Sunday, January 11, 2015
First 5 Pages January Workshop - McKenna Rev 1
Name: Virgina A. McKenna
Genre: YA Contemporary
Title: Rise Up
Thwack! The best sound in the world: a baseball careening off a bat!
I toss on my green and white Woodrow Wilson Tigers baseball shirt, check that my cleats are tied tight then tilt my chin upwards toward the light to check out my reflection in the cracked mirror above the sink. Still as smooth as a baby’s butt. Crap! Not one whisker! At seventeen, I look more like the friggen Chinese hairless cat I saw last week on National Geographic than your average teenage guy. The team’s already warming up as I race onto the baseball field. I’m going to kill that fat moron that was ahead of me in the hallway, carrying a tuba.
Way out past right field, I see a sliver of the Washington Monument poking out above the trees. Wonder if anyone in Tigers baseball team history ever hammered a ball deep enough to hit it? I shake my head. Nah, that monument has to be at least a quarter mile away. You’d have to hit the ball perfectly dead center, in the sweet spot of the bat, and be on steroids to boot!
I stop a ways behind the backstop, my shoes churning up a small cloud of red dust. Thirty or more wannabee baseball stars of the future, just like me, are crowding the field, warming up, playing catch with partners or having balls hit at them: pop-ups, grounders, line drives and slow rollers. Each and every one of the guys out here is good, really good. No wonder we’re the best team in the division.
I flex my glove open and stare at three faint tick marks that are etched into the shallow pocket of the glove. One for each year I’d been named MVP for the Tigers. My mom had carved them in last April with her very own Swiss Army pocketknife, right before she died. I trace the marks with my index finger. She’d barely had any strength left by then but she’d wanted to do it all by herself. “Every time you see these marks, you’ll think of me, Josh,” she’d said. My eyes start tearing up. She’d been wrong. I don’t just remember her when I see the tick marks, I remember her all the time. Man, what I wouldn’t give to really have her standing here next to me right now, pumping me up. She was always so good at that!
Coach S. waves me over to him with his black and green cap that has a big W on the front of it. “Let’s go, Nowak,” he yells. We’ve got a game to win today.”
I blink, wipe the tears away fast, and then take off across the field.
“You’re late,” coach says to me in a clipped tone when I reach him.
“Yeah, I know, but I ….”
Coach S. holds up his hat, stopping me midsentence. “Save it. I’ve heard it all before.”
He puts his hat back on and shakes his head. Then he checks his watch, snorts. “You know, Nowak, I don’t get you. You’ve got a lot of skill, I grant you that, but skill alone isn’t going to make you a superstar. There’s a lot more that goes into being….”
“Hey, Coach S.,” a husky voice yells out. Coach and I both turn. Con, my best friend since Little League, comes running towards us, nearly knocking us both over.
“Jesus Christ, Connor!” Coach S. yells after pushing Con off him.
“Hey, Joshie,” Con says with a huge grin plastered across his face. He jerks his chin at Coach S., winks, then mouths the words ‘Bite me.’
I slap him with a high five.
“You two are closer than two dogs in heat, you know that?” He looks from Con to me. “And if you don’t get your act together, you’re not going to land anywhere except in the same pile of dog crap!”
I grab Con’s arm and we start kicking our heels up at the same time. “Our act is together, Coach, can’t you tell?”
“Look I’ve just about had it with the both of you,” Coach S. says. “Why don’t you think about that while you’re running some laps?”
“Laps?” Connor whines.
“You’re twenty minutes late, Connor! You know I don’t put up with that.” Coach cocks an eyebrow at him. “It’s disrespectful to me and to the rest of the team. If I’ve told you s once, I’ve said it a hundred times…” the coach continues jabbering as I tune out. Jeez, this guy must be related to my dad, both hard asses when it comes to being on time. I feel as if I’m sitting at the dinner table, listening to my dad rant on and on about how important it is to have good manners, to always be on time. For a second, I wonder whether the coach was ever in the military.
“That goes for you, too,” the coach says, jolting me out of my thoughts. He’s glaring
at me and I try to be serious, but it’s hard. All I can think of is where the hell he got his crazy ass ears. They stick out so far from his square face that he looks like he could be Shrek’s double. I look down at my cleats, biting the inside of my lip.
“Something funny, Nowak?” Both of the coach’s ears move at the same time. I’m about to laugh out loud but the pinched look on coach’s face lets me know that’s not such a great idea. I clench my fists tight. “No…I…uh…” Then I glance at Connor and we both burst out laughing.
A ball whizzes by Coach S. barely missing his shoulder. “What the hell are you doing, Newman?” Coach S. says, walking towards the infield. “If your arm is so out of whack, maybe you should sit out the first half of the game?”
Con and I start running towards the infield. “Whoa,” Coach S. says. “What do you guys think you’re doing?”
We stop and look at him like he’s asked us what the circumference of the moon is.
“What are you waiting for,” coach asks, pointing towards the open field behind infield. “Give me ten laps, back and forth between here and the locker room and then get your tardy asses out on the diamond, d’ya hear me?”
We’re in the midst of the fifth lap when Coach S.’s booming voice echoes across the field.
“Okay, boys, let’s bring it in.”
The other players stop what they’re doing and head towards home plate. “That goes for you, too, Nowak, Pressman” he yells, motioning at us. Con and I take off and a minute later we’re both standing towards the back of entire Tigers team.
The coach removes his hat. “Okay, let’s try to make the rest of this warm-up as productive as
possible.” He looks at his watch. “We’ve got about twenty minutes left before St. Albans gets here, so let’s play a quick scrimmage.” He points at me, Connor and a few other guys. “You’re up first. Let’s see what you can do.”
Yes! I grin. Con and a couple of the other guys who’d been picked too, yell out “Saweet” at the same time. A lot of the guys, who weren’t picked first, start to grumble.
“Shut your bellyaching,” coach says.”Get your butts up into the bleachers and pay attention, maybe you’ll learn something.” He marches toward the fence behind home plate and picks up a bag of bats and balls. “Nowak, I want to try something new. You play catcher for right now.”
“You wanna play or not?”
“Yeah, yeah, of course I do.”
“Well then here.” Coach bends down, picks up a catcher’s mitt and a mask and throws
them at me. “Here’s a mitt, and here’s the mask. Put ‘em on!”
I toss my glove behind the fence and put on the mitt and mask. I squat down and
point my mitt hand at the pitcher. I shake my head. This is a bunch of shit. I should be playing pitcher. What is coach trying to do?
Coach S, carrying a bat and some balls, places himself at home plate in front of me.
“Jackass,” I say to myself.
“Okay, boys, let’s make this look good,” he shouts out at the infield. “I don’t want to see one
ball go by the infield, got it?”
He smashes a line drive towards first base. Newman, on first base, makes the stop but then
throws it over my head, almost sending the ball out of play. I snag it though.
“Ha,” I yell at Newman.
At exactly that moment, a pale girl, with bright red short hair and several pierced earrings, walks past the infield. She’s struggling to hold on to several heavy books.
Ginette. Makes sense, every time Con’s got something important to do, you can bet your ass she’ll be there, throwing him off. She sometimes makes me mad as hell with all the antiwar stuff she spouts off, but you know what, she’s cute, and I wouldn’t mind carrying her books.
“Hey, Gins,” Connor yells. “Come on over here.” Then he acts like he’s hooking up with her, making all kinds of long and loud slurping noises. All the guys, including me, start laughing.
The girl rolls her eyes and frowns. “You’re an idiot, you know that,” she says kind of serious and laughing.
“Why you gotta be like that, Gins?”
Hitting left-handed, Coach Keeny lasers a line-drive towards Con out at short. The ball whizzes by Con, who’s still focused on Ginette.
Coach checks his swing. His face twists up into an angry scowl. “Pressman,” he yells. “Are you paying attention to the game, or not?” He turns and tosses me the bat. “Here, Nowak, hold on to this.”
I stand, grab the bat mid-air and remove my mask. This isn’t gonna be good, I say to myself as
I watch the coach charge over to Connor.
“How’re we gonna win, Pressman, if every little thing distracts you?” Coach jaws, so close to Con’s ear, it looks as if he’s chewing on it. “I want you to think about that on your way to my office. I need my cell phone!”
Just at that moment, a couple of St. Albans guys show up on the field. Con glances at them and then pleads with Coach S.: “What, you’re taking me out? But…the game’s about to start,” he stammers.
“Come on, coach,” I say. “Con’s just fooling around. We need him in the game, you know that.”