This is part 2 of my fictional story “When Now is Gone”. Read part 1 here.
My father taught math and typing in high school. I never witnessed him using a computer. The school knew about his college career as a four-sport athlete, but mother was sick and it wasn’t until after she died that he began coaching the baseball and football teams.
Growing up I played every sport. I swam, ran track, played basketball and volleyball. Once, I came home from school kicking a soccer ball. My father picked it up, turned it over in his hand, then went to the kitchen, pulled a knife from the drawer, and cut it into a few pieces of plastic. I played baseball until the Babe Ruth president knocked on our door one evening. My father told me to go to my room and do my homework. It was summer. I slammed my door. After that I played softball. I played in the outfield because from the fence I’d hit the catcher in the throat with a flick of my wrist. My father went to every game.
He would ask, “Did you have fun? How did you feel?”
I’d slam my door, open it back up and yell, “The ball is too big,” and slam it again.
When I was a freshman in high school I showed up for the first day of football practice. The morning before I cut my hair short. I streaked eye black across my cheeks and muddied my face. I stuffed as many large pads as I could fit into my pants. I threw the ball farther than any freshmen. It was raining and the field was muddy and a boy had thrown up. We ran lines, my father with a whistle in his mouth, a wet camp pulled over his head.
Afterwards I ran home. But he saw me caked in mud. He parked his truck along the road and ran after me. I tried to outrun him. To show him I could do it better than any boy, even if it was him. When I stopped I turned and hit him, wrenched my fists into his chest and stomach. He curled me into his arms, walked me home in the rain as I cried and struggled. In the morning the pads and helmet were gone and after school I made fun of the soccer team as they practiced.
• • •
On that rainy day at the ballpark as Danny drilled Cash with questions about his steroid use, he kept looking at me and smiling. And then I asked my question I wasn’t supposed to ask. And then Danny started asking more questions.
Cash said, “Can I take you out to dinner?” I was busy avoiding Danny’s eyes when he elbowed me and nodded toward Cash. I looked up and saw him smiling and he asked again.
He took me to a steak restaurant where the lights are dim and the tables and chairs and walls a deep maroon, where the waiters walk with a stick up their ass. He told me about his mother and the different cities he’d lived in, the high school he attended.
He said, “At the park I couldn’t keep my eyes off you”
I said, “I only accepted your offer so I could write an article about you.”
He tried to smile. He asked the waiter for the check and then said, “Well Madeleine, it’s been a pleasure.” He stood up. I followed him to the door
I said, “Can we go back to your place.”
• • •
I told Fadi about the endangered mountain gorillas whose national park in the Congo had been overrun by militia rebels. He watched me while tearing off a piece of his baklava. A park ranger was shot and killed.
“And the gorillas?” He asked.
“Some are missing.” I watched a drop of rain fall into my coffee. I looked up at the sky. “What I was wondering was who I would give my money too?” I looked back down and Fadi chewed slowly. Someone at another table dropped a mug and it shattered on the cement. Someone laughed. “If I had one hundred dollars who would I give it to?”
“You mean you want to donate your money to the gorillas?”
“Well the national park that takes care of them. Or I could donate my money to the park ranger’s widow.” I looked back up at the sky. “Who would you donate your money to?”
Somewhere above me moisture was forming, gathering. It hung there, suspended in the sky, pausing for an instant. It’s an that moment before gravity pulls the elements into their place, balancing the world on its finely tuned edge, that I said, “Now.”
Mountain gorilla live in families where an alpha male mates with up to five females. If the alpha male dies and an offspring doesn’t replace it, alpha male from another family will assume position, often killing the young ones and taking the females. I was afraid that right “now” rebels were killing the gorillas, unbalancing the social structures and causing infanticide among the gorillas’ fractured families. But I don’t think about the widow whose husband was shot in the stomach when he heard a suspicious noise in the bush and went out to investigate. I do not worry that other males will kill her children or make her their wife.
Fadi said, “I would not give my money to either the widow or the gorillas.” He had finished his baklava and sat up straight. I didn’t want to leave. I didn’t want the rain to fall. I wanted to fix the broken pieces on the cement. But it started to rain and “now” was over.