Perfect game

perfect-gameJayson was on the verge of an epic accomplishment. His team had overcome enormous odds. The shelves of the trophy cabinet outside the principal’s office were collecting dust. Now, the Titans were an out away from a state championship and that coveted first trophy.

Jayson toed the rubber. He shouldn’t have been pitching this game. He was a reliever, responsible for filling innings when their team was woefully behind. He had become a regular contributor, before this improbable season. With their ace pitcher twisting an ankle just minutes before the first pitch, Jayson was given the impromptu start.

It was agonizing. Each inning, Jayson had thrown up a seemingly endless supply of donuts. No runs, no hits, nothing. How long could his mediocre pitcher defy the odds? Everyone could sense the coach’s thoughts. He kept doubling down, and that’s how Jayson arrived at a different form of the baker’s dozen, twice over, twenty-six consecutive outs.

The single blemish was the batter he just pelted. Up by one run, a single out would earn Jayson a championship and a no-hitter, a holy grail for pitchers at any level.

Jayson saw Chloe in the bleachers. He’d always been smitten with her, but she was out of his league. He knew she’d come to watch Troy smack homers. Everyone did. Focus. Jayson exhaled before beginning his windup.

It took under a second for Jayson’s pitch to reach home plate, and even shorter to realize the consequences of his concentration lapse, the bat launching his offering over the fence. A perfect game had already eluded Jayson. Gone now was the no-hitter and the championship.

Jayson looked around, convincing himself this wasn’t real, that he hadn’t made that fateful pitch. The opposing team hoisting the trophy reaffirmed the reality of his nightmare. Chloe was walking towards the dugout, probably to console Troy. Jayson could see her make a mark on the dugout pole before strolling out to him still on the mound.

“Hey.” Smiling with empathy, Chloe leaned over and pecked Jayson on the cheek.

Spinning in an emotional maelstrom, Jayson was unable to grasp anything, so he returned to the last thing he remembered. “What did you do? On that post?”

Chloe blushed. “I made a mark, for every game I’ve come to watch you.”

“Me? I thought …” Honestly, Jayson wasn’t sure what he thought.

“I was waiting to see how long it would take for you to ask me out. I decided next season is too far away. How about some pizza?”

She stood on her tiptoes, removed Jayson’s cap, and slipped her ponytail through it as she nestled it on her head. With fingers intertwined, Chloe led them to a quiet table away from the celebration, two slices of pizza creating a small slice of heaven.

Numbers don’t lie. Jayson had lost his chance at baseball perfection. The once in a lifetime opportunity sitting across from him right now, however, reminded him this particular game couldn’t have ended any more perfectly.

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Connection

ocean-connectionNestling his toes into the sand, Adam allowed the surf to encroach upon his space. The ebb and flow of the water was therapeutic despite its chilly temperature. He always came here when he needed time to think.

Adam had dedicated everything to Rachel and their relationship. And now, two days before their five year anniversary, she ended it most callously through a text message. She had decided to move in a new direction. In other words, I found someone new.

Adam was what most would consider a social outcast, holed up in his apartment paying more attention to his laptop screen than the world around him. When Rachel entered his life, everything changed. A new world had opened up that changed something at Adam’s core. Now, he felt like receding back into that sheltered corner of his mind where vulnerability and risk could be kept at a safe distance.

The morphing color from the setting sun, apricot to crimson, reminded Adam of a childhood memory. While the red balloon was inflated with helium, Adam finished scrawling his message on the paper. He allowed his imagination to wander. The belief that this vessel could travel across the ocean to some foreign land was a manifestation of the energetic hopefulness of youth. His balloon never made it far, but that never stopped him from believing in something more.

Lifting a handful of sand, Adam allowed it to trickle between his fingers. Where has the time gone? The thought came from his rational mind, but was quickly accompanied by a rumination from his emotional mind. Where has the hope gone? He wanted a return to his youthful dreams. The reality of adulthood was getting in his way.

As the water crested over into a wave that Adam would never forget, the surf enveloped him with its comforting arms. The bottle that washed up with this wave began to recede back into the ocean. Instinctively, Adam grabbed it. The top was corked with something inside.

The Asahi beer label had been peeled off and placed inside with a small heart-shaped pebble. Adam smiled, remembering that Asahi meant morning sun. Through the promise of a new day, a spark was ignited allowing Adam to recapture the boundless hope of his younger days.

On a similar stretch of sand, a continent away, a young woman sits, watching the sun peek above the horizon. The hope of something more had vacated her life too. She hoped that dropping that bottle in the surf, watching it be carried away, would bring her some solace. She had visited this shore countless days, for months, anticipating some sign from afar. The sunlight that filtered through the clouds and passed into her eyes on this day seemed to carry with it something more, the smile of another. The smile on her face spread wide. As if tethered by a strand of sunlight stretched across the miles, two souls were forever connected through the promise of hope and a shared smile.

Misfortune

after-the-rainMonday morning – the incessant buzzing from the alarm clock mocked Drew and the mundane work day that lay ahead of him. He aimlessly slapped at the snooze button three times before giving up. It was as if this inanimate object was dodging his attempts to secure a measly extra five minutes of shuteye.

Slipping from beneath the down comforter, scratching his head, he mumbled at the puppy curled up on the corner of his bed, “You could have chosen to sleep in on the day I had off, you know.”

Drew reached into the shower, rotated the hot water knob and waited for the steam to warm the cold bathroom. It never did. The tepid water matched his mood to begin the day. To make matters worse, the deluge outside pouring down upon his roof meant the commute would be a nightmare.

Darting out to his car, attempting to dance between the raindrops, it mostly worked save for the last step. The accumulating puddle of water did not resist the force exerted by his size twelve shoe. Water seeping through the soles of his shoes was accompanied by the spray northward onto his previously dry slacks.

As if one misfortune naturally led to another, the polite ding from his dashboard indicated that he had twenty miles to empty. Given his recent luck, Drew didn’t feel it wise to tempt fate. Filling his tank with ten dollars of mid-grade, the torrential rain had begun to blow horizontally ushered by the approaching squall line.

Departing the gas station while simultaneously flipping on his headlights and wipers, his redirected attention missed the warning signal from the brake lights ahead of him. Swerving at the last second, he narrowly missed the bumper of the vehicle in front of him. But, he did manage to find the perfectly positioned nail from the construction site adjacent to the gas station.

A mere hundred yards from the shelter of the gas station, Drew had now conceded to a fully saturated wardrobe for the day. After repairing the flat tire and continuing on his route, he ran his wet sleeve over his forehead to keep the water from dripping into his eyes.

Entering the lobby, he dejectedly entered the elevator and requested permission to be transported to his floor. About midway to his destination, the crack of thunder could be heard and felt at the same time the lights were extinguished and Drew’s upward motion ceased.

“Perfect.” Drew slouched against the wall and waited. The next forty-five minutes found him shivering, contemplating his series of misfortunes in complete darkness. It was only after power was restored, and the doors of the elevator opened four floors early that Drew understood.

The dimples in her cheeks as she smiled spoke a thousand inaudible words. The carefully aligned series of mishaps inserted into Drew’s day allowed the prograde motion of Mars to align with Venus – what would end up being the most fortunate set of misfortunes in Drew’s life.

Tunnel vision

tunnel-vision

The whistle from the steam locomotive was followed by an imperceptible tug on the couplers connecting the cars. The slow, but steady acceleration out of the station left the platform in the past, along with their worries.

She had convinced him that this was exactly what they needed, a relaxing ride across the countryside. Between the lost luggage, botched hotel reservations, and steady diet of inclement weather, this was not the ideal way to celebrate their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary.

He reached over to wrap his hand around hers, the wrinkles showing battle scars each had endured over the years. The memories of a child that was never conceived, despite their persistent attempts, was never fully purged from their weary hearts. A resilient couple, each took a turn to help support the other. It was her turn, after his perfectly planned getaway turned out to be anything but.

The gentle sway of the open car along with the cool autumn breeze assuaged his anxieties. With elevated pulse finally beginning to subside, he leaned over and planted a kiss on her cheek. She gazed into his eyes and smiled. No words were exchanged, but the message was clear.

The grating sound of metal on metal along with an abrupt deceleration pulled their attention from the silent conversation. The unrest exuded by other passengers was not unfounded. This unplanned stop found the train in enveloping darkness. The damp and musty smell of whatever was growing on these tunnel walls permeated the senses.

The murmur of voices in the black void escalated, along with the distressing cries from children and their vivid imaginations. Just to the right, he discerned a pinpoint of light that shouldn’t have been there.

Taking her hand, still intertwined with his, he led her confidently through the dark aisle towards the light. As the distance dwindled, the source grew more luminous, appearing like a portal to another world. Together, they stepped over the threshold, darkness transforming into radiant brightness reminiscent of a fairy tale.

tunnel-of-loveThe dirt pathway stretching out before them went on for as far as the eye could see. Framed by the arch of trees, limbs reached to connect overhead, creating a canopy of protection from adversity. With each step, the stale scent of stone walls was replaced with the intoxicating scent of blooming gardenias. In this world, there was no pain, no burden, only love.

Feeling the ground shuffle beneath her, she wrapped her free hand around his waist. She was dancing with him, swaying to and fro in the most glorious ballroom at the turn of the century. It was then that she heard the misplaced sound of a whistle, and sensed the emergence of natural light in the train car.

As the train continued forward, his baby blues locked on her hazel eyes, he tossed a smile in her direction. She returned one, as if bobbing a curtsy to thank him for the dance. The darkest tunnel would never dampen the light shining inside them.

Author’s Note: I composed this story through a weekly prompt provided by a new online writing community that I have subscribed to on Amazon. WriteOn is a great way for writers to expand their comfort zone by experimenting in different genres, incrementally releasing stories, and soliciting feedback on what is working/not working from other members. I highly encourage aspiring writers to check it out. I am presently pushing my own envelope by working on development of a short story in the thriller genre. Stay tuned, and as always, best wishes for an inspired day!