Stuie has always been nothing special. Even he knows, deep down, disappointed, that he is — a mediocre kid. No
matter how hard he tries, he gets straight Cs in school. He’s never been particularly good-looking. In sports, he’s so-so. He eventually gets picked in all the games, but only after waiting a very long time, almost to the end when
the other kids say, “Oh yeah, Stuie.” They look around as if they wish he’d disappear.
Since Stuie’s nothing to write home about, it surprises him one night when he has an intense dream that he remembers. He never remembers anything, let alone dreams. Stuie dreams he’s playing stickball. So what’s the big deal? Everyone plays stickball. He hits a pitch. He wallops it. Usually, Stuie is not such a hot hitter. Mostly, he
grounds out or pops up. When he hits, he gets singles and soft liners. This time, in the dream, he smacks the Spaulding so hard it sails over the building across the street. This is in the daytime, around noon. Suddenly, as only in a dream, it’s no longer daytime.
As the sun goes down, gold and red, the ball Stuie creamed still soars – over the first building, the second building, and over the entire project. The ball speeds past Plum Beach and over the ocean. A fish leaps up; its eyes pop out. A boat freezes in the twilight; the captain scratches his head. The ball sails out of sight, up over the waves,
and beyond the deep red horizon. The dream changes again. Stuie watches the ball he hit, only now he’s up in the sky with the stars near his nose. The Spaulding ball spins dizzily, full of swirling pink lights, like a growing
star. It’s reached out of space and is on its way to heaven. An angel with a glove and sneakers rushes forward, then shrugs and stands looking straight up, wings on hips, yelling, “Can’t get it!” God pounds his mitt amidst ear-cracking thunder as God, invisible, black, speeds back back back to the last final fence of heaven and leaps. The ball crashes high off the wall beneath God’s outstretched glove. Quickly, God pounces on it and, in one whirling motion, rears back his mighty arm and rifles it sizzling.
The ball, full of pink, red, blue, and black lights, zooms towards earth, picking up speed, crashing against stars, enormous, practically a meteor. And suddenly, Stuie’s in the dead of night running the bases, touching third, tearing for home. He can’t see the catcher. Home plate’s barely a blur. He dives headfirst. Sky roars. Pink-purple light shatters. Splitting earth somersaults. A trillion lights explode. Stuie hears, “Safe!” “Yer out!” He wakes up.
The sky’s black. There is not a sound. He’s sweating, breathing hard. He looks around his room. It is his room: his pillow, his bed, his floor, his radiator, his window, his blinds, his ceiling, his closet, his desk, and his shelves. It’s silent, the middle of the night.
He wonders three things. Was he safe, or out? Where is the field where God leaped up the wall? And what’s behind the wall?
Ernie Brill: Brooklyn project. Grew loving writing dialogue. Survived schools. Yearling, Frost, rural lit. Mania. Damon Runyon rescue. Immersion in African American literature and jazz. Activist: historic 1968 San Francisco State Strike Against Racism. Author: I Looked OverJordan, and Other Stories. Favorite writers: Chester Himes, Virginia Woolf, Richard Wright, Sterling Brown, Darwish.
MUSEPAPER STORY PRIZE #68
JANUARY 13, 2023 / MUSEPAPER STORY PRIZE #68 / "THE DREAM OF A NOTHING SPECIAL KID" © 2022 ERNIE BRILL