Flash Fiction: Bottom of the Ninth

© Olivia Tejeda
Bottom of the ninth, bases loaded, two outs. It’s the final game of the Cinderella Softball League Championship, my team is down 4-1, and I’m up.

I haven’t hit the ball once this season and now it’s all up to me. The only way the team can win is if I hit a grand slammer.

We don’t have a prayer.

The championship title is in my hands, my sweating pudgy little hands. My stomach hurts so much I’m afraid I might poop my pants. I swallow hard and wish I could hide until this is over. I want to go home to my bedroom with my books and my Scott Baio posters.

I love that. I hate this.

When Kayla was up, I figured that if she didn’t make an out, I’d have to bat. I’d have to be the one to lose the game, because I know I won’t win it.

Even though there hasn’t been any divine intervention so far this season, I start praying again anyway.

Hail Mary, Full of Grace, The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death. Amen.

This feels like the hour of my death.

If I do die, at least my parents won’t have to pay for the funeral. Our team is sponsored by a funeral home.

The Colonia Funeral Home …

Owned by my grandfather …

I have the same last name.

The embarrassment never ends.

Coach Rockman gives me four hard raps on the back. “We’re counting on ya,” she threatens through clenched teeth. She takes her game seriously, and even though we’re a klutzy group of 9, 10, and 11 year old girls, winning matters to her as much as it does to Steinbrenner.

I walk to home base with my shoulders hunched over, wishing I could disappear. The stands are quiet. Everyone knows how hopeless I am at this. They’ve watched me strike out all season, and they’re just as embarrassed for me as I am for myself. I can feel their pity. I see it when I look over and see my Mom hugging her arms in front of her. She cringes when she tries to smile and gives me the most feeble thumbs-up I’ve ever seen.

As I get ready to bat, I try to remember everything Coach has told me. Plant your feet a little wider than shoulder width apart, keep your knees loose, stay relaxed. Check the opponents’ position.

The shortstop and second base are chatting. Right field is waving to someone in the stands. Third base is playing an invisible game of hopscotch. They know the ball’s not going anywhere. I know it, too. I’m just not any good at this, but I have to be here because of my grandfather’s funeral home. He says he sponsored the team for me, but I know he did it for the cheap publicity, and I have to stand out here and deal with the humiliation until it’s over.

Everything goes slow-mo as I watch the pitcher start her wind up. My hands shake as I grip the bat. I want so desperately to hit this ball. I want so desperately to prove to my team, to my grandfather, to myself, that I’m something more than a fat little pile of nothing.

I’ve daydreamed about hitting the game-winning home run, and my team carrying me around on their shoulders. I think about that now, and I want so desperately for that to happen, but I know it won’t. I hold my breath and feel sweat rolling down my back.

The ball leaves the pitcher’s hand, and I watch it sailing straight toward me. I keep my eye on the ball and try not to wince, like Coach told me.

Without wanting to, I shut my eyes. I pull back on the bat and swing as hard as I can.

My eyes open, shocked by the feeling of the ball cracking against the bat.

Holy Mary, Mother of God!

I hit it!

Stunned, I stand there with my mouth hanging open.

“Run!” Coach Rockman screams, “RUN!” And I do, with all my might, I do.

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Thank you for reading my flash fiction. Please share any constructive criticism and feel free to let me know about any errors you find here. To read more flash fiction from a great group of writers, search #fridayflash on Twitter or visit Mad Utopia.
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27 thoughts on “Flash Fiction: Bottom of the Ninth

  1. This is a wonderfully told story.

    Loved the humor! Sponsored by the family funeral home WOULD cut down on the expense in the event of death, hah!

    Good feel-good ending that had me yelling, “Run!” along with the coach.

    Home run here, Olivia…

  2. “Even though there hasn’t been any divine intervention so far this season” that made me guffaw – “so far”: awwwww!

    Great scene setting, and great little girl voice. And great ending – I was expecting it, of course, but the delivery was awesome 🙂

  3. This scene was a flashback, up until the point of the actual ball being hit. I can’t tell you how many times I wanted the person in front of me to strike out so that I wouldn’t have to, just like the girl. My favorite part was the funeral home sponsor. And the voice is definitely authentic. Very funny. Good work, as usual, Olivia.

  4. She want yard on all those smug little fielders! Playing hopscotch indeed out in right field – who does she think she is Manny Ramirez? I hope the LL Coach benches her a**!

    Sometimes nice girls do get to win. Well done.

    marc nash

  5. This is one of my favorite stories of the week. It’s so sweet and immersed in a genuine idea of simple childhood. Let’s go back home with the Charles in Charge posters. Haha! Even the mix of the pink glove and the “Cinderella” part of the league’s title formed such a charm. She has to hit the ball in the end to validate all that gloom, and when she does it to her own surprise, it’s great. You don’t even need to say she rounds the bases. That one sentence at the end does all it needs to do. Thanks for writing this story.

  6. I love this sweet story! You captured the voice of this girl so well!! Her life depends on this and, the girls in the outfield are so classic – casual and distracted. I watch a lot of 9 yr old sports right now.

    Really great story!

    I had the Scott Baio poster, but I must be older than John W. I had the one from Happy Days of Chachi.

  7. I agree with Mazz… the voice of the little girl is so clear and utterly charming…. “poop” her pants.. HA! This is my favourite of yours so far, Olivia! I really like your last line, too; to me, that’s exactly how a young girl would say it.
    I was too old for Scott Baio but I would’ve definitely hit a run for David Cassidy.

  8. You should never never never shut your eyes when something hard is coming at you.[missles, baseballs, final exams]

    Clicking on the poster link right in the midst of the story made me laugh, and somehow added to the overall experience…..giggling…..

  9. Thank you all for the comments. This story came fairly easily because it’s semi- autobiographical. It brought back a lot of memories that made me laugh, so I’m so glad others are enjoying it, too.

    I added the Scott Baio link after getting some tweets about it. I like having it because I agree with Karen. It adds to the fun of the story, but I worry that it takes the reader out of the story, even for a moment. My other option is to add it at the end. What do you think?

    Thanks for taking the time to read! ~ Olivia

  10. This was written in a perfect voice, Olivia. It was beautifully true to life for a young girl.

    The best part here? They don’t even have to win the game on her hit. As long as she gets on base, the monkey will be on the back of the next batter.

    Even if the team loses, she wins. Great!

  11. “…shocked by the feeling of the ball cracking against the bat.

    Holy Mary, Mother of God!

    I hit it!…”

    Perfect, just perfect.

    I knew it had to end well, because it just *had* to. But you brought it home so well.

    Excellent stuff.

  12. Oh, this really takes me back. I love softball! Great wind up, you hit it out of the park! lol, couldn’t resist. Thanks for the smiles 🙂

  13. In the end we’re all doing it for Baio. 😉

    This was adorable. The last line is super killer. And having an eleven -year old daughter made it all the more real. She’s completely terrified at all times that I am going to embarrass her. You really did get into this POV so well. Love your stuff, Ms. Olivia.

  14. I enjoyed this story. She had the perfect voice, full of humor even in the self-doubt. I loved the way you ended it–doesn’t matter how the play ends, she’s already won just by making contact.

  15. I had a feeling she was going to hit it from the get-go, and that’s why I love the way you ended this, allowing me to imagine all the rest. I loved the style and the feel of this, the short sentences, her image of herself – ” a fat little pile of nothing”, but she strives for so much more. The Scott Baio link was a nice touch.

    I’ve noticed that your style of writing (from week to week) bends according to the theme and point of view of the piece. I admire that you keep trying new things.

  16. I feel GOOD! Great story, and great voice. Loved the IM she has as she preps for the ball. Very wry and self-effacing and sheer girl. Really loved this story — made my night. Peace, Linda

  17. Great story, Olivia. I can really relate to her. I never played organized team sports, but was always close to the last one picked in gym class for anything. Hate the way adults put so much pressure on kids in little league play. Hope she makes it to First!
    ~jon

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