Angela Cummings

Swing, Or Don’t

Old photo of a man and a boy at a park

Rick sent it to me, in a box with random childhood objects I had intentionally left behind in Montana all those years ago. The recent newspaper clipping was buried beneath a scattering of torn baseball cards, matchbox cars, and merit badges. Vern Hamilton, of Jefferson County passed away January 5…

Uncle Vern. I couldn’t remember the last time I thought about him. Hard-working, wise-ass, lovelorn Vern. He survived three-and-a-half wives, and the scandal of at least one knocked-up waitress. Luckless at the poker table, but invincible in Pinochle. He was the third base coach who never sent you home unless he knew you would be safe. No one filled a room like Vern. He could pick you up off your sad little floor with just a wink. He was fearless but all heart; his brother was just a pair of fists.

Vern leaves behind two children…oh, and a bastard son I ran into once in Missoula.

Vern leaves behind a nephew who tried to forget everything and everyone. Confronting his death, I’m living through a cinematic retrospective:

Here’s a scene from that day Vern took me for a hike along the caverns. I was just a kid, and we were talking about my falling batting average. “Don’t think too much in that box. Batting is form and instinct. Look at the ball and when you get that little tingle – swing! But never swing halfway. Swing. Or don’t.”

Swing or don’t.

I put the box down, and I called her.

250/48 and May 11

This short-short story was submitted to the Big Show Blog, Portland, OR as part of their 250/48 writing challenge. I received the photo above on May 11, 2012 and had 48 hours to write a short story, 250-words or less.

In an interesting coincidence – which the Big Show Blog was not aware of – a quick internet search on “Lewis and Clark Caverns” revealed that this photo was probably taken at Montana’s first state park, which was established on May 11, 1908.