Thursday, April 1, 2010

Third Person Thursday: Exceptional - Part 2

This is part 2 of a continuing story. See the post from March 25th before reading further...

Over the next few weeks, James noticed his father watching him more than usual. He’d look over and catch his father staring at him sideways, like he was waiting for something to happen. He turned away suddenly each time he noticed James had seen him.

Then there was the dinner table conversation.

“How was school?” his father would ask every night.

“Fine,” James would answer through a mouthful of whatever was on his plate that evening. Then his father would stare at him a while longer, waiting. I’ve given the same answer every night for at least the past two years, he thought to himself. What more is he expecting?

He wouldn’t take a bite of food, wouldn’t let his eyes drift, wouldn’t blink, wouldn’t even breath as far as James could tell. He would just stare and wait.

“Nothing unusual happened?” he would finally ask.

While James normally answered “No” through more food, one night he was particularly fed up with the recurring question. “Nothing unusual at all,” he responded. “How was work?” he then asked and looked straight into his father’s eyes.

His father grinned. It was the kind of grin one grins when they are on the inside of an extremely inside joke. It was a grin that said I know what I’m smiling about and you know what I’m smiling about, but nobody else here does. Isn’t that awesome? It gave James the creeps.

“Boring and uneventful,” his father then replied, “just like every other day.”

He then went back to his food, but whatever he had found so funny kept that grin on his face for the rest of dinner. As James snuck glances across the table, he saw his father shoveling food past a broad smile.

As funny as boring and uneventful obviously was to his father, it was the opposite to James. It wasn’t funny, it was boring. School day after school day went past with no excitement. The work came easily to James as he was an intelligent kid, at least that’s what he always overheard said about him.

With little to challenge him in his other classes, James actually found himself becoming more interested in gym. While he had never been a jock, he’d come to find something exhilarating about physical activity lately. He’d also noticed himself in the mirror without a shirt a few times recently and liked what he was beginning to see. The traces of muscle definition were starting to show. He could actually flex and see something in his chest and biceps where he wasn’t sure there had been anything before. “Puberty,” he would say out loud to himself. He guessed he was beginning to grow into his father’s physique after all.

For the most part, activities in gym class consisted of things you could do either by yourself or with a “spotter” as Coach Tulowitzki liked to call a partner. James guessed it was because the term partner made Coach feel homophobic and spotter sounded manly. James refused to call anyone a spotter unless they were lifting weights together, which they couldn’t do anyway because the weight room was for the restricted use of whatever varsity team was currently in season, or football players.

“James, who’s your spotter?”

“Dave’s my partner, coach. He’s in the bathroom.”

“Tell your spotter,” there was emphasis on the word, “to see me when he gets back.”

When Dave returned, James found out the reason Coach T had wanted to see him. Every now and then, promoting physical fitness and health just wasn’t enough for Coach. Once of twice a month, the man would get a hankering for good, old-fashioned bloodshed. Today was one of those days and the venue would be dodgeball. Dave was to be a captain.

Dave was smaller in stature and less athletic than James. They had been friends since kindergarten. Despite all this, Dave never picked James first, always with his second pick. James understood. Dodgeball teams weren’t about popularity, it was strike or be struck. The hardest throwers were picked first. James knew he was a mid-level talent.

Soon enough, teams were picked and the game began. The weakest were taken out immediately and viciously with shouting and whooping from Coach T each time he got to call, “OUT!” As the pack on both sides of the half court line thinned, the game became more strategic. Combatants no longer grabbed a ball and whipped it as quickly as possible at the first thing they saw. They started to pick their targets.

Jerry Hart nailed Dave in the thigh. James felt sorry for Dave instantly. He knew Jerry could throw hard and on top of that Coach T seemed to over-inflate the balls to the point of bursting anytime there was to be a dodgeball game. James also felt for Dave because he knew Jerry was a complete ass hat, as Dave liked to call him. Being knocked out by a jerk always stung a little worse.

After a few more exchanges, James was genuinely surprised to find himself still in the game. He was one of only two on his side and three remained cross court. James seemed to be dodging like he never had before. He felt more agile every time a round rubber canon blast came his way. Still, he passed each ball he retrieved off to Scott Bostick. He had a better arm. Sure enough, Scott picked off two more opponents and it was just Jerry Hart on the other side.

Then, tragedy struck. Scott’s would be game winner ended up awkwardly caught between Jerry Hart’s pale forearms and his man-jacks. Scott was out and Jerry could bring a partner in.

“What a catch! Pick a spotter,” Coach T yelled.

In came Frank, whose last name James couldn’t remember. At the moment, he was too busy realizing this was the first time in his life he had ever been alone on his side of the dodgeball arena. And it was two on one. And the other guys could hurt you.

Luckily, James had one ball and he easily dodged the first throw from Jerry. He now had both balls on his side. His first mark would be Frank. It seemed unjust that Frank was back anyway, so James reasoned he ought to be the first to go.

Starting form the baseline, James ran forward and intended to throw at Frank’s feet, hoping to catch an ankle before he could jump over it. But, as soon as he let the ball go, he could see it was high. Frank squared and prepared to catch it. Instead, the ball seemed to push itself through Frank’s hands and off his chest where it echoed loudly as he fell into a sitting position on the court.

“Ow,” Frank said through clenched teeth and held a hand to his chest..

“OUT AGAIN!” Coach bellowed.

One down, thought James.

Before he could get comfortable, Jerry had the ball that had nearly knocked the wind out of Frank. James glanced to the other ball on his side and knew it was too far away. He needed to focus on his dodge.

Jerry stalked back and forth the half court line like a caged tiger. The sheer cockiness of it annoyed James, as he stood still, waiting to jump or run or whatever he was about to have to do. Suddenly, Jerry cocked his arm back and took a big step forward. Right then, as everything seemed to move in overused movie cliché slow-motion, James noticed Jerry’s eye level.

He’s going for a crotch shot, James thought. What a douche.

James couldn’t blame him…much. The crotch shot was good form in this scenario. Too high to jump over, too low to catch easily if you threw it hard enough. Jerry was sure to throw it hard enough.

With the ball still in Jerry’s hands, James began to move towards the other ball. It seemed so far away, but James had a thought. As Jerry released, James went down to his stomach, in full Pete Rose baseball slide. The ball sailed over his back and James turned sideways onto his hip, still gliding across the hardwood, coming to a stop with the other dodgeball in his hands. For a second, James was amazed at how well that had worked and wondered if his move had looked as cool as he imagined it did. He pictured it like an action movie cop performing a hood slide.

Jerry had already begun to retreat to the back wall to create distance as James got up to one knee and fired the ball forward with everything he had. It closed the distance between he and Jerry like it wasn’t even real, but barely missed as it whizzed past his shoulder.

However, when the ball struck the back wall, just a few feet past Jerry, it exploded into a cloud of powder and dropped to the floor. There was a resounding boom that echoed for a while and a gasp from all the gym class attendees. Either James had thrown it harder than he thought or Coach T had really gone overboard inflating the balls this time. Jerry picked up the airless sack of useless rubber the ball had now become and turned to Coach with a look of astonishment on his face.

In the meantime, James noticed the other dodgeball had conveniently rolled right up next to him. As Jerry Hart stood there with his stupid fat lipped mouth hanging wide open, waiting for Coach to tell him what to do, James delivered the winning shot. And he delivered it right in Jerry’s crotch.

“Ohhhhh!” Coach T shouted sympathetically. Then he added, “You snooze you lose, Hart! Showers!”

As James exited the gym, Jerry Hart was still doubled over with his hands concealed between his legs.

Later on that day, Dave caught up with James near his locker.

“I never told you how awesome that dodgeball game was. I don’t think Jerry can have kids now. I am totally picking you first next time. Thanks for avenging me, by the way.”

James laughed. “No problem.”

“Seriously, that ass hat left a mark.” Dave tried to roll his pants up high enough to show the welt he suffered but gave up. Then he asked, “What happened to your locker?”

James looked to see the dent in its door. “I hit my head on it a few weeks ago.”

Dave looked at him sideways and chuckled. “Okay, don’t tell me if you don’t want to.”

“Seriously,” James said. “I’m not messing around.”

Dave shook his head. “Whatever. Just because you won a dodgeball game, that doesn’t mean you’re Johnny Bad-Ass all of a sudden. Let’s go to lunch.”

To Be Continued…

No comments:

Post a Comment