This week we got to choose to write a story where all the characters fail at everything they do, or all the characters succeed at everything they do. I took the latter. Word Limit: 700
Noah was intensely playing with the Shape-O ball on the living room floor. He had been able to get some of the easy shapes like the circle and the rectangle. But the trapezoid was proving difficult. Frustrated, he tried jamming it into the square.
“You can do it, Noah!” Mom squealed. “You’re such a smart boy. Just keep trying!”
Noah cried, flailing his arm–and the trapezoid–behind him.
“Here!” Mom redirected. She positioned the correct shape right in Noah’s line of sight and handed him the trapezoid. “You got it!”
Noah jabbed the shape forward, sliding it in on the first try. A satisfying rattle announced his success. He cooed, smiling back at Mom.
“Yay!” Mom exclaimed. “Good job!”
“Mrs. Adams, I’m afraid what you suspected is true. He has mild mental retardation.” Dr. Arkwright’s empathetic voice belied his diagnosis.
She was already crying. “What? What did I do wrong?”
“You’re an amazing mother” He clasped her hand. “And he’s an amazing boy. I’ll help you the best I can.”
“Noah is an amazing boy,” she said through her tears. Noah looked up and grinned.
She had spent the last two weeks teaching Noah how to make toast. Step one: grab a piece of bread. Step two: put the bread in the slot. Step three: turn the dial to 4. Step four: push the button. Step three was the hardest.
“I did it, Mom!” Noah proudly presented her with something resembling charcoal.
“You did!” she confirmed, giving him a high five. “And you know what? You’re only going to get better at it.”
Two windows were open on her desktop, one with her bank balance, and the other the mortgage payment. Once again, they were going to make it. Still, she’d couldn’t shake the feeling she was letting Noah down somehow. Perhaps if they had more…
“Mom?” Noah had crept up on her, hanging his head.
“Yes, dear?” She brushed his hair out of his eyes.
“I promised you I would do really good in school this year.” He stuck out his report card. All C’s.
“Oh, baby!” she cried, holding him tight. “You did wonderful! I’m so proud of you.”
“But Mom, I am…”
“Noah Adams!” Coach Taylor bellowed. “Get a bat and go out there!” The score was tied 2-2 with two outs in the final inning.
Noah looked up from the scorebook and gave Coach a puzzled look. He never played unless it was a blowout.
“It’s the final game of the season, kid. We’re already in the playoffs.”
Noah looked at the bat rack. “But if we win, we’ll be the first team to go undefeated in twenty-three years.”
“You’re right. Now grab a bat.”
Noah grabbed the blue Easton and rushed out of the dugout. He took two awkward swings and rushed up to the plate.
“You can do it, Noah!” called Mom from the bleachers. “Get a hit!”
The first pitch was a low fastball, and Noah swung, dribbling the ball back to the mound. Running as hard as he could, he saw the pitcher cleanly field the ball. The pitcher took two steps towards first, then stopped. He looked at Noah, looked at the ball, then fired it five feet over the first baseman’s head.
The next minute was a blur. Everyone was yelling at him to run. He was sure he’d be out at second, but another wild throw allowed him to go to third.
“Go home, Noah!” yelled the opposing pitcher. He looked at Coach, who nodded. So he ran home. He saw the catcher grab the throw. He slid as the catcher brought down the tag.
“What happens now, Mom?”
She struggled to open her eyes. The hospital bed was getting too comfortable. “Baby, I told you. You’re going to a very nice home and I’m going to Heaven.”
“I’m scared, Mom.”
“That’s okay, baby. And you’ll be okay. You’re strong. I’m so proud of you.”
Noah climbed into bed and held her. “I love you Mom.”
As day passed into night, he stayed with her, repeating his final words.
K: This one does come dangerously close to schmaltz, I think, though it’s impossible to not love and respect Mom for her commitment to the boy despite his difficulties. The baseball game is a nice gesture but seems a bit out of place as Mom is just a spectator in that particular segment; Mom’s death also kind of came out of nowhere and I think some hints that she wasn’t long for this world really would have poured some legitimate emotion into a story that already had plenty of Lifetime movie-of-the-week charm. It doesn’t need major changes, but just a little work would help a lot.
DK: I want to say first that as with the others, I enjoyed the structuring of this one a lot and this came really close to a medal for me, since it mostly earns its emotional payoff. My hangups were more nitpicks of the necessity to get down to two bronzes: I went back and forth on whether the paragraph with the doctor needed to be so explicit, or present at all, and I don’t think the baseball section had the effect on me that was intended by the author. I tend to find those kind of things suffocatingly patronizing, but that’s my individual bias more than anything.
MG: Sweet, and hard to dislike, but it’s the kind of sweet you just know would be fodder for a Hallmark Channel mid-weeker, or a holiday family film with a modest first weekend opening. What’s more, it feels like a cherry-picked version of some of the elements of Forrest Gump, and that’s…fine. I mean, there’s nothing objectionable here. But there’s nothing all that compelling either.
Well, that’s a punch to the gut. I can’t say I disagree with the judge’s comments, though I feel like my story was more Terms of Endearment than Hallmark Channel. But yeah, it wasn’t that deep and cherry-picking events from someone’s life is one thing I hate about some popular country songs.
In better news, Liam Neeson’s Walrus did just fine without me, finishing in second place of the remaining teams. For those playing along at home, that makes 15 players left, 7 of them with our team. Things are looking good.