One outta two ain’t bad. In fact, there are a myriad of pursuits in which one outta two would be positively splendid. If a first baseman, for example, keeps a one outta two pace at the plate for an entire season, he would almost certainly have registered the greatest season in the history of hitting first basemen. Just about the only blemish on my one outta two is that it is only outta two; it’s too soon to determine if this is an indication of success or merely happenstance. But for now I stay positive and simply maintain: one outta two ain’t bad.
Question: What the hell am I talking about?
Sorry. I’ll explain.
I spent a good deal of time over July writing short stories, most of which I don’t mind saying were god-awful garbage. But I persevered, because I like writing short stories. Any creative pursuit that can be pursued sitting on a couch in one’s underwear while blasting Eminem is how shall I say, my cup of tea.
By the end of the month, submission deadlines for a few literary magazines were approaching, and I worked up the nerve to submit two different stories to two different magazines. One story was accepted and one was rejected, and what follows this (typically) elongated introduction is the rejected story.
Some sour grapes: The magazine that rejected me sucks anyway! It’s so lame, and the magazine that will publish me is waaaaay better. Like 1000 times better. And sexier.
ANYWAY, The story below is entitled In Left Field, and like all fiction, is based and born in truth. It’s not god-awful garbage, but I think it’s vastly inferior to the story that was accepted, so I’m actually quite content with how it all worked out. The literary magazine that rejected it stressed a brevity theme, and all submissions had to adhere to a 500-word limit. Part of (most of) the reason I chose to submit In Left Field was that with it’s original length of 1200 words, it was by far the shortest story I wrote. It was not easy eliminating 60% of a story that was only a couple pages long anyway, and indeed what remained of In Left Field was skeletal. In bore only a slight resemblance.
So, the magazine’s loss is We Could Go On and On’s gain (or loss, if you are understandably sick of these stories). Here is my first rejection. May it be the first of many, as long as I never stop writing.
In Left Field.
By Gregory Quinn
Mr. Anderson sat on his back porch, our default left-field foul pole. He loved watching me strike the old man out. He laughed and hollered and told my father he couldn’t hit the pool from the diving board. He called me the next Rocket.
My father pretended to be upset, promising to bring the heater when he took the rubber. But he’d toss me a gopher and I’d crank it to the trees while Mr. Anderson cheered.
Our field was a miniature diamond of raked-aside pine needles and bags of sand we bought at the hardware store. Mr. Anderson helped us build the field. He paced off the distance from the batter’s box to the pitcher’s mound, walking one foot after the other in dogged precision. He maintained the field throughout the summer, raked the sand and painted the foul poles yellow. He never played, always retreating to the porch of his brown ranch and always looking after his wife, whom I never met.
Mr. Anderson’s wife stayed inside, sheltered. During our games, Mr. Anderson checked on his wife often, bringing himself and my father another drink as he returned. She’s been feeling a little ill lately, he explained, pointing to the sky, this damn weather. At night, my father walked through the never-mended fence and sat with him on the back porch, smoking and drinking and trying to ignore.
Late in July, Mr. Anderson’s wife was seen wandering around the neighborhood naked, muttering to herself and watering the gardens. Mr. Anderson found her and silently wrapped her in a blanket, walking her to his truck. My parents sat at the dinner table and remarked how sad or what a shame, never expressing the relief that their own breakdowns took place in the anonymity of their own home, fully clothed. After dinner Mr. Anderson was back on his porch, warning me to watch out for the heater.
On the nights we didn’t play Mr. Anderson stayed outside, sipping from silver cans of beer and throwing rocks at the sticks in front of him. His wife called from inside and he’d go to her, emerging with a fresh drink but no one for which to explain. He’d shake his head and sit back down, barely moving.
It wasn’t long and then Mr. Anderson’s seat in left field was always empty. The trips inside for his wife were longer and longer and when he came back out he said nothing. My father went over there often then. He went inside and stayed for hours. He and Mr. Anderson came back out to the porch and from my bedroom window I watched them sit and smoke in silence. My father came in so late those nights I never heard him come home.
Mr. Anderson’s wife died the weekend I went back to school. I’m not sure I even noticed.
See. It’s not that great. I mean, I don’t hate it. I like the image of Mr. Anderson’s crazed wife watering the neighbors’ gardens naked. But I know I can do better.
Amy suggested that one day I should publish an anthology of all my rejected stories (she assumes, like I, there will be a lot of them) and entitle it: Suck It: The Rejected Stories of Gregory Quinn.
My girlfriend is a genius.