Ball in the Creek by Mike Bozart - HTML preview

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It was yet another warmer-than-normal day in Charlotte (NC, USA) – Friday, September 30, 2016 – that found me, Agent 33, walking southward on the Little Sugar Creek Greenway – going with the flow – from Elizabeth Avenue. It was almost 11:00 AM and the sun was already blasting, as if still in scummer [sic] mode. I was headed to the nearby Target to pick up some lunch items, when I saw a small, plastic, azure-colored playground ball in the creek near the bank. It was caught in an eddy. Ah, why not snag it? It would be perfect for indoor soccer/football with my son and wife in the hotel room in Lumberton [NC, USA] tomorrow. Yeah, let’s go down there and get it.

I parted the tall streamside grasses with my black, steel-toed safety shoes, while continuously looking down, staying on the lookout for a possible copperhead (the only venomous snake – presumably – in Mecklenburg County). However, once I had reached the bank, I quickly noticed that the little ball had sprung free from the countercurrent, and was now floating merrily downstream again.

I ran down to the concrete weir to intercept it. However, I was too late; the ball eluded my grasp. It was now heading towards the East 4th Street overpass. What the hell am I doing? I’m a 52-year-old man in dress clothes trying to catch a 79-cent ball in a swollen urban creek. Shouldn’t I just let it go? No, this a challenge. We’re going to get that evasive little orb. This is future-story critical. Mustn’t let it escape. 

I then dashed through the greenway tunnel below the one-way street. When I looked back into the middle culvert, I saw the small blue ball bobbing in the main current. With a four-foot-long (1.22 meters) branch that I found in the washed-up silt next to the sidewalk, I was able to corral it and then pluck it from the caramel brown, sediment-rich, turgid stream.

The little ball didn’t have a leak; it was still at maximum air pressure. As I rotated the slightly translucent cerulean orb in my right hand, I saw some writing on it:

V = 4/3πr3

My brain’s now-cracked-and-missing-teeth-in-a-few-places mathematical gears started grinding. That’s a geometric formula. I know it is. I’ve seen that before. But, a formula for what? Something involving pi would be round, I bet. What is V? Voilà! V is for volume – the volume of a sphere, like this little ball. It must have come from a school upstream. The recent heavy rains probably washed it into the creek.

I brushed it off in the dew-covered grass. Then I continued my trek to Target. But, I now had a minor dilemma. I can’t bring this ball into Target. What should I do with it? I need to hide it somewhere and then retrieve it on the way back. But, where?

Nothing on the Wendy’s side of Target looked suitable. I marched up the two flights of steps. When I arrived at the Kings Drive front corner of Target, I saw the solution to my quandary. I discreetly placed the little blue ball under a small bush. I don’t think anyone saw me. If so, I’m sure that it looked suspicious. I’ll have to write this up in the near future.

I went into the store and expeditiously got my groceries. Seven minutes later I was approaching the same bush again. Wonder if it’s still there. Why would it not be? Maybe security cameras saw me. Maybe security then disposed of it, thinking it was something nefarious. That’s nuts!

I was now looking down at the diminutive, insignificant, tiny-leafed bush. I didn’t see the ball. I bent down and reached under the nondescript shrub. Hope I don’t get bit by a snake, like a copperhead. That would suck. Even with insurance, I don’t have the money for a trip to the ER. [Emergency Room]

My right hand didn’t have to feel around for long. I soon felt the small ball and retrieved it. Perfect. Got it!

A 40-something, sandy-haired, Caucasian lady in a pink jogging outfit, who was rounding the corner, saw me grab it. How did he know that there was a ball under that bush? There’s no way that he could have seen it. Did someone in a passing car throw it at him? Strange world.

I smiled at her and moved along, heading north up Kings Drive on the sidewalk. I bet that woman is wondering how I knew that there was a ball under that shrub. And, I am sure that she does not know that there is the formula for the volume of a sphere written on it. Or, is she a math teacher upstream? Probably not, but who knows? I won’t.

Soon I was at 3rd Street, waiting for the traffic light to change. I noticed that a 50-ish, white, baldheaded man in a stopped Audi sedan was staring at the blue ball in my left hand. I felt awkward and looked skyward. Might he be a math teacher? And, might this be one of his teaching aids that got away? I wonder what he is thinking.

The light changed and the Audi driver sped past me in the Kings Drive crosswalk. Why does that red-haired guy have a cheap toy ball in his hand? There’s a story lurking around here. / I wonder if that guy knows that he will be mentioned in an upcoming short story. 

Once safely across the four-lane street, I walked along the shaded sidewalk next to the new five-story apartment building (Midtown 205). I heard a baby crying above me, and then he spoke: “Mama, I want that ball!” 

I looked up. The toddler and his late-20-something Caucasian mother waved from a third-floor balcony. Hope he doesn’t fall off. 

Then I quick-footed it across Cherry Street. It seems like everyone that has seen me with this little ball from the creek has had some thought that they wouldn’t have had otherwise. Why did I not put it in the grocery bag? I guess that I should do it now before entering the Circle K. [an American chain convenience store]

I bagged the blue ball as I passed the ABC (Alcohol Beverage Control) store (a state-run liquor store) and some drunks sprawled out on the grass at the adjacent city bus stop.

Once inside the Circle K, I bought a Cow Tales candy bar and a $1 scratch-off ticket. Maybe the blue ball will bring some good luck today. [It didn’t.]

I then dashed across the 3rd – 4th Street Connector. Once in the college’s administration parking lot, I opened the hatchback of my old Kia Rio and put the small blue ball in with the other sports items that my son, wife and I occasionally employ in the parks and fields that we come across.

A fellow employee saw me and asked, “What in the world do you want a small ball like that for, Mike?”

“Small ball yields big fun,” I replied.

“Mike, you aint right,” the 50-something, African American female said and chuckled.

“Do you remember the formula for the volume of a sphere from your 10th-grade geometry class?” I asked Jacqueline as she made her way to her car.

“No, but I recall the formula for the volume of a hemisphere,” she said.

“Really?”

“Yes, only because I had to use it for a dome-volume issue. The volume equals two-thirds pi times the radius cubed.”

“Two thirds of a radially cubed pie? I think I would pass on that,” I said with a laugh. “Well, unless it was key lime with an inch (2.54 cm) of whipped cream.”

“Mike, should I ask you where you got that ball?”

“No, probably not, Jacky. It would take up the rest of your lunch-break. And, I really don’t want to waste any more of your time.” Or make a risible short story needlessly longer. / Huh? What has Mike been up to today?

She shook her head, sighed, and then walked over to her red sedan. Jacqueline got in and drove off.

Back in the office, I thought about the series of events. Should I write this up as a psecret psociety pshort pstory? [sic] Nothing of import really happened. Hardly any suspense. No violence. No sex. No Mr. Malloy. Minimal surreality. I think my readers might be disappointed. Well, they probably don’t expect much anymore. It’s just time filler. Just a way to get the minute hand from one hash line to the ninth. Eight minutes of mental fluffery. [sic] Yeah, that’s about what it’s all devolved to. Eight minutes of neural meringue. Well, if nothing else, the volumes of various balls could be calculated. Let’s see, a regulation men’s basketball is 9.55 inches (24.26 cm) in diameter. And, the radius is half the diameter in most countries. And, the circumference is equal to 3.1416 diameters. Or, 6.2832 radii. I guess that would be radical pi.

And then my desk phone rang as I looked at my flickering LED satellite clock (11:33). It was Al Niño (Agent A~O), calling from his Manhattan (New York City, NY, USA) penthouse condo. I wonder what he wants now.

“Michael, what will you write about next?” Al asked. Oh great, he’s already on with the ‘Michael’ bit, trying to get a rise out of me.

“A small blue ball, Al.” He has dove into a drained pool.

He laughed hysterically for twenty seconds, stopped, and laughed again for ten seconds. “Mr. Blue Balls!”

“No, Al; just a lone, small, blue ball.”

“One blue ball? You might want to see a doctor about that, Michael. Don’t let that go untreated.” Oh, boy …

“Very funny, Al. Another deftly delivered zinger by the amazing one. Bravo!”

“Strapping, too; wouldn’t you say?”

“Uh, speaking of strapping, have you got a Go Strap® [his patented product for cell phones and tablets] affixed to your jock strap?” I got him. Score one for me.

“Affixed? Nobody says affixed anymore, Michael. Strap up!”

“I’m looking at one pinned to the wall. It’s from the first run. I’ll sell it on ebay in 2030.”

“You won’t be alive in 2030.”

“With my health issues, you may be right, Al.”

“So, what were you doing before I called, Michael?”

“Roughing out another short story in my head.”

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