Strikes – by Hannah Parker

“Life is like baseball, Colleen.”
Her father was full of useless metaphors. They had a tendency toward sports or astronomy, merely making them more worthless to her.
“Sometimes you strike out, but you just have to keep playing-” a long sip of beer interrupted the follow-through of his adverb. For a man with so much taste, he truly did himself a disservice by nursing that can of Miller Lite.
“Thanks, dad,” Colleen said as she reached for the bottle of red wine.

She tipped the neck of the bottle against the clear glass to make an impression of class. Her class was rudely disrupted by a maroon puddle she left on the kitchen table. As Colleen stood up to grab a paper towel her father continued.
“Sometimes you get a little dirt on your white pants, but you just gotta dust them off and keep going.” He took another swig, “maybe it just isn’t written in the stars for you.”

This wasn’t her first strike, though. It wasn’t even her third. As she entered her fourth month in her father’s makeshift basement room, Colleen was coming into a sick realization beneath those moist pipes: she would settle here.

Settling was a game Colleen knew well. She had first learned to play when she was six, packing a hot pink suitcase at 3am. She hated hot pink but no one had ever asked her opinion, just as her father never asked her opinion about leaving home. He never asked her about the stained one-bedroom apartment and Colleen didn’t ask for the restless neighborhood across the bridge. She didn’t ask for the late night homeschool lessons from a dad who should have stuck to welding. Colleen learned early on how to accept what was given, and when she was given a paint roller for her birthday, she painted her new room blue.

“One job interview is nothing, baby girl,” her father cried out over the Cash-4-Gold theme song playing on the television.
Ca-Ca-Cash for your old junk, bring it to us who would have thunk…
“I must have sat through ten interviews before I landed this gig at Lowe’s. Just give it time!”
Colleen’s fingers rubbed her eyelids and stars danced across her iris’s. “This was the seventh interview, dad.”
“They don’t know what they’re missing out on, peanut. A pretty girl like you…”

Games were harder for girls. Colleen was always picked last in elementary school for her stubby legs and pigeon toes. As her legs grew longer, she would leave for school with a tangled mane and beer-stained t-shirts her father passed down when his belly expanded.
“You look beautiful,” he’d say with his nose in the newspaper.
She never asked him how she looked, but the only other person to tell her that was the homeless trumpet player on 100th and 3rd, so she believed him. As Colleen’s body grew, being picked last grew to never being picked at all. She tried to keep puberty from happening with duct tape bras and toilet paper wads, hoping if she hid everything long enough it would go away. It never went away, and Colleen settled for womanhood. It made her father distant; he felt inadequate. He felt like he could no longer provide for her, and he felt wrong when people would see them around the city together. Her father ran to his work, and Colleen ran to Kurt.

“Seventh interview? Don’t fret, peanut. There are 9 innings in a game, remember?”

Nine months. Kurt was gone by the sixth and Colleen was stuck with a pulsing basketball belly. Without a mother, she had never quite gained the maternal instinct; the example set for her never painted a beautiful picture and she had seen a pamphlet at the clinic about alternatives. The couple first on the waitlist was a pretentious pair out of the upper East side: she wore pearls and he donned a collared shirt with a silly emblem on the pocket. They smiled a lot and told her about the plans they had for the baby’s room.
Hot pink.

Colleen stared at the glass of red wine and made small circles with her wrist, letting the liquid lick the rim. As her eyes blurred to the maroon, a drop of condensation splashed in to the glass. Her line of sight moved upwards to the moist pipes above her, then back to the glass. Colleen tilted the clear glass to her lips and she sipped, and sipped, and sipped.