Forgiving for the Future

[Today’s challenge from The Daily Post — “share a story where it was very difficult for you to forgive the perpetrator for wronging you, but you did it — you forgave them.”]

“I don’t see how you put up with that.” Rune ran a hand back through the waves of his greasy hair. “Those guys are terrible.”

Sitting across the metal cafeteria table, Butch shrugged. “What am I gonna do? Tell them I’m not fat?” He slapped his belly, which jiggled like a giant bowl of pudding in an earthquake.

“Your BMI’s what it is, but that’s just a number. It’s a fact, there’s no judgment in it, but fat, that’s a word some clowns choose to associate with that fact, and they only choose it to insult you. So what I’m saying is, you shouldn’t just accept what words some people choose to describe you.”

Butch nodded, drank from his milk carton, set it down on the plastic tray. “It don’t bother me none, really. People says all kinds of things, there’s no stopping them.” He burped, his milky breath flying into Rune’s face. “It’s not what people — say, that bother me.”

There was an edge to his friend’s voice that Rune rarely heard. Almost accusatory. Some students sitting nearby on the long benches rose to leave, others remained engaged in their conversations, none paying attention to the silent staredown between the two friends.

Rune swallowed when his memory seemed to hit on the issue. “Pageturners.” Across the table, Butch nodded silently.

The full memory of their hallway conversation last week came back to Rune, declining Butch’s offer to go shopping for comic books with a stream of angry words. Stupid. Childish. Waste of time. But Rune knew it wasn’t  his words, but the public humiliation of his friend and their shared passion — that honed the edge in his friend’s voice.

“I’m sorry.” The words sounded hollow to Rune, feeling he hadn’t earned the right to speak them.

“It was like saying you regretted everything we’d done together.” The edge in Butch’s voice had become a scapel. “The wa you spoke, it wasn’t just about the present, it was also ’bout the past. And when you finally stopped and walked away, I wondered if this meant there wouldn’t be no future.”

Rune looked down at a ketchup stain on the table.

“And what I realized was, it weren’t enough for you to say you’re sorry, and me to say it was OK. Because if it were just that, we’d be lying to each other. We wouldn’t be facing the real issue — which is, what does the future mean.”

Twenty years later, the two friends would remember this conversation as the start of a new, better relationship between them.

The Butch

[Today’s challenge from The Daily Post — describe a restaurant menu item that’s named after you]

Scanning the menu board above and behind the register, Juan considered just ordering a Coke before deciding the Chicken Club sounded safe enough to compensate for his hunger. The young woman in the green and gold uniform pressed buttons on the register, then looked up; seeing Butch to Juan’s right, she nodded, and pressed a few more buttons on the register before announcing the amount of legal tender required to initiate the requested transaction.

Juan pointed with this right thumb over at Butch, glaring at the uniformed woman. “He’s ordering too.”

“Oh!” With his right hand, Butch pushed an amount of currency across the plastic counter towards the uniform. “Les, she knows what I want.”

“The Butch!” Les pointed to the upper left corner of the large overhead board. Glancing at her name tag (MELISSA), Juan then looked at the menu. The third item, under BELLY BUSTER and DOUBLE PATTY MELT, was THE BUTCH — Two quarter-pound 100% beef patties, topped with pickle relish and grilled mushrooms, a GIANT tomato slice smack dab in the middle, and pizza sauce on the top and bottom buns! 

Juan made a mental note to ask Annie (one of few people he could comfortably confide his unfamiliarity with English slang) for the definition of smack dab, then turned his attention to Butch. “You order it because it has your name?”

Butch’s eyes brightened. “Oh! Yeah!”

“No.” Behind the plastic counter, Les looked annoyed. “Remember, you came in with your family every Thursday, and you ordered the same thing.”

“Other customers saw it, decided to give it a try.” At the far left end of the counter, a large man in a loosely-knotted tie dried a brown plastic tray with a faded gray towel. “It got so popular, we put it on the menu.” He dropped the tray he was drying on top of a stack, picked up another tray from a shorter stack, wiped it with his towel. “Kids love it.”

Juan nodded, looked back up at the board. “No cheese?”

“Oh!” Butch scratched the short tufts of tow on his head. “You can get it with cheese. Or even mayo!”

Quickly mixing mayonaisse in his mind with the other ingredients in The Butch, Juan fought the urge to retch. “So they named it after you.”

“Oh!” Butch glanced at Les, then the man in the tie. “I thought that was always what you called it.”

“Ever since it’s been on the menu, yeah.” The man in the tie dropped the tray into the dry stack, and tossed his towel behind him.

“Oh! And that’s why I started ordering it, ‘cuz it was on the menu.”

Juan knew he had to act quickly to avoid the feeling of trying to break into the engine room of a runaway train. “Can we get this to go instead?”

Unspeaking Heaven

[Today’s challenge from The Daily Post is to describe an idyllic community]

“What’s Heaven like, Daddy?” The smiling blonde pig-tails of Chastity Goodman looked across the dining table at the Reverend Joshua Goodman as he hastily swallowed the first bite of his steak dinner.

“Nobody knows, sweetness. Nobody who’s ever been to Heaven has come back.”

“Why?” The smile had disppeared from Chastity’s ten-year-old face.

“Because they’re with God! Who doesn’t want to be with God?” Sitting to his sister’s left, Butch shifted uneasily in his chair, which groaned under his immense weight. Chastity pondered her father’s response, before her face lit like a searchlight.

“So why don’t the people in Heaven call us, or write letters saying how wonderful it is there?”

Butch’s quick interruption enabled his father to avoid what he feared would be a futile explanation. “Life in Heaven is different than life on Earth, Chastity.” The lines in his father’s face grew long and sharp with apprehension, then softened, followed by a quick nod of approval for his son to continue. “People don’t talk to each other, I mean with their mouths, like we do.” He pointed to his mouth as he continued. “Here on Earth, we have to use our mouths, ‘cuz of we got bodies. But when you’re in Heaven, all you are is a spirit, see, and spirits can communicate just by thinking, don’t need no words. So even if someone was in Heaven and wanted to tell us back on Earth what it’s like there, they can’t, no suh, ‘cuz of they don’t got mouths, or bodies.”

Butch’s father and sister seemed to be competing in a befuddled look contest. It was the younger Goodman who eventually broke the silence. “So do people in Heaven not like having a body?”

Reflexively, the tow-headed teen glanced down at the distended orb around his waist, and replied in a soft voice that conveyed embarrassment. “It’s not that they like or don’t like having bodies. Just like we don’t know if we like using our mouths to speak. It’s just, that’s how it is.”

A Touchy Subject

[A fun challenge today from The Daily Post — write the back-cover summary of my novel. Let’s see if I have a future in advertising . . . ]

Fencing is a minor sport at Bark Bay High School, but for its team members, the sport is a metaphor for life. Coached by a volunteer teacher with a gigantic heart and a miniscule budget, the team features a hot-tempered but talented saberist, an athletic prodigy from a wealthy and ambitious family, a lanky epeeist burdened by poverty, an energetic dreamer with more enthusiasm than talent, a brooding loner who can’t articulate her attraction to the sport, and a preacher’s son awakening to the outside world.

Always short of team members and resources . . . perpetually overmatched against fencing teams from schools with superior talent, coaching, and equipment . . . unable at times to overcome the battles among themselves . . . still the fencers at Bark Bay High School fight on, covering their faces with the gray metal masks of their sport and stepping onto the strip, ready to combat their foes. 

A New Respective

[Today’s inspiration is about changing one’s position on a topic]

“Sorry.” Rex extended his long arms to his sides with palms up, his body and arms making the shape of a giant W. “I know that was what I said last month, but then this damn thing with my family came up. So I can’t do it now.”

“Oh! That’s OK.” Being the newest member of the team meant Butch was the least bothered by Rex’s decision, yet he’d been with the fencing team long enough to feel comfortable sharing his opinion. “I think we can all understand that sometimes you have to change your plans, because of a new respective.”

Five pairs of eyes blinked in unison at the rotund teen. His closest friend, Rune, cleared his throat. “I think you mean, perspective.”

“No, respective.” Butch’s eyes filled with defiant confidence. “When you have an opinion about something, people say you have an opinion in respect to that thing, right?”

“Of course!” Coach Dan cast his warning gaze across the faces of other team members.

“Right. But when you have an opinion, and then something comes up and you’re like, huh I hadn’t thinked about that before, sometimes that means you have to change that opinion. And when you do that, change your opinion in respect to something, that’s called changing your respective.” He folded his arms across his chest, and smiled. “It’s a figure of speeching.”

“Very good!” Coach Dan walked away from the group of students, pointed to a line between the black and white tile on the cafeteria floor. “Rex, do what you have to do, we’ll be fine. But for now, I need everyone to line up for our next drill.”

The Code Reader

[Ah what the heck — going back to The Daily Post for today’s inspiration]

Double-J held the thin white wires ending in bulky knobs up to Butch. “Check it out.”

Butch looked down at the objects in horror, as if he were pulling a cake out of an oven only to find a live rat. “Oh! I — no thank you.”

Double-J shook his head dismissively. “It’s just music. Won’t hurt you, can’t make you do anything you don’t already want.”

“Oh! It’s not the music.” Butch was a notorious liar, so Double-J knew he was speaking the truth. The teen’s rotund face was paler than usual as the looked down at the objects like they were thin white serpents.  “It’s those — things. I’ve never used them.”

Double-J closed his fist as if to hide the earphones. “Lemme guess — Satan uses these to send you subliminal messages.”

“I’m not an idiot.” The hurt in Butch’s voice was entirely unexpected. “I just don’t think they’re safe. I mean, they tell you no ”

“Ah.” Releasing his grip on the twin wires, Double-J reached down with his other hand, repeatedly pressed a button on the device attached at the other end. “Tell you what, just lay them on your shoulders. I’ll turn the volume up, so you can hear.”

“Oh!” Butch tentatively took the wires into his hands, placed them on his shoulders carefully, like he was putting on a delicate shirt. “They still work like that?”

Double-J replied with the most reassuring smile he could muster. “Technology is amazing.” He pressed another button on his device, and the smooth sound of jazz launched into the air. Double-J had chosen an a cappella arrangement, figuring even the most harmless of lyrics could easily disrupt the younger teen’s cultural equilibrium.

Butch screwed his face in confusion. And a moment later, his eyes grew wide. “Oh! It’s code!”

“Huh?” Double-J fought the urge to snatch the earphones away.

“The music, it’s a message, written in code. The musician, he’s trying to say something, but he doesn’t want to use words, so he puts his message in, in — ” he snapped his fat fingers — “the sounds of the music.”

“Notes?”

“Yeah!” Butch grabbed the ends of the wires, held them up to his ears. “There’s a message in here, I know it. I just — don’t know what it means.” He offered the wires back to Double-J. “Do you?”

Taking the earphones from Butch, Double-J shrugged. “Think it means you need to listen to more music.”

Janissary

[Been having some success with prompt responses from The Daily Post, but the well appears to be running dry. So I’m turning to interesting new words picked up from reading for my inspiration.]

For as much as Coach Dan loved the sport, he knew he neither could nor desired to match his college coach’s dedication to fencing. Josef, already an accomplished coach when he’d emmigrated from Hungary in his late 30s, spoke of the blade dancing with the zeal of a newly converted evangelist; among the corps of fencing coaches, he was a true janissary.