This is a short piece, and rather than giving a summary and such, I think it better that I explain, briefly, why I chose this story, then let you just read it. (If you haven’t already!!)
I’d been hired to guide children’s bodies through air—kids shot through my palms mid-vault, my hands glancing torqued torsos, the horizontal fling of flexed ambitions. Above our tumbling routines and trampoline acts, the gym’s red-lettered motto: WHERE EVERYONE IS A STAR.
What I liked best about this story was the subtle use of words in ways that fit so nicely with what is going on. The action is set, mostly, in this gym where gymnasts train and the narrator and her husband both work.
After the narrator confesses to popping pills to stay alert, she says:
I’d return my smile to the mats, make mid-air grasps at those springy, unfinished forms. I was paid to catch girls against breakings.
When something would go wrong, as is inevitable in a place where children are being flung through the air:
The astonishing cries stiffened us and summoned whorls of red light to the parking lot, but mostly we were safe. I worked hard at that.
When her husband coaches the girls, she describes how the parents react:
Toddler moms whispered requests for him to gauge the future talent of their offspring: What chance did they stand? Be honest.
When her husband can’t separate work from home and can’t see her as his wife and not just another athlete:
We splintered. I borrowed a friend’s address. My husband parked his car against mine in the gymnasium lot and when my birthday arrived, not yet thirty, he arranged presents on the passenger seat for me to find. Joke gifts, I guess, unless you’re six: Easy-Bake Oven, strawberry-scented pencils, a plastic cotton candy machine. Weeks later, the same seat: divorce papers I’d filed.
There are plenty of these moments, in such a short piece, lending this story a feel of a pseudo-poem, and yet, it remains very much a short story.
Check out the Collagist, and if you have something you might want to submit, you can submit via their online submission page.