Alone with Lilacs

Flash
Lauren Dennis


Photo Credit: popofatticus/Flickr (CC-by)

Unless it has been obscure up to this point, let me be clear. I am not sporty. My dad was a career P.E. teacher, not “gym” teacher (“I don’t teach a room. I teach students Physical Education.”) and I, a drama nerd. My dad dedicated 25 years to courts, squeaky shoe sounds, sweat, and rubber round objects thrust too technically into my young hands. I, in turn, played my goofy, non-athletic daughter role, fumbling every pass through his thinly-veiled frustration.

I am seven. My dad is teaching me how to throw a neon Nerf football. He is giving me too many instructions, and every time I get one, I lose the other.

“Put your left foot in front a little.”

I do.

“Hold the ball at shoulder level. You’re too far back.”

I adjust the level, my left leg moves back to its original spot.

“But keep your left foot forward.” He physically adjusts it, his breath mean on my thigh.

Foot is now forward. Arm drops down,  past shoulder level.

My dad’s sigh.

I hold my breath for the next instruction.

“Now, throw the ball to me, in a spiral. Just let your fingers open slightly, and the ball will roll up them as you release.”

I’m a good kid. I place my left foot forward theatrically to prove it and maybe get some praise for remembering. I let the ball go, still holding my breath. It makes a small circle on its path toward my dad. It lands in the nearby lilac bushes, but my dad is happy.

“You made it spiral!”

I breathe and suddenly I’m crying.

“What’s wrong with you? That was the perfect pass. Anyone would be thrilled to make that kind of pass. What is wrong with you?”

I can’t answer. I am seeing myself from the outside, the way I do when I watch others when preparing for a role in a play.  I am a small dot on the square patch of grass below. And I am crying. I don’t know how to answer. I am too small. I don’t know the rules. I want my dad to love me, whether the ball spirals or not. The sliding glass door closes behind him. It returns my reflection. A disappointment. Or, an athlete who could have had it all. I decide I am the victim in a soon-to-be-acclaimed movie about overbearing coaches, and I just missed the last hurdle in my pre-Olympic trials. I may not be going to the Olympics anymore, but, I am certainly headed for the Academy Awards. Tears flow freely down my waiting cheeks. I swallow and the lilacs wash down my throat, their sweet simple syrup filling my mouth with tiny rounded petals.

pencil

Lauren Dennis is a mother of two, violently fighting against the confinement that may or may not come with that title. She writes because she has to, and has been published in Scarlet Leaf Review, The Flash Fiction Press, daCuhna, and Microfiction Monday Magazine. She has received formal critique and feedback from the Lighthouse Writer’s Workshop in Denver, Colorado, where she resides. Email: laurenelyse.dennis[at]gmail.com

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