#52weeks52stories: Week 36
Word prompt: softball
Word count – 1286
Reading time – 5 mins, 23 secs.
Kristen Wisdom cursed Greg Gaines for delaying her exit at the end of the workday.
Since her divorce, the accounts payable manager found more reasons to be alone with the senior accounts specialist.
But Kristen wasn’t in the mood for his reindeer games, especially not today. She’d pushed him aside and barreled out the door, blocking out the profanity-laced threats he yelled after her.
“Stuck-up bitch! Guess you don’t need this job.”
That remark made her whirl around to face him.
“I need my job about as much as you need yours, and the only bitch I see is standing in front of a company security system that records video… and audio.”
Horrified, Gaines flung himself backward through the door as though it would erase the security tape.
She fumed as she inched her Camry along in the stop-and-go rush hour traffic. She’d deal with him later.
Kristen’s day began with her ex-husband, Sean, backing out of today in favor of a Happy Hour birthday celebration for a coworker.
“This is important, Sean. You need to show up.”
“My job’s important too, Kris.”
“Does Happy Hour fall under other job duties as needed?”
“That’s not funny, Kris. You know how the game’s played. I’m up for a promotion and I need to be seen as a team player. Besides, the new position comes with a substantial raise which translates to more alimony and child support for you.”
“Well, that’s different, Sean. Just toss a fistful of dollars at me. That makes everything better in your eyes and erases your guilt. But you’re still an asshole.”
Gripping the steering wheel, Kristen took a deep, cleansing breath.
Norris and Liz Carmichael taught their only child the only obstacles in life were the ones allowed to exist. She’d put her heart and soul into removing barriers for this day to happen. She’d be damned if she allowed two selfish men to ruin it for her.
An idea flashed through Kristen’s mind as she approached the next off-ramp. She zipped off and let out a loud whoop seeing the green light ahead of her. After a left then right turn, she bounced in her seat and pounded the steering wheel, jazzed at the open thoroughfare in front of her.
Eight minutes later, she pulled into the parking lot of the Leon Buford Memorial Recreation Center. Kristen popped the trunk and traded her suit jacket and three-inch pumps for a windbreaker and New Balance runners. Grabbing her blue and gold mom-poms, she raced across the lot to the rear of the rec center.
Rounding the corner of the building, Kristen couldn’t help but smile at the new black-top area paid for by donor dollars.
The bleachers weren’t packed like they would be for a regular game but she was grateful for the crowd of supporters and pleased the local press was there.
She made her way to the front row of the parents’ section and was relieved to find the game had just begun.
The red-and-white-shirted Colts in the field meant the Iron Dragons won the coin toss. She searched for her son in the sea of blue shirts near the dugout. Kristen’s heart sank when she spotted her fourteen-year-old son.
With his elbows on his knees, Nicholas Wisdom rested his chin in his hands.
Her hand went to the center of her chest, rubbing at the tightness forming.
She knew that look.
Nicholas didn’t expect his dad to show, but after not seeing her in the bleachers, he no doubt felt abandoned… again.
The last five years devastated her family.
Kristen’s already rocky marriage was tested and failed when the winter car accident that took her father’s life also put her son in a wheelchair for the rest of his.
Pushing her own grief aside to be there for her son and grieving mother, Kristen had nothing left for her self-involved husband who showed no sympathy… or empathy toward his family.
Less than a year later, Liz Carmichael moved to California to be closer to her aging siblings allowing Kristen to pour all of her time into Nicholas.
The life adjustments were not easy. Besides learning to live life from a wheelchair, it took several months of family counseling to relieve the depressed teen of the guilt he felt for his parents’ divorce.
It was on the way home from one of their last counseling sessions Nicholas screamed out as they drove past a local park and begged his mother to turn around.
Pulling up on the side of the road, they both looked on in awe at the sight before them.
A group of adults was involved in a fast-paced game of softball… from their wheelchairs.
The Wisdoms wasted no time in joining the game’s spectators.
Kristen got a quick history lesson about wheelchair softball and was surprised to learn there was a national governing body with official rules and leagues.
Nicholas was excited to hear there were also junior leagues, but the closest one was five-hundred miles away in the northernmost portion of the state.
Kristen Wisdom had seen enough disappointment in her boy’s face and that day it became her mission to bring youth wheelchair softball to Madison, Ohio.
Several infections and three surgical procedures sidelined Nicholas as teams formed but Kristen kept up her campaign working with parents and doctors to gather corporate sponsorship.
Now, twenty-seven months after Nicholas saw his first wheelchair softball game, he would get a turn at bat and he’d know his mom was there to see it.
It was mom-time.
Removing her windbreaker, Kristen stood on the bench seat and threw her head back, yelling, “Let’s go, Dragons!”
Channeling her inner junior-high-school cheerleader, she danced, bounced, clapped and sashayed through several cheer chants, much to the delight of the other parents… and her boy.
Winded, Kristen dropped back onto her seat as Nicholas approached the on-deck circle.
Denny Miller hit a double sending his teammate to third base.
Nicholas approached the plate and Kristen’s heart was beating like the drum solo in Iron Butterfly’s In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.
The pitcher toyed with Nicholas to either walk him and load the bases or strike him out. But after two balls and one strike, he got too cocky and comfortable and Nicholas was ready, hitting an explosive grounder that sent the sixteen-inch ball speeding past several Colts team members.
Kristen was on her feet cheering as Nicholas rounded the bases so fast, the flame decals on his wheels appeared to flicker.
Two Colts members collided and tumbled from their chairs, giving Nicholas the opportunity to get to third base.
So overcome with excitement and emotions, a wave of dizziness hit Kristen as she watched her son grip his wheels and leaned toward home plate.
Virginia Blanchard was up to bat. Also fourteen, Virginia’s diminutive size made people believe she was younger… and underestimate her. Colts outfielders rolled their chairs in closer.
Virginia wasted no time and sent the first pitch to the fence. The fierce female headed for first base, but Kristen’s eyes were locked onto Nicholas as he sailed into home and the cheers and back-slaps of his teammates.
He gave a thumb’s up to Virginia, who’d made it to second base, and rolled toward the dugout.
Kristen Wisdom was still clapping and cheering when Nicholas stopped and glanced up at her. The smile on his face was brighter than a dozen suns and she erupted into tears.
People around her rubbed her back and passed her tissues but Kristen only cried harder.
She would endure it all—pervy bosses, selfish ex-husbands, rush hour traffic—all of it… every single day just to see her boy’s smile.
Nothing was more important to her.