Saturday, December 17, 2011

When Just Right is Just Wrong

If Chuck Wendig's TerribleMinds is not already on your daily blog roll, it should be. Among other interesting tidbits, he hosts regular flash fiction contests on his blog. Each week a specific set of parameters is given and everyone is invited to play. You post your story of no more than 1000 words on your blog and link to it in the comment section of his.

This week, I couldn't resist. He linked to a set of 50 Unexplainable black and white photos on Buzzfeed. Many of the photos were disturbing. They were all weird. Perfect story material, right? Here's mine, along with the photo that inspired it.

Just Right
Onyx had never found Papa B’s bed too hard, but when her subversive sister, Goldie, uploaded her first self-produced video to YouTube, it had inexplicably gone viral. Papa may have been cast as a lumbering oaf who slept on an iron mattress, but he was no fool. He turned the den into a B&B and charged extra for Baby B’s room.

Mama B left when Papa sold the movie rights to Hollywood. No one was surprised. After all, they slept in separate beds. While Papa had laughed off the caricature Goldie made of him, Mama hated being seen as a frumpy housewife eating cold porridge and driving Papa off to his hard, lonely bed. The prospect of a nationwide movie release sent her over the edge. She took her share of the advance and hit the road.

Secretly, Onyx was glad. Other than the separate beds, she couldn’t speak to Mama’s relationship with Papa, but she had been best friends with Baby since the third grade. Baby was sad when Mama left, but truth be told, she had been motherless for years. Her real mom had died in childbirth, and a desperate, broken-hearted Papa had remarried, hoping to give Baby a mother.

Desperate and broken-hearted is no way to begin a relationship. Everything about Mama B had been wrong. She was bi-polar, and while Onyx would never fault a person for having an illness, she could fault them for refusing to treat it. Mama only took her meds about half the time which made her highs and lows even worse.

She was too happy or too sad, too mellow or too angry, too trusting or too paranoid. Goldie’s video had, in fact, been an homage to Mama’s earth-moving shifts. Unfortunately, one character trait was constant. She was too freaking critical, and it was all aimed at Baby.

Baby was beautiful, but you wouldn’t have known it if you heard Mama talk. She told Baby one day, that she was too fat to fit in the den and the next, that she was too skinny to survive the winter. Mama railed over Baby’s lush, perfect hair. It was too long, too short, too thick, too thin, too dull, too shiny, too, too, too…it was Mama’s favorite word.

Everyone knew Baby B was just right. Onyx knew it better than most, and she reminded Baby at every possible opportunity. She spent a lot of time in the B’s den working the desk, cleaning, cooking for the guests, and anything else Papa needed done. Goldie was off at film school on Papa’s dime, so her own house felt cold and empty.

Baby had gone into the new family business as well, giving tours and having her picture made with the guests. At night the two of them would curl up on Papa B’s big, very comfortable bed (Papa had taken to sleeping outside) and whisper their dreams for the future.

Onyx’s dreams had not included getting pregnant, but Brad had been so handsome when he checked in late on a cold February afternoon. The fire had roared cheerfully, warm porridge steamed on the stove, and Onyx had been alone. Reservations were light in the winter. People came to B’s B&B to see big Papa and just right Baby, not Goldie’s homely sister.

Brad had been different. He didn’t seem to care that he was in a celebrity’s den. He had eyes only for her. They had shared a bottle of wine over a bowl of just-right porridge, and before she could say, “My what big teeth you have,” Onyx found herself wrapped in Brad’s arms.

The magic of the night had been washed away the next morning when she woke alone in Baby’s bed to the sound of Papa B’s booming voice.

“Onyx! Where are you?”

Wearing her disheveled clothing from the night before, she had slunk out of Baby’s room. Brad sat grinning in front of the fire, and Papa caught on immediately.

“Oh Onyx, I thought you had more sense than this.”

Brad fist-pumped like the frat boy he was. “Big Brad Wolfe strikes again!”

“Get out and don’t come back!”

When Papa B roared, one ignored it at his own peril. Brad made a quick exit, but the damage had been done. When the stick turned pink, Onyx’s shame was complete.

Good friends make all things bear-able and no matter how low Onyx sank, Baby B was there with a kind word and gentle touch which of course was just right.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

We were There!

Last night my son played in the Kentucky 6A Championship game. They played #1 in the nation Trinity High School. I wish I could report that we rose up in feel-good sports movie fashion and knocked off the giant, but as we all know, in real life, sometimes Goliath wins.

You might think that my son and his teammates are crushed. Certainly, they are disappointed, but crushed? Not even a little bit.

We lost and the score was ugly. I'm not even going to post it. You can look it up on the KHSAA website if you want to know. They were bigger and stronger than we were, and their speed? Holy cow...we're talking SEC speed. I say without exaggeration, at least three of their players could start for Kentucky right now. Watching them was a sight to behold.

A bigger sight to behold? Us.

I heard some talk around school last week from both freshmen and upper classmen. "Why would I want to go all the way to Bowling Green (it's a 3 hour drive) and watch us get killed?" "Half of Trinity's roster has already committed to D1 schools." "We have no chance."

You know what I heard from my son? "They're ranked #1, so if we win, we can call ourselves National Champions." That was the last thing he said to me before he went to school yesterday morning. He wasn't being ironic.

Our kids took the field with that attitude. Trinity has this whole gladiator-like routine they run through before the game. They walk out on the field two-by-two like an army. They have twice as many kids on their roster, so it's impressive. They do this call and response thing as they go through stretches like something out of 300.

Our kids didn't even know Trinity was on the field.

I took some pics of my son and his good friend during snap warm-ups. My son is the short snapper, and his friend is the long snapper. They were doing what they always do, getting loose, smiling, taking care of business. When they did look around, it wasn't at Trinity, but at the stadium. I could almost read their minds.

"Man, we are here!"

Our kids played with joy, recognizing that the moment they were in was huge. Those kind of moments come very few times in a person's life. Some of those kids will never again run out of a college tunnel in a big university stadium, but they did last night. The coach pulled a rabbit out of his hat on the first drive and sprung something on Trinity they hadn't seen in our film. Our David may have been ultimately defeated, but we drew first blood on Goliath. We showed them we wouldn't fall on our sword, and the kids were on top of the moon when we took it into the end zone. Whatever the final score, no one on our side of the stadium would have traded that moment for anything.

Our kids played hard. They went up against those mammoth linemen and kept their feet moving and strained with all of their might to make the block or the tackle. I was close enough to see our biggest offensive lineman's muscles straining with the effort on every single play.

Our kids played with heart. Several of our senior leaders went above and beyond the call, playing after they were hurt and inspiring their teammates to play hard. Our quarterback played after he was spitting up blood, and eventually had to be forced off the field by the coach. A senior defensive lineman and our best senior running back played on old injuries that should have kept them on the sidelines, but didn't. Trinity scored, and they went back out and played the next play hard.

When it was over, and I picked up my son and his friend at the school in the middle of the night, I didn't know what mood to expect. What I got was exuberance. Both of them had made blocks on kick returns that took a kid who has already committed to Alabama out of the play. (They had a lot of chances, because we had a lot of kick They got to measure themselves against the best of the best, and they won the play a couple of times.

They even gloried in some of the ugly moments, in the way that only a true lover of the game can.

"Did you see that punt where I got laid out? Damn!" And they high fived. "Dude, that one d-tackle shooting the A gap..." They both shook their heads and grinned. It's like getting to go one on one with Michael Jordan. You take your licks, but man you're there!

They were there. They were on the field, and even when face down, staring at turf, they were having fun. And no matter how many times they were face down on the turf, they never quit. Not once. They. Never. Quit.

Through the first four games of the playoffs, Trinity had a total of 12 points scored on them. We scored 21.

There are two kinds of people in the world. The kind that say, "Why bother? We can't win." And the kind that say, "We have a chance to knock off the #1 team in the nation."

I'm inspired by my son and his team. You can't win if you don't show up and play. If these kids take that attitude into the rest of their lives, they will win more than they lose. Their lives will be rich with experiences that take them places other folks fear to go, and that, my friends, is a game worth playing.