The smell of body odor permeated the bowling alley. My date was looking good — magenta eye shadow and a green, glittery scrunchie holding up her hair in a wild side-pony.
“So you work at Foot Locker, huh?” I asked as I laced up my clownish bowling shoes. We were in one of the middle lanes, right in the heart of the action. I could barely hear myself think. “You must see all sorts of weird feet.”
She flared her nostril, “I try not to pay too much attention to the feet. They want us to focus on the sneakers.”
“Of course,” I took a swig of cola. “Makes sense.”
I can talk up a storm, but when it comes to women, I never seem to know what to say—especially on dates. Thankfully, she ignored my awkwardness.
“So I heard you’re a mage,” she said. She seemed sincerely curious—her eyes widened, and her posture straightened up a little.
“Yeah, I am. See, my roommate — he’s a druid. He’s always saying we shouldn’t talk about what we do. Especially me, because my particular skill is, well, strange.”
“Don’t be so modest. It must be impressive. I see your name on all those plaques on the wall. You’ve got quite a reputation here if you ask me. Seems you’re a bit of a bowling wizard. So tell me then—what’s your special skill?”
“No, Wanda—I can’t say. Not here. If they find out, they’ll take down all my plaques and tell me never to return. No one here knows about my powers.”
“If it’s a secret, then why’d you bring me here?” She got closer and put her hand on my knee. “Come on, I’m real good at keeping secrets. Tell me, Alfie. What’s your power?”
Feeling the warmth of her hand on my leg made it difficult for me to hold back. I gave in. “Okay … I’m a Grease Mage.”
“A Grease Mage?”
“Yeah, I can create grease and manipulate the oiliness of surfaces.”
“Anything from a giant oil spill to simply buttering your toast. I can make anything slippery.” And just like that I made her scrunchie pop right off her head, causing her now extra-shiny blonde hair to cascade down to her shoulders.
She touched her locks and gave her hand a sniff.
“Don’t worry,” I said. “Just some moisturizing gel—nothing gross or anything.”
“Hmm … interesting. So that’s what you do here at Fantasy Lanes. You cheat at bowling.”
“See I knew you’d think negatively of me. Carl was right—he advised me not to go into the details with you. There’s always someone out there to criticize the way we use our innate abilities.”
“Well, it doesn’t seem fair to exploit—”
“Now stop right there,” I interrupted. “Just think about it for a sec. Isn’t that what everyone does—use their natural abilities to their advantage? It has nothing to do with exploiting anything.”
“How do you mean?”
“Well, you’re a charming person. Don’t tell me you don’t use your social skills to sell more shoes. Does the fact that you have a knack for selling things make you a cheater?”
“That’s a little different. You disrupt your opponents by making things greasy, right? What do you do—cause them to slip? Do you make the lanes slippery so they get gutter balls?”
“Psh—I’m not going to reveal all my tricks to you—at least not yet, anyway. I wouldn’t expect you to tell me all your shoe-selling tactics.”
“Mhm. I suppose not.”
She was impressed by how I stood my ground on the whole fairness thing. It seemed I had won her over. She got closer and gave me a seductive smile. “I guess now that I think about it—I suppose your lubrication skills come in handy in all sorts of arenas.”
“Oh, I’m sure you can use your imagination on that one.”
She stood up and took my hand. “I was hoping I wouldn’t have to. What do you say we get out of here?”
“My car’s out back. There’s something I want to show you.”
I walked with her through the parking lot to her vehicle. But instead of getting in, she popped the hood, looked over at me and said, “I’m about six months past due for an oil change. Let me see you work your magic on this first, and then we’ll see about a second date.”
Franco Amati is a speculative fiction writer from New York. You can find more of his work at francoamatiwrites.com