By ROBERT JUMPER
One Feather Editor
As you all know, the One Feather is running our story contest this year. We do it around the fall season because spooky stories seem to fit best during this time, and it allows the writers to be more creative and inventive as they bring us their great storytelling. I thought it would be interesting to give it a try myself. What follows came from the thought of what parents and children endure in a culture that thrives on a particular activity, sports. In all good storytelling, there are always bits of truth that will make the story relatable and will make it have something in common with those who read it. The names in the story are just ones that came to me as I wrote and are characters in a story, not real individuals. I stayed within the guidelines that we set forth in the contest. I titled the story,
I feel your pain.
Blue just felt invisible. Growing up, he had the adoration of his parents; that is when they were sober, especially his father, Daddy Joe. But that love was dependent on his skills as a ball player. Daddy Joe seemed laser-focused on Blue’s participation in sports. From Blue’s earliest memories, Daddy Joe was pushing him to the point of exhaustion and beyond. Blue’s father could be a vicious task master when he thought Blue wasn’t giving his best or the performance wasn’t up to Dad’s expectations.
Maybe Dad was so focused on his son’s sporting abilities because he was such a failure at it in his own life. He would see his classmates excelling and he wasn’t able to keep up or even hold his own. Year after year, he would try out for the team, but could never make the cut. He became the butt of jokes and ridicule from his peers. He lived in a culture where parents and the community prized sports and athletes over academics or social success.
It was from this foundation that Daddy Joe built his life. Since he was belittled by both his family and the community, he scrounged for any kind of attention that he could find. Dad started getting into trouble. Initially, it was the “small” stuff like smarting off to teachers and bullying other kids at school. Not too long after, he got into underage drinking, driving, shoplifting, graffiti, and vandalism. He didn’t like being alone, so he found a kindred spirit and “shacked-up” with her. It wasn’t long before Blue was born.
This is where Dad saw his opportunity for greatness. Through Blue, Dad would undo all the berating that he endured in his life. He would live vicariously through the achievements of his son. The only problem was his son was a chip off the old block. Dad tried to train, and many times beat, skills into the boy, but it seemed like failure was in his DNA. It wasn’t until Daddy Joe saw a friend who was into spirit-talking that Dad saw a change in Blue’s abilities.
Joe’s friend explained that if he asked the spirit world to help with his son, he might get the result he was looking for. His friend said to ask openly and honestly, otherwise, the spirits would ignore him. So, Daddy Joe, figuring that he had nothing to lose, chanted to these spirits, saying, “I want to feel the pride that will come for my son if he is a strong athlete. Make him a great athlete so that I might feel excitement, and joy, and receive the adulation of others through my son, Blue. Let me live through him so that my life will be worthwhile. I want to experience all that he feels as a star athlete.”
The change in Blue was immediate. He could throw straighter, hit harder, and move quicker than any boy his age. As he moved through the grades in school, he easily outperformed his peers. Colleges were watching and waiting for the right opportunity to sign Blue up for their schools’ teams.
Daddy Joe was proud. He would sit in the stands in a half-drunk stupor, soaking up the praise of his son’s performances on the field. But there was something different, something not right. It was subtle at first. After each game, Daddy Joe would notice a bruise or two on his arms and legs. He didn’t feel them most of the time, probably because of the numbing effects of the self-prescribed whiskey he brought to each game. No big deal, Dad thought, “I have bumped into a bleacher or two without noticing it, that’s all.”
Blue continued to excel at his craft. So much so that he was drafted by a pro team. The practices for the games were much more rigorous than any that he had ever experienced. He was getting hit and tackled in ways he hadn’t before. Strangely, at the same time, Daddy Joe began to have sudden and sharp pains that coincided with the times of Blue’s practices. Sometimes, it would feel like he had been hit in the head with a hammer. Joe mentioned the aches and pains to his wife, who told him that it was all in his mind. But when Blue came home from the field, he said he didn’t feel a thing during practice. He said it didn’t seem to matter how hard they tackled him, nothing hurt.
On the night of Blue’s first professional field appearance, Daddy Joe was prepared to soak in the praise that would no doubt come from his son’s performance. Looking very much like a peacock in full display, he wore the logos and colors of Blue’s team, big foam “Number 1” fingers strapped to his back like a plume. He thought that soon his boy would be renowned nationally and, by proxy, so would Daddy Joe.
Players from the opposing team had been watching the practices. They knew about this “star” player and had a plan to take him out of the game early. On the very first play, they kicked to Blue’s team, making sure that the ball landed in Blue’s hands. Daddy Joe thought, “This is it. Blue, and I, will find our fame this moment.” As Blue tried to make his way down the field, four linemen from the opposing team formed up on him. Blue and his opponents accelerated toward each other. All four men pounced on Blue at once, crushing him beneath their combined weight and secretly pounding him with their fits and feet. At that same moment, the crowd around Daddy Joe let out a startled gasp when they heard a cry from him as he crumpled, fell over, and toppled down the bleachers. Miraculously, Blue jumped out of the pile of men on the field unharmed. When he ran to his Dad, he found Daddy Joe’s lifeless body, mangled and bloodied, as though he had been hit by four linemen.
I hope you all see how very easy it is to write stories. The process of creative writing is cathartic and relaxing. And, in this case, your story has the potential to win you some “trick or treat” money for costumes and candy. Best of all, your story and those of others will provide a great showcase of the talent that resides in our readership. You have until Oct. 6 but don’t wait until the last minute to send in your stories. There is also a separate category for poetry. And for children 4 to 7 years of age there is a separate category to submit drawings. The entry form is available online and has been in the last couple of print editions. Just write your masterpiece, fill out your entry form, and send it to email@example.com.