Visions of Grandeur by Wayne Fowler
My Guilty Pleasure contest entry
“Sylvester! What are you doing?”
“What do you think I’m doing,” I answered under my breath, no chance of Mom hearing me with her at the foot of the stairs and me in my room.
“WHAT DID YOU SAY?”
“Nothing, Mom,” I whispered to myself, thinking even more quietly, “What do you expect of a kid named Sylvester?”
“You need to take out the trash. And then I want you to play outside for a while.”
I didn’t answer, not even in my head. I was going to finish this paragraph, this thought before she came up the stairs. Fourteen of them. I wrote in shorthand – keywords that I could fix later. “Eleven, twelve, thirteen…” I couldn’t tell you the number of times I’ve counted to fourteen in my head.
“Did you hear me, Sylvester?”
“They heard you in China,” I wanted to say but didn’t.
“WHAT DID YOU SAY?”
“Nothing Mom. I just finished a paragraph. That’s all.”
“Trash. I know. It doesn’t have to go out until tomorrow morning.”
“Don’t you backtalk me, young man!”
I was going to remind her that my name was Sly, but I didn’t want to hear, again, how my name began with an ‘S-Y’, not ‘S-L’.
The trash can to the curb took fifteen seconds. Now what? I could go to the park and play basketball. There were always kids playing. No one wants me on their team, but they let me play when they need someone to make the teams even – number-wise, that is. I could play catch with Jimmy across the street. His mom won’t let him go to the park without them holding his hand. But he gets mad and quits when I can’t ever get the ball near enough for him to catch it. And it doesn’t matter if it’s a baseball or a football. He ends up having to run all over for it and after three, sometimes four, he’s done. “See ya. Gotta go.”
I could push my old Tonka truck around in the dirt. I’m good at that, I guess. If you don’t count breaking the wheels off.
Instead, I go around back behind the garage where Mom can’t see me, and sit down to count, or something. Then I remembered that a train had not come through since I’d been outside. In the afternoons, they came through sometimes every thirty minutes, and sometimes after forty. So if I stayed outside through two trains that would be close enough to an hour and I could go back inside to my writing. In the meantime, I could be thinking of my plot.
I was at my laptop before the train whistle finished whistling.
I’d been typing away for quite a while. It didn’t really seem like it, but when Mom called for me to wash up for supper and I looked at my word count, I knew it had been a couple hours. And I was starving. After all, I’d won the college World Series Baseball game with an inside-the-park home run. It was the bottom of the ninth of the final tie-breaking game. The bases were loaded and the count was three and two. I hit it hard, a line drive to right center. Neither the center or the right fielder could get to it. Then it bounced off the wall between them, careening nearly all the way back to second base. The second baseman had to field it, but I was by then rounding third. The third base coach had his hands up, telling me to hold up. But there was no stopping me. I was a Ferrari, a speeding locomotive, a jet plane. I went into a hook slide, dodged the tag and caught the plate with my fingertips! I was the MVP of the series!
And I was starving!
Before the two beautiful coeds could present me with the trophy though, the manager of the team ran up and handed me his cell phone. The manager was the only person in the whole school who knew my secret – I was a national asset who reported only to the president.
“Yes Sir,” I said into the phone. “I’m ready.”
Just then a United States Marine Corps helicopter landed on the pitcher’s mound. It was Marine Corps One and everyone in the stadium saw my cover blown as I ran to leap aboard. There was a terrorist loose and I was the only person with the skill set to track him down and capture him – dead or alive.
I mentally reviewed the file while my parents talked small table talk. With my outer self on auto-pilot I managed to keep my inner self engaged. America and the entire free world depended on me.
The President himself handed me my official Glock after I’d dressed in the red and blue tuxedo they had ready for me. “Careful, it’s loaded, Sly,” he said with a wink and a nod. I was going to be dropped onto the roof of the Russian embassy building in Washington, DC. After that, it was all up to me.
“SYLVESTER! Have you heard a word we said?”
I looked from Mom to Dad and then back again. Sometimes auto pilot lets me down.
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