This is the sixth round of The Alphabet Challenge mentioned in THIS post. As a refresher, the Broxson twins, Gary and Perry, and I will each write one story for each letter of the alphabet. Meaning, a story whose title begins with the given letter. For these submissions, it’s the letter “F”.
Readers have until the publication of the next round of stories (about two weeks between rounds) to vote for their favorite story in the current round. Points will be assigned to each writer based on total votes received.
In each round, the story with the most votes gets three points. Second place gets two points, third place gets one point. In the case of a tie, the points for the tied rankings are added and then split equally among the writers who tied. At the end of the year, we tally up and crown the winner with the most points.
Long or short, each story will appear on its own post and the trio will be followed by a fourth post where readers can vote.
Here we go. Presented anonymously, the first of three stories with titles beginning with the letter “F” as submitted by its author.
Copyright 2020 — Gary Boxson
(2,914words – approx. reading time: about 11 minutes based on 265 WPM)
“Daddy, how do dolphins go potty ?” Alexander asked his father, still holding open a door with a white stickman painted on the front. Joe Kitner had been nervous about allowing his pre-K son to go into the public restroom alone for the first time and now he realized he would regret it big time. Nancy Kitner, the Apache gunship of helicopter moms, had made it clear that Alexander was far too young to be weenie wagging alongside the unwashed masses.
“They go number one and number two in the ocean, Alex. That’s why we only drink our water from BPA-free plastic bottles.” Joe smiled wanly, hoping the answer would suffice and that his son would not need a pee-pee therapist.
“Nnnnn-nnnn,” Alexander half-hummed, shaking his head and arching an eyebrow toward the inside of the restroom. Joe pulled his son behind him and placed his head inside the men’s room doorway. Everything looked normal at first, then he saw it – a large blue dolphin tail protruded from under the second of two stalls.
Listening carefully, Joe heard the occupant mumbling. He made out only a few words. ”Marry me, and make me the happiest marine mammal…” then there was a shrill EE-EEEE-king sound, that echoed off the bathroom’s hyper-acoustic walls. Joe stepped out, closed the door and bent down to ALexander, eye level. “You didn’t see anything in the bathroom. Do not say anything to your mother about this,” he waved at the men’s room door. “How would you like an ice cream on the way home?”
Martin Brody vomited into the toilet one last time, wiped his mouth with a red cape that draped his dorsal fin and stood up in the stall. Mom’s spaghetti, he thought, trying to lighten his own mood. This is your moment, you own it, you better never let it gooo. If everything worked out as Martin planned, this would be a funny story to tell their grand kids. If it didn’t, it would be the most embarrassing moment of Martin’s life.
Things, however, were not going exactly as planned but Martin decided he would own it as the song directed. This was the 45th annual running of the Super Dolphin 5K and fun run. The event was organized by the Echo Island Elementary school PTA. Martin’s original plan, the one that ran on a loop in his mind, was to run the race with his girlfriend Ellen, cross the finish line, drop to one knee, and propose to her. Things had changed, however, just the night before this Hallmark moment was to play out.
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While serving high-carb, low-gluten spaghetti at the pre-race dinner, Martin had been cornered by Quinn Shaw, Echo Island Elementary’s PE coach. Coach Quinn as he was known, was a large gay man and Martin always felt like he was going out of his way to prove to the coach that he wasn’t a homophobe. Martin would inevitably end most of their conversations with a Seinfeldian remark like not that there’s anything wrong with that.
To say the least, Martin was uncomfortable around Coach Quinn. Perhaps Martin’s Southern Baptist upbringing was to blame. For a religion that touted loving your brother, Martin thought, someone had attached numerous caveats for hate for those that didn’t bow to the right gods or dock in the right ports.
“Tag, you’re it,” Coach Quinn had said, handing Martin a bulging laundry bag. Martin put down the spaghetti sauce ladle and took the sack, not wishing to offend the gay man. “Principal White has me wearing a pirate outfit this year. He told me to find some sap to be Skipper,” he had said while pulling an elastic band over the back of his head and securing a black patch over his left eye.
“But, I…I…I’ve got plans,” Martin had stammered, glancing across the gym at Ellen as she had passed out T-shirts to the pre-registered runners.
“So, who do you suggest?” asked Coach Quinn. “Mrs. Baldwin? She’s 90. Mr. Stone? He’s had two strokes; it doesn’t take a T-ball coach to know that three strokes and he’s out. Tad the janitor? He doesn’t have school insurance. I can go on.”
“Well, maybe I could be the pirate, and you could keep the dolphin suit?” Martin suggested, half-handing the bundle back to the coach. Lately, Martin had been attempting to assert himself and this would be a good opportunity to test his mettle.
“You’ve got to be kidding, Brody, you’re no pirate.” Quinn continued, “You’re too, too white bread. You’re Opie Taylor on white bread. Pirates are swarthy and devilish, yet able to apply eye liner on the rough seas.”
“So I guess you’re Johnny Depp now?” Martin had chuckled weakly.
Coach Quinn had scowled, bared a gold tooth, and had uttered a guttural aaarrrrrrr, causing Martin to fail miserably the mettle test.
“Not that there’s anything wrong with Johnny Depp,” Martin had heard himself say reflexively.
“Suck it up, buttercup,” Coach Quinn had replied, thrusting the sack back to Martin. “Careful with the head, the IT guy rigged up some new electronics. Audio amps, Bluetooth, sound effects and such.“ This conversation had not gone the way Martin had hoped, he was now on the hook as the Echo Island Elementary Super Dolphin mascot. He would have to come up with a new plan to propose to Ellen.
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The morning of the Super Dolphin 5K and fun run came early. Ellen had gotten home late after cleaning up after the pre-race spaghetti dinner and had forgotten to get her sports bra out of the washer. It would take 40 minutes to dry and she had to be at the start line in 30.
“You’re a peach,” Ellen had said to her roommate Shelly, as she hustled out the door.
“No problem,” Shelly had said. “That’s my lucky sports bra. And I always get compliments on it from the guys.”
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“…For the land of the freeeee, and the hoooo-oooome of the Brave!” little Sarah Hooper belted out the last line and the crowd applauded. Some joker, and there’s always one, yelled, “Play ball!”
“Runners, I know it’s cold and you are all anxious to get moving,” Principal Greg White announced via bullhorn to the stretching, stomping, watch-setting crowd. Principal White seemed not to be affected by his own admission of cold; he dressed only in skimpy yellow nylon shorts and a matching pair of light-weight running shoes, sans even socks.
Principal Greg White’s California smile and bare torso captured the runner’s attention and they stopped fidgeting like corralled race horses. “This race is all about our children,” he said through the bullhorn, smacking a wad of bubblegum. “Let’s show’em some love. Get on in there, Skipper!” Greg commanded, as if her were Coach Quinn sending in his ace pitcher. The kids cheered.
Martin, fully outfitted as Skipper the Super Dolphin, waded into the crowd of racers, most of Echo Elementary’s smallest runners were up front. A third-grader pulled at Skipper’s blue flipper. “Faster than a speeding mullet,” a cartoonish voice declared. Another tug of the flipper got a shrill, “EEEEEEE-EEE” sound causing a first-grader to cry. One child tugged at Skipper’s short red cape, felt something wet and sticky and let go.
Inside the dolphin costume and harassed by a school of children, Martin did his best to search the crowd for Ellen. There were perhaps 300 runners and Martin had a difficult time seeing clearly through the screened ports of the dolphin head. The dolphin’s glassy and cheerful eyes were set back way too far to be useful to its human occupant.
In the back of the pack, Ellen had been looking for Martin. He had disappeared after the pre-race dinner the night before without so much as a goodbye. Martin, always reliable and considerate, had been acting quite strangely of late and Ellen suspected he might be up to something. She had overheard him chatting with her roommate Slutty Shelly just days before. Not unusual, in that they all worked at Echo Island Elementary in various capacities, but still, Ellen couldn’t help but worry.
“Get ready, get set…one piece of advice before we go,” Smiling Greg interrupted himself, blowing a large bubble. “Start out fast, then run faster,” he laughed at his own wit, then fired the starter pistol.
Teems of children poured around Martin, sprinting and darting, all with a singular purpose. One club-footed kid stomped on Martin’s fluke, triggering a response from the suit: “Dolphins are not fish; they are marine mammals,” followed by another shrill EEEEEEE-EE, that blasted through the speakers playing the Rocky anthem.
Then he saw her, Ellen, bent down and tying a small boy’s shoe laces.” The boy continued to stare down at Miss Ellen, his third grade teacher, mouth slightly open, even as she finished the knot and shooed him on, back into the receding pack of runners.
Ellen stood up from the task and Martin immediately understood and appreciated the boy’s jaw-dropping reaction. Ellen wore a blazing white sports bra that was as sheer as tissue. The frigid February morning had brought out the breast in her.
Martin did his best to keep up with Ellen and the others as they began to set a swift pace. The dolphin suit allowed some mobility, but it was quite cumbersome causing him to lag slightly behind. As Ellen reached the first mile marker, Principal Greg White appeared out of nowhere. He ran ahead of Ellen and turned around, jogging backwards, facing her. His eyes lit up and he grinned with a mouthful of bleached teeth.
“Ellen,” he began, extending the len in Ellen. “You are looking great. That’s an awesome one mile time.” Thanks to the new electronics in the dolphin head, Martin could hear the conversation clearly.
“Just trying to be a good role model,” Ellen said, tucking in her elbows a little tighter than she normally would, all the while cursing Slutty Shelly’s wardrobe malfunction. She hadn’t noticed the sheerness of the borrowed sports bra until she was already lined up for the race. It was there she had caught her own reflection in an ogler’s racing shades and was now in cover-up mode. Although it was a cool, misty morning, Ellen’s headlights were on high beam.
“You know, there’s an opening coming up for Assistant Principal next fall,” Greg puffed, still not making direct eye contact with Ellen. He blew a small pink bubble and gobbled it back up, overusing his tongue, lips, and teeth to complete the act.
“Yes, I heard that Ms Taylor is leaving us. I really hate to see her go,” Ellen said with sincerity. Ms Taylor was a wonderful administrator and the rumor mill whispered that Principal White had made her somehow uncomfortable.
“Maybe you and I could discuss a new position over dinner tonight?” Martin heard the invitation and his heart sank.
It surfaced again when he heard Ellen say, “I’m sorry, Mr. White, you know I’m seeing Martin Brody. It just wouldn’t be right,” she trailed.
“Brody? Are you serious?” he flexed his pectorals like a white Terry Crews. A shark’s tooth secured on a leather thong around his neck bobbled with each contraction. “You don’t need a spineless jellyfish like that. You need a…”
Ellen thought about Martin and the clandestine conversation she had overheard with Slutty Shelly and asked abruptly, “And just what do I need, Mr. White?”
“You need a nice dinner, with a real man. Maybe a bottle of red, or would you prefer white? Or both?” He grinned. “I’m no art teacher, but I believe the combo of red and white will get me pink?” The grin grew even wider. She cringed at his double row of teeth with fleshy bits of gum wedged between.
Just then, little Alexander Kitner caught up to Martin and pulled his flipper. He wore a foam dorsal fin secured to his head by way of rubber band and he had a question about dolphins and bathrooms. The tug triggered a high-pitch EEEEE-EEE sound from the suit. Then a factoid: “The largest and most dangerous member of the dolphin family is the Orca or Killer Whale.”
“Blow it out your blow hole thingy!” Greg snapped back at the mascot. “Can’t you see I’m working here?”
Fins, Ellen thought. Just like the old Jimmy Buffet song, Fins to the left of me, fins to the right and I’m the only bait in town. “I’ve got to go,” she said to Greg, pushing past him. “Going for a PR.”
As Ellen sprinted past Greg, Martin overheard him mumble to himself through the wet smacking of his gum: “Hmmm, she’s got great tits, but she’s gonna need a bigger butt.”
Breathing hard in the dolphin suit, Martin knew he couldn’t keep up with Greg or Ellen now that she had picked up the pace. He thought about his options. The conversation with Ellen’s roommate the past week had inspired him to think outside his cardboard box. Shelly had revealed some girl-talk insights that Martin took as a Rosetta Stone revelation. Shelly had said that Ellen really loved him, but was torn in what she really wanted from a man. “Like most of us,” Shelly whispered conspiratorially, “Ellen wants a guy she can count on day-to-day, but she also wants a kind of Bad Boy, who will be good, only for her.” Martin hadn’t quite understood, but he had decided right then that he was going to propose to his love, and it would be wild, unexpected, and outrageously unlike his usual boring self.
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Martin took a short cut to the finish line. He wanted to be ready when Ellen arrived. He had practiced his proposal in the men’s room this morning and he was as ready as he would ever be. Martin noted the digital race clock and did a quick calculation of Ellen’s pace. He had maybe one or two minutes. He steadied his breath and reached into an inner pocket to find the solitaire diamond engagement ring, a month’s pay.
There she was, beautiful, fast, and determined to finish strong. Ellen had picked up speed and was running hard. She raised her hands as she crossed the electronic mat, no longer self-conscious, a new PR. Stopping her watch and catching her breath, she saw the blue bottlenose mascot kneeling just inside the runner’s chute. She smiled, now starting to comprehend.
Like a predator, Principal Greg White appeared again, directly in front of Ellen, between her and the kneeling dolphin. Again, he was walking backwards, smiling and chatting casually and flexing his pecs. He didn’t see Martin and tripped over him, falling and flailing wildly. Ellen gasped bringing her hands to her face in surprise, not because her boss had fallen on his ass, but because a finger poked up from the blowhole of the mascot dolphin. On it, was a diamond ring. She pulled back the head of the costume, said YES, and kissed Martin. The crowd cheered.
Greg got up, wiped at his skinned knee but choked on his bruised pride. “What the hell,” he snapped at Martin. “You’re a safety hazard. You could have killed me. You need to take your little mermaid girlfriend here and go get a room. And if you can’t figure it out, Fishboy, come get me. I’ll spawn with her all night long.”
Martin balled his fist and swung with all his might. He would probably lose his job, but he would not lose the respect of his five-minute fiance. The blow fell a foot short. Martin did not calculate for the shortness of his flippers. The attempted punch got a gasp from the onlookers and a laugh from Greg. Talking trash and blowing a large bubble, he jeered at Martin. “Is that all you’ve got, Sushi Q? That’s some weak shit.”
“Smile now, you son of a bitch!” Ellen said through with a clenched jaw. Then Blam! She punched Principal Greg White dead in the mouth. The bubble exploded and his teeth shattered against her knuckles and new diamond solitaire. Greg went down like a sack of scallops.
Just then, Alexander Kitner crossed the finish line. He had expected a supportive cheer from his doting parents, but was met with a confusing sight. Miss Ellen and Mr Brody, the latter partially dressed as the school mascot minus its head, were pouring bottled water onto Miss Ellen’s hand. Principal White was sprawled out on the ground with gum and blood all over his face.
Alexander walked up to Mr White, “Sir, are you okay? Can I help you up?”
“Get away from me, you little snot nose brat!” Greg White snarled at the boy. This statement was picked up by the Bluetooth headset in the dolphin head lying next to Greg. It was broadcast through the main speakers. The crowd gasped again. Little Alexander, with a dorsal fin atop his head, began to cry.
Nancy Kitner, President of the PTA and helicopter mother to Alexander, was livid. She stood with her hands on her hips between Greg’s spraddled legs. Nancy Kitner had also been a striker on her college soccer team. The speakers blew out as the wails echoed across the island. “Goooooaaaalllllll!”
That’s it. This post has ended . . . except for the stuff below.
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