The Outtake

PrintIn the first draft of The Call, I’d intended this scene to be the prologue. As I revised, and as some of my early readers gave me their thoughts, I realized that I needed to start a different way. Like a lot of writers, I’m loath to “kill my darlings,” but for the good of the novel, sometimes bits I love end up on the cutting room floor. Because I’m eternally optimistic that some scenes can either be used somewhere else or inspire a new story, I saved this chapter. I thought you might like to read it. 

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THE CUT

Margie’s twin brother had a wicked fastball, sharp and clean, and it landed in her mitt with a good solid thwock. She winged the ball back and pounded her fist into the pocket. Tim stood so tall on their improvised pitching mound, not quite sixty feet from where Margie crouched, squinting into the late afternoon sun that picked up the gold in his hair.

It gave him a halo, as if he needed one.

He stared down his target, turning the ball around in his hand, and she knew he was feeling for the seams, positioning it just right. Taking his damned sweet time.

“Okay.” She threw down her mitt and sprang to her full height, exactly one inch less than his, a fact that in the moment increased her irritation with him. “You suck.”

He smirked, tossed the ball a few inches up and caught it on the back of his hand, letting it roll down his fingers before he snatched it in his palm. “Bite me,” he said with a smile and pointed her back to the imaginary plate. “Assume the position.”

“No. You suck. I have homework.” She spun toward the house.

“It’s Friday, Margie Bargie. Homework can wait.”

With a sigh, Margie returned and prepped her mitt. Thunk. She held the ball, digging her fingertips into the red seams, imitating the holds her father had shown her. Her father, who’d spent most of his baseball career in the bullpen. Her father, whose mitt she now possessed. “It’s not fair,” she said, and whipped the ball back as hard as she could. Tim caught it, cringing as if it really stung. “Sorry. But it’s not fair that you get a free ride on baseball. That you’ll probably get scouted by some major league team.”

His face fell. “You’re saying I’m not good enough?”

“No.” She sighed. “You’re good. You work hard and you’re good.”

“So. You’re good, too. Stick with softball.”

“Yeah, right.”

“Softball’s decent.” Tim set up to pitch again. “Hey, it’s an Olympic sport. You can play in college.”

“Not for full-ride money. Not for Nolan Ryan money. I get to play, and then what? Nothin’. I might as well be a cheerleader.”

Tim went into his windup. “You could ump.”

The pitch skipped off the edge of Margie’s mitt and rolled all the way to the swing set the two of them hadn’t used in years. She trotted after it.

“It’s not playing, I know,” he said when she returned. “But you’ve got a good eye. Nobody ever challenged you when you called my Little League games.”

“Cause I’m a girl,” Margie said. Although her father might have thought otherwise. “Who’s gonna yell at a girl?”

“Point made. Okay. I gotta practice my breaker.”

But as Margie set to catch the curve, she started thinking about the possibility. When she and her dad used to watch the games, she knew all the rules. She knew the infield fly, the dropped third strike, interference, even some a few of the professional umpires got wrong. Her mouth quirked. “They got scouts for that? Drafts, like the minors?”

“I could ask Coach.”

“You gotta yell at me.” Margie squeezed the ball hard before flicking it back.

He snapped it up in his glove. “I gotta do what?”

“Yell at me. If I’m gonna do this. Those umps in the majors, players get right up in their faces and yell, and they don’t even flinch. I’m guessing that takes some kind of training.”

“Probably. Mom doesn’t yell enough for you?”

“Please.” Their mother yelled a damn sight, but she was a pipsqueak of a thing. “It’s Mom.”

“Right.”

“Okay, let’s go.”

“What, now?” Tim looked around like she’d just asked him to steal a car.

Margie stood and pressed her fists into her hips. “I gotta see if I can take it.”

“Margie.”

“Come on. Or are you scared?”

“I’m not scared. I just don’t wanna…you’re a girl.”

“Oh, please. I’m not a girl, I’m your sister. I’ve seen you puking your guts out. I’ve seen you comin’ out of the shower, like I don’t know what you’ve been doing in there.”

“Yeah. Not too embarrassing, Bargie.”

“Just yell at me already.”

Tim pressed his lips together and took two steps off the mound. “That was a strike!”

“Ha. You sound like Charlie Brown.”

Then he charged her, got nose to nose, his pale eyebrows scrunched together. Margie nearly jumped back. But she made herself stay. Waiting for it.

“You’re crowdin’ my strike zone! You’re givin’ the other team the inside corner, what the hell? Do you need glasses, you fuckin’ asshole?”

Silence. Tim’s expression crumpled. “Oh, shit. Margie. Margie, I’m sorry.”

And then she laughed; she couldn’t help herself or stop it. She laughed so hard she could barely breathe. She dropped to her knees in the grass, clutching her belly, still chortling. “If… you… saw… your… face!”

“That’s not funny!”

Margie couldn’t grab in enough air to reply.

His cheeks had gone beet red. “I’m not gonna help you get in now. You think I’m gonna help you?”

The screen door slapped open and their pint-sized tank of a mother shoved her upper half outside. “Hey. You two. Knock it off. Dinner in ten. And leave the friggin’ muddy tennis shoes on the porch. I just cleaned in here.”

Margie rolled onto her back, stared into the dimming sunlight, catching her breath, then turned to his sputtered-out face. “I’m sorry, Timmy. You just…you’re funny when you swear. You’re like John-Boy Walton.”

Tim grumbled something to the effect of what she could do to herself. And John-Boy. But with his straw-blond hair and innocent eyes, the resemblance was ridiculously easy. It would be his ticket. It would be his downfall.

She apologized again and even offered to do his laundry for a month, but he wasn’t having it. “Forget it, then,” she said. “It would be a total waste of time, anyway. Playing ball, umping. Either way, they’re not gonna take a girl.”

Then Timmy was standing over her, reaching down a hand. She stood without taking it. “You’re not a girl,” he said. “You’re my sister.”

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A Few Reviews

Screen shot 2016-04-25 at 9.09.18 AMIt’s been far too long since I talked about what I’ve been reading, and I hope to get back to doing this on a regular basis. Here are a few stories I’ve particularly enjoyed lately.

Rainbow’s Edge by Leland and Angelo Dirks

If you’ve read any of the TwoMinutesGo flash fiction either here or on JD Mader’s blog, then you might know Leland Dirks. I’ve been a fan of his writing since I read Jimmy Mender and His Miracle Dog, and I was fortunate to receive an advance copy of Rainbow’s Edge. And I could not stop reading it. In fact, I read it twice. I was completely pulled into the world of this story, a journey of a father and son unspooling the truth of a troubled past as the son lays comatose in his hospital bed. It would have been so easy to push a story like this into melodrama and sentimentality, but in the hands of this skilled author, it is neither of those things. If you enjoy magic realism and tales of redemption and forgiveness, I highly recommend this moving and beautifully written story. (Available for preorder here until April 30.)

FScreen shot 2016-04-25 at 9.02.23 AMinding Travis by Melissa Bowersock (No Time for Travis, Book One)

As of this writing, Finding Travis is up for nomination on Kindle Scout. I am a fan of Melissa Bowersock’s smooth, agile writing style. And I think this story is one of my favorites of hers. Travis is adrift, his marriage all but over, spending his free time as a historical re-enactor for tourists visiting Arizona’s Fort Verde. Then a celestial anomaly—we think—pulls him back in time to the frontier days at the same location, where he is assigned to medical duties in a world before the existence of penicillin and modern surgical hygiene practices. The historical details are seamlessly woven with the plot and the character development (I have a book-crush on Travis’s assistant, Riley), making for a lovely, engaging read. I hear there’s a sequel coming, and I can’t wait to read it.

Wife Material: A Novel of Misbehavior and Freedom by Deborah Cox

I like getting out of my comfort zone once in a while, so I chose this title. Wife Material tells a story of religious abuse and sexual repression in the modern Church of Christ. This was one powerful, fascinating, heartbreaking, gut-wrenching story. I was so deep into the reading that at one point, my husband popped into my room and I actually got angry at the disruption. I couldn’t even talk for a while, after reading some parts. The scenes bounce around in time, which as a reader intrigues me, especially when it’s done well.

What have you been reading lately?

 

A Year of Reading Indie

IU-reading-challenge-ksb-300x205Happy New Year!

If one of your goals for 2016 is to get out of your reading comfort zone, Indies Unlimited has cooked up a little challenge for you. And I’m really looking forward to this. Twelve months, twelve books, twelve indie authors.

Ready to make your first choice? IU minion, author, and super-reader Candace Williams explains the challenge here.