Waiting for a Message, flash fiction by Liz deBeer at Spillwords.com
Joshua Hoehne

Waiting for a Message

Waiting for a Message

written by: Liz deBeer



A florescent yellow-green tennis ball peeks from under dark emerald leaves, demanding me to stop. Damn it! I don’t have time for this, Al! If I slow my lunch-time race-walk aka rage-walk, I’ll be late.

Fury bubbles up now, igniting the loop that threatens to erupt when some asshole leaves the office copier jammed. Or at the jerk who parks in my spot.

And especially at Alden for leaving me alone with just a cold pillow.

Not visiting once, even when I beg him to come back as a butterfly landing on my shoulder. Or a red cardinal whistling by our window. Or a white rabbit tilting its head when I weep alone in the park. Haven’t seen a single rainbow since he died. Or a cloud shaped like his profile.


But when I see the tennis ball, I murmur, “Al? Alden?!”

I realize I sound like a lunatic, or maybe Moses, talking to a tennis ball under a bush. Seeing that tennis ball, felt cover ripped at its seams, rotting under the foliage, I wonder if it could possibly be —however unlikely — the same tennis ball that smacked Alden on the side of his head, in just the right spot, before he could slice it back over the net.

A message sent via a tennis ball kinda makes sense — more than a levitating coin or moaning in the dark; Al wasn’t keen on magic tricks or overacting.

“Al?” I whisper, then louder, “Alden?” Something rustles under the bush; I jump back as the tennis ball rolls toward me.

“What the fuck?” I stammer, heart racing. As if in a trance, I lean down and grasp the tennis ball, turning it around to inspect, even though it’s dirty and disgusting, peeling and decomposing.

On impulse, I squeeze it. Bits of dirt and rubber crumble out, creating a dusty cloud which surrounds me in its arms and rocks me, singing softly, Love may be nothing in tennis but it’s everything in life —

I drop the ball and stare as another puff emerges to embrace me again, its song now, Never play in anger. Slow down. You win with grace—

“Stop it! You’re creeping me out!” I snap at the tennis ball, which hums softly. Then I kick it, just hard enough for it to roll up the incline and disappear under its bush.

I trot now, determined to finish my walk on time, before my lunch break is over — and to get my mind off that freaky talking tennis ball. What the actual fuck?
 Counting to myself to shove the weirdness away: One, two, three, four, five—

When I get to fifty-nine, sixty, I hear: Squeak, pop, squeak, pop, pop, thud —

A three-inch ball smacks my butt, Ouch! Fuckin—I stop, swallowing my curses.

Instead I call out, “Guess that one kicked me in the ass!” as I toss the yellow pickleball over the chain fence to the breathless players.

Each step stings now, so I move deliberately, trying not to grimace. “Ow, Ow, Ow,” I say to myself.

Then, I feel a pull and raise up my hands to the clear sky, stretching myself upward. I reverse and lean down, imagining I’m a weeping willow, swaying slightly.

The tension in my bottom clicks, so I shake my limbs again, free from pain. The blue calls me to reach up again, up, up to the spirits above.

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