Sunday, January 15, 2012

Brian Wolcott and the Court of Unrequited Love (PART 1 of 5)

Dear Reader,
I'm going to be trying something a little different for the next few weeks. I'm writing a short story and I'm going to post it in parts as I go along. Here is Part 1 of 5. It's a lot longer than what I usually post, so don't say I didn't warn you. Thanks!

Brian's grin filled the tiny kitchen. He hugged the newsletter to his chest while Ali ate, waiting for her to ask him about it. She didn't. Instead she gulped mouthfuls of milk and cereal and tried not to look at Brian lest he be encouraged. He thrust the crinkled piece paper in front of her face.

“Did you see the apartment complex newsletter?” he asked, grinning.

Ali gave him an annoyed look. “I have now.”

He sat down beside her at the kitchen table but she got up.

“Can't talk now, baby. I gotta go to class,” she said, dropping her bowl in the tiny kitchen sink. She hurried toward the front door, grabbing a backpack as she went. Brian followed her out into the cool winter morning, still clutching the newsletter.

“Racquetball court,” he said happily.

“Huh?” Ali said as she unchained her bike.

“Our apartment complex is opening a racquetball court.”

“You mean they're building one?” Ali asked.

“No, they're re-opening an old one here in the complex. Newsletter says it's been closed for years.”

“Really?” Ali said. She straddled the bike and looked at Brian quizzically. “How come we've never seen it before?”

Brian shrugged. “I think it's back behind the pool that's behind the laundromat.”

For the first time in the conversation Ali paused.

“I never knew anything was back there,” she murmured. “Why did it close in the first place? How many years has it been closed?”

Brian was smiling, and Ali could tell from his expression that he didn't care. He shrugged again.

“Don't you play enough at school?” she asked. “You've taken a racquetball class every semester since you were a freshman, and we both know you're not in any danger of graduating.”

Brian laughed. “You can never play enough racquetball, and it'll be nice to have a court here in the complex.”

“Who will you play with?”

“You?” Brian said hopefully.

Ali snorted. “Not likely. You're too competitive, and whenever I win, you don't speak to me for days.”

Brian pressed on. “It opens this afternoon so I'm gonna go over and I'll probably meet some other players there. It's a huge complex and there's bound to be some.”


Brian dressed carefully in his racquetball shorts. He added a headband, wristband and goggles. Last of all he reverently put on his racquetball gloves. He looked at his reflection in the tiny bathroom mirror and found it satisfactory. Brian put a new tube of racquetballs under his arm, collected his racquet and headed across the complex.

He threaded through the complex's roving pack of unsupervised seven-year-olds and walked past the mailboxes. Sun filtered through the bare winter trees that grew there and Brian walked happily though the web of shadows they cast. He passed the nearly-empty pool and through the dingy light the building that housed the racquetball court came into view. Two maintenance workers were still cutting through the ivy that had previously covered the building. Brian imagined that was why he never noticed it before. They had cleared away the door area and were working steadily down one wall.

Brian went inside and noted how new everything looked. The floor was new, and the lines and walls had been freshly painted. Two young men roughly Brian's age standing inside. He introduced himself.

“I'm Kurt, and this is my roommate Matt,” said the taller of the two. “We weren't sure anyone would come. Wanna play cutthroat?”

Brian adjusted his goggles and carefully looked the pair over. He smiled inwardly but tried to keep a straight face. He had a better racquet, better gloves and Kurt wasn’t even wearing goggles. Beating them should be easy.

“Let's do it,” he said, smiling. “But don't you need some goggles there Kurt?”

Kurt laughed. “No, man,” he sneered. “I've been playing racquetball without goggles for years and I've never had any problems.”

Matt shook his head. “You've had some close calls,” he said. “That one time I almost got you.”

“Did not!”

“I tell him all the time that he needs to wear goggles,” Matt said earnestly. “The racquetball teacher at school says that a racquetball is perfectly shaped to fit inside the human eye socket and if it hits you just right it will suck your eyeball right out of your head!”

Kurt laughed scornfully. “So are we going to play or what?”

The trio set their spare racquetballs in the back corner of the court and Brian served first. He threw the racquetball up into the air and smacked it toward the front wall. It hit with great force and the crash of the impact echoed through court. Kurt and Matt both awkwardly dived toward the racquetball as it bounced off the front wall and Brian smiled to himself. This was going to be too easy.

Matt caught the racquetball with the edge of his racquet and it wobbled back toward the front wall. Brian walked leisurely to a spot and watched as the poorly-hit blue ball floated back toward him in a slow, easy arc. He swung his racquet confidently.

And all at once Kurt was writhing on the floor and screaming, “Me eye! My eye!” Matt knelt on the floor and tried to calm him. He looked at Brian as if he were a stone cold murderer. Kurt continued to yell.

“I didn't mean to!” Brian exclaimed, his racquet dangling limply at his side. “Did his eyeball, uh, get sucked out?”

“Not sure,” Matt said over Kurt's cries. “He's got them shut.”

Matt appeared to scan the floor for loose eyeballs. Brian had started to do the same when the lights went out and plunged them into darkness.

continued next week...

Please tell me what you think of the story so far. Leave a comment or suggestion, if you please.