The Ball Game

Tara Beaumont walked along in front of the metal bleachers, listening to the raucous Friday night crowd. A half-naked teenage boy, covered in red and white body paint, skittered past her, hooting and hollering like a howler monkey in heat. My how times have changed. A girl with short shorts sauntered by, which, among other things failed to cover the tattooed butterfly trying to escape from her thong panties. Thank God she saved her Mary from that mess. Free expression my ass. It’s all about conformity to the lowest common denominator.

Still, she did feel a slight bit of jealousy. When you’re 18, everything is still where it should be. Yet, she’d aged well, and although pushing 45, still managed to stay relatively thin and fit. Her jeans fit her nicely, and her breasts hadn’t begun to sag, too much anyway.

She caught glimpses of the cheerleaders forming up on the field and stood on her toes to see if she could spot Mary. After unsuccessfully trying to peer over the heads of those lurking by the chain link fence which separated the stands from the field, she surrendered to climbing the rickety bleacher steps.

As she did so, a voice barked at her.

“Tara! Imagine meeting you here?” A shiver ran down her back. What fresh hell is this? She knew that voice. Looking up, she spotted Mike DeLong several rows away from her. His crew-cut blond head poked out of a red windbreaker emblazoned with the name and logo for “DeLong Ford.” A gleam flashed from the Rolex on his wrist.

Leave it to the richest man in town to always advertise that fact.

She manufactured a smile and replied, “Indeed. Why are you here?”

“To see Jackson play quarterback.”

Ah yes, his son, that Jake kid. She raised an eyebrow. “Cheering on the home team, are we?”

Mike stared for a moment. “Oh, yeah, that too. Why are you here?”

“I always come to see Mary perform.”

He nodded. “That’s right, she’s Jackson’s girlfriend.”

Who, for whatever reason, tolerates that semi-biped that sprang from your loins“Until I can convince her otherwise,” she replied in a low voice.

Her comment disappeared in the crowd noise. He patted the seat next to him. “Come have a seat next to me.”

Where’s your wife? She peeked to his other side and did not recognize the person sitting there. “Where’s Eileen?”

“Holding down the fort,” he chirped.

More likely emptying it one bottle of Chianti at a time.

“C’mon, sit with me.”

She glanced around for empty seats and could find no suitable alternatives. Well, at least I’ve had my shots. “I suppose,” she answered, moving carefully toward him, stepping around those already seated.

Mike broke into that wide, irritating smile he always sported when events started going his way. She tried to ignore the Cheshire grin, asking instead, “I never see you here, what gives?”

“Never had a reason to come. Jackson’s a starter now.”

She suddenly remembered Mary telling her the news that the starting QB, Kip Lawrence, had gotten his ankle rolled in last night’s practice. “So I heard. Too bad about Kip.”

Mike shrugged dismissively. “Sucks to be him.”

Tara pursed her lips. All the compassion of a box of rocks and a head full of them. She sat down next to him, hopefully far enough away to avoid his brand of rabies. Or so she thought.

He slid over until nearly bumping into her. “This is nice. Reminds me of old times, when it was just you and me.”

You and your ego, you mean. She remained silent, her eyes scanning the field. Suddenly Mary’s pony-tailed visage appeared. Tara shot up and waved with both hands. Mary looked up, broke into a wide smile and waved her pom-poms.

“That’s my girl,” Tara whispered.

“A cutie like her momma,” Mike drawled.

She shot him a sidelong glance, and found him ogling her backside. Ewww. She quickly turned, shoved him back upright and sat down.

Not deterred, he leaned in. “Do you ever recall all the magical moments we had in high-school?”

“Moments?” Well, maybe one, but even that wasn’t so magical. Grass stains ruined that dress.

“It was fun though,” he added almost wistfully.

For you, yes. For her it was the first and last time she’d ever let a man get in her panties without a wedding first.

“Well?”

“Well what?”

His hand landed on her thigh. Oh hell no! She smacked it away.

He winced at bit. “Oh come on, we’re both adults. We can do whatever we want.”

“Mike DeLong, you are a married man.”

“So what? It doesn’t bother me, and you are solo since Chad left you.”

“Charles, his name is Charles, and for your information he did not leave me. We mutually agreed to a no-fault divorce.”

Waving away the distinction, he continued. “You know college is expensive, I could certainly help send Marie – ”

“Mary”

“ – to college.”

She stared at him with a furrowed brow. “Are you suggesting that I become your paid mistress?”

Shrugging Mike stretched his arms out. “Tough economic times we live in. Every little bit counts. What do you say?”

Okay, time to put an end to this. Tara smiled as coy as she could and leaned into him. “What about Eileen?” Her hand ran up his Docker clad thigh.

He let his hand rest on her shoulder, and stroked it gently. “She would never have to know,” he whispered.

“There’s only one problem,” she said breathlessly into his ear, her hand gliding over the bulge behind his zipper.

“What’s that?” he replied in a husky voice.

“I’d know.” Her hand opened then clamped down like iron on all the jewels in Mike DeLong’s kingdom. He sucked in a lungful of air and tensed, his face turning beet red.

“I’m not your whore and never will be. If you ever talk to me like this again, I will rip off your miserable excuse for manhood.” At that she released her grip and stood up.

He pitched forward clutching his crotch, mouth open wide, gasping for air.

“Enjoy the game,” Tara said, sliding out of the row of seats. She smiled. Now that’s what I call a ball game.

What Price Serenity

Victor gunned the motor of his Karmen Ghia as trees and bushes blurred past. A trail of dust marked his passage through the narrow, winding roads of Tuscany. In the distance, on a hill overlooking a cliffside lay his villa, Serenity. Beyond the cliffs lay the sparking blue waters of the Adriatic.

He passed the retention pond marking the road split. To the right the road wound down to the little fishing village, La Spezia; to the left, the road narrowed and climbed the hill to his villa. His cell phone rang. As he yanked the steering wheel over, he grabbed the phone, narrowly missing a group of tourists loitering near the roadside.
“Hello.”
“Mr. Garibaldi, this is Scott Truscott of Wie, Cheatum, and Steel, based in New York City. I’m afraid I have bad news.”
“Go on.”
“It is about your wife.”
A chill ran up his spine. “Did something happen to her?”
“Oh, she’s okay.”
“That’s a relief. So what is the problem?”
“She found out about that Swiss bank account you used to put the down payment on that Tuscan villa you always wanted.”
“Oh,” he said as the villa grew larger and larger in his field of vision. “Is there anything left?”
“I’m afraid not. What do you want to do?”
He clicked the phone off as the villa completely filled his windshield.
“I may not own it, but by God, I’m going to leave my mark on it.”

Timed Writing

[The results of a 15 minute exercise in a timed writing.  The prompt is in red.  Might be a story in there . . . ]

I reached for the lost box from the far reaches of the closet. Sitting on the bed, with the box on my legs, I opened it and stared at the contents. Inside was a bunch of letters, yellowed and stained with age, wrapped with a bit of twine, a few wrinkled wads of cash, loose coins some silver and gold, and a cloth drawstring bag pulled tightly shut.

I lifted the bundle of letters and glanced at the one on top, addressed from my father to my mother while he was away in Vietnam. Setting them aside, I sifted through the cash and coins: Krugerrands, shillings, German marks, and a few Yen. Detritus of a life lived abroad.

Then my hand settled on the bag and I pulled it out. It felt heavy, heavier than it should, I suppose. With my fingertips I pulled the drawstrings loose; it gaped open like a drunk’s slack mouth. Tipping the bag over, the contents fell into my lap. My eyes narrowed as I stared.

Of all these things that defined my father’s life, this was perhaps the most significant – a Smith and Wesson 38 caliber revolver. I snapped it up, and popped open the cylinder. All chambers still loaded, but for one. That was all it took, to end a life of adventure and travel, and all because of a secret – me.