An Uncertain Life

An Uncertain Life

            The small gym was cold and drafty. School had let out an hour ago and we were taking batting practice indoors with foam baseballs. I turned the pitching machine towards the door and started laughing.

            Waters walked through the door and I dropped a ball into the spinning wheels. It shot out and drilled him in the chest and we all started laughing. The ball was thrown back at me but I ducked and continued to laugh.

            “Seriously though Jimmy, coach is on the way up.”

            Dropping another ball into the spinning wheels I laughed in his face. “Sure he is, Waters.”

            The blue metal door opened again and I dropped a new ball into the pitching machine. Coach Carlson stepped through the door and WHACK!! After being drilled in the leg he slammed his clip board to the ground. The pen exploded and ink sprayed across the floor.

            “Damnit, Jimmy! Why can’t you just do what I ask you to?”

            “Coach, you shouldn’t have been standing in front of the door. The ball wouldn’t have hit you if–“

            “What the hell am I going to do with you?” Coach Carlson asked.

            “You can do what all the other administrators do,” I said. “Which is basically nothing,” I thought.

            “You think everything is a joke? Come with me.”

            I threw a foam baseball at a teammate who wasn’t looking before jogging out of the gym.

            “I’m right here, Coach. What would you like to talk about?” Coach Carlson ignored me as I followed him down the hallway to his office. The door clicked shut.

            “You know I could kick you off the team for this,” Carlson began.

            “I was kind of hoping you would,” I replied.

            “Why are you always out of line? What makes you think you can do whatever you want?”

            “Whadaya mean? I don’t think I can do whatever I want. I just do,” I laughed.

            “You think this is funny,” Carlson replied. “Defying authority, breaking the rules, smoking pot. Don’t think I don’t know you’re high at practice.”

            “What makes you think you know anything about me?” I asked.

            “All I know is that we have rules and you’re always breaking them.”

            “That’s too bad. My father would’ve been thrilled,” I said. “I could stay home with him and landscape after school.”

            “You always have an answer, don’t you? Why can’t you answer anything with a serious response?”

            “Why do you need a serious response? You’re not my parent. I’ll tell ya what. If you wanna be my parents you can sell drugs and sit at the bar with them. You guys can hang out and be best friends.”

            “I’m not here to discipline you,” Carlson said. “I know you don’t have a good home life.”

            Standing up I picked up my glove. “Thanks for the lecture, coach. I’m getting the –“

            “I’m not done. SIT DOWN!”

            I sat down and pushed into the metal backing of the chair and it wouldn’t budge. The entire desk slid backwards.

            “What do you want out of life?” Coach asked.

            The rain pattered the metal roofing and water droplets steadily fell onto the same spot in the carpet. I watched one after another soaking into the material creating an ever increasing puddle.

            “How am I supposed to know that?” I asked. “It’s not like I have a future.”

            “Why wouldn’t you have a future?”

            “Enough of this shit man. I know you want to help me and be the Coach Carter of GHS, but you really don’t know anything about me.”

            “I know you’re scared and you don’t have a clue what you’re doing. I know if you don’t smarten up you’re gonna be at that damn bar just like your father.

            “That’s enough of this shit man. You wanna talk to my father? Go to the bar and find him.” I got up and walked out of the office. I went to my locker to get my cigarettes and school stuff.

            “Be at practice tomorrow, kid,” Coach said. “This conversation isn’t over.”

            The bell rang precisely at 2:15 as it always did, liberating me from the dimensions of the high school classrooms. “One prison to another,” I thought. “What was up with Coach Carlson yesterday? He completely lost his shit.” Walking down the hallway I considered my options: going left to practice or right out of the school to smoke pot. I looked up briefly and continued to drag my feet. I turned right and looked back down at my feet continuing to walk away from the school. Someone put their hand in my chest stopping me in my tracks. Pushing the hand away I looked up.

            “You’re coming to practice today. Don’t worry about our conversation yesterday,” Coach Carlson said.

            “You just don’t give up.” I pushed his hand out of the way and side-stepped but he shuffled his feet.

            “Nice defense coach,” I said. “You might get a scholarship if you keep it up.”

            “I’ve always prided myself on my defense. Now as for you and this team, we need you.”

            “Do I need you, though?” I asked.

            “More than you can ever imagine,” Coach Carlson said. “Get your sneakers on. Practice starts in twenty minutes.”

            I looked over his shoulder and he stepped in front of me. “You’re not going to take no for an answer, are you?” I asked.

            “That’s the first thing you’ve gotten right all day.”

            “I got some questions right in class.” My feet were hurting from being so firmly rooted to the tile floor. “But umm, yeah. Fine. Whatever, I’ll be at practice.”

            “All right, kid. See you up there.” I back tracked to the hallway that lead to the locker room and walked the dark tunnel. The lights had been out for weeks and the only way to see to the end was by following the one flickering light that was working.

            I got into the big gym and found someone to throw with. We started playing catch, zipping the ball back and forth. I felt the comfort of the glove over my left hand. The laces were hard and dug into my fingers, but their familiarity gave me some normalcy. Easily finding four seams I hit the man across the gym in the chest every time. Practice was over before I knew it that day. I was the last to leave.

            “Hey, kid.”


            “You’re not done yet. We got some hitting to do.”

            “Why am I not done? Everyone else is.” I drop kicked my bag into his leg.

            Carlson picked up the bag and threw it into the air. Sailing far it landed in the bleachers.

            “Good toss, Coach. Here’s a toss for ya,” I reached back as far as I could into my pocket, put my hand forward, and sprinkled a bag of weed all over his shoes. His face flushed red and he looked like a tea kettle that had been on the burner for far too long.

            Coach took in a deep breath and held it for seemingly an eternity. He stared at the weed for several seconds and looked up at me. “Nice try, kid. You think I’m going to kick you off the team for a little bit of weed?”

            “You have to. The school says so.”

            “I’ve worked at this school for twenty years. If I want you on the team you’re going to stay on the team.”

            Carlson picked up the chunks of weed and walked them to the trash. “Practice isn’t over. Get your batting gloves.”

            “Are you friggin serious? Why don’t you give up?”

            “I’m not giving up and you’re not either. You could’ve just walked out that door but you didn’t. If you’re not leaving the team, I’m not kicking you off,” Coach said.

            “Nice rhetoric, Sophocles.”

            "Get the batting tee.” The black tee was set to mid thigh and Carlson sat on a milk crate.

            I hit twenty baseballs into the wall. “Are we done yet?”

            “I’ll tell you when we’re done.”

            “Look, Coach. You gotta stop this shit. I don’t have a chance in hell to get out of this damn town and you just gotta face it. It doesn’t matter how many baseballs I hit. No one cares, no one ever has cared, no one ever will care.”

            “I care,” Coach said. “I know what you’re going through.”

            “Why the hell do you think you know what I’m going through. You don’’t have a clue.”

            “Listen kid. I’ve been through some pretty bleak situations. But here I am. Living, working, doing what I love. Why don’t you think I have a clue?”

            “Damnit, man. Stop giving me hope. I don’t have hope and I don’t want it.”

            “It’s not hope. It’s confidence,” Coach said.

            “You think I don’t have confidence? Of course I’m confident. What the hell’s it matter. Hope, confidence, semantics."

            “Confident in what? What are you so certain of?” Coach Carlson asked.

            I stared into the padding on the wall where the baseballs had indented the padding. Most of them were closely grouped with several outliers. “See that mark over there. That’s me Coach. I’m not like everyone else.”

            “That’s right. You’re not like everyone else. No one is like everyone else. Look at all the marks in the middle, Jimmy. Look at all those marks you hit.”

            I exhaled slowly and placed the bat down.

            “We’re not done,” Carlson said.

            “Why am I not done?”

            “You’re not going to leave this gym until you’re confident you can hit any mark you want. We’re gonna hit after practice every day until you figure out that you can do whatever you want with your life.”

            I stared at my bag in the bleachers. I looked at the blue metal doors that led to the locker room. It was late and all the daylight was gone. The buzz of the overhead lights resonated in my ears. Turning around slowly I picked up the bat.

Steve Colori

Steve Colori has been living with schizoaffective disorder for years but now leads a full life. Over the years he has worked hard to overcome the disorder and lives by the words, “To Improve is to Change; To be Perfect is to Change Often. He has published eighteen essays with Schizophrenia Bulletin, he writes a mental health column, he has published fiction with numerous literary journals, and he has a memoir Experiencing and Overcoming Schizoaffective Disorder. To read more of his work please visit

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