• Published 23rd Feb 2013
  • 2,997 Views, 82 Comments

Step Up, Don't Suck - KodyGears

[WG + Kody Collab] You and Allie Way meet every Saturday to go bowling.

  • ...

Chapter One

The sun shines down on the path you trot along. A few stray clouds float in what would otherwise be a clear blue sky. It seemed like this every Saturday morning, thanks to the regular scheduling of the weather control pegasi team. The nice weather certainly makes the trip more pleasant. Soon, your destination comes into view.

With its trademark bowling pin statues bordering the doors and multi-colored signs hanging overhead, the bowling alley is a building that certainly stands out among the rustic houses around it. The establishment is a familiar landmark to you, as you make it a point to visit at least once a week. You have grown to be a regular among the staff there. Being on the good side of one of the managers herself helped out a bit, too.

Pulling open the door and walking inside, you are immediately hit with the smell of wax and the industrial air conditioning always set one or two degrees below comfort level. Both of these things you had become well accustomed with as you look down the lanes with ponies bowling on several of them. Amidst the bright light and sounds of falling pins, a certain pony catches your eye, sitting at a table two lanes from the end.

Even if it weren’t for her ice blue mane and cream colored coat, her height alone would be enough to catch your eye. From where she sits, she easily stands out among the other ponies. As she gets to her hooves, her iconic black and purple shirt comes into view. Watching some other ponies bowl, she waits with a small smile on her face, no doubt itching to get her turn.

You would have the pleasure of joining her soon enough, but first you make your way to the concession stand. The red older mare waiting to take orders meets you with a smile.

“Well, hey there! The usual?” she asks.

“Yes please, ma’am,” you say with a nod. You take out the amount of bits for the purchase and slide them across the counter. She picks them up with a swipe of her hoof and dumps them into the cash register which closes with a rusty DING!

“Two orders of fries, coming right up!” she says before turning around, her grayish green mane swinging around her neck.

Giving her a few minutes to get those fries finished, you head over to the ball racks to select your weapon of choice. Each of the spheres are polished to perfection and sport coats of different colors. Glancing over each of them, you settle on a fifteen-pound ball with an orange sheen. With the new ball in tow, you head over to the horseshoe rack and pick up a pair that are just your size. The shoes here aren’t exactly of the highest quality, but they get the job done.

You place them on your hooves and pick up your ball in a foreleg. You walk back to the concession stand to see your fries already hot and ready for you to pick up. They must have been cooking and nearly done before you got there. Their salty aroma grows stronger as you get near.

“Enjoy and have a good day!” says the mare behind the counter. You give her a quick word of thanks before picking up the basket carefully with your mouth, their smell and heat nearly overwhelming. Placing the two fry baskets on your back with a very experienced sense of balance, you carefully turn around and start walking towards lane seventeen.

Taking caution to avoid the other ponies in your path and all of the children running to the arcade machines, you manage to reach the lane without dumping any of your precious cargo. Setting the fries onto a nearby table, you head over to the rest of the group. The two members who aren’t actively bowling give you a nod in greeting.

Looking up, you quickly find out why they remain silent. The leader of the group herself is taking her bowl. You know how she is. When her turn is up, she demands absolute concentration with no distractions. At least, as much as she can get in a hectic bowling alley. With the ball in her hooves, she opts to bowl manually rather than use her magic. She finds it’s much more “in depth” that way.

You sit back for a moment and watch. She holds the ball up to her chest with her hoof. When she begins to lean forward, you count along the steps in her approach.

One. Two. Three. Four... FIVE!

The pause before the final step gives way to her throw as the ball rolls down her foreleg and off her hoof with a quick snap. Landing with a dull thud, it goes to the side slightly before making a clean hook towards the cluster of pins. As good as the shot looks, she takes a step back and to the side. Right as the ball makes contact, she gives a shake of her flank down the alley, perfectly timed with the crash of all the pins falling.

She always had cute mannerisms like that when she really gets into the game. You can’t restrain yourself from letting out a chuckle at her little display. Her ears perk up at the sound of your laughter and she turns around. Upon her eyes meeting yours, her face brightens considerably. She begins to trot towards you as she speaks.

“Hey, you’re here!” she says cheerily. “Took you long enough!”

“I didn’t realize I had a strict schedule.” you reply jokingly.

“Isn’t that the whole point of a practice session, dummy?” she says while playfully ruffling your mane. “To be on time?”

“Heh, I suppose, and Celestia knows I need it!”

She rolls her eyes before promptly trotting over to the baskets of fries you brought over

The pony currently snacking on the fries is none other than Allie Way. You met here when teams were being assigned for the Ponyville Bowling League. The two of you were assigned together, and what luck you had; she just so happens to be the manager of the alley! Although your skills don’t compare to hers in any way whatsoever, the two of you quickly became friends. She always makes sure to give you praise when you manage a good bowl, and helps you out when you begin to fall behind. Her and the praise she gives are among the few things that inspire you to stick with the team.

Your other partners? Not so much.

“You know...” begins Treble, looking out from under his black mane with his dark blue hoof pointing at the food you’ve provided. “By getting these salty things, the only thing you’re really doing is making us all need to buy drinks.”

“Well, if you don’t want any, don’t have them,” Allie says, taking one and promptly popping it in her mouth. As soon as she swallows, she turns to you and says, “Thanks for the fries. Really appreciate you buying them every time we meet.”

A small mumble of agreement comes from Sea Swirl beside her. Treble grumbles out a thank you himself before reaching for a fry.

“Ah, it’s nothing.” you reassure them. “The least I could do, right?”

“Emphasis on least.” Treble whispers.

“Hey, at least he offers to buy for us. When was the last time you brought us something to eat, hm?” Allie quips.

The stallion grumbles in response. “I gotta bowl...”

She gives him a smug grin as he stands for his turn. The pony she’s currently staring down is Treble. He was assigned to your team at the beginning of the season. Needless to say, he isn’t the happiest of campers. He’s not a shabby bowler, but he still pales in comparison to Allie. As his name and cutie mark suggest, he’s better with music. He’s a downer and likes to complain a lot, but he doesn’t really insult anypony.

However, you’ve noticed a slight divide in your team. You and Allie often pair together, while Treble joins up with Sea Swirl, the last member of the squad. The soft purple unicorn isn’t too outspoken and often just goes with the flow, only becoming fully vocal when she gets a bit too excited over something. Having blown in from the oceanside city of New Orreins, she was a bit apprehensive of the idea of joining a team. Still, she ended up with your squadron in the end, albeit with some reluctance. She’s a nice girl once you get to know her, though.

Once Treble turns his gaze away from her, you watch as the mare gives him a cold glare to his back. She oftentimes gets a bit upset with him, but nothing to start a war over. Allie then turns her attention back to you.

You raise an eyebrow. “Any reason he seems extra grumpy today?” you ask in a low voice.

Allie chuckles. “We made a bet before you came in. See who could get the best score in three frames.” The idea that Treble would challenge Allie nearly makes you giggle in of itself. “And this is his last frame and he’s down by...” She looks to the ceiling briefly and taps her hoof against the table. Her lips move slightly as she does her mental arithmetic. “Twelve pins.”

“Is he coming off a mark?” you ask. Only with a previous strike or spare could Treble hope to win.

Allie’s smile grows a bit wider as she slowly shakes her head. “He’s already lost, but you know how stubborn he is.”

As if on cue, the sound of pins crashing down rings in your ears. You look down the lane and count three pins still standing in a split. Treble lets out a silent sigh, and you watch as he picks his ball back up the moment it returns. Taking almost no time to prep himself, he lets the ball loose onto the lane once more. Just as it reaches its target, it barely grazes one of the pins on the left, leaving the other two untouched. You chuckle a bit as he stamps his hoof slightly in anger.

“Welp, he lost.” Allie states plainly.

“Should I really be surprised?” you ask jokingly.

She giggles a bit before responding. “You’re such a flatterer!” Before she can say anymore, the stallion in question trots up to the two of you, grumbling under his breath all the while. Allie gives him her smug smile again. “You know the deal. Go on, hot shot.” She then playfully rubs his cheek with a hoof. “Treat her like a real sweetheart!”

He gives her a cold glare for a few seconds before putting on a painfully obvious fake smile. As he trots away, you give Allie a confused expression.

“What was that about?” you ask. She doesn’t respond, but simply puts her chin on her hoof before pointing towards the concession stand you were at moments ago.

Treble walks up to it and puts his foreleg on the counter. You try to make out the words coming from his strained grin. However, the noise of the alley around you is too loud for you to hear what he’s saying.

Suddenly, a cup of soda flies out from behind the counter and pelts Treble square in the face. The surprise causes you to flinch back a bit and Allie bursts out in riotous laughter. As he returns to the table you notice the soda cup still in his mane. He sits back down with a deeper scowl than normal, directed at nothing.

“Well, there’s the drink you wanted!” Allie says in between her laughing fits. Her laughter is infectious, causing you to let out a few chuckles as well at your teammate’s expense. Even Sea Swirl cracks a smile, but turns away.

“What did you make him do?” you ask Allie.

“Oh, nothing much. Just had him go up there and give ol’ Dinah a little bit of wooing!” she replies teasingly. “And from the look of things, it went pretty well, huh?”

“Yes, I just had to profess my undying love for her.” Treble says through gritted teeth before slumping down in his chair.

You share another laugh will Allie at his attitude. “That seems a little harsh, huh?” you ask.

“Nah, I’ve had him do worse, you know that!” she says.

“Oh, I meant for Dinah over there. She didn’t deserve that!” you say jokingly. The scowl on Treble’s face deepens.

Allie snickers a bit before responding. “You’re right. I should apologize to her. Maybe I’ll give her a little bonus next paycheck.” she says.

“Although I have to admit,” Treble starts, prompting you and Allie to turn back to him. “It does feel good to not have to keep my feelings inside.”

You chuckle a bit. “I didn’t take you for the romantic type, Treble!” He simply closes his eyes, not responding. As you fight to stop your chuckles, you look over to Allie who has stopped laughing.

“Hey, hurry up and throw a few practice balls,” Allie says, turning back to you. “They should be starting any-”

“Listen up, everypony!”

“...moment,” Allie finishes, slightly deflated by the interruption.

In the center of the area behind the lanes stands the owner of the bowling alley. A light brown mare with too much makeup and huge green earrings. You don’t know her real name, but everypony around calls her ‘Big Wig’ due to her really tall red mane. It’s a nickname she takes in good humor. She is also the main administrator behind the bowling league you all are a part of.

“Now, as you all know, we’ve just passed the season’s halfway point,” the owner says. “It’s still anypony’s game for the honor of league champion for the season! Now get ready to go out there and bowl your hearts out!”

Pfft. Anypony’s game?” says Treble. “Not likely.”

“Hey, it’s possible,” you say.

It was the truth. The league operated on a handicap system that takes the bowler’s average game and adds a bonus to bring it up to a score of two hundred. Anypony who consistently bowled over that wouldn’t get such an advantage. However, for those with room to improve, it was all about beating your own average to boost your personal score and your team’s ranking.

With a clipboard in her hooves, Big Wig begins to look over her papers. “It seems like every team has checked in! I hope none of you have anywhere to be soon, ‘cause today is gonna be one big ol’ bowl-a-thon!” Many of the other bowlers erupt into a roar of cheers and applause, causing the mare’s face to brighten exponentially. “Alright everypony, you know the drill! Get to your stations and prepare for your games! We’ll be starting shortly!”

As the other teams go about their business, you turn your attention back to Allie. She has that excited shimmer in her eyes. “Ohh, I can’t wait! I hope you’re ready for this!” she says, as she fidgets on her hooves.

“Heh, yeah, about as ready as I’ll ever be!” you respond.

“Still,” she starts, her face fading into a slight pout. “I kind of wished that we could’ve gotten a bit of practice in with you.”

A sudden pang of guilt running through you, you avert your eyes from hers. “I know, I know, and I’m sorry. I should’ve gotten here earlier.” You bring your eyes back to meet hers. “I promise, I’ll make it up to you at the next practice session.

She looks into your eyes for a brief moment before her pout slowly grows into a smile. Just as she opens her mouth to respond, another voice cuts in.

“HA! With how this is gonna go down, y’all aren’t gonna need another practice session!”

Oh, great, you think to yourself. You know that voice all too well.

“You idiot!” barks another familiar yet less than welcome pony. “That ain’t an insult at all!”

Your eyes flash over to your teammates. Allie is staring straight ahead at nothing as if she’s not acknowledging them, with the exception of her missing smile and furrowed brow. Treble sighs as his head sinks down towards the table, and Sea Swirl seems to be slowly willing herself smaller and smaller.

Before you realize it, a white foreleg reaches across your table and steals a rather large hoofful of fries from one of the baskets. The rather large offending stallion tilts his head upward, his brown mane spilling back and letting the fries fall into his mouth.

“Mnnow... Whad he’sf try-igg to fhay...” he says while chewing. With a big gulp, he clears his throat. “You guys suck and no amount of practice will help you get into first place by the end of the season.”

Nopony on your team moves with the exception of Allie who begins to bear her teeth with a low growl.

“Hey, we don’t care about winning. We’re just here to bowl,” you say, hoping to help this blow over as painlessly as possible.

“If y’all don’t care about it, then why don’t ya just skedaddle and let the pros have their day, eh?” he says, his thick accent clear as day.

“Because, Hard Ball, we are here to play in the league just like anypony else.” Allie speaks up. “Unlike you though, not everypony cares about the rankings.”

He lets out a loud snort. “If ya ain’t in it to win it, what’s the point?” He puts a hoof to his mouth as his eyes go wide. “Oh, right, I forgot. Y’all are a special case, right?”

Allie arches an eyebrow. “What’s that supposed to mean?” So much for letting this pass peacefully...

“Y’all serve as a reminder.” He gives you a snide glare. “A reminder that nopony is as bad as this deadbeat.” One of his cronies, a yellow and also brown-maned pony known as Pin Head, begins to chuckle deeply behind him.

“Go to your lane...” Allie says through clenched teeth. “Or I will slap a penalty on your team as soon I get my hooves on the roster list!”

“Pfft,” he responds. “It’s always the same. Ya just can’t admit that he’s a right awful bowler, so ya gotta threaten to abuse your manager position whenever it’s mentioned.”

“I won’t warn you again. I will not tolerate you saying any other bowler here is awful,” she snarls.

“Well I don’t have to; his scorecards do that!” he says with another wicked chuckle.

“GET. TO. YOUR. LANE.” Allie raises a hoof up as she talks. Whether she’s pointing down the alley or winding up to smack him is anypony’s guess.

Thankfully, he finally takes the hint and begins walking down to the first available lane several steps away, still chortling as they go. They begin to unpack their things as you turn to Allie who sits down heavily into her chair with a frustrated huff. She blows away a bang of hair that falls in front of her face as your other teammates begin to look back up again.

“Hmph.” Treble utters. “What a hardass.”

Allie lets out a haggard sigh. “As long as he keeps quiet and keeps to himself, we don’t need to worry about him.”

You and Sea Swirl nod in agreement. In the time you’ve spent in this alley, nopony has given you more trouble than Hard Ball. He always singled out your party specifically, for whatever reason. You’ve come to the conclusion that he is nothing but a blowhard and your team has come to agreement with you.

“Hey,” you start. “Let’s just get to work. The sooner we get started, the sooner we can hit up the arcade games!” you say, trying to get them to perk up. You know how badly Allie wants to thrash you for beating her in Street Fighter II: The Equestria Warrior last week. It was a really close game in which you had barely eeked out a victory. She had demanded a rematch right then and there, but unfortunately the game had taken the last of your on hoof bits.

Treble and Sea nod and stand up, heading to their bowling balls. Allie remains seated with her eyes closed, breathing a little heavier than usual. You trot over to her and clear your throat, catching her attention. As her eyes open and snap to you, you offer her a hoof. Her eyes dart between your hoof and your eyes just once before she takes another deep breath.

“Are you okay?” you ask.

“Yeah...” she says with a sigh. She reaches over and gives you a little hoofshake. “You know me, though. There are three things I hate in this world.”

Braggarts, spiders, and diet soda,” the two of you say in unison. Allie giggles as you both begin to smile again.

“But the fact that he makes it a point to mess with us each and every time...” she shakes her head. “It begins to wear on me and I’m not even the one he’s insulting.” She looks to you again. “Seriously, how can you just take that kind of abuse like that?”

“I just try to not let it get to me,” you say with a shrug. “And let’s be honest, I’m not really the best bowler anyway-”

“Oh, no no no,” Allie says, holding up a hoof to stop you. “I wouldn’t let Hard Ball come down on you, and I’m not about to let you come down on yourself.”

Your conversation is interrupted by the crash of a ball hitting pins. You both look up to see Treble in front of the lane where all but two pins remain. Using her magic, Allie pulls out a scorecard and pencil from the little slot underneath the desk and begins marking down his score.

“I’m just saying,” you start. “That they have a balance system for the teams here for a reason.”

“Yes, it’s to help ponies improve their skills by working with the better players.” she retorts, lowering her pencil. “And you have been getting better! I’m sure of it! In fact...” She turns her gaze over to Treble, who has just finished up his turn, ending off with a spare. She turns back to you with an eager smile. “Why don’t you demonstrate?”

Your feel your eyes widen at her request. Looking down the track, you watch as a fresh set of pins descend onto the end of the alley, waiting to be knocked down. A pang of nervousness runs through you as you give her an uncertain nod. Her smile doesn’t fade in the slightest, even with your uneasy expression.

You trot over to the ball rack and pick up your ball. As you ready to take your turn, Treble trots past you, heading back to his seat. As he passes, you catch him giving you his trademark half-lidded stare. You step up to the lane, staring down the wooden surface to the targets at its end.

Alright, you think to yourself, taking a deep breath. You’ve done this plenty of times. Just step it up...and don’t suck.

Releasing the breath through your nose slowly, you raise the ball up against your chest. Standing up straight, you go through your approach in your mind while you let the pony in the lane next to you go first. You watch their ball in the corner of your vision. It travels straight and connects with the group of pins, right of the center, knocking down a solid six of them.

Giving a quick lick of your lips, you take your first step, counting in your head. Treble favored a four step approach while Sea Swirl only used three. You, however, try to recreate Allie’s five step approach, feeling as it’s best to learn from the master. She’s even given you a few tips about it when you’ve asked.

One, two, three... four, fivesixseven-

The ball awkwardly flies out of your hoof as you stumble and try to keep from falling face first onto the alley itself. With a hefty WHUMP it begins its roll. You’ve always compared the sound of a rolling bowling ball to that of a drumroll, because no matter how good a shot looks, you never know until it hits the pins.

Unfortunately, the sound you hear mere moments after the drumroll began is a series of clunks and thumps. You look up and, sure enough, your ball is now travelling down the left side gutter that reaches the end with a sad and empty ker-plunk.

Replacing the drumroll is the mocking sound of a descending trombone. You feel a rock settle in your stomach as you turn around to face your teammates. Treble sits with his usual half-lidded eyes and the corners of his mouth tugged down. Sea Swirl keeps her head low, avoiding eye-contact. Allie stands with a strained smile on her face, her guise poorly hiding her embarrassment for you.

While the faces aren’t making you feel any better, it’s the voices you’re hearing that are making that rock in your belly feel like a boulder. The group of stallions a few lanes away are snickering madly. Most of them, anyway. Hard Ball is guffawing generously at your attempt.

This is gonna be a long day...

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