Tag Archives: prose

Two-Minute Dimness

Timmie had the ball secure between the crook of his arm and his side.  Lennie passed the ball to him at the thirty yard line.  Timmie was fewer than ten yards away from the end zone and dodged quite remarkably four defensive linebackers before he was tackled by a fifth.  He was three yards from the end zone.  Though he didn’t remember the moment of impact, Timmie saw it before it happened.  He had cleared number 93 and was about to hop over one of his own teammates when number 97 barreled into his peripheral vision.

Timmie was down and had lost possession of the ball.  He couldn’t feel his knees or his toes.  He could smell the quarterback above his head (cloves and nutmeg, a distinct aroma) and hear one of the assistant coaches shouting towards the sidelines.  Timmie opened his eyes, expecting to see officials, players from his team and the opposing team, and, of course, the multitude of stadiums lights shining down upon him.

But, when Timmie opened his eyes, he saw none of those things.  Instead of sweaty men and bright lights, he saw a chino-uniformed female and dim, red lights.  He was still down, lying down, but rather than astroturf, he was on a table.  Timmie tried to turn his head from side to side but a mere inch in either direction sent waves of pain through his neck and the base of his skull.  Even breathing deeply was uncomfortable.  At least he could feel his knees and toes.

The woman walked over to the table and approached Timmie’s feet.  She took her hands out from her coat pockets and placed them on his ankles.  Timmie let out a yelp.

“Sorry,” the woman said.  “I know my hands are cold.”

Timmie tried to sit up; he could not.  Two wide straps, one near his thighs and the other around his elbows, kept him from doing much more than a half-assed crunch.  Timmie shut his eyes tight and concentrated on the football field.  He must’ve suffered a concussion and any minute he’d be back on the turf.

He opened his eyes after counting to 50.  He was still in the dim, red-lit room, still strapped to a table.  Timmie’s breathing quickened as he watched her come closer to his head.  She looked like she hadn’t eaten in days.

“I’m sorry,” the woman said.  “I can’t let you leave.”

The woman pressed a black button on a column just behind the table.  Moments later, a door beyond Timmie’s line of sight clanked open and three hooded figures entered.  The tallest one was holding an ax.  The one with the broadest shoulders was holding a pail.  The one with glow-in-the-dark glasses was holding a length of rope.

Timmie clenched his fists, shut his eyes again, and tried to remember exactly when 97 tackled him.  But all he could see in his mind was a woman towering above him, dim, red light, and hands tying rope around his ankles.
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The above story is loosely inspired on real events as related to me.

The Last Homecoming

The driver was twelve minutes early just like my assistant had predicted. I stood on the balcony that overlooked the driveway and tried to tie the blue tie my assistant had laid out for me to wear. Every year it gets harder to do the simplest things like tying a tie, knotting shoelaces, cutting steak, and even writing. My assistant can tell my condition has worsened even though I haven’t mentioned a decline in dexterity. She’s neither a doctor nor a rehabilitation specialist, yet, she knows my fingers have to fight much harder to do the things that most people can do without thinking, that I used to do without thinking.

I didn’t want any more people knowing about my struggles.  I didn’t want to have to do any more explaining.  I wasn’t ashamed or afraid of my body’s deterioration; I was just so tired.  I was tired of the knee-jerk concerned reactions.  The faces of sympathetic but unempathetic intentions was wearing me out and I didn’t want to keep up a polite air.

As I contemplated giving up on the tie, I heard my assistant knock on the door.  I turned, waved her in, and held up the tie as she entered.

“You need some help with that?” she asked.

“Apparently so.”

She took the tie and in just a few swift motions, the blue was around my neck.  It hung proudly against the pale blue of my shirt.

“How many more homecomings do I have to go to?”

My assistant stepped back.  “You’re booked for the next five years.”

I retrieved my suit jacket from the chair by the balcony, slipped it on and patted the pockets for my wallet, keys, and phone.

“You don’t look too thrilled.”

And I wasn’t.  It had been twenty years since I’d graduated from high school. Captain of the football team, co-editor of the school newspaper, honor roll student, homecoming king, and president of the debate team.  I did what I needed so I could leave and not come back again.  I wasn’t counting on playing football in college or in the NFL.  I wanted to own a newspaper and publish stories that would change the way people thought and lived.  Who knew the internet would push me into a career in pushing people to the ground?

“You’re the best thing that came out of that town and nobody will let you forget it,” my assistant reminded me. “Now, shall we go?”

I followed her out of the room, down the hall and outside to the awaiting car.  The driver stepped out to greet us.  He shook my hand and opened the back doors before returning to the driver’s seat.

My assistant plowed through emails, texts and put her phone on silent.

“I’m here for you tonight,” she said.  “The rest of the world can wait until tomorrow.”

“My school may expect me to turn up every year for homecoming, but are you sure you aren’t assuring them I will be there just so you can ignore everyone else for one night?”

My assistant remained quiet until we arrived at the school twenty minutes later.  After paying the driver in cash and checking my tie, she patted me on my right forearm.

“You have realistic demands even if I have to convince you to see them through.  Everyone else expects total obedience in exchange for my sanity.  Wouldn’t you stick with you too?”

I couldn’t argue with her reasoning.

~!~

The above scenario came to me as I was drinking a latte and eating gluten-free banana nut bread.
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The Lost Tapes from Little League

Maxine didn’t like to gloat or tell jokes or stuff marshmallows into her mouth until she couldn’t talk.  She wasn’t like the rest of us.  She liked to sit by herself during meals and whenever we had to wait for the bus to take us to away games, she sat always behind the bus driver and in such a way that she couldn’t see herself in the rear-view mirror.

I was only on the team for three years and wasn’t around before she joined the team, so I don’t know what it was like, what was different.  I mean, she got her own hotel room and the coach’s wife always stayed with her, but I don’t get what the big deal was about a girl playing little league.  She didn’t want to play softball — she wanted to pitch like the boys.

What I miss most about Maxine was her laughter.  Her favorite movie was Horse Feathers and kept telling me to watch it.  I used to think it was because she wanted to be right about something other than the best way to strike out a batter when the sun is starting to shine in his eyes.  Now, I know it was more than being right.  She wanted to have something to share with someone, something other than baseball she could talk about with someone.  She picked me to be that someone.  I wish I hadn’t waited all these years to get around to watching Horse Feathers.  I would’ve liked it as a thirteen year-old.  And now, I’ll never know what kinds of conversations we could’ve had about the movie or anything else.

I remember that last game like it was last week, even though it happened more than a decade ago.  We’d just lost by one point to a team in Arkansas, you should have seen the coach’s face.  Maxine thought it was her fault.  She could’ve struck out that last kid.  Like she does at the end of every away game, she went onto the bus before the rest of us.  We liked to mess around the vending machines and dare each other to stick our hands up the release door.  We were about to get on the bus when a tractor trailer slammed into it.

Maxine didn’t like to gloat or tell jokes or stuff marshmallows into her mouth until she couldn’t talk.  She wasn’t like the rest of us.  We had to grow older and become tax-payers, general contributing members of society.  She had to die thinking that she could’ve struck out that last kid and helped us win the game.  To this day I don’t know who is the luckier one.

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Nothing specific inspired this post.  The name “Maxine” came to me and the rest slid out; on the subject of Little League, here’s a neat read about eighteen girls who have played Little League Baseball.

This One or That One

Another bit of writing based on real conversations.

~!~

Darnell Watkins and Elias Shoemaker had been in the press box for over two hours.  Watkins, the offensive coordinator, was swiping through a gallery of player headshots.  Shoemaker, the defensive coordinator, was guffawing and sighing at the portraits and summaries.  He was beginning to lose track of which Thomas was the cornerback from Notre Dame and which was the kicker from UGA.

“Just pick one,” Watkins urged.

“I can’t just pick one; it’s not that simple,” Shoemaker responded as he stood up from the chair and walked around to stretch his legs.

“Sure it is,” Watkins retorted, putting the tablet down on the table.

Shoemaker turned around and looked at the offensive coordinator, who, five years ago, was managing inventory in a shoe store at a mall.  Watkins had always enjoyed watching football, live and on TV, but it wasn’t the love of the sport that motivated him to enter the world of coaching for a professional team.  In the nearly four years that Shoemaker has also been on the coaching staff, he’s started to suspect that what drives Watkins is less about helping a mediocre team ascend to competitive, athletic awesomeness and more the desire to urge decision-makers to “pick one for the love of Odin already.”  Perhaps he was a good footwear associate in that regard.  Just pick one, you won’t be disappointed.

“Are you hearing me?”

“It isn’t that simple; I can’t just pick one.  There are other variables to consider.”

Watkins nodded and then pressed for more details.

Shoemaker looked down and then back up. “At this level, how good a player is on the field can be worked on and improved through drills.  What we need is someone who can make nice with the quarterback.  He can be a jerk, but he is the glue of this team.  The losses from last season were defensive missteps.”

Watkins gestured for Shoemaker to continue.

“What I’m saying is that I need guys who have their egos in check and can tolerate, even understand, the QB’s mood swings.  I am determined to find him the right group and finding this group takes time.”

“QB is a prima donna? Is that what you’re saying?”

Shoemaker held back for a couple of seconds before answering for whatever he said next would likely get back to said ‘prima donna.’  “No, that’s not what I’m saying.”

“Then what are you saying?”

“He requires a particular sort of consideration of his personal space and his fluid states of mind.  So, the guys he will play most closely with will need to respect his wishes.  And, when he says things like, ‘not in my foxhole,’ he is left alone to do whatever he needs to do.”

Watkins scratched his chin.  “Not in my foxhole?”

Shoemaker nodded.  “It means, ‘don’t try to make me feel better when I’m in a rotten mood.  This ain’t any time for prayers.”

Watkins picked up the tablet from the table and loaded up the gallery again, scrolling through much slower this time.
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Getting Hector to Say Yes

The following was inspired by a real conversation.

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“And I listen to electronic music when all else fails.”

“That’s all he said?”

“That’s all he said.”

“This is going to take longer than I thought; you might want to get some coffee and charge your phone.”

Hector Ming-Pilar was pacing back and forth across the sidelines of the football field between the twenty and thirty yard line.  He wore headphones loosely on his ears, more like a shield or blankie than actual equipment to facilitate the emitting of music.  I stood up from the bench where I had been sitting with Hector’s manager.

“Did he run out of free podcasts again?”  I asked.

Hector’s manager nodded.

“You know, Benvolio, this can’t keep happening.”

Hector’s manager sighed in agreement.

I stretched my arms above my head and began walking towards the star cornerback.  Not many defense players receive the kind of praise that Hector Ming-Pilar has amassed over the last five years he’s been on this team, and as grateful as I’m sure he is for his financial stability, the size of his devoted fanbase and the lengths that potential sponsors will go to shift to more eco-friendly operations just so they can slap his name on their products, I’ve always had the impression that he’d really rather be fishing or shooting clay pigeons at a range.

Hector stopped pacing when he noticed that I was within shouting distance.  He removed the headphones after I crossed my arms behind my back.  We looked at each other for a solid two minutes before he spoke.

“What do you want?  What does my manager want?”

“Hector, we can’t keep meeting like this.”

“Like what?  on a Saturday in the middle of the afternoon or after Benvolio’s threatened to drop me again because I can’t keep my hands to myself.”

“It’s been over five years, yes, I know about your college interludes as well…and I just wonder if you’ve ever thought about why you attract them like young girls to matinee idols?”

Hector was now standing within spitting distance and he crossed his arms, staring at me with an admission of thresholds penetrated.

“I know you miss your Saint Bernard but petting every dog you come across and making promises to animal shelters that you have no authority to keep or see through to implementation …does not help anyone.”

Benvolio’s jogging steps sounded from behind me.  Hector glared at us both, put his headphones on properly, cued up some tunes and trudged away into the underbelly of the stadium.  I turned towards Benvolio and told him I was sorry for not getting Hector to say yes to cute-attachment therapy.

“Just be grateful he doesn’t have a Hello Kitty fixation,” I said as I put an arm around his shoulder and offered to buy him a mean piece of steak.