Todd Ball's Journal Entry:
a short story by Sam Vest
Imagine the ball of your femur was an egg, the part of the femur that fits into the socket of your pelvis. Now imagine you smashed the egg when you turned your hip too much chucking a dodgeball.
Your hip makes a sound a mixture of a pop and a tear.
“You know what will help that?” asked Todd’s teammates.
The conservative part of me said to go home and write about the experience, my better part feared losing the friendships I’d forged over the past four weeks.
Dexter gave me a lift to the bar in his Cadillac. There I gimped about hoping the woeful sight of my gimp and a deplorable tale of chucking a ball at a girl point blank would win me sympathy.
I wanted to shake off the gimp, make it look like it never happened. When I heard my hip pop in the gymnasium I did not go down immediately. Just to reiterate, my hip popped/tore just to the right of my genitals where the leg connects to the hip.
I did not scream “Mother!” or go down immediately. I knew I was done for. I pushed myself too far. I dragged my sorry ass to the sideline and sat down. No one noticed. Maybe Amie, our team captain saw me and looked upset that I wasn’t my usual perky self, cheering everyone from the sideline. I sat still with my left leg propped up. Rotating my right leg outward meant doom.
I waited till the game ended to tell Amie.
“Are you ok?” she said.
“Yeah, just heard my hip pop.”
Midway through the last quarter I decided to test my condition. I stood and propped myself against the pad against the wall next to the referee. Putting weight on my right leg was out of the question. Even the slightest extension or turn that we all take for granted, felt like a team of knifes hacking my groin.
I played the last three games to hide my condition, and even hoped to make a catch. A blind man could have hit me. Without the ability to duck, a 6’2’’ guy was a sitting duck.
During warm ups I was thrusting my hips back and forth, joking with my teammate Dexter. We created a new dodgeball stance called ‘Paper Thin’ which involved a great deal of rotating hips.
It’s amazing how fleeting health is. Just thirty minutes ago I was prancing like a doe and now reduced to the mobility of a 95 year old man with arthritis.
The game ended thank god. I found I could walk forward all right with a gimp. Any amount of pressure on my right leg hurt, but gimping was tolerable.
I didn’t want to be that guy who played for 5 seconds on our team last weak and had to have the ambulance called for him. I did not want to be injured period. I should have been in those final games helping my new friends win, not hiding my pulled groin! And now I faced losing them.
What use am I to my team if I can’t through at 110%? I might be out for weeks. The season will be over then. Why associate with a gimp? Sure a minute ago he had a good arm and personality, but now a toddler could beat him up.
These demons haunted in my mind as we walked to the bar. Dexter offered me a ride in his Cadillac. I took it gratefully. Getting into the car was no big deal but getting out was an issue. I twisted my but to the right incrementally, picked up my right leg, drop it an inch to the right, then repeated till I faced the sidewalk. Dexter offered a hand, but I would have none of that, more from fear of pain that he’d pull me too fast than pride. I gimped into the bar and got as close to drunk as I’ve ever been. The alcohol eased the pain! I had many a good conversation. I got to know my buddy Dexter better. I spoke with a player on an opposing team named Emily and found out she was a 40-year-old trying to be a writer like me, only she had the additional pressure of being a woman with a parents on welfare, a master’ s degree in Engineering which she found useless, and all the expectations of being a 40 yea-old woman on her shoulders.
“If money was not an issue what would you be” I said.
“A writer, a poet, a painter.” She said. Music to my ears.
“You’ve got a head start. You’re amongst the young t heart.” I told her. I like to think I cheered her up. Dexter beckoned me to come get food elsewhere, which I needed badly if I were to make it home safely.
“We shall have another conversation soon.” I said to Emily.
Outside the bar my team voted where best to eat. We chose Satan’s Pizza Parlor, a block down the street, to my relief. Any farther and I couldn’t have made it.
“What are you getting?” Dexter asked me.
“Everything.” I said! I was close to drunk and in a lot of pain from the short walk. Money was no concern at that point. I spent $20 on a vegetarian supreme pizza.
“Which spicy level do you want?” said the cashier. “Hot, Sizzling, and Blazing?”
“Blazing.” I said with a coy smile. The cashier rang up the order. I hoped he would give me the “oh-my-gosh-you’re-crazy look”. My ego needed a pick me up.
I got it. The sweet barbeque, spicy vegetarian, and meat lovers pizza filled my spirits till I thought I would be sick. The ‘Blazing’ supreme vegetarian caused me to sweat from every orifice of my body. Had I not been so slaphappy I wouldn’t have been able to eat it. The searing pain in my mouth could sober any man. It’s amazing how you feel like shit, do something to make you feel good, overdo that thing that makes you feel good, and are in a worse place altogether. I cared little. Dexter and Ernie kept up good conversation.
I discovered Dexter had a similar life-changing experience as myself during a high school theatrical performance. He received a standing-ovation for performing Mr. Cellophane, a Chicago classic. It’s necessary that I mention he performed between two professional actresses, one starred in the European tour of Le Misérables and the other played Elphaba in Wicked on Broadway.
“I don’t have much of a voice.” Dexter said. From what little I knew about Dexter, I could tell he must have acted the shit out of that piece.
“All my friends congratulated me backstage. It was like WHOA….” Dexter fell back in his seat eyes towards the heaven, reliving the nostalgia. Spoken like a true artist. I could relate.
Charlie told me an equally interesting tale.
“I dropped out of high school because the pressure became too much. I worked three jobs as well as being a full time student. My senior year I realized I had no social life and said, ‘Fuck it!’ I dropper out and toured with bands in the Midwest for five years... After sending my three older sisters through college without having made them earn a cent for themselves, they told me I was on my own concerning paying for college. They hadn’t budgeted for their youngest and only son, and didn’t expect him to go to college anyways. My sisters are very shallow people.
“To this day?” I said.
“To this day Charlie repeated.
We got onto the topic of the Birds and the Bees. I recollected my story of Sex Ed in elementary school for Dexter, Charlie, and Felipe, our other team captain.
“Being very much embarrassed by the whole ordeal and wanting to go to recess, I stood in the midst of the boys in my class, the females had been separated, I stood up and said, ‘A man sticks his pencil in a woman’s sharpener and a baby is made.’
“Not quite!” said my teacher.
Felipe got up and left. I don’t blame him. Our dodgeball group had just been told by an employee to quite down and now I was shouting my middle school theories of sex loud enough so everyone could hear.
“I gotta go re park my car.” Dexter said, “It’s been two hours.”
I shimmied my legs out from under the table and pushed myself erect. Getting up felt like I was pulling my intestine off frozen ground. I Dexter out of the restaurant in the middle of a story Charlie was telling about ‘farm-boy’ friend’s first drinking experience at a big college.
Our whole team and other teams that had tagged along to Satan’s Pizza Parlor magically decided it was time for them to leave too. That’s the kind of dudes Dexter and me were.
“My friend’s told me to check on the farm boy in the bathroom, he’s messed up.” Ernie continued his story as I gimped as fast as I could across the road. I probably looked wasted to oncoming traffic.
“There was shit all over the walls and the farm was covered in shit.” Ernie said.
Good story, I thought.
Dexter offered to carry me on his back to his car. He pulled my arms over his shoulders. Knives hacked at my groin.
“No please!” I said. “Allow me to maintain what dignity I have left.” I was pleasantly surprised by my eloquent speech. “It’s not that I doubt that you could carry me; it’s only that I wouldn’t be able to withstand the pain.”
I gimped to the Cadillac at a snails pace. The alcohol didn’t seem to be working on my leg anymore, just my diction.
“I won’t leave you behind!” Dexter said.
I boarded the Cadillac in slow motion, first turning to the perfect angle such that I could bend over without rotating my leg, then clasping to the doorframe for dear life as I hoisted myself in. My passenger door snagged against the grassy curb, Dexter pulled up and I shut it. The vibration of the door closing was enough to send a knife into my groin.
“It’s amazing how when I decided to become a storyteller, I cannot experience life the same anymore. It’s as if I watch my body from a third person camera, never fully present.” I said.
“You’ve become observant. You’ll use your observations to make statements about human nature.”
“You and I are more alike than different.” I said. I bit my lower lip as Dexter pulled next to my car.
“Alike, only I can kick my leg above my head while you on the other hand are a gimp.”
“Indeed.” I said, “That is our biggest difference. See you next week.”
“We’ll see.” Dexter said. He waited for me to load into my car. I pushed lugged myself into my Prius as quickly as I could, hoping to raise Dexter’s hopes for me.
I could mention other things. Keera, on of my teammates, offered to jam her elbow into my groin to ‘fix it’.
“A good hard jam is all you need.” She said brandishing her forearm in my face. She was an acrobat on the Cirque du Soleil. I thought they were insane, but now I know.
An Asian guy from the team we'd just lost to, kept pinching Nicholas’s, another one of my teammates, nipples. The Asian guy demoted to ‘nut smacks’ as he grew more intoxicated.
“Our team enjoys high brow and low brow humor,” I said. “We laugh at low brow humor, though we do not participate in the low stuff.”
Nicholas grabbed across the table for the Asian guy’s nipple and spilled my fresh beer. The liquid bread splashed onto Natasha’s pants (Nick’s girlfriend) and she had to leave to dry her pencil sharpener, fearing yeast disease.
“I’m sorry dude.” Nick said, clearly embarrassed, “It’s crazy how you just said how we do not participate in their ‘low brow’ humor.”
“That’s irony for you.” I said.
Then there was the whole ordeal of me getting home. The alcohol eased the pain slightly, but did not impair my vision. I made it home safely and even was able to multitask and call my parents.
“Mom, I threw a ball playing dodgeball today and my hip popped.” I said.
“Oh,” she said groggily, “Let me put Dad on, that’s his specialty.”
“Did it hurt immediately?” said my dad.
“Yes, is it dislocated?” I said.
“No, not if you were able to walk.”
“Great! I’ll call you in the morning. Oh— I plan to be home for Easter. Love you bye!”
I pulled into my reserved parking spot and time slowed down. I pushed off the frame of my car and the dashboard with my hands and turned my body in increments so my hips wouldn’t have to do any work. For every inch I twisted my hips I lifted my right leg and set it down closer to the edge of the car. I kicked out my left leg then lifted out my right. My right leg sank to the ground. As it reached full extension the knives started stabbing so I propelled myself out of the car with my hands and put the weight on my left foot. I leaned against my car and panted for a good minute.
“There go my dodgeball friends!” I said. “I can’t escape it, physiology and sociology equals psychology. Perhaps I could still go to the games and cheer them on. I’ll write articles about their games and make them laugh! It’ll never work… They’ll never look at me the same. I’ll forever be the Gimp to them. ‘Who cares that he could throw?' They’ll say, ‘what good is he to us now?’”
I wanted to be a writer and there I was, a friendless Gimp with something to write about. I hoped the alcohol was causing me to overreact. My cheeks were rosier than cherries.