This Isn’t About Football

Kicking Off (© 1973 United Feature Syndicate)

The current writing prompt is Kicking off. My response is below. I hope you’ll take a look at the others over at Writers Co-op. They range from thoughtfully instructive to historically fictional to tragically comical and just plain fanciful. What would you have written? The next prompt is:

License

What would you do with that? I hope you’ll give it a try. Your entry is due by Monday, March 7, 2022. Submission guidelines are easy: any genre, approximately 6-1,000 words. Send as a .doc, .docx, or .pdf attached to an email addressed to me at stranscht@sbcglobal.net. Please do join us. We are planning on publishing an anthology for which each author chooses two or three of their own favorite submissions.

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All You Have to Do

by S.T. Ranscht

It began as a joke, a harmless prank. Isn’t that what big brothers are for?

“It’s true, I promise you,” I told her, “but only special people can do it.” She was six and I was eleven — she had to believe me.

She took one of the rocks from her left hand and threw it at a sapling ten feet away. It bounced off the center of the skinny trunk.

I didn’t let on I was impressed. “Honest,” I said. “Do you want to learn how?”

She pulled back one corner of her mouth and looked at me sideways. “I asked Mommy, and she said no one can fly except in an airplane or a rocket.”

“She said that because she never even flew in her dreams. Sorry, kid, but our mom just isn’t quite special enough to soar like a Condor. Of course, you can spend your life on the ground if you want, and never even try, but then you won’t be any more special than Mom.”

As soon as I said it, I knew it was the wrong thing to say. She launched another rock and it hit exactly where the first one did. Then she turned on me.

“Mommy is too special. She’s the most special mommy in the whole world.”

I knelt in front of her. “You’re right, Sadie. She is. She probably just wants to keep you safe. Flying can be dangerous. It’s tricky to master and easy to get hurt doing it.”

“How? How can you get hurt?”

“You might get caught in an updraft and not be able to escape until it drops you someplace like the North Pole. Or China.”

She looked at me from beneath her scrunched eyebrows. “What’s an updraft?”

“It’s like riptide at the beach,” I said, knowing how much Dad’s warnings about that had scared her, “but it’s in the air and it sucks you up instead of down.”

Shrugging, she threw her last rock at the same spot. Bullseye. “And besides, if I went to China, I could call Mommy and Daddy and they would come and get me. I know their phone numbers, dummy.”

“Well, peabrain, you wouldn’t be able to call if you got caught in the top of a Giant Sequoia or sucked into a jet engine, would you?”

Her shoulders slumped. “No.”

“Okay.” I held her shoulders so we were face to face. “If you want to learn how to fly, I can teach you.”

“How?”

“There’s lots of ways,” I said, ticking them off on my fingers. “Some people just wiggle their toes and they rise up off the ground,” I could see her toes wiggling inside her sneakers. “Or maybe you’ll need to run downhill, spread your arms, and catch the wind.”

Sadie looked around. “We don’t have many hills around here.”

“My friend Doug says if you stand at the edge of something tall like a cliff or a skyscraper and throw yourself at the ground, all you have to do is miss.” I figured what was the harm? Sadie wouldn’t read Hitchhiker’s Guide for at least five more years.

Wrinkling her nose and shaking her head, Sadie said, “I don’t think that would work for me. I’m really good at throwing. I never miss.”

She got quiet. I could tell she was thinking. I stood up.

She looked up at me and narrowed her eyes. “Show me how you fly.”

I was ready for this. “I can’t show you yet because only flyers are allowed to see other people fly. If they let non-flyers see them, they can never fly again.”

“Then how am I s’posta—“

I held up one finger. “I can tell you, and once you learn how, we can fly anywhere, anytime you want.”

She made an exasperated little noise and said, “Okay. Tell me how you fly.”

“It’s easy. I stand with my knees bent just a little, and my arms ready to reach for the sky. Like this.” I posed like I was gonna take a free throw in basketball. “Then I pick up one foot — not too high — and KICK it down, hard, to the ground. Then I take off.”

Sadie stood like I was standing, except her little butt was sticking out. I had to work really hard not to laugh. “Okay, lift one foot…”

“Which one?” she asked.

“It doesn’t matter. Whichever one you want.”

She did.

“Now, KICK it down. Hard!”

She did.

She looked at me. “It didn’t work.”

“It’s okay. Nobody gets it the first time. Show me how you stand again.” Real serious like, I walked around her, looking her up and down. “I think I see your problem. Straighten you back a little, your butt is sticking out too far.”

She did just what I told her to do.

“Now lift your foot…”

She used the same foot as before.

“Now KICK down!”

She did, and of course, she was still standing on the ground. She immediately went into her pose again. Gotta give the kid points for determination.

“I’m gonna try the other foot this time.” She picked it up before I could say to.

“Good idea. Now KICK!”

She closed her eyes and KICKED.

“Gosh, Sadie, I’m really sorry. I thought this would work. I thought you were ready. Tough luck, kid.” I started back for the house.

“Wait! I almost had it, I know I did, but I think I wasn’t standing straight enough. Watch me, okay? One more time. Just one more. Pleeeease?”

How could I say no?

She took her stance. “How do I look? Is my butt sticking out?”

“No,” I said, “you look good. Go ahead, lift a foot.” She chose her second choice again. “Now…”

She kicked down. Hard.

And she shot into the air like she had springs on her feet and wings on her arms!

“Sadie!” I shrieked, “You’re flying!” This was impossible, but there she was, wheeling and tumbling like one of those crazy pigeons.

She bounced a little when she came down way over by a bunch of oak trees, but she landed on her feet. Then it looked like she was picking something up.

When she kicked off again, she rose as high as the tops of the trees before she turned and flew straight toward me.

Flying in a circle above me she yelled, “Now show me how you take off.”

I took my stance, lifted a foot, kicked down hard, and took off — running!

Sadie was right behind me, pelting me with acorns, and calling, “You liar. You can’t fly!”

I shouted back over my shoulder, “Nobody can fly, Sadie. Not even you.”

What can I say? I was eleven, she was six. She had to believe me.

She dropped out of the air, right on top of me. Lying on the ground, we were both all right, but she jumped up, angry.

“You tricked me,” she said. “You’re a non-flyer and you made me fly in front of you and now I’ll never be able to fly again.” And she ran off to the house, crying, “Mommyyyyy!”

It began as a joke. A harmless prank. But as far as I know, Sadie never flew again.

Even I was beginning to believe me.

Author: Sue Ranscht

I am a writer. Let me tell you a story...

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