.”  Whitney took off his pants.  He began to take off his underwear but Clara said, “Leave those on.  I can see what I want to see.”  Clara grabbed Whitney’s bad leg.


Whitney said, “Hey!  DON’T!!”


Clara said, “I’m the doctor.  I’m going to fix it.”


Whitney said, “I don’t like anyone messing with my leg.  It’s not funny.”


Clara said, “Mommy says people don’t know what’s good for them.  This will hurt me more than it does you.”  Clara gripped Whitney’s leg like a baseball bat.


Whitney said, “HEY!  My leg is getting hot.  Stop whatever it is you’re doing!”


Clara said, “I’m the doctor.  Act like a big boy.”


Whitney shouted, “STOP IT.  THAT HURTS!!!”


Clara said, “Yes it does.  It hurts a lot!  But it’s almost all better.”


Whitney said, “Get away from me!”  Whitney grabbed at Clara’s fingers.  Finally she let go of him.  He pushed her and she fell back.  Whitney grabbed his pants and put them on as fast as he could.  He looked at Clara lying on the floor then turned and went back into the main room of the bowling alley.  He continued walking to the front door and went outside.  His leg felt strange so he tried to walk it off like a cramp.  He walked faster and faster until he was running down the street towards the dairy.







Clara got up with a little difficulty.  Somehow she hadn't noticed how confined the service area was until Whitney left.  She was suddenly scared to be in there any more, so she limped to the door Whitney had left through.  She slowly made her way through the bowling alley and out the front door.  She waved when she saw her Father’s truck coming down the street.  Jon stopped the truck and said, “Clara, where have you been?”  Clara pointed at the large bowling pin over the door.  Jon said, “Clara, that’s not a milk can.  The diary is down the street the other way.”


Clara looked sad.  She said, “I’m sorry Daddy.”  Her right leg gave under her and she fell to the sidewalk.


Jon quickly put the truck into park, got out and picked Clara up.  He held her tight and asked, “Honey, are you all right?”


Clara said, “Yes Daddy.  I think I made a spare.”


Jonathan said, “We’d better get you home.”


Clara said, “Could you drive me past the big milk can so I know where I am supposed to go next time?”


Jon said, “Sure thing.”  He went to put her into the cab of the truck but she squirmed in protest.  He turned and put her in the back with the empty milk cans.  He said, “I’ll honk as we go past the dairy.”


Jon got into the truck and turned it around.  He drove up the street to past the dairy and honked his horn.  They passed Whitney Fordman who was still running up the street.  Clara waved at him from the back of the truck.  Whitney waved back at her as he continued running.  He had a big smile on his face.



At the end of summer, Whitney returned to public school for the first time since the meteor shower.  He looked everywhere for the girl with the long dark hair who had played doctor with him that day in the bowling alley.  He knew that she would be the only woman that he would ever want to be his girlfriend.  She was the one who liked him even when he was lame and had somehow magically cured him … and an outstanding bowler to boot.  When he finally saw her, this time he wasn’t too shy to look her directly in the eye and memorize her lovely face.  For him, there would never be another to take the place of … Lana Lang.