Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Story Twentyone: Working Weekends

Today's prompt comes not only from a prompt but from something one of my students said to me recently. The prompt was someone is working on a computer in the bleachers, which gets destroyed by the longest home run ever. The statement was one of my students who hates weekends because their parents divorced a while ago and it's a source of tension for this kid. The question asked of me was why parents don't get that it's the kid's weekend, not theirs? My student was frustrated that one parent was complaining about some event on "thier" weekend. The kid asked me why parents don't see it as the kid's weekend because, "it's not like my isn't working the whole time pretty much any way...."

So this one is for that student... and all the kids... who just want their parents to know that it's hard on them too.


“You brought your netbook? To a game?!”

Sheila was disgusted with her father in that moment. Ever since her parents got divorced, her father complained he didn’t have enough time with her anymore, but it was the same thing every weekend as when her folks were married: he was always working. Now he was finally taking her to a game at Fenway and he brought a net book with him as they sat in the bleachers two rows above the famous Ted Williams red seat.

When Da, her grandfather, used to take her to games back when she was little, he would point out the red seat out in the bleachers and tell the story of how Ted Williams, in June of 1946, drove a Fred Hutchinson pitch for “the longest joy ride ever hit in Fenway” to knock a Yankees fan’s hat off his head.

“I’m telling you kiddo,” her grandfather would say, “it was a glorious thing, the ball just kept going 502 feet before it fell from the sky. Some poor schmuck of a Yankees fan in the stands had pulled his straw boater over his eyes and took a nap until Teddy Ballgame woke him up.” He would chuckle at the memory. “Fred Hutchinson should be grateful for that day because, if not for that infamous home run, he would have been another faded memory like Stan Papi and Wally Pipp. A sad way to be remembered in history, but at least those men are remembered.”

She and Da would always have someone take a picture of them behind the seat. The biggest surprise was the day he actually got her a ticket for that exact seat. She had secretly hoped Big Papi would hit a home run that far that day. Even though he did hit one into the bleachers, it wasn’t nearly that far up. Shortly after her parents divorced, Da’s health started to decline. She would spend one Sunday afternoon a month watching the game with him until he moved into the assisted living facility a month ago. Now her father never wanted to go there and Sheila was growing angrier with her father for being such a jerk.

“Look Sheila, I know you don’t understand and I’m sorry but if I don’t get this proposal finished then it could mean my job. I figured this was the best way to go to a game with you and still be able finish this up before going into the office tomorrow. They have wi-fi here and I’m almost done. By the fourth inning I should be done and we can enjoy the rest of the game together.”

“Fine,” she muttered as she slouched into the seat a bit more. She could see the red seat in front of her and feel a tear near by as she thought of her Da. “If you’re going to work, then I want to go see Da after the game so I can tell him about it.”

“The new place isn’t that kid friendly.”

“Why? Because it’s where old people go to die?”

“What would make you say that?”

“Because, it’s where old people go to die because they can’t take care of themselves anymore.”

Her father rolled his eyes.

“It’s not like that.”

“I’m ten, not a baby. I get it. Da’s old which is why he needs me to watch the games with him now more than ever. If you’re going to work, the least you can do is let me tell Da about it afterwards.”

Her father looked at her and sighed.

“Fine, if can get this finished, then I’ll take you to see Da after the game.”

Sheila could live with that. She’d be watching the game by herself for the most part, but she could live with that.

As the game got started, she knew exactly how to play on her father’s need to work with her annoyance to get what she wanted. For the most part, all she wanted was a hot dog, soda and a sports sundae bar. She was tempted to annoy him for other things that came by, like the souvenir stuff of the giant read foam finger, the rally monkey and a pennant but then she got a grip. She didn’t need or want those things, so she watched the game.

In the fourth inning, the score was still tied at zero. Jon Lester was locked in a pitcher’s duel with Bret Cecil, who actually decided to pitch for a change. She kept looking over at her father during the inning. He hadn’t looked up from his computer the entire time. Looking around her, she saw other kids with adults having a good time. They were keeping score, laughing and watching the game, talking about things and otherwise spending time together. She could have had a better seat at home or, better yet, with her Da.

She could here his voice now complaining about how the one day Cecil decided to actually keep the ball in the park would be today. He would ask her to figure out the exchange rate difference between a Canadian dollar and a US dollar to see if he’d be worth more - and perhaps pitch better as a result - if he played for a stateside team. They would laugh and talk about different players. He would talk to her about how Pedroia was a hustler who deserves any and all accolades he received. He’d then make her look up accolades in the dictionary and would accept nothing less than her telling him it was a noun that meant special recognition or award.

Instead, she sat here as alone as if she were in front of her TV at home being ignored like always.

The Jays went down in order and she looked over at her father’s furrowed brow.

“It’s the fourth inning.”

“Mmmhmm,” he muttered.

“It’s the FOURTH inning,” she stated again, this time with force.

“Sheila, I have to finish this.”

“Take me home.”

“OK,” he wasn’t listening.

“I said take me home, NOW. Home to mom’s house. If you’re not going to spend time with me when you’re with me, at least bring me home so I can spend time with my friends.”

He looked up from his work.

“I mean it,” she said, her voice trembling. “Either turn off the computer and spend time with me or take me home so I can spend it with people who want to spend time with me. You don’t take me to see Da any more because you don’t like that he’s going to die soon because he’s old. You pick me up and complain about mom and how you never get to see me but all you do is spend time with your stupid computer because you have to work since apparently you don’t work enough when you don’t see me. You never ask me what I’m doing or let me spend my weekends with my friends. It’s always ‘your weekend’ instead of ‘my weekend’ and now here we are at Fenway Park and you brought a stupid computer. Take me home or take me to Da so I can at least watch the game with someone who cares about me.”

Tears were rolling down her cheeks now. She knew the people around her were staring at her but she didn’t care. She was tired of it. She didn’t care that her parents fought the way they did but it was time for them to stop making her miserable.

The tears were dripping down her cheeks when she said, “I think it’s safe to say that we have known for centuries the earth revolves around the sun and not you. You’re mad because I have a tournament on your weekend, well you’re working on my weekend so stop it.”

Her father sat there in shock looking at her. He looked down at the net book in his lap. Then he smiled.

“Give me two minutes to save and post this, then it goes away.”

“Two minutes and I’m timing you.” She glared at him as he looked down and saved his work.

“And we’re good,” he said. “It’s up on Google docs and I’m yours the rest of the day.”

Suddenly there was a cheer and the crowd noise grew. Sheila looked up and saw it the ball coming, sailing through the sky. She was unable to even think of Dustin Pedroia running the bases as she reached up as she watched the ball fall from the sky. Fighting off the larger bodies around her, somehow she managed to catch the ball on the edge of her glove and trap it. People pushed and jostled and she pulled it tight to her chest.

The profanity she heard from next to her came from her father’s mouth as she heard the sound of the net book hitting the concrete. She could feel him shielding her from people grabbing at her until they backed off a little to wave at the camera. She looked at her glove at the ball. Holding it up she jumped up and down screaming.

Then things settled back down.

For the first time since 1946, a ball traveled more than 502 feet into the Fenway Park bleachers. This one was hit by Dustin Pedroia and Brett Cecil would now join Wally Pipp, Fred Hutchinson and Stan Papi in baseball history. A man remembered not for his accomplishments but how his failure allowed someone else’s accomplishment.

As they settled back down she looked at her dad.

“Dad, you can be a Wally Pipp or a Lou Gerhig. You can spend your time with me or not when you’re with me, but ask yourself how you want me to remember you in the end. I love you and I love mom and you guys need to stop fighting with each other through me. I just want to be a kid who goes to ball games with her dad who gets that sometimes, just sometimes, your weekend falls when I have other stuff going. For a long time I’ve had to deal with you have other stuff going on my weekend.”

He gave her hug and said, “You’ve got it kiddo. My net book is toast but that’s OK. How about we go show Da that ball after the game?”

“I can live with that,” she smiled.

“So can I.”

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