One of Jericho Hill School for the Deaf and Blind’s proudest boasts was its two-lane bowling alley. The chief access ability feature of the facility was a set of chrome hand railings to guide blind children as they bowled their balls. What the proud administrators failed to tell the public was that the alley lacked pin-setting machines. Two hapless students inevitably spent their entire recreational periods setting up pins and sending back balls.
Even so, the more inventive of us victims found ways to amuse ourselves. Here’s an example of our mischief and how we had the last laugh on our dormitory supervisor, Mr. Moiarty.
I didn’t mind going bowling and I understood that somebody needed to set up pins as well as send the balls back. Even so, I hated those tournaments which the intermediate and senior dorms held. Worse yet, Mr. Moiarty badgered me until I agreed to set up pins for the teams.
The first Saturday afternoon of the tournament was warm and sunny. Nevertheless, the weather clashed with my bleak mood as I shuffled into the bowling alley. While I was setting pins up, and before I signaled that I had moved out of the way, he decided to lob a ball down the alley.
“Get out of the way,” he shouted, suddenly realizing what he had done.
“What!?” I called. The ball hit my right shin with a resounding crack. I doubled over, howling in agony. Mr. Moiarty raced down the lane to the pin-setting booth, picked me up in his arms, and carried me to the infirmary. All the way there, he apologized for not looking first. Fortunately, my shin was only bruised but it ached for a couple of weeks. However, that accident didn’t excuse me from setting up pins for long. As a result, my loathing of organized sports grew rapidly that autumn.
Though working in the pin-setting booth was tedious, Geoffrey and I, who usually were sent back there, did find ways to amuse ourselves. The funniest of these was to hoard balls until the bowlers ran out of them. Then, the two of us placed almost all of the balls on the rails. Like a convoy of trucks, they rolled toward the rack. All but one traveled up the slope to where the bowlers waited. When that ball rolled slowly back toward the pin-setting booth, Geoffrey or I sent the final ball down the rails. It collided with the other ball, knocking it onto the alley and toward the door.
The game caught on with the other boys, much to Mr. Moiarty’s annoyance. I happened to be at the other end of the alley one evening when he chased a rogue ball into the lobby. The ludicrous sight of our supervisor frantically grasping at and missing the ball had me doubled over in uncontrollable laughter. We considered ourselves fortunate that no punishments were meted out for showing such disrespect. However, we giggled behind Mr. Moiarty’s back whenever someone mentioned our bowling ball convoy game.
You can read more of our pranks in Deliverance from Jericho: Six Years in a Blind School, available at the Bruce Atchison’s books page.