Catch You! Catch Me!

Jun 11, 2022, 2:00:00 PM

“Gotcha!” Catherine yelled as she bear-hugged Natsumi in mid-air. For some odd reason, all Catherine could think about was catching a football.

She never had the chance to herself. Not that it was ever expected of her. Not that anyone ever asked her to play.

In the space of that brief instant a flash of her life popped into her head as her arms folded around Natsumi’s waist. She tried out for the JV cheerleader squad. She recalled cheering for the Lions (or Bobcats? Wildcats? It was a long time ago…) from the sidelines. There were the lights, the marching band, and cheering parents in the crowd. They rooted for their school. She pictured one of the boys leaping up above the others towards the endzone and bear-hugging the almond-shaped ball with his burly arms. He fell backwards much as she began to do by the pull of gravity.

He fell towards the endzone.

She fell towards the grass.

Did he wonder if it would hurt?

She knew it would hurt. Natsumi was much heavier than a football.

But then, he was going to be tackled by a bunch of boys and dog-piled on.

She recalled watching him, cheering for him as he slammed into the endzone. His body flopped in slow motion. The rival team piled themselves high atop him.

Catherine crashed back to the earth and felt the pain start from her bottom and zap up her body and down her legs. She winced. Natsumi’s body squished into her’s. She gasped, the wind knocked out of her. Her head struck the grass and dirt and she winced and saw stars of light and little ethereal fishies darting around in the pale light sky.

That boy who caught the ball. She remembered they all cheered him, but after the other players dispersed. He remained on the grass. Motionless. His arm flopped open and he released the ball. The cheers turned to worried murmurs. Referees, coaches, and parents piled all around. In the student paper the next day it was reported that he suffered a concussion for winning the night.

She released Natsumi in much the same way but she remained on top of her.

Catherine looked up. Good the sky wasn’t spinning. She wasn’t dizzy, not that dizzy anyway. Her bottom hurt, but her booty took the impact. Besides leather was a light armor worn by warriors wasn’t it? She would be fine. Right?

The boy, she recalled, was not. He may have been a champion that night, but she recalled that he actually suffered severe head trauma and was retired from the team. Retired from playing anything ever again. He wasn’t the same again.

Catherine closed her eyes. She hoped hitting her head saving this brat wasn’t the end of her. She’d be fine right? A girl was made of sterner stuff, wasn’t she?

As the photos in her head burst into view, she skipped ahead to high school. She also skipped ahead what must have been forty-some-odd years. The 1990s were different from the 1950s. The cheerleaders wore shorter skirts. The boys were armored up. Electronics buzzed in the air. Television came in color. Football was a bigger deal, but the game was the same. Of the few times she was asked to watch a game, she did so begrudgingly. She couldn’t bear to watch the boys throw themselves to their death over a brown, laced up ball.

She opened her eyes again. Natsumi began to stir. Her legs twitched and kicked. Catherine was quick to grab Natsumi’s legs to immobilize them. No need to get kicked in the head for saving her.

Natsumi planted a hand on Catherine’s knee and her left hand on the ground and began to push herself up.

“Okay,” she said. “Alright,” she continued, her voice growing with more annoyance. “No more messin’ around!” She pumped herself up, but Catherine could feel the shakiness in her grip. “It’s zappy time!” Natsumi tried to extract herself from atop Catherine but fumbled around and nearly kicked Catherine.

Catherine slapped her thigh to the rhythm of her voice. “Why didn’t you start with zappy time??”

Natsumi floundered around planting her hand on her dress and grabbing at her leg as if in a drunken stupor. Hanging high above Catherine’s head was Natsumi’s left leg and a sharp stilleto stabbing at the air. She slapped Natsumi’s thigh. “Also, get off of me, you oaf!”

She turned and Natsumi tumbled and rolled to the side. She stood up with the Heartwing staff in hand and stared down the oversized, backwards headed demon. Catherine composed herself and snatched back her cap. Before she put it back on, she glimpsed at the photo tucked inside to give herself an ounce of strength to continue the fight.