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 Curveball [solo]

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Jay
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PostSubject: Curveball [solo]   Fri Oct 07, 2016 6:14 pm

There was a technique to beer pong. She had learned it from her dad's friend when she was eight, when he began to teach her it assuming she’d forget. She was young; she probably didn’t know what beer was. The military man, thick-shouldered and clad in camoflauge, leaned over her small frame, directing her arm. "You throw it like this," he said, slowing bringing her hand forward. "Give it a curve, aim beside the cup, the curve will take it in."

As a wide-eyed child, despite the scorn this lesson got the man from her father, Maisie practiced this curve. To make a ball curve sounded like a magical thing. She could be like those baseball pitchers, making millions of dollars, crowds cheering her name. "Maisie, Maisie!"

"Maisie!"

The ball plopped into the cup. Maisie grinned at the boy across from her, the tall wispy-bearded middle schooler with the cowboy hat too big for his head. He gave sideways glances to his friends, frowned, and downed the beer. It took him only a second of bug-eyed regret to vomit it back up, an action met with cheers from the crowd around them. He shook his head, puke splattering on the floor as people desperately moved out of the way, a display of laughter and panic highlighted on their face. Someone shook her shoulder. Another patted her back.

"Good shit, Mais!"

His name was Gregory. His eyes locked with hers as he placed a hand on her shoulder. She glanced at him. He smiled. “You kicked his ass,” the boy said, whipping his long hair from his face. With every other congratulation she received, that one resonated, like a bell’s toll long after it was struck. She looked at him. He looked at her.

“When was your first kiss?”

The girls convened at the lunch table, leaning over it, faces close, their bodies hovering over their meals. Maisie sat. She tapped on the table, chin in her hand, eyes vacantly inspecting the empty seat in front of her.

“Maisie, what about you?”

Light came back to her irises. She perked up, her hand still, her chin raising.

“What?”

“Your first kiss, your first kiss.”

Maisie’s face reddened. She placed her head back down, looking off to the seat, anywhere but into their faces.

“Some kid in elementary school.”

“What was his name?”

Maisie hesitated. Her friends’ eyes lit up like firecrackers.

The blonde girl winced as the torrent began.

“She’s never kissed anyone yet!”

“Aww, you’re so cute, Mais!”

She grit her teeth. She wanted to kill them. She wanted to kill them all.

Maisie sat down on the couch, amongst the flurry of middle school students. It was graduation night! Everyone was so happy! Why did she feel like a pit? Why was she clutching her skirt so hard? That conversation flashed in her head, the gossiping from her friends a few weeks earlier.

“You should kiss Gregory,” one said.

“I think he likes you,” another whispered, her eyes glued to his figure as he walked across the lunchroom, on the opposite side of the tables.

She watched him walk across the seats, spotting a group of boys and sitting down with them.

She watched him walk across the seats, spotting a group of boys and sitting down with them. Over his head, a banner stretching across the far wall, large words read: “Welcome to Middle School!” Their size rivalled the black hole in her stomach. On days like that, that always happened. She wished she could be with her father, curled up, rather than so alone.

She looked down at her food. It seemed like no less than a few seconds later, she looked up and he was there. He stood in front of her, plopping his tray onto the table, the apple sauce almost leaping out of its cup. She stared at him as he sat.

He gathered himself. He pressed his back into his seat. He grinned at the low-leaning girl.

“Hi. I’m Gregory.”

She opened her mouth. Though her voice caught in her throat at first, her father’s voice came to her mind. “My girl is cunning,” he’d say to friends, patting her head. “A real cat. She always seems to know what to say.”

Her lip firmed. “I’m Maisie,” she said.
“Maisie,” he repeated, toiling his fork around his plate. He made a tornado out of his vegetables. “Maize. Like the corn.”

“A maze is made of corn.” She put a spoonful of macaroni in her mouth. She talked with some bravado, the firmness laden in her voice.  “It isn’t the corn, though.”

“It’s both,” Gregory remarked. “They're spelled different.”

“You’re lying.”

He smiled, his lips closed this time. He lifted his fork. “I wouldn’t lie to a new friend.”

Maisie brought her leg up on the bleacher, sitting sideways against his back. She tied her shoe as he watched the kids run, rubbing the cast on his arm.

“Are you actually sick?”

“Nope,” she said matter-of-factly.

“This is the second time you’ve done this this week, Corn.” He bit his lip.

“Do you not like talking to me?”

“Nope.” The boy reached into his bag with his good hand. “You’re annoying and clingy.”

“You were the one that annoyed me while I was eating the first day of school, asshole.”

“You looked so pathetic.”

“Stop calling me Corn.”

“Dye your hair black.”

She punched him in his good arm.

“Ow!”

The stars hung like the drapes over her window, seeming to stretch downwards infinitely, backdropped by an orchestra of summer crickets, the smell of pine that hung from the treehouse in her backyard. She laughed. She took the paper in her hand, rolling it tight. “Where’d you get this, Gregory?”

“I stole it from my brother.”

“It’s fucking awesome.”

She put the tip in her mouth, the boy holding a lighter to the end. However, he did not bring it to meet the roll of paper, the marijuana inside.

“You’re dad is here, right?” he asked, his voice a little high, a little small. “What if he comes up here?”

“It’s fine.” Maisie snatched the lighter from him, flicking the flame on herself. The smoke poured from her mouth and she coughed violently, regaining herself in soft hacks. “He’s knocked out. He came home today, took some heavy drugs to help him sleep. At least, I insisted.”

“What about your sister?”

“She’s a baby.” The girl shrugged. “She doesn’t even know what this is.”

“You’re so lucky, Corn.” He took the lighter from her as she offered it to him on an open palm. “Your family are such pushovers.”

She smiled. “Yup,” she said. She smiled. She smiled. It was wafer thin.

The fireflies touched her skin, immediately scared away by the plumes of salty smoke as she blow her cigarette at them, angrily. He came up on his skateboard. It was an early autumn night, the cool air slapping her face, lingering like perfume. The wheels of his tool clicked across the sidewalk as he came up.

“Mais, Mais, what’s up?”

She didn’t answer. Gregor hopped off his skateboard, looking her in the eyes, flicking his hair back. The air was still. Cars flashed far away.

“Is it your dad? Did he leave again?”

She nodded. Her lip trembled. Despite the voices in her head telling her to stay firm, that she was a cat, an eloquent cat, it trembled. She threw her arms around his neck. She sobbed into his shirt. He said nothing, taking her in, letting her dirty his shoulder with her tears and snot and spit.

And then he put his arms around her.

She rose from the couch. Her skirt seemed so wrinkled, so poor; she smoothed it again and again, walking through the party, squeezing around shapes and figures of strangers she’d never met. Her heart fluttered. She felt like a hummingbird. She’d do it. She was going to do it.
She rounded the corner.

He was talking to her. His hand was pressed against the wall, his body leaning closer to her. She giggled. He laughed. Maisie could remember the girl’s voice a few weeks earlier, when she urged her to kiss him. That girl now closed her eyes. Gregory kissed that girl’s lips.

Maisie’s mouth went dry. A curveball had come out of the darkness, out of the crowd of people, and hit her in the gut. She stumbled backwards, a wide-eyed child. And slowly, quietly, her body and mind drowned out by the party’s bustle, she made it to the door.

Her lip trembled.

Her lip firmed.

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