The Loser Wins

Hi everyone,

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

Sad.rubberduck1951
rubberduck1951 from Pixabay

“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?”

“Maybe…”

“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.

A Scintillating Discussion

The Ragtag Daily Prompt for today is PEDANTIC
The Jibber Jabber Daily word is LUCK

GETTING TO KNOW HIM

Pierce, relaxing on the sofa, looked over at his sister who was studying some paper. “Whatcha readin’, Lilly?”

“Something I just downloaded — this is some expert’s advice on how to get to know people better.”

“You really want to?”

“Of course. We should take an interest in other people or we’ll become totally self-centered.” She looked at him pointedly.

“Yeah, right. And I suppose you gotta ask all kinds of nosy questions, like, ‘Did you love your mother?’ Good luck with that.” Pierce popped the tab on his soft drink and took a swig.

“Well, this expert has given readers a list of questions that ‘should stimulate an intelligent discussion.’ Like this one. ‘Would you call yourself a pedantic person?’ How would you answer that one, Pierce.”

“Yes. No. Maybe. Dumb question.”

Lilly rolled her eyes. “This discussion hasn’t reached ‘intelligent’ yet.”

“Define pedantic.”

Lilly typed the word into her cell phone and read the definition. “Pedantic: ‘excessively concerned with minor details or rules; over-scrupulous, persnickety.’ I guess it means someone who sweats the small stuff and gets the fine details right.”

“I’m not much into fine details.” He guzzled more pop.

“You can say that again. Your room’s a tornado aftermath.”

“I can find things,” he protested. “But sometimes I do sweat the small stuff — like on a math exam. So it depends.”

Lilly sighed. “According to this expert, a question like this should lead to a scintillating conversation.”

“Define scintillating.”

“You’re being pedantic.”

Pierce shrugged. “Who cares?”

The Always-Never Syndrome

The Ragtag Daily Prompt is IMPECCABLE
The Word of the Day Prompt is KNIFE
and the Discovery Prompt is TEACH

When I saw these three prompts, the first few lines of my story fell into place naturally, but then I needed the rest of the story to deal with…

The Dreaded Always-Never Syndrome

Her kitchen counter was impeccable, except for a jammy knife and a scattering of bread crumbs on the counter. The sight made her furious.

When she screeched Nick came running, toast in hand. “Mom. What happened?”

“What’s this doing here?” She pointed to the knife. “Didn’t we teach you to put dishes in the dishwasher and wipe the counter when you’re done making food?” She glared at him.

“Is that all? I thought somebody stepped on Nero’s tail again. You sound just like him when you screech like that.”

“You never clean up after yourself. You always leave a mess that I have to clean up!”

“I’ll get it. You don’t always need make such a huge thing of such a small mess. Anyway, you never squawk like that when Uncle James leaves a mess on your precious pristine counter.”

“It’s not my job to teach Uncle James. He’s a temporary fixture here until he gets work again.”

“He’s been here four months now. He’ll never find work. Especially when the food’s free and you always wait on him hand and foot.”

“I DO NOT wait on him hand and foot! I never…”

“Whoa, people,” Dad said as he walked into the kitchen. “It sounds like the Always-Never Syndrome has attacked again. Break away. Let’s get back to reality.”

“Nick left this grubby knife on the counter.” Mom pointed. “And crumbs. Again.”

Dad nodded at Nick. “Clean it up.”

Under Mom’s scowl Nick grabbed the knife and stuck it in the dishwasher. He wiped the crumbs off the counter, then quickly left the room to avoid further rehearsal of his faults.

Dad put his arm around Mom. “He does clean up most of the time, doesn’t he?”

“Well…I guess…”

“He’s trying. I don’t always remember to do things I should, either. And maybe you don’t, either?”

Mom was still irritated. “He said James will never find a job. That I wait on him hand and foot.”

Dad sighed. “Once always and never start flying, truth hides in a closet somewhere. It’s okay to help James now while he needs it. He’s sill job-hunting, maybe gets a little discouraged, but he’s persistent and will find one. He will move out — I promise — and when he does we’ll all breathe a sigh of relief. Someday we may even talk about ‘the good times we had while Uncle James stayed with us’.”

“I suppose…”

“Nick will remember to clean up most of the time. And someday he’ll get a job, too, and make his own messes in his own place. Then we’ll be on our own and you’ll have only me to pick up after. Who knows? I may have even caught on by then, too.” He gave her a hug and a kiss on the cheek. “And I’ll always love you.”

She threw her arms around him. “Now I remember why I married you.”

The Abduction

This is my contribution to this week’s Creative Challenge, a weekly feature on crimsonprose’s blog. Initially 100 words too long, it took some whittling to get it down to 150 words. I’ll call my story…

Outbuildings at Hethel

The Abduction

Reice approached the building cautiously. Was she too late? Collin had sounded so broken…coming here to think, he’d said…maybe end it all. What tragedy had brought her usually upbeat friend so low?

She had to find him. Hearing sounds, she started toward the door. Now he was calling her, but something stopped her. Reice despised this paralyzing fear!

Suddenly several guys rushed from the building. Before she could react they’d grabbed her and tied her hands and feet. “Collin,” she screamed.

He stepped forward. “I knew you’d come,” he sneered. “Sucker for a sob story. Now you’re going with these chaps and…”

“No, she’s not.” They all turned toward the voice and several policemen emerged from the woods. “Anyone who moves will be shot.”

“Grandpa!” Reice gasped.

“Your Mom overheard the conversation, Reice. She didn’t trust this guy.”

Collin’s pals scowled at him. “A copper’s granddaughter. Great move!”