Black Femme Collective calls for creative nonfiction submissions from Black Queer Femme Storytellers engaging in the theme REST.

Three Strikes and We’re Out

Briana Ladwig
Visual art by Briana Ladwig

It’s Sunday afternoon and the green lawn gnome falls over face up, back meeting grass. Yellow fills the sky again, then eventually spills, as sun streaks form on the face of our garden apartment. Light glittering everywhere warms us for just a moment, then escapes us, as we remember only coldness exists behind these bedroom windows. The streaks soon fade as the shapeless hush of white suburbia peaks and mellows with the departing light. Tree branches tussle as wind exhales over Langston Avenue. We sit tight watching the smile of the green lawn gnome, imagining that it might soon pick itself up from off the grass, and come over to play.

The dream of playtime and the green lawn gnome soon ends, and we are snapped back into reality by what sounds like divorcing flesh. We huddle in stillness and make our bodies quiet, trying harder to hear. Trying to assess risk. We jump out from underneath our white comforters and press our ears against the cold door. We hear Mommy, her voice attempting to steady, “Nick, turn that fucking game off.” 

We don’t need a word more.

We already know that, on television, the average American Baseball game takes around two and a half hours to complete. We already know that it only takes three innings gone wrong for Daddy to complete Mommy’s halving. Inside our family living room, his anger turning her organs into pulverized meat, vitality slipping from her body and seeping into the carpet. The Mets are losing the game again. Daddy is losing his mind again. If not careful on this Sunday afternoon, we might lose more of Mommy’s insides.  My lips quiver as I think of her, the urgency of her body. 

The sounds of separating skin quicken and then steady, muffled voices from the family television haze the happenings. We thrust open the door and rush to the living room, as Daddy punches the couch hard, “Fucking team. Stupid Fucking Mets!” We watch with eyes glazed over like lima beans, swallowing nervously as we see a molding appendix in the corner. I rush to the kitchen to find a paper towel, and then return, squatting as I carefully pick up the gelatinous organ. Guess she doesn’t really need an appendix anyway, I head to the trash and whisper goodbye to this part of Mommy that has now gone missing, to this piece of her body that will never grow back. To this piece inside us that will never grow back. 

The glare from the television screen nearly hypnotizes us, as the rotation of players increases our nervousness. With each foul toss, each missed hit, each minute ticking by, Daddy grows more ravenous. More connected to scoreboards than to his own family. To strangers on screens winning than Mommy dying. We stay far away from the remote, and huddle around her, her bleeding side expanding as each minute fades into a collapsed sense of time. As the cheering fans roar and jump in their seats, upon feeling the electricity of a live game. 

Mommy’s face grows hot, the tears streaming down cool her body. She holds her side, and walks up to him, “Nick, I said turn that fucking game off. Now!” And so, Daddy hisses, morphs into a somebody we yet again do not recognize, and stomps down the stairs. We all move fast in the living room, capitalizing on the second inning coming to a close and an unstable Daddy stalling in the basement. I rush to the bedroom to pack a small overnight bag, throwing inside two pairs of underwear, my toothbrush, my lucky orange care-bear, and my water bottle. Everything swirls as the third inning looms into view and a possible Daddy re-approaching the living room is not an option we can have. I seal the bag shut and search for Mommy’s purse in the second bedroom. I bring it to her and then hide behind her, as she looks for her car keys. The lights remain on as we leave the garden apartment, slam the door shut, the television glare still visible from outside the living room window. The shadow of Daddy emerges, as we watch the skeleton of his body frantically search for us. We continue along the path, the green lawn gnome still sprawled across the grass. We lock eyes for the last time and won’t return for months, confident that the Mets will lose tonight as we mark our first win. 

Briana Ladwig
Briana Ladwig is a Black, queer, mama illustrator based in Lawrence, Kansas whose work centers around Black Liberation, decolonizing storytelling, generational healing, and afrofuturism. She grew up learning to draw on the floor of her dad’s art studio, receiving a natural education from closely watching his work as a master book illustrator. She now draws inspiration from the cycle-breaking work of her ancestors and Black speculative fiction, especially the works of Octavia Butler. Bri’s favorite medium is lush, textured watercolors under detailed pen lines. Bri is currently working on an illustration/design degree at the KU while doing freelance illustration work from home.
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