Bang! Bang! (Chapter Nine of the Novella, “Ducky”)

{strong language; bloody violence}

Bang! Bang!

“Hi Mom, Dad. We won the golf match. Do we have company? What’s for dinner?”

It was Saturday, September tenth, Joni arrived home from the successful golf match. She gave in to Ms. Granger and joined the golf team. Since the Christian girls railroaded her off the soccer team, time was at a premium. Maria, the new goalie from Oklahoma, led the charge saying that they couldn’t have a lesbian in the shower or bathrooms with them until she found Jesus, confessed her sins, and changed her ways. Seven of the eleven starters backed Maria. Joni left the team and never looked back. After all the state records, the trophies, and the championships, and her love for soccer, she simply walked away.

“We have some very grave news, Ducky. You may want to sit down to hear it,” Brett said. He put down his newspaper. He read the high school soccer standings. Lake Washington was in last place in their division. That gave him some satisfaction. They could not win without Joni.

“Let me guess, Robin’s back. She’s having a Latina rave in the basement right now,” Joni said with a slight grin.

“Oh, it’s much more serious than that, Ducky,” Brett said smiling. He motioned for her to sit.

“Although what she said is not out of the realm of possibilities!” Clarisse said looking over the top of her reader glasses. Ducky sat beside her and peered over her shoulder at what she was reading. Clarisse quickly pressed the papers against her breast and stared at Joni with a grin. “No fair peeking, young lady!”

“First things first,” Brett said. “Your team won the match today. That is good news. How did you play?”

“Not as well as I can. I parred twelve out of the eighteen, bogeyed one hole, then eagled another. I wound up five under for the day. I was in a funk all day,” she looked at Clarisse, “it’s that time, plus there’s crap on my mind.”

“I know what you mean. I started today, too. I had to grind it out through two depositions. I wanted to slap that misogynistic prosecutor.”

Ducky hugged her mother’s arm. “It’s great that our bodies are in sync. I love that about us,” she said. Clarisse kissed her forehead.

“I hate to break up this moment, but I must ask you something, Ducky. Do red lights still make you cry?”

“Huh?”

“You used to cry as you stopped at red lights worried that the car behind you wouldn’t stop. It was the most precious thing. I have to know if you still cry at red lights?”

“No, I hardly cry at anything anymore. I think I cried out all my tears when Robin dumped me.”

“That’s all I need to know, here!” he said and handed her two, keyless entry key fobs on a pull ring. “That car you passed in the driveway is yours.”

Ducky took the keys and jumped up. She looked at them, at Brett, and at Clarisse. “How did you know that I wanted a car?”

“Lia called us. We talked for some time on speaker with the two of us,” Brett said, “She is a confident young woman. She has your future planned out for you!”

“She wanted me to be able to come see her play,” she said and sniffed. She let a tear fall. “Thank you so much for this. I can go places and not worry about getting back. I was thinking about trying to get a job at the County Club, or the PAL gym, and leasing a car.”

Ducky’s phone rang. She dug it out. “It’s a Hangout.” Lia popped into view. She was at a tennis court.

“Hey you! Did you get it yet?” Lia’s face on her smartphone was at a funny angle. She looked up her nose.

“Mom, Dad, it’s Lia!” She turned the phone toward them.

“Hi Mom and Dad!”

“Hi Lia!”

“Let’s go see it together!” Joni said.

“I knew there was something I liked about you!”

Her golf team and her Algebra II teacher, Mr. Vidani, and coach of the boy’s golf team, still talked about the Pro-Am championship that Joni won in August. ESPN still replayed some of Joni’s highlights. On the tenth hole Joni landed in the rough after wind shear caught her ball and it hooked left and landed behind a tree. It was her worst lie of the match. Joni needed to chip back out to the fairway and loose a stroke, but instead she climbed the tree and removed a dead limb. The leaves obstructed the flight path of her ball. She got into a big argument with the officials over the “loose impediments” rule. She finally convinced them that the limb in question was dead, detached, and had just not fallen yet. She smacked her ball through the exact center of the hole that the leaf removal made, the exact center. The gallery cheered. That stroke repeated on ESPN constantly. The ball climbed high and bounced onto the green. She putted for a one-under-par birdie. Mr. Vidani couldn’t get over it.

The middle of October came and Joni’s golf team won the state championship. She had another photo-op putting the trophy in the trophy case that had so impressed Robin. The soccer team didn’t qualify for the tournament for the first time in three years. The girls golf team did not give a shit who Joni had sex with.

Joni was fifteen and naïve about how things worked in the world that day she kissed Robin in front of all those cameras. It was a time of discovery of her sexuality, and she was star-struck and heartbroken over Robin. Love exploded inside her. Her regret was that yes, she outed herself as a lesbian to the world that day, but her biggest regret was that she did it so publicly with a girl who duped her, lied to her, who was not who she thought she was. That was a source of embarrassment for Joni. She tried to put that out of her mind and keep it there.

It was time for basketball. She was ready physically and mentally. She never slowed her training. She ran and worked out in the gym at school and at PAL. Joni’s body was as hard and toned as it had ever been in her life. All her heart and all her love was in this.

At first it was a trickle, the people that came to watch basketball practice. But soon the gym filled with sports writers, photographers, and college scouts. They all came to watch Ducky Donald go through the paces. By the time the season opened in late November, Lake Washington High School was not only the number one school in their division in Washington, but it ranked number one in the nation in girls’ basketball. The sports world insiders talked about the combo of Ducky Donald and Yolanda Johnson.

Letters of introduction began arriving at the Donald’s house. They were from the University of Connecticut, Duke University, Kentucky, Baylor, Ole Miss, University of Miami, Stanford, and more. They piled up. The Donald’s began to realize just how big basketball could be and how much it could do for her.

It was the first game, a home game, and the gym was full, standing room only. The Lake Washington High Eagles took on the West Seattle High Wildcats. The West Seattle crowd was small and amazed at the size of the crowd. They had never experienced a crowd like this at a girls’ basketball game.

The lights dimmed and the announcer came over the PA system and asked everyone to stand as the band played the national anthem. The Lake Washington down-sized gym band was in a corner section. After the song ended the lights dimmed and the announcer introduced the visiting team. Everyone applauded politely. When he said, “Now for the Lake Washington Eagles!” everyone stood and roared.

“At guard, a senior, Deirdre Hall!” Deirdre ran out through a double line of second string teammates. People cheered.

“At guard, a junior, Georgia Underwood!” She ran out amongst high five’s.

“At forward, a senior, Kim Foster!” People cheered.

“At center, a senior, Yolanda Johnson!” Everyone stood and cheered and applauded.

“At forward,” and before he could say anything the crowd erupted, “Duuucky, Duuucky, Duuuucky!”

“At forward, a junior, Duuuucky Donaaaald!” The crowd roared! The beat on the bleachers with their feet. Joni ran out and high fived all her team mates. She turned, found Brett and Clarisse in the row above the team and waved. They were standing and clapping. They waved back. She searched the crowd for Lia but could not find her.

Yolanda went out to jump center with the post player from West. The referee stepped between the two girls. Yolanda was several inches taller and getting the tip was no problem. She tipped the ball to Dierdre and they all went to the right side of the floor, Joni circled around the top of the key and Dierdre passed to her. Joni fired a bullet pass underneath to Kim who laid the ball in nicely. The crowd roared. The team ran down to the left side and got into their defense. West brought the ball down. Dierdre and Georgia picked up defense on their guards. Their point guard tried to pass inside but Georgia tipped the ball and Kim grabbed it. Joni took off down the court at a full run. Kim threw the ball one-handed like a baseball perfectly to Joni. She leaped high in the air. She spread her legs wide, brought the ball over her head with one hand, and power dunked it!

The crowd went wild! The roar was deafening! West Seattle called a time-out, and the crowd screamed louder!

Kim met Joni at mid-court and chest bumped her.

POP!

Joni collapsed on the floor. Blood spewed from her knee all over Kim. Joni rolled on the floor holding her knee.

POP!

Joni’s body jerked, blood spewed from her back and chest and she lay motionless, blood formed a pond around her.

Clarisse leaped from the bleachers and ran onto the floor, stumbled on her hands and knees. Brett right behind her. Kim screamed. The crowd screamed.

POP!

A red mist sprayed from Clarisse’s head and she collapsed on the floor. Blood spewed from her head.

Bang! Bang!

People turned to look everywhere. No one knew what was happening.

A crowd gathered in the north exit. There were police officers there. They huddled around a body on the floor. Medics ran out onto the floor with bags. One went to Clarisse, one to Joni.

More police came. The crowd had grown silent once they realized what had happened. Someone shot Joni and her mother. Even more police came for crowd control. Ambulances came, fire trucks with EMT’s came. The police at the exit held up a rifle with a scope attached and put it in a plastic bag. The police directed the crowd outside and away from the emergency vehicles. News crews arrived. A helicopter circled overhead.

The police emptied the gymnasium while the EMT personnel worked. Doors bust open and a gurney rolled out quickly surrounded by medics. Only a tuft of blond hair protruded beneath the tubing and braces. The gurney went into the ambulance and it careened away, sirens and lights wailing. A brief time later another gurney emerged, and another tuft of blond hair, this one wrapped in gauze, breathing tube down the throat, bag squeezed by a medic, head stabilization equipment, and a very distraught Brett Donald following behind. The ambulance screamed away.

News teams talked frantically in front of their cameras telling the public what they knew of the shootings. It had happened so fast.

One more gurney emerged from the auditorium. This one carried a body bag, zipped shut. Brett stood up from the curb and stopped the gurney. He unzipped the bag, saw who had shot his wife and daughter, nodded to the police, and zipped it back up. Now he could leave and go be with his family. The news people tried to stop him but he shouldered through them to his car and left.

One side of her face was green, the other side was black. Those were the Lake Washington colors. She stood in the emergency room with her mother as Brett came in. He didn’t recognize her. Joni had not recognized her either when she searched the crowd for her even though she sat right behind Clarisse.

Lia smiled at Brett. He grinned despite his hurt as he recognized her. He started to walk past her but she grabbed his shoulders and turned him. “Both alive, barely, and somewhat stable. There’s nothing you can do. Sit with us.”

The three of them sat together in the waiting room. Lia put her head on her mother’s shoulder, and held Brett’s hand at the same time. No one spoke for a long time. Lia raised her head and turned to Brett.

“Did they kill her?”

“Yes. Two shots through the heart.”

Lia shook her head. “Do you think she wanted to die?”

Brett nodded. “Cornish took her scholarship from her when she was arrested for the robbery. She blamed us for that, somehow. She was back on the bottom living with Gutierrez, I think.”

“Some people can’t help themselves. Adults abuse them as a child, and they keep on abusing themselves as adults. It’s learned behavior and a vicious cycle. Life isn’t real unless someone is to blame for their hurt.”

Brett doubled both fists and closed his eyes tight. “She hid her true self from us. And you know what? I was glad to see Robin Randall dead on that gurney.”

Lia put her arm around Brett and hugged. “That’s okay. That’s an honest feeling. I think we are all sharing that feeling right now.”

A doctor in scrubs came out a set of double doors. He approached them. “Who’s family?”

“I am, husband and father.” Brett stood.

“They are both stable. Joni lost a lot of blood. The gunshot wound to her chest was a through-and-through and we managed to close off the wound pretty good, but the bullet damaged her lung had I had to remove part of it. If she is still stable this time tomorrow night, she has a very good chance of recovery. Clarisse Donald is still in surgery. Her head wound is very serious. That is all I know of her condition. The neurosurgeon should be out later to talk about her.” He turned away. “They are both alive. Be thankful!”

Brett and Lia hugged. Mrs. Adderley joined them.

 

The End.

 

 

A Short Epilogue: Five years later

 

“Make sure you get the grill scraped down before closing!”

“Got it, boss!” Joni yelled back as she hung the last of the pots up in the kitchen behind the bar at the Just Say What. She waited until Margaret, tall, fortyish with red and gray hair, was out of earshot and she mumbled, “I hate it when she tells me to do something that I do every night.”

Joni stood on her right foot leaning. That’s how she stood these days, mostly. The artificial knee wasn’t working out. It had been five years since she got it and it got sorer by the day, it seemed. She wore a full leg brace and walked as stiff legged as she could because bending that knee sent pain up to her hip. She hobbled out to the grill and worked there, running steel wool over the grill. She was twenty-one, soon to be twenty-two, now, and could serve alcohol, so if someone came up and needed a beer she could get it for them legally. She had been doing it anyway. She had been passing for legal for a long time. She thought about her twenty-second birthday and remembered her dream of the Olympics.

Lia popped into her head. She grimaced. That was something she just did not have time for. Lia was great for about four months after the shooting. She stopped coming around, once she understood that there would be no more “Ducky” Donald. All the glitter was gone. She was just an oversized cripple who struggled to breathe. The college offers dried up. Lia dried up. Her life dried up.

Her family? Ha! Mother was a vegetable after the shooting. Persistent vegetable state, they called it. They fed her through a tube. Father started drinking and he started seeing other women. Clarisse did him a favor and died.

Joni was tore down over losing her mother. Brett went to shit. He sold the house and his business and disappeared. It turned out that the family was in ruin anyway but they didn’t know it yet. Before the shooting Brett lost all their money in risky investments in the stock market. Joni didn’t get squat. So now she is a big, poor cripple living above a bar, an inch from having to work in the sex trade. If it weren’t for her Social Security Disability check and Snap card, she would be out selling her ass on the corner. The law says if she makes less than eleven hundred a month, she can still draw her disability. So, Margaret adjust her hours to exactly that much.

High school was gone. She couldn’t go back there. She struggled to get her GED, failed it the first time, and passed it the second try. There was no college at all. Lia was gone, years ago gone.

She did the Detroit Serenity Prayer. Fuck it.

Tonight, is Friday. The usual lesbian drunks will crawl out and come get tanked. Tomorrow is fun day.

Saturday came and she took the bus to the PAL gym. They still called her Ducky here. She loved it here. She took the girls out back and helped the coach with the girls’ softball practice, as much as she could without losing her breath. She would sit for a while until she caught her breath, and get back up and help them with their swing and whatever else she could. These girls were too young to remember her in her prime. She took the bus back to the inner city, back to the bar, back to being nothing.

Saturday night came and she had to help wait tables because a wait person called in sick. She was very uncomfortable with that duty because some of the women would have too much to drink and poke fun at her. She limped sometimes and spilled something and they would complain.

Such an occurrence happened.

“I’m so sorry,” Joni said, “I’ll get you another drink. I didn’t mean to spill it.” Joni looked down and away from her patron, a young dark-haired woman. Joni turned to go back to the bar and drug her leg around.

“You’ve lost weight. You’re skin and bones. You’re twenty-two and you look thirty.”

“Yeah, you ain’t been where I’ve been,” Joni said and stepped toward the bar.

“You don’t recognize me?”

Joni half turned, looking down. “I don’t patronize with the customers, ma’am. I’m just the help.”

“I came here tonight to ask your forgiveness, Ducky.”

“What for? You didn’t do anything to me. Wait. You called me Ducky. Are you from the PAL Gym?”

“Turn around. Look at me.”

Ducky turned fully facing her. In the dim light Joni saw her old love. “Lia, it’s you. I thought I’d never see you again. You hurt me. I still hurt for you.” Joni hadn’t cried in years, but her eyes watered now.

Margaret came over. “What’s going on here?”

“I want to apologize to Joni.”

“You’re Lia?” Margaret asked. “You left her when she was down.” The bar got quiet. “We take care of our own. We don’t abandon them.”

Lia hung her head. “I know. I had some growing up to do. I was afraid of…of…”

“Being tied to a loser?” Joni asked.

“Yes,” Lia said, “And I regretted every decision I made since. I failed, too, because you were in my mind every minute of every day and the guilt was overwhelming. I could not be successful on the pro tour knowing I left you behind. I washed out.”

“What about your husband?”

“Another woman. Another woman for me, too. I couldn’t stand the penis anymore.”

Joni nodded. “This other woman, where is she?”

“Gone. She couldn’t compete with you, Ducky.”

“I loved you with everything I had. You were there for me at first. Knowing that got me through my rehab. Suddenly you didn’t come. I called.”

“I’ve come to ask you to forgive me. It is a lot to ask, I know. I need you to forgive me.”

“If I say I forgive you, then what?”

“I still love you, Joni. I wouldn’t be here if I did not.”

“I have nothing to offer you, Lia. I drag people down. Nobody wants a cripple. Go back to Bellevue. Forget about me.”

“I love you like you are. Please Joni. Please.”

“You’ll love me like I am. Hell, I can’t even swing a golf club. My body is busted up. They had to take out the rest of my left lung from necrosis. I’m broke. I’m overdrawn at the bank. My credit is shit. I had to sell my car. I live in a walk-up….”

Lia took the tray out of her hands, set it on the table, and wrapped her arms around Joni’s neck.

“Yes,” she said, “like you are.”

They kissed. Lia! She dreamed of having Lia in her arms again. She stroked Lia’s hair and she cried. The bar applauded, and for just a minute, she was in the gym and the crowd roared and she was Ducky Donald again.

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I finished the novella, Ducky, today. It finished under 35,900 words in 9 chapters. All nine chapters are posted. Enjoy.

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