Billy stared. "What happened?"
"Bowled my fingers off." Cecil lifted his left hand to show the missing two fingers; the stump of a thumb.
Billy's eyes widened. "Really?"
Cecil shrugged. "Show me and Antony what you got."
Billy stood and hiked up his jeans, patched roughly with them iron-on jobs that peel at the edges. He plugged his fingers neat into the ball, lifted it and did some kinda' two-step.
"Can't help it." The back of Billy's neck reddened. But he repeated the dance before releasing the ball.
It was a beauty. Dead-on. Knocked them pins clean over. Billy turned around, grinning.
Cecil took a pull from his sweating bottle of Coke. "Beginner's luck?"
Billy shook his head. Again, the ball was true, slamming the pins over, no tentative back-and-forthing before yielding.
Cecil blinked, but kept his cool in an admirable way. "Think you can nail them a third time?"
Billy nodded. He repeated the entire procedure: Pants hiked up. The flapping of the knee patch. The funny little dance. And then, finally, blessedly, the release.
It seemed an eternity before that ball made its way down the lane. And then...
"A turkey!" Billy shouted, the knee patch flapping in celebration.
"I think we have a place for you on the team," Cecil said, as a single drop of sweat rolled down the side of his bottle and traced its way onto the table.
Billy beamed but Cecil looked sad: He was missing his fingers, blown clean off when he was dynamiting a mountaintop for the coal beneath.
They named the hole in the ground for Cecil, but I don't think that impressed him all that much. Now, I suppose, those fingers are a part of that empty mountaintop, bone and flesh claimed by rock.
Billy still dynamites for the coal company.
Every day as he heads out to work, he promises his wife he'll be back.
"I hope so," she replies.
I do, too, a' course.