Helmut and Handball, a short story by Lily Finch at Spillwords.com
Ethan Sykes

Helmut and Handball

Helmut and Handball

written by: Lily Finch

 

Cheryl boarded the plane (for the first time) with the image of the horrific plane crash a week earlier in her mind. Metro Airport in Detroit had never seen such a crash in the history of its existence; everyone on the plane, except a newborn baby, perished on the runway.

Helmut, an observant man, sat next to Cheryl.

He promptly introduced, “I’m Helmut Wolfgang, and you are?” He didn’t wait for Cheryl to answer before he summoned the flight attendant and asked for two manhattans. After his order was placed, he turned his full attention to Cheryl, who was 17.

“Are you travelling alone? Meeting someone on the other end? What brings you to my country?”

“You ask a lot of questions, don’t you?” she said. He looked her up and down and said, “You must be an athlete. Your body is amazing.” She took a long look into his face as he said it and realized he was not being creepy; he meant it as a compliment and nothing more.

Before she could respond, the flight attendant brought Helmut’s drinks. He paid for them with money from his pocket and gave her a sizeable tip. “Keep the change, sweetheart,” he said loudly for the entire plane to hear.

Helmut’s generosity in giving Cheryl one of his drinks astounded her. She wasn’t too familiar with different kinds of alcohol but she didn’t want to seem ungrateful either so she raised the drink, clinked her glass on cue, and then sipped the drink when Helmut did.

He watched Cheryl’s face as she took her first drink to see her reaction; she caught him looking through her peripheral vision and forced an “Ahh.” Helmut laughed hysterically and clapped, placing a hand on her knee.

“I’m a level four athlete. I placed third, second and first in three different sports in the province I live in, representing the entire province. I played baseball on a team that won first place all across Canada. I was a top hitter and fielder. To answer your questions.”

She smiled and was surprised at how easily the information left her lips. She never talked about herself that much before.

Helmut ordered two more drinks and then dinner was served. They ate together and talked about many things. And before the plane landed, Helmut produced a card with his name and place of business. He spoke about a sport Cheryl had never heard of before and said she would be perfect for it. It was European handball.

While she made no promises, when the plane landed, she spoke to the people who met her at the airport, and Helmut introduced himself to them. He placed his card in the head of the family and left. Two weeks later, Cheryl was on the court and Helmut was yelling at her to give him more.

A month and a half later, she broke a knuckle on her right hand at the baby’s finger and never returned to play handball again. She thought she would never see Helmut again.

She didn’t miss the game, the other women, or give Helmut a second thought. Months later, she headed to the airport for a trip to Panama and ran into Helmut on the plane.

Their seats were next to one another again. They smiled as if they were old friends.

Helmut ordered two drinks.

“Let me guess,” she said, “Manhattans.”

“But of course, my dear, what else?” He shrugged his shoulders and they both laughed.

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