The daily word prompt over at Jibber Jabber with Sue is BEGIN
I sat down awhile ago to begin, a short story, thinking I’d like to do one of these three-short-paragraph ones, and I was going to pick a quote as my inspiration. But my plans went awry and I ended up with a long, maybe soppy, tale.
Here’s the quote I chose:
“What is defeat? Nothing but education, nothing but the first step to something better.” — Wendell Philips
And here’s the tale I wrote to illustrate it:
THE LOSER WINS
“Hey, girl. Why are you looking so sad? Lost your best friend.”
Finch looked up at the teen leaning on the door frame. One of the Senior boys. She swiped at a tear. “What do you care,” she grumbled.
“No, really, you look shattered. What’s bothering you.”
She glared at him, but could see he honestly wanted to know, so she spilled her sad story. “We played baseball at recess. I hate baseball! I’m not good at it and the others all know it, so when it came time to pick teams, I was picked last. In fact, I wasn’t really picked; I just ended up on Jenia’s team because I was the only one left. She rolled her eyes like ‘Do I have to.’ Then she says, ‘Okay, come on then,’ like I was such a zero. I was, like, totally humiliated.”
“Hey, that’s tough. Some people don’t do tact. They care zip about anyone else’s feelings.”
“That’s her. Miss Always-the-Leader. Then when we played, I was so nervous I couldn’t hit anything, and the others on the team grumbled straight time about me being so slow. The teacher told them to ‘be nice,’ but they just did it when she wasn’t looking. I don’t ever wanna go back to school again.”
“I know where you’re coming from. I got the same thing when I was a twig.”
“You! But you’re a natural at baseball. I’ve seen you play and you make great hits and catches.”
“Now, yeah, but I remember singing the same song as you. Back when I was in grade school, I was the last one picked. Couldn’t run, couldn’t hit. But I really wanted to play so I joined a team playing sandlot baseball. It was misery. I was slow; I fumbled; if I hit the ball it was luck.”
Finch stared at him. “I don’t believe it. What happened!”
“I was ready to quit after the second game, but one of the dads, Bill, was acting as umpire, and he saw I was in the dumps. So after the game he came over and gave me a hug. Then he rattled off this bit of wisdom. I’ve typed it up and pasted it on my wall.”
‘What is defeat? Nothing but education, nothing but the first step to something better’.
“I got a life-lesson that day, thanks to Bill, who cared enough to help me out. He told me I wasn’t going to just drop into a game and be a star. He said, ‘If you wanna get good at baseball – or anything else in life – you gotta work at it.’ He got me and a couple of other boys to meet him a couple evenings a week at the ball park and we’d practice. He brought his young boys and met us there for a few weeks, explained the game, the moves, and worked with us. After that we went back on the team and all three of us are good players now.”
“Wow! You were lucky. Not all dads are like that.”
“I didn’t have a dad – and I needed one badly. I think he caught that. Same with the others. He did what he could to set us, and his own boys, on a better path.” He fell silent and his smile told Finch he was remembering those good times.
“And maybe you got an education today, if you take it that way.”
“Huh! So what have I learned? I’m a loser? Nobody wants me on their team?”
“You found out you can’t just jump in and be awesome. You can’t be a fast runner if you don’t regularly run. You can’t be a great hitter if you don’t regularly work at it. Have you got a friend or kid brother or sister that’ll play ball with you sometimes so you can get some practice pitching and hitting?”
“And take up running. Work at it when you have some free time and you’ll get faster. I promise you. What that dad told me back then has held true for everything I’ve tried so far. Playing ball. Good grades. Making friends. Staying out of trouble. Life isn’t going to hand it to you; you gotta work for it.”
“Yeah, I suppose.”
“So don’t let today get you down. Call it an education. Do something with what you’ve learned.” He reached down to give her a hand up.
A fresh wave of courage washed over Finch. She was ready to begin again. She reached up and took his hand. “I’ll try.” She let him pull her to her feet. “Thanks a lot…for what you said…and for caring.”
“Sure. See you around.” With a quick wave he headed off.
If Finch hadn’t seen him on the senior boys’ team, she could almost have believed he was an angel.