Short Stories

Damage Control

Tom Fullerton. Principle. That's the way the letter was addressed. OK, yeah, that's me, that's my name but I'm so much more. Father, ex-husband, teacher, coach, neighbor, friend. Right now I'd rather be anyone but Tom Fullerton. Principle.
Maybe if I read it a third time, maybe the contents would miraculously change. He lifted the letter up and sighed. Nope. Same letter.
"Fullerton" it began. Not "Mister", not "Tom", but "Fullerton". 
"One of your teachers Mary Evans is having an affair with my seventeen year old son. What are you going to do about it? Meet me at the pub on Green Street Tuesday at two and bring that tramp with you." That was all it said, no signature, no return address.
Tom Fullerton Principle was having trouble breathing. His stomach was in knots and he was visibly shaking. 
And then the strangest thoughts started going through his mind.  
 
Why did she do this to me?
 
I thought she loved me. Not some hot headed testosterone poisoned high school junior. Me.
 
Not should I call the police. Not should I track down this boy. Not how much damage will this cause the school. Not should I show up at the pub or not.  Not even- 
 
Is it true? Because deep down he knew that it was. 
 
Just.
 
Why did she do this to me?
 

The Catch

"You're a bum Landers. You're a fuckin' bum"!
 I looked up at my father in horror but said nothing. What could I say? A baseball stadium full of people, my dad who had had way too many beers and now he's shouting at the batters. Even at nine years old I knew he had problems and I knew when to shut up. So I sat, watching the game, hitting my mitt. Watching the game, hitting my mitt some more. Waiting for a foul ball.
"And don't waste your time waiting for a foul ball either" he said. "They never come up here to the cheap seats". I always hated it when he read my mind. Then he turned back to the game."Come on ya bum, we just gave you a ten million dollar contract, get a freakin' hit"!
People started to turn around and stare. I looked for a hole to crawl into. Finally I speak.
"Dad"? my voice cracks. "Dad, do you think, you know. Do you think I could ever be a baseball player some day"?
"You? Forget it. I told you you've got bad hands. You need to do what everybody else does. Learn a trade, get a real job."
 
The sound of Lander's bat echoed around the stadium. It wasn't going straight though,it was a foul tip and it was coming right for us.
"I got it" I yelled but my father just laughed. I yelled again. "No, I got it, I've got my mitt"! I punched my glove over and over so it was ready and suddenly in that surrealistic slow motion way when important things happen in your life, the ball landed just above the name Rawlings and tricked down into the meat of my glove and stayed. I grabbed the ball and held it so high in the air I almost pulled out my shoulder.
 
Forty thousand people screamed their approval. The gigantic TV scoreboard showed the replay of me, my mitt and The Catch. 
 
Then it showed Landers looking all the way up to my seat, looking all the way up to me as he took off his cap and tipped it my way. 
 
"He's no bum" I said softly. My father never heard me. Or maybe he just pretended not to.
 

Let's Do It

  This is never going to work. Just like the last time didn’t work and the time before that. The two things I hate the most, blind dates and dinner parties. Yeah she’s pretty and everything but so was the last one until she started ranted about what a genius Kanye West is. Seriously,people have to set the bar a bit higher for what they call a genius these days.
 
 “OK who wants to start”?  Oh God, the infernal "music lovers" game. I’d rather put bamboo shoots up my fingernails and…
 “Joseph how about you”? chimed Holly the Hostess. How about someone who has actually listened to the radio since 1980 I think but decide not to say. “OK let me see”. I wrack my brain through a catalog of true musical geniuses. “How about this: Blackbird singing in the dead of night…” Blank stares. My friend Tony sighs and says “not this again”. More blank stares.
 
And then a funny thing happens. My date, what’s her name again? Mona. Mona raises her hand and says “Take these broken wings and learn to fly” and then smiles at me. Then she says “Not really the Beatles, just McCartney”. Holly the Hostess then smiles herself and says “Well done Mona. Now you go”. Mona looks at the ceiling for a moment and says “In a Mountain Greenery”. Silence. I wait for the knuckleheads but they don’t have a clue. So I say “Where God paints the scenery, just two happy people together. Rogers and Hart. Not Hammerstein, but Lorenz Hart”.
 
“OK” Holly says but she seems concerned. “Um, Joseph back to you”. Without missing a beat I say “Birds do it, bees do it, even educated flees do it.” Mona surprises everyone by taking my hand, looking me in the eye and saying “Let’s do it, let’s fall in love”.
 

Close Call

 
 Forty stories up. No problem. Every morning Tommy heard his father’s voice bouncing around his head. “This kid” he would say to Tommy’s mother, “...this kid has no fear of heights”. And it was true. A healthy respect but no fear. 
He clipped on his safety harness and started to walk across the I-beam with his blowtorch in hand. 
Suddenly he stopped. 
 “Screw it” he said and unbuckled, letting it swing down and across the steel skeleton until it clanged on the other side.
 Some days you just feel like a nut, he thought.
 “Davis, whatcha doin’...”? his boss shouted. 
 “Just takin’ a walk, man. Just takin’ a...” His foot hit a small patch of oil, no more than a quarter sized pool, but it was enough.
 
It happens fast when you fall. None of this falling through molasses, seeing your life flash in front of you stuff. Just fast. Then faster.
Flailing, reaching, screaming, grabbing, praying, dying.
 
“Davis, whatcha doin’...”? 
 His dream ride was over, his imaginary death a quickly fading memory. He started to think again about the Jets. Those fucking Jets.
 “Nothin’ boss, nothin’'. He walked over and picked up his harness and locked it to his body and went about his day.
 

Butterfly

What are you going to name it?
Henrieta.
What?
Henrieta.
Oh. How do you know it's a girl?
Daisy scowled and grabbed the Mason jar with the holes punched in the top and held it up to the sunlight streaming through the double hung window in her room, trying to find the genitalia on a body a quarter of an inch long.
She sighed. I just know, because she's so beautiful and girls are beautiful.
Justin Beiber is beautiful.
No!!!! Justin Beiber is handsome. Boys are handsome!
They paused, both of them thinking about Justin Beiber.
So what are you going to do with her?
Daisy tried to make a face that said "Well you're pretty dumb if you don't know what I'm going to do with her" but apparently it wasn't working.
She's going to live with me. Forever.
Forever?
Yes forever and ever and ever and ever and...
STOP! said Ellen. Even when you're in college? Even when you're married?
Hmmm. Daisy thought for a moment. I hadn't thought about college. But yes. Forever. And I would never ever ever ever...
STOP! said Ellen.
I would never marry a man who didn't love butterflies.
Knock. Knock knock. Girls, are you in there?
Daisy frowned. Yes Mom.
The door opened.
Honey it's time for Ellen to go home for din...why do you still have that butterfly in that jar? You need to let it go.
Ellen sucked in a breath. Mrs. Davenport, Daisy wants to keep the butterfly forever.
No she doesn't. We've had this discussion.
Daisy sighed. AGAIN?
She walked over to the window and pushed it open and then grabbed the jar,unscrewed the lid and turned it upside down. Henrieta slowly slid down the twig that was lodged against the glass and alighted on the windowsill. Her beautiful Monarch wings were now spead, gently fanning the cool twilight air.
Goodbye Henrieta, said Ellen.
Goodbye Henrieta said Daisy.
Her mom put her hand on Daisy's shoulder.
Goodbye Henrieta said her mom.
And with that, Henrieta was gone.