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.

Of Spider Webs & Goose Down

The Ragtag Daily Prompt today is GOSSAMER.

If you’ve taken the time to check out this word over at Merriam-Webster, you’ll find that it has an interesting etymology. Gossamer comes from “goose summer,” a time that would roughly correspond to our Indian Summer. And not because they were flying south, but because they’re at their plumpest for the roasting pan.

Gossomer was also the Middle English word used to describe filmy cobwebs floating through the air in calm clear weather, apparently because somebody thought the webs looked like the down of a goose. If you see them in the early morning on the grass, wet with dew, you could almost think of down.

Today we use it as a rather poetic synonym for thin, light, flimsy, filmy. As in:
The weary travelers sighed for some break in the heat, but the gossamer wisps above offered no relief.

Cowcatcher Persona

The Word of the Day over at Merriam-Webster is an old-fashioned one I haven’t heard for years. A COWCATCHER is an inclined frame on the front of a railroad locomotive for throwing obstacles off the track. Since cows no longer wander about freely, I suppose locomotive makers no longer see the need of adding one.

Just for fun I decided to re-purpose this word for our day and created this verse:

Your words hurt,
I try to explain.
I feel the sting;
see the pain in their faces.
But his cowcatcher persona
tosses my words to the winds
and plows on.

A Must-Read For Writers

One of the items in my In-Box this morning was an article by Sandra Gerth called The 50 Most Common Spelling & Grammar Mistakes. READ IT HERE

I read through her list, nodding all the way, and learning a few things as well. For example, I learned that T-shirt should always be written with a capital T. And alright is NOT a word.

If you want to improve your writing, do take a few minutes to read her article. She’s an editor and she lists many of the annoying grammar/spelling mistakes that have annoyed me when I read a book, or someone’s blog post. Enough of these blips will get your manuscript rejected at the Acquisitions desk.

Big one: it’s versus its. Maybe I am pedantic (our prompt word yesterday) but seeing the wrong one makes me want to shriek! The bird did not spread it’s wings. It’s is NEVER possessive. It’s is ALWAYS the contraction for the words IT IS. The bird spread its wings. End of rant. 😉

Years ago my penpal from Hungary touched on something everyone who learns English as a second language must twig onto:
She wrote, “We have to show American movies here.” But she didn’t mean “We have to show American movies here.” In fact, theaters over there were free to show whatever they wished. And if you’re free to do it or not, as you wish, then you don’t have to.
She really meant: We have American movies to show(see). Or, in their country they can go to a theater and watch American movies. I explained to her that ‘have to” means “must.”

To save us all from total confusion on this point, when English speakers mean “YOU MUST” the ‘v’ changes to an ‘f’. At least here in North America, the two words are run together and pronounced like “haff to.” Some authors, using colloquial dialogue, will even write it that way:
“She’s gotta go see him again.”
“Sue, you hafta go see him again. You hafta tell him how you feel.”
John snorted in disgust. “No, Sue does not have to.
Saying it carefully, with emphasis on the “not have to” expresses disagreement.

One blip Ms Gerth didn’t cover was WREAK and WRECK. I hear these words interchanged and see them wrongly written so often. Wreak means to bring about or cause. The storm wreaked havoc. Wrecked means damage or destroy. The car was wrecked in the accident. The storm didn’t damage the havoc. So close, but not quite the same.

A dictionary is a writer’s best friend — and it should be a speaker’s best friend, too. One day a friend pronounced the word “chasm” like “kasm” and I corrected her. “It’s said CH-asm.” And she corrected me. Her dictionary says it’s K-asm, like K-ristmas. So I looked it up — and she’s right. That’s the first pronunciation given.
Note to self (blush): ALWAYS CHECK.

Now I shall end my spiel and let you read the article for yourself. Here’s the link again: 50 Common Mistakes

Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning: PRONOUNCED
Word of the Day prompt: CHALLENGE
Jibber Jabber with Sue prompt: FREE