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Failure
By Christine O'Brien

In junior high and high school, one of the worst times of year for me was softball season. I couldn't play at all and was always among the last chosen when teams were made up. I and the other girls who were just plain failures at sports slunk around trying to be invisible and dreading our turn at bat. I was always assigned to play right field, the spot least likely for the ball to be hit, but, inevitably, once or twice each season I would get struck in the mouth attempting to field a grounder and come home with a fat lip or a chipped tooth.

Finally, my father decided he would teach me to play. We practiced every day in the back yard: he pitched and I batted; then I pitched and he batted. My youngest sister was always our outfielder, and, as a result, I never learned to catch. But I learned to bat. I could hit anything. And I learned to pitch -- nothing devious, just right over the plate, where you wanted it.

The following year I was made one of the captains and found myself picking the team. After picking my best friends, I picked all of the girls no one wanted, starting with the least desirable and moving up from there. We never won a game, but for years, I thought of it as the kindest thing I'd ever done.

Published in The Sun in July 1995


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