Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Saturday, January 21, 2012
Friday, January 20, 2012
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Monday, January 16, 2012
Friday, January 13, 2012
Wednesday, January 11, 2012
It was cold, and the cold always made it hard to catch a shotgun pass. Ronnie's fingers were already so rigid from the wind they were a light blue. Not alarming, but enough to make him distracted at all the wrong times.
"Watch the spiral," his father said.
Through the wind and dull light of early evening, the words sounded muffled to Ronnie, but he held his hands up anyway, figuring correctly it was some sort of instruction about the next pass.
Place your middle and next finger on the second and third thread of the football. Wrap your thumb around the back and give it a good squeeze. Fire, fire, fire.
The football made a small sound moving through the air and landed against Ronnie's outstretched hand with a blast of power. He forced his teeth together, at once aware of the chilled air sailing over his nose hairs and into his lungs. He let the ball drop on the pavement. His fingers, all of them, had made popping sounds when the ball hit. Now his knuckles felt ready to tear away from the joints.
"Don't worry about the catching. We'll work on that later. Now grab that thing up and put your fingers were I said. Watch it spiral. Right now, straight at my chest."
Fire, fire, fire.
Ronnie shook his hands and pulled them to his lips. He bent, grabbed the football. He put it under his arm and then cupped his hands together, pushing warm breath between them. The warm air coated his bent and swelled fingers. When he tried to take the football in his hands, he couldn't. His fingers wouldn't close. He didn't say anything, though, he kept trying and dropped it once, twice, three times onto the pavement. A light snow started to fall.
"Just kick it back up here, Ronnie," his father said. He planted his hands on his knees and dangled his head toward the frozen ground.
Ronnie did as he was told and tapped the ball with the front of his shoe. It lopped and rolled off into the grass near the road about a foot from his father. His father shook his head and snorted through his nose. "Now get ready for this one." He pulled the ball back and smacked it twice to get a good grip.
The football moved in a perfect spiral through the air, splitting the small flakes of snow on its way to Ronnie. Mesmerizing, hypnotic, slightly beautiful. He didn't feel any pain when the ball hit him in the nose. Things went numb and then his face was full of heat and his neck was tingling and warm. Sticky wetness spread across his chest.
Ronnie looked at his father stretched out a hundred miles away. He was a spot of dark against dark in the fading light, arms to his side and his head cocked to the left. Ronnie searched for the football as best as he could with the blinding skim of tears draining from his eyes. The tears and the snowflakes mixed with small splatter spots of blood across the pavement. When he did manage to find the football, there were small drops of blood across the letters and standing out brighter against the off-white threading.
Ronnie's hands, his fingers, weren't cold now. Nothing about him was cold. It was all red fury and blood moving quickly through his arms and legs. He thought he might toss the football aside and charge his father, all might and will and weak ambition and rage. He picked the football up and ran toward his father with the ball cocked back over his shoulder. He thought of just running into him full-blown and tiny. His anger would have made up for all that. Instead, he let the ball go when he was halfway to his father.
It was no perfect spiral like the one that had flattened his nose and busted veins the doctor would later say looked like wild lightning racing toward his forehead. It was crazy and tilting and pushed through the cold air in clumsy chunks of twisting brown, lame and flat and slow. His father only leaned out a couple inches and caught the ball in one large palm. He didn't bother closing his fingers, never bothered to take his eyes off Ronnie, who was now doubled up in the road with blood running from his broken nose and onto his shoes.
"Gone on ahead and catch this one," his father said, and underhanded the ball at Ronnie.
It was a light toss but it hit Ronnie on the side of the head and random spears of pain ran from his temples and into his face. He touched his nose with his useless fingers. It was swelled and stretched against his cheekbones.
"Pick it up. Sometimes there's pain. Can't just fold, Ronnie. Can't just give up." He walked across the pavement, closed the distance between them, and Ronnie thought he might lean over and check his injury. Instead, he gripped the ball and brought it to Ronnie's chest. "Can't just give up, Ronnie. That's just what he wants. Can't let them win, little man."
Ronnie heard the words but was lost. The only things he was sure of was that he was not going to the hospital right then and he was going to continue passing football with his father.
He picked the football up out of the building layer of snow that covered the ground. He tucked it to his side and watched his father swagger back to his spot. He walked back to his spot and searched for the threads on the football.
It felt like loading the gun for his execution.
Sunday, January 8, 2012
Thursday, January 5, 2012
Tuesday, January 3, 2012
NOTE: The following is a chapter from the first draft of my novel DYSPHORIA.
The kitchen was quiet and wrapped in warm brown colors. The scent of butter and fried meats was everywhere. And it was quiet, except for Paul's fork sliding across the porcelain surface of his dinner plate.
It was a sound he barely noticed, concentrating on each bite.
Paul's grandmother was at the head of the table and his father sat across from him. His father was busy with his own plate of food. Paul watched him absently poke his fork into a mound of mashed potatoes. Paul didn't look up from his plate and so he didn't notice how his father stared at him.
Two tired blue eyes gazing and lost behind an oily and matted clump of raven black hair. Below, a fork worked mechanically, going through familiar motions. His mouth was pulled into a long and permanent frown so the corners of his horse-hair mustache rubbed close to the middle of a military chin. It was one hard part of a face, stripped of emotion and pock-marked from severe acne.
Paul's grandmother was quiet in her chair. Her eyes were tight inside trembling sockets. Waiting. Worried. Somehow expectant.
Paul saw none of this. He kept his head down and moved his fork across his plate in brief screeches and pulls.
Then the room exploded and everything was bright blue electricity.
Paul's father jumped out of his chair. His grandmother leaned back, surprised, and flung her arms out to either protect herself or stop her son. Blue fierce eyes and tangled hair quivered and shook across the room, leading his father closer, hurled from the force of a phantom tornado. A fast moving mouth and violent, incoherent yelling became Paul's sensory world. His stomach walls beat against his ribs. His fork fell to the floor. The sound of it clattering to the floor was lost in a gale of screams.
Few other things mattered at all now. He rushed past his father, who grabbed the sides of the table and gained ground across the kitchen. Paul struggled around a corner and into the hallway, but fell roughly on the trampled carpet and burned raw streaks across both his knees. The pink burns immediately ached through to his kneecaps, but behind him was the sound of heaving breathing and so he pin-balled his way through the hallway. The breathing coming from behind him was interrupted with shouted questions about what he thought he was doing. Was he starved to death? Wasn't there enough food? Was he so hungry he had to scrape the plate over and over and over?
The entire thing was brief and years later Paul would shorten his memory of it even more, edit most of it and leave only the last, when his father cornered him in the bathroom. He would remember his father bending low into his face where he stuck himself between the bathtub and the clothes hamper, screaming at him in a blur of anger and sickness, maniac and out of control, without regret until too late, when it no longer mattered.
Sunday, January 1, 2012
I nearly forgot I had nominations to make before signing off from The Airgonaut entirely. My last act as editor gets to be about the most r...
I've published for the last couple of years an online journal called The Airgonaut . I've placed a submission closed update there t...
Best Small Fictions 2017 Guest Editor Amy Hempel Series Editor Tara L. Masih Braddock Avenue Books (September, 2017) $13 (Braddock Av...