Just decided to dink around a little bit here. My man Chuck Wendig, a supreme writer and blogger and e-mentor, does a Flash Fiction Challenge every Friday. I rarely take part. This week was intriguing, though. Pick a three-word title from a list of his readers’ suggestions. My suggestion didn’t make his list, which didn’t piss me off. I chose the closest one to it. And I included my title in the text. Your challenge is to find it. Good luck.
There is such blindness that goes along with sexual abuse, and that’s one of a million enabling factors. So this thousand-word essay attacks just one of those blind spots. Trust me, it’s fiction. But it addresses a theme that’s rife in both Diamonds and Dirt and the upcoming sequel Tenth Inning.
For those books, I still need a publisher. But for now, here’s that essay…
Not today, Satan
Son of a bitch. Another mob. These people are relentless. They need pitchforks, torches, buckets of tar. I’ll be your metaphorical Frankenstein again today, day after day. Someday you’ll go away.
Hey, I’m getting paid for this. For once I know who the good guys are, and it’s not that crew of pathetic vindictive punks.
The small-town cops are laughing like they’re drinking beer at a holiday picnic. Joking with the riffraff. Clearing a path to the schoolhouse door. Someone sees me round the corner and shouts Hey there’s the asshole! Thompson pushes past the cops, stands in my way, chest to chest. He’s biggish, not as big as I am, but he’s a man with way too much to prove.
Athletic Director my ass, you’re not going in there, and the cops head over to break it up but not before Thompson spits in my face.
No blink, no flinch, just another inch closer in his playground bully game. Sure I’ll play. Hands in the air, nose pressed to Thompson’s forehead, Officer Carter, that’s assault, is it not? Didn’t see nothing, sir, you go on inside now.
You’re a dead man, says Thompson. You heard that, Officer? Heard nothing, sir, please move along.
Just an ordinary job in an ordinary town. Full of ordinary overtrusting parents who can’t help but hand their precious ones and all their vast promise over to a creep-job gym teacher. It happened years ago, Coach Bob spanking junior high kids in the shower when they screwed around, naked little boys grabbing their ankles, trying not to cry with red hand prints on their asses, afraid to tell their parents, but the rumors followed him when he came to my high school, me all new on the job, him all pumped up and blustery and pied pipery with his army of devoted rats convinced he’d take the wrestlers to the state title.
The dream of conquest lasted six months. A trickle of whispers, a river of running jokes, a phone call from a dad. Coach Bob put his hand where? Yes Sir, I will look into this. No Sir, please don’t kill him yourself Sir.
Bob, I’ve got some concerns. See me tomorrow. Plain as that, not another word spoken. The jelly in his belly turned to steel, the bald head went crimson, the whisk-broom mustache trembled.
Next morning his desk was empty. The day after that, the cops got him. The year after that, he was in prison. Not for the naked spankings. Turns out that was legal. It was the oral sex in his office. Turns out that was not legal. Turns out fourteen-year-old girls can’t give consent.
Town was in an uproar, didn’t believe it, he was set up, not Coach Bob, god no never. Righteous put-him-away-for-goods got drowned out, overwhelmed by the rats in the Corps of Believers. The same rats who abandoned ship with each passing week and each new piece of evidence. Until Coach Bob rotted alone. Until Coach Bob hung himself with a bed sheet.
And the people said Amen.
Then came Walter. And the people said, fool me once…
Twenty years later, a mob at the gates wants my head on a platter.
See, I fired Walter.
Walter worked his weasely way into hearts and minds of athletes, into the pants of special mothers. He lied, maligned, ridiculed, used his position to pit kids and families against each other, he created his own little kingdom in the schoolhouse, and he threw a compliment around to confuse everyone. See, Walter loves my kid, look at the smile on her face.
Walter decided he needed a private office. His own office, out back in his own portable, behind the school, for a man who made a career of separating sheeps and goats. I was a goat. The school board, sheeps. They approved the money. He’s special, he loves us, here in our Podunk town. Just look, he’s touching our kids.
Yeah they said that. Touching our kids. And I said you better watch how you word that.
What I said was, we’re still reeling from what Coach Bob did, victims still suffering, and we let the whole damn thing come back again. Twenty years ago a coach had a fourteen-year-old’s lips in his lap. She thought that was the only place to find love.
The lesson? We never learned a thing. You just gave the new guy a private office out back.
Thompson’s little girl graduated, now she’s a college all-American, says she’d never’ve made it if Walter hadn’t pushed her, made her cry, worked her through tears every day, he just wanted the best for her, she was worthless without him, she lived for that high-five after practice. After he beat her down. Insulted her. Ridiculed her friends, made them quit. Threatened her. What would her dad do, out there in the car every day, so devoted, while she showered and dressed? What would he do if she quit like those other losers? And she clenched in fear and pain and worked a little harder.
Then, the high-five. And life was roses and rainbows. And she got in the car with her dad and said thanks to Walter who made it so.
But Walter lied about money. You can’t do that. Walter doesn’t work here anymore.
They write to the paper about my alpha dog complex. Last I heard, that was in my job description. Athletic Director. Alpha Dog. Woof.
You do the right thing, you get complainers. Sometimes you get pickets. The occasional riot. Or, on a dusky spring evening, a cherry-faced blowhard ready to go the extra mile. Thompson waits as I pull from the lot. With a Louisville Slugger, to crumple my windshield, or me, or both.
He dashes from the curb. He doesn’t see the bus.
Duty bound, I pull over and reach for the phone. I watch in the mirror, transit guy in his uniform hat crouching over the body.
Not today, motherfucker.