"Scene and Unseen" by Madeleine Pelletier
I loll against the velvety wallpaper as the extravagant party swirls by. My friend had begged me, was dying to attend a costume ball, could never go alone. Now I’m here, hiding in the wings, struggling to see from behind my bargain store disguise, my friend turned invisible.
Opposite wall, a fancy lady in a stunning black gown. Confidently anonymous behind her feathered Venetian carnival mask, she doesn’t realize that her body is calling out her secret thoughts. Or perhaps she doesn’t care.
A man stumbles towards her, dribbling wine with every second step. She averts her eyes and pats her updo. I imagine she’ll pull out a hairpin and stab him if he gets too close. I think he senses this too. He lurches off in another direction.
Two women in too-high heels and too-revealing tops wobble by; the lady puts hand to onyx hip as her eyes follow them, waiting (hoping?) for someone to fall.
Someone who thinks he’s somebody ambles over to her, puts out his hand. She smiles coldly and offers him nothing. He talks. She hears him out. He talks more. Her smile disappears. He shrugs and walks away. She hadn’t said a word.
A flicker of blue satin to my left. My friend materializes. I raise my glass to toast her safe return. She passes me by without a glance.
I spin away. Flustered. Discarded. When I look up, the lady is blowing towards me like an obsidian cloud. She carries two glasses of champagne. She hands one to me as she leans back on my wall. United, we savor our drinks, mutely shouting our disapproval.
"Final Out" by Brendan Thomas
The short stop bent low, gathered the ball confidently in his glove, and delivered it precisely into the outstretched hand at first base as the runner lunged in a desperate attempt to beat the throw. The Umpire bent his right arm and shouted “Out!” Game over. Bill sat in the bleachers watching his son congratulate the victors before assembling for his final team talk. Bill thought back to his son’s first baseball day, oversized glove, baggy pants, cap low over his eyes, ball rolling between his legs, joyful laughter. He’d grown into his uniform, played every position from pitcher to catcher, and enjoyed success. He remembered his son’s first home run, little league, final inning of a bad loss, the ball scraping over the outfield fence. They’d left the diamond that night like winners, his son holding the prized ball tightly in his hand, only loosening his grip when sleep came. He thought of coaches, good and bad, parents full of advice for their player alone, bad hotels and good team dinners. They’d lived it all. Now it was over, college beckoned, his son short on the skills required to continue playing the game they loved.
His son packed his bag for the last time. First his black bat, nicked and scratched, the veteran of many important moments, his glove with leather laces dangling, it’s surface softened by balls slapped into its face. They would miss the sound of ball against leather. Finally he turned his cap bill to back as was his postgame habit, looked for his father’s face and slowly trudged towards him, crossing the baseball diamond and pitchers mound once more, stopping to scoop
dirt before continuing forward. “Ready?” he asked his father who took a moment to steal another glance across the field before answering “No.”
"Ghost Walking" by Tom Morgan
There’s a man on the roof of that building. If you would just turn around, you’d see him up there. This isn’t the usual view from your kitchen window, and I can’t help but be distracted, I’m sorry. You’re so upset, but I can’t take my eyes off him.
He’s wearing what look like pajamas. Christ, who’d be up there dressed like that? I think that building’s a hotel, it must be only a few blocks away from your apartment, though I’ve never noticed it before. This is one of the things you’re telling me; that I don’t pay enough attention to anything.
If only I could think of something to say, something to stop your tears. But my attention is fixed over your shoulder, at the little figure in the distance, atop the harsh white of the flat rooftop and the sirens gathering below. He’s standing there still, not looking down.
I wish it hadn’t come to this, I wish this wasn’t happening. Because the maw in my stomach is opening, it senses that something terrible is about to happen, and it’s lashing out. You stop the tirade for a moment, and stare at me dumb, asking what I have to say for myself.
I gag on the words, mumble that I’m sorry but don’t know what more I could have done. The man on the roof raises his hands to the sky. Is he waving? Praying? You lay your palms on the table and explode into tears. I just stand there, this stoic contrast to your emotive sincerity. This sums up our time together.
I refocus on the man, though I think I know what happens next.