Dissatisfying Distractions

“Quit?” Sounding insulted, his father stood up quickly off his recliner, like a prop pulled by exuberant stagehands. “Now why would I try to ruin all this fun you’re having.” An grabbing his glass from the side table, he was swiftly into the living room.

Rune looked at the television screen only as long as it took him to realize he had absolutely no interest in the game. He looked out the bay windows, to the front of their yard, covered in white and gray layers of snow, the late afternoon sun reflecting crisply off its surface. Sounds from the kitchen, freezer door opening, hands fumbling in the ice tray, the door closing. Why am I sitting here? He could go up to his room, shut the door and isolate himself, from his father, this house, the cold weather, another disastrous fencing tournament, what Annie had just told him — get away from everything, except for his inescapable thoughts.

Moccasined feet swishing over the tiled kitchen floors. Rune turned his attention back to the meaningless game, waited until he felt his father reach the recliner again. The score flashed on the screen. “Not many points. Bad offense, or good defense?”

“Huh.” Sat down, seemed oblivious to the question just asked of him. Rune focused on the screen again, looking for something that could initiate a conversation — an impressive play, some antic on the sidelines, a player’s bad haircut, anything. Then suddenly, “I just want to see you have some success.”

Rune waved his greasy hair off his forehead as he looked back at his father, whose face had grown soft, thoughtful. “I’m worried about you, Hugh.” Nobody in his family used his preferred name. “Your grades are good, but not what they could be — you’re coasting. Only thing you do outside of school, and eating here at home, is that fencing club. And that’s only one day a week.” An ice cube cracked in his drink, fizzed.

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