Friday, October 25, 2013

"She Throws Free Throws," A Middle-Grade Short Story

Douglas Winslow Cooper and Brian Maher

Laura Byrne was Tess Williams’s best friend, almost as athletic as tom-boy Tess, almost as scholarly as wizardly Tess, almost as pretty, almost as popular, almost, almost, almost….

Sweet Laura was not jealous of Tess. They were buddies, They shared secrets, though not clothes, and both played on the seventh-grade basketball team, tall Tess the center, shorter Laura a guard. Each liked Michael Wilkinson, captain of the boys’ basketball team. Laura had a real crush. Tess less so.

It came to pass, as the saying goes, that the seventh-grade field day was to be held in the gym. Why they called it a “field day” when they held it indoors was a mystery, but traditions stay traditions, even when they make little sense. That day, only an afternoon really, featured a series of competitions: races, feats of skill, opportunities to “show your stuff.” In other words, “field day” was full of chances to show off, chances to impressed the girls, chances to impress the guys.

Laura and Tess were entered into the basketball free-throw competition: take 20 shots, count how many are made. Both were pretty good at this, with…as you might guess…Laura being almost as good at it as Tess.

As the girls’ free-throw competition got underway, several of the guys came to watch, to cheer, to tease them a bit, too. Michael Wilkinson was among them, as Tess and Laura quickly noted.

After the first round of 20 shots apiece, two players were tied for the championship. Tess and Laura, no surprise. Each had made 15 of 20, fine shooting, about what Laura would normally do when practicing on her own.

“We have a tie. We will have a ‘shoot-out,’ with Tess and Laura taking turns. Best score out of 20 shots is the winner,” the Principal announced.

We won’t go to the play-by-play. At the end of the 20th shot for each of them, Laura had made another 15, Tess 14. Laura had won. Several of the kids congratulated Laura, including Tess and Michael, and Laura beamed.

When Tess came home, brother Rick asked her how the field day had gone.

“It was great fun. We had a lot of competitions, and Laura and I were the finalists in the foul-shooting contest.”

“That’s no surprise. I’ve seen you shoot them…almost perfectly. I’ll bet you won.”

“No, this time Laura won.” Tess smiled as she said it.

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