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Writing Resources from Fifteen Minutes of Fiction

The following is a piece of writing submitted by Janee on July 4, 2008

Field Hockey

When little Sue was born, I was so excited. Dance and piano recitals, gymnastics competitions, soccer and field hockey games - these would all be so wonderful to experience for the first time as a grandparent.

Sometimes reality doesn't match expectations. Sometimes family life is a minefield waiting to destroy everything and everyone with emotional shrapnel.

As I walk onto the athletic fields, the first thing I look for is my son-in-law. Jerry was supposed to take both Sue and Micah on a three day camping trip during Labor Day weekend, but in the end he canceled those plans because his new girlfriend wanted him to go with her on some sort of trip to Baltimore that weekend. To make matters worse, Jerry is currently insisting that the kids need to be with him this weekend, even though (first of all) it's Laura's weekend, and (secondly) Sue has a school dance that she will have to miss if she spends the weekend with Jerry.

That means that this week Sue is declaring her eternal hatred for her father.

I scan the stands, looking for Jerry (all the while trying desperately to look as though I'm not looking for him), so I can be sure not to sit near him. I don't want to be guilty by association. Also, I'm really not interested in meeting the new Jerry-girl.

Once I've found him, sitting in the seventh row, next to the parking lot, I walk quickly by. I know that Laura, if she is here already, will be on the far end of the field. It's not a truce exactly, but an unspoken agreement that wherever one of them sits, the other will make their way to the extreme opposite end of things.

Jerry and Laura always arrive early for field hockey games - far more so than they did when they were married. Now, being the earliest to arrive means that you get the best seat, and the spiteful satisfaction of knowing that you've made the ex take a less satisfying location.

Laura's my daughter, and I love her, but I won't pretend that she doesn't indulge in these foolish, selfish games.

I keep my head down, now, as I walk past Jerry; I'm not looking for Laura, because if I see her, and she sees me, I'll have to sit with her. You might think that is strange, since she is my daughter, but experience has taught me that sitting with her will force me to sit through two hours of non-stop bitter complaining and sniping about both Jerry and the new girlfriend.

I want to enjoy the game.

So I walk halfway down the field and take a seat at the top of the bleachers, surrounded by strangers.

The sad thing is, I can't even concentrate on the game; at every moment my sixth-sense is tingling, and I'm looking out of the corner of my eye to see Jerry walking by toward the concession stands, or Laura walking by in the other direction to use the porta-potty. I can see in the way that they walk that they are tense, uncomfortable, ready to bolt at a moment's notice.

As I sit there at the top of the bleachers, hunched over, nervously watching the movements of the spectators more than I'm watching the game, three thoughts pass through my mind.

First, I wonder if little Sue, thirteen years old and playing in her very first field hockey game, can feel this same tension I feel.

Second, if she does sense it, I wonder how she manages to keep her mind on the game.

And finally, I can't help but think: the only way they could make field hockey any less enjoyable would be to turn the athletic field into a literal minefield.

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