The Story

The boys gather in a neighbor’s backyard on a fall afternoon. Someone brings a ball, and sides are chosen, but they come out uneven.

What game can be played?

There’s only one: Maulball.

And there’s only one rule: If you pick up the ball, you get mauled.

But Teddy is left out, and he’s on the verge of tears because of it.

What can he do to redeem himself?

Author’s Note

The first draft of this story was written from Teddy’s point of view.

“I did this,” Teddy would tell the reader, “and I felt that.”

He could explain what was happening and what he felt, but not why he felt a particular way.

In this incident, Teddy’s choice to take on the biggest kid in the neighborhood came across as arbitrary and foolish. His choice lacked credibility because Teddy didn’t understand himself; he didn’t fully comprehend why it was so important to connect with the boys.

Many years would pass before I decided to re-write it in third-person. In that point of view, the story is told by a narrator. He can tell us what happens, and he can also inhabit Teddy’s mind to relate his feelings.

But critical to this story, the narrator can also tell us about Teddy’s home life. Consequently, his wreckless choice becomes credible because we understand his desperation.


Teddy stood to the side of the field in his red and blue flannel shirt and new Levi jeans. The four-inch cuff his mom had rolled up on each leg made him different from the other boys, but that wasn’t why his lip quivered.

Ten feet out, Shark and Butthole glared at each other, their ten-year-old chins jutting out in mutual defiance.


“Did not.”

“Did too.”

Shark thrust an arm in Teddy’s direction. “Well, we don’t want him!”

Teddy clamped his jaw tight to stop the surge of anger and hurt.

Butthole shouted in Shark’s face, “You haf’ta. You ain’t got enough.”

Standing just back of them, the trio of little kids started tallying on their pudgy fingers. After a moment, one of them held up a hand with fingers and thumb stretched out like an old baseball glove.

“Butthole’s got five and—”

Butler veered around and snapped, “What’d you call me?”

Eyes sprung wide, the tyke dashed around and behind the other two.

Nobody called him Butthole to his face. He was Butler, or Jimmy Butler when you needed to be extra respectful, but never Butthole if he could hear you.

The second little kid, now in front, looked at his own hand, fingers and thumb splayed out. “So does Shark,” he said, then looked up. “That’s five and five, even Steven.”

“Nyunt-uhn,” the first one squealed from behind him. “Buttho—” he choked off the word. “I mean Jimmy Butler,” he looked to be sure he wasn’t gonna get hit, “he had to take you, and we only count a half, so Butler’s got five and a half.”

Teddy’s eyes flicked around the group. Maybe they’d decide it wasn’t his fault. With three little kids, one of them should’a gone home or been made a referee even if they wouldn’t know what to do. But with them already picked, there was no way to make things even.

He waved a hand in the air. “How ‘bout I play one-handed?”

They ignored him.

Butthole’s face scrunched at Shark. “It’s my ball,” he sneered. “You take him or I’m leavin’.”


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