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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Sport or Fitness (02/15/07)

TITLE: Taking Chances
By Jen Davis


When Natalie was twelve, her world turned upside down. A promise of a better job moved her family halfway across the country. Her parents said it was a chance for a better life. She wasn’t so sure.

They had moved over the Christmas break, and when her teacher introduced Natalie to her sixth grade class, the kids looked at her as if she was an alien from another planet.

“You dress different,” the red-headed girl said to Natalie later at recess.

“And tawllk different too,” another girl added.

I talked funny? Natalie thought. Were they not aware of that silly southern twang to their voices?

But suddenly, she did feel different, like one of those dreams when you look down at yourself and realize you’re only wearing your pj’s.

Natalie huddled deeper into her heavy coat but couldn’t escape the wind’s bitter sting against her face. She longed for the warmth of friends and family she had left behind.

Then one day, while sitting at her desk, the classroom started to spin. She raised her hand. “I’m not feeling well.”

The teacher handed her a pink hall pass to the nurse’s office. She hurried out of the classroom and stumbled down the hallway. She was almost there when everything around her began to fade and then went black.

Natalie was only vaguely aware of the ambulance siren, a machine’s constant beeping, and the distant sound of her mother’s voice. After a week in the hospital on IV’s, she spent the next couple of weeks at home recovering. Natalie had never been so relieved to be so ill.

While she was home, the kids in her class made her a huge card. Each one had written a message wishing her well and saying they hoped she came back to school soon. When she did finally return, they were nicer to her. “We heard you passed out. What was wrong with you? Are you okay?” Natalie guessed it was kinda cool when you keeled over at school. Several weeks later, Cyndi, the red-headed girl, even invited Natalie to join her softball team.

That night at dinner, she mentioned the idea to her parents.

”Why don’t you sign up?” Her mother suggested.

“I don’t even know how to throw a softball.”

“You can learn,” her dad said.

“I don’t know. I’m not sure if I want to.” But mostly, she was just afraid. While she had completely recovered from her illness, the wounds of rejection still stung. But, on her knees, Natalie found the courage to take a chance.

The next day her father bought her a softball glove, and immediately after dinner he motioned for her to follow him outdoors. “C’mon, Nat, let’s play catch.”

Grabbing her glove, she trailed behind him like an obedient puppy.

“Now, let me show you how to throw the ball. Pivot your right foot, step out with your left, pull your arm back behind you and throw like this.” The ball landed in her glove with little effort of her own.

She lobbed one back in his direction.

“You’re throwing like a girl!”

“I am a girl, Dad!”

“Yeah, but you don’t have to throw like one!”

Natalie sighed.

“Step into the throw and follow through. Put it right here.” He smacked the inside of his glove. “Here’s your target. Now, come on...”

She bit down on her lower lip and hurled another his way.

Snap! “Did you hear that! Now, that’s what I’m taking about.”

Night after night, they played catch. He also taught her how to swing the bat and how to pitch. Natalie played third base, and by the end of the season she was backing up the pitcher. Her team came in second place, but the real victory was the friendships she made with the girls on her team. Once again, Natalie enjoyed the warm embrace of belonging. And, no longer did she feel like an alien wearing pajamas.

That was many seasons ago. Since then Natalie had four children of her own. They all played ball, and she spent countless hours playing catch with each of them. On several occasions, her children said something reminiscent of what her father said all those years before.

“Mom, you don’t throw like a girl.”

Natalie always told them not to say that about girls—that girls can throw just as well as boys. But, if the truth be told, she took it as quite a compliment. And deep inside, she couldn’t help but smile.

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This article has been read 846 times
Member Comments
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Jan Ackerson 02/22/07
Lots to like here! I grinned that it was "kinda cool" to keel over in school, trailing her father like an obedient puppy, the snap of the ball in the glove, the fact that she learned not to "throw like a girl." And kids are exactly like that to new kids in school. Great way to use the topic.
julie wood02/23/07
I really enjoyed this story! I liked the main character and one of the girls who later befriended her both having personal names. Great descriptions and delightfully realistic dialogue--both between Natalie and her classmates at the beginning and between her and her dad later on!

My favorite description is of the wind stinging Natalie's face as she huddled into her coat--and my favorite line of all is the one about how she no longer felt like an "alien wearing pj's." Wonderful job!
Julie Arduini02/23/07
This was really good. I especially loved the exchange between Natalie and her dad. Crisp, solid writing and dialogue. Great title too!
Marilee Alvey02/25/07
This was a sweet take on the perennial challenge of being an adult trying to fit in. I liked the ball snapping in the mitt, as well, for that is the true measure of if you throw like a girl! The challenge of trying to fit in at a new place helped to balance out the sweet tone of the overall story.
Betty Castleberry02/25/07
Natalie seems very real. You did a great job with dialogue, and I love the message. Well done.
Sharlyn Guthrie02/25/07
Among all the other terrific aspects of your story, it occurred to me that Natalie was a fortunate girl to have a father like hers. Your story is unique, yet fits the topic well. Nice job!
Joanne Sher 02/25/07
You did an exceptional job of showing Natalie's struggles and victories. A wonderful story, Jen :)
Joanney Uthe02/25/07
Great job showing the loneliness of being the new kid. It intrigued me that she moved south and felt cold contrasted to the warmth and comfort of family and friends in the North.
Jacquelyn Horne02/26/07
I read this all the way through and tried not to critique it as I went. I found that I enjoyed it very much, and if there's anything wrong, I didn't pay any attention. Good story.
Allison Egley 02/27/07
Hehe I also laughed at the "kinda' cool to keel over in school" line. Kids are rather strange sometimes. ;) Great job.
Loren T. Lowery02/28/07
As a dad, I smiled at how I would talk to my own daughter - so true. But, always, always, said with loving mirth : )
Patty Wysong02/28/07
You captured how it is for a 12 y/o girl to move like that (experience here talking!) Good job!!
Sara Harricharan 02/28/07
Really wonderful! I truly enjoyed this! I love the line with 'alien in pajamas' and how everything 'fell into place'. The best piece was with "Mom, you don't throw like a girl!" ^_^
Donna Powers 02/28/07
Very nice story and I loved the way it came out. I can relate to being the "new girl" and being ostracized. A very enjoyable read. Thanks for sharing it
Michelle Burkhardt02/28/07
At first, I thought, "Where is the topic?" But, you brought it together nicely. I enjoyed the dialogue with her father. I only wondered about her illness. Great job.
Phyllis Inniss03/01/07
Great story. I enjoyed Natalie's movement from rejection to acceptance which was delivered in a realistic way, as was the dialogue between herself and her father.
Bonnie Derksen03/10/07
I really enjoyed this story. Very well written with a great mix of narrative and conversation.
I loved that Natalie "found courage on her knees" and that persistent practice with Dad developed such skills and talent.
I have been that "alien with pj's" and it is a very hard place to be. Thankfully our God is a Master at walking us through those times and developing that deeper character in us while He does.
Well done, Jen.