The Save: The flash fiction of John MacAyeal

The Save

By John MacAyeal

She couldn’t find anyone to go with her to watch her brother play goalie for the Clophat Clippers. But that was okay. She sat in the middle of the topmost aisle and ignored the rest of the field in favor of her brother, taut and straight before the goal box. She didn’t even notice that the Dominion Doomsters had the ball only yards from him. It all happened so fast she couldn’t even see which of the Doomsters had kicked it straight toward the center of the goal line.

As if the ball had become a part of him, her brother slid right as it rolled straight and released a seemingly purposeless right kick that sent it sailing up in the air as if it thought it was the prize of another kind of game and landing in the center of the center circle. Everyone on her side was cheering now for the save that made the Clophat Clippers champions.

What a beautiful movement, she thought as she walked with the crowd to the Clophat Askew club where all the fans would celebrate the victory and no doubt lionize her very unleonine brother.

Then she thought once again about the review a newspaperwoman had written about her dance performance the night before at the Clophat Expression Center, the one founded with money from Andrew Carnegie. It was the first dance performance at the center and the first dance performance by Clophatters. She had choreographed it and danced the lead role and the newspaperwoman from downtown had panned her. Each letter of each word of the worst sentence of her cruel review rained down on her now, like the time she had been stuck in the hail storm with her brother and squeezed with him in an overturned trash can.

“The interesting – well, somewhat interesting – choreography was marred however by Miss Gawrilowicz’s wooden expression, and may I aver not the most apt surname for a danseuse.”

A wooden expression? Just how could she have had a wooden expression when her face was made of flesh and blood and bone? A wooden expression? What expression was she to have as she expressed the last bright red of an apple rotting in a septic tank? A fruitful expression maybe? A fruitless expression? She tried to laugh. “Think of the stupidest thing you can think of and make up a dance about that,” her brother had suggested. “Just don’t tell anyone your inspiration.”

A wooden expression? Maybe it was a term that only someone downtown could understand. Maybe it was a term that was more insulting than she in her Clophat innocence could have ever imagined.

What if in the sports section the next day she read,  “The heroic save was marred however by Mr. Gawrilowicz’s wooden expression, and may I aver not the most apt surname for an athlete.”

If any sportswriter wrote such a thing he would have been laughed out of his oily, smoky bullpen. And it didn’t matter, did it, what expression her brother had on his face as he slid right to make the save. It didn’t matter if his expression was wooden or metallic or plastic or rubbery or rocky or even fleshly. He could have had the stupidest look on his face and his action still would have been called an incredible save.

Miss Gawrilowicz slowed her gait as she neared the Clophat Askew club. She would show that newspaperwoman. She would create a dance called The Wooden Expression. And how else could it be interpreted but with a wooden expression?


John MacAyeal is a native Texan, born in Dallas, reared in El Paso, and now living in Austin. He has a master’s in English from the University of Texas at El Paso and has worked as a community-college teacher, newspaper reporter, business writer, and now as an IT support agent. A short story he wrote was included in an anthology published by Texas A&M University that focused on fiction and poetry about the US-Mexico border.

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