THIS ISSUE’S FURIOUS PEN STORY ON THE THEME SECOND CHANCES
THE MAN WHO LOOKED LIKE ERNEST HEMINGWAY
by Don Vasicek
The man who looked like Ernest Hemingway shot the blond woman with braces on her teeth, in both eyes. The skin on her forehead wrinkled into five lines, like sentences in a sonnet. “I have a seven a.m. appointment. It’s seven-ten,” Ernesto Jesus said. His aching molar drove a wood screw into his persistence. She kept her look on the sign-in sheet. “What’s your last name?”
The antiseptic smell of the dentist’s office and playful laughing in the other rooms hacked at Ernesto. “Jesus.”
“Oh, we’re working on the wrong Jesus,” she said. She smacked out of there like a high-tailing lynx.
Then, Ernesto found himself in the dental chair. A light cork-screwed into his eyeballs. Doctor Chumlach, a slight man with bangs, pasted a liquid over Ernesto’s molar. “You know the only Don’s that get any respect live in Italy,” he said. “Hope you’re not mad anymore.”
Ernesto’s molar hummed “Morning Has Broken.” “There’s only one Don who gets respect,” Ernesto said. The man who looked like Ernest Hemingway shot Chumlach in the eyes.
Chumlach smiled. Ernesto smiled back. “I never was mad.”
© 2001 Don Vasicek
Don Vasicek is a writer and filmmaker (“Faces”, “Oh the Places You Can Go”, “Warriors of Virtue”, “The Crown,” “The Sand Creek Massacre”).
“Til Death Do Us Part”
(Short Story Fiction Winner “Rose & Thorn”)
by Donald L. Vasicek
Vermillion Capulet’s hit with a hammer eyes jerked. The pain, evident in the crimson edges and disbelief, catapulted as she bungled the ring in her hand. The metallic noise struck the dead cement floor. It cracked the noiselessness like a car horn blown in her ear. She gripped her head tightly. Her picket fence teeth stood like a barrier behind her cherry red lips. If you looked closely, you could see an edge of blood in the left corner of her mouth.
Recent, ruby and scintillating against the churlish light, it shoved itself at her animated skin as though it had a deadline to meet.
Vermillion urged her tongue. From somewhere not out of the mystical abyss inside her mouth, she flickered over the blood. Near at hand, a coffee-maker perked.
The Dutch chocolate coffee odor bit at her gaze like an intrusion into the Vatican. The coffee spewed over the lidless glass pot. She watched it splatter on the floor. Enough so that she guarded it’s spitting dark splurges on a human hand.
She inspected her hand. A pane of mirror coffee pot lid plopped blood. A droplet at a time. Vermillion’s stare chased them. One. Two. Three and so on. They began to suffocate the ring which had come to rest on the outstretched palm of the hand proximal to a matching one on the ring finger which would experience rigor mortis promptly. Suddenly, a telephone rang.
One of those presumptuous sounds, like an ultimatum.
“The Capulet’s, this is Vermillion,” Vermillion stammered.
“A thousand and one are waiting, Vermillion.”
Vermillion pressed at her side. Blood, almost black, saw the world around her side. Not caught up by the snow-white dress, the splotch continued to spread like black death seeping on every side of a meat dealer’s knife.
“Seems Harvester had his lascivious eye on another, Boris,” Vermillion uttered.
“Obsequies to remarriage?”
“You might say I lost my ring somewhere in the vital fluid of life.” Vermillion slumped to the floor.
The phone followed her. It clumped on the hand of blood. The ring there, jumped like a bean, and landed on Vermillion’s heart, just above her laid open rib cage.
Donald L. Vasicek
The first time I saw him in basketball practice, he reminded me of a giraffe. Tall and lean, he towered above the other kids. He ran with the swiftness and grace of a cheetah. There is no coach, let alone fan, that couldn’t have recognized the raw basketball talent in this boy. I leaned over and spoke to my co-coach. “Who is that?” My co-coach, a gritty, intelligent and attractive woman, and my wife, sized up over 30 kids doing drills in the gym. “Greg. He’s autistic.”
“Oh,” I said. “He sure looks normal.” I was amazed by his athleticism. He was 16 and looked like he could carry himself well on the basketball court in college.
“Yeah, well, that’s the way it is with a lot of our kids. They look all right, but that doesn’t mean they are.”
Kellie, a high-functioning Down Syndrome girl of 15, stepped up to my wife. “Hi, Jenny. Know that kid that sits across from me in social studies…” A basketball bounded at Jenny and Kellie.
I stepped in its way. I caught it and fired it back to Greg. He fumbled it. Jimmy, a physically- and mentally-disabled kid, 16, about a quarter of the size of Greg even though they were the same age, snatched the ball up and began dribbling it.
Greg chased him. “C’mon, Jimmy, coach passed it to me.”
“You gotta catch me and take it away if you want it back,” Jimmy said.
Jimmy, left-handed, turned his back on Greg. He continued dribbling the ball and pushing his way towards the basket. When he got down on the baseline, he stepped back, arched the ball and shot it. Greg lunged out at the ball and missed it.
Swish! The ball ripped through the nylon net with a clean sound of MADE!
Greg’s team took the ball out of bounds. I watched Greg race down the floor. The guy’s speed and grace was amazing. He far outdistanced everyone on the floor and ended up down at his end of the floor before anyone had crossed the center-line. He waved his arms furiously at Eric Fiore who brought the ball up the floor.
Eric had thick glasses on. An autistic kid of 15, he was proud of the fact that he could dribble the ball and keep it away from the other kids. Especially Jimmy. And Jimmy kept him busy until he saw Greg.
“Pass the ball, Eric!” I said. Eric fired the ball on a straight line to Greg. Greg caught it. No one was near him. He needed simply to lay the ball against the backboard. Nervous, anxious and excited, he shot a short jumper that slammed into the rim and bounded away. The ball sailed out of bounds. I blew the whistle.
“Scrimmage after water break.” I motioned to Greg. He loped over. A glob of sweat from him swatted me in the face. I wiped it off and looked up at all 6′ 4″ of him.
“When you’re about ready to shoot the ball, think to yourself, relax, just relax. Watch the front of the rim and shoot the ball smoothly. Okay?”
Greg blinked his poker chip eyes at me. “Uh, huh. Relax. Yep. Okay. Thanks, coach.”
“Now, get some water, and remember, relax.”
When the scrimmage resumed, boys and girls of all shapes, sizes and physical and mental disabilities, raced up and down the floor. “Defense,” I hollered. “Cover him, Jimmy! Eric, put up your hands.”
Jimmy slipped in and stole the ball from Pinky, an over sized kid with curly, blond hair and a distance look in his blue eyes. Greg raced down the floor.
Jimmy began dribbling with his backside to Kellie towering over him and guarding him. It was a slow process. Then, I saw Greg, feet from the basket, waving his lanky hand. Excitement jumped in his eyes. “Pass the ball, Jimmy!” I said.
Jimmy flipped the ball to Eric. Eric snapped it to Alex. The other kids raced towards Alex. Their feet pounded on the floor behind Alex and echoed throughout the hollow gym. Alex snatched the ball out of the air. He turned towards the basket.
No one was within five feet of him. I prayed to myself. “Please, please relax, Alex.” I watched Alex go up with the ball. At the summit of his jump, he flicked the ball towards the basket.
Smooth and quiet, the ball arced. It went up and up and then descending, down, down, down.
Swish! It ripped through the net. “Two!” I said as I held up two fingers.
Alex turned and ran past me. He gave me a huge high-five and his eyes began to cloud with tears as he said, “Thanks Coach”, and that said it all.