Nicholas Finch was raised between England and South Africa before moving to Florida. His influences include Ernest Hemingway, James Salter, Rudy Wilson, Andy Plattner, Jean Rhys and Laurie Lee. The former assistant editor of Neon Literary Journal, Finch attended University of Southern Mississippi’s Center for Writers. Finch has pieces published or forthcoming in Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine, Molotov Cocktail, Avis Magazine, Fields, The Florida Review and elsewhere. He now calls St. Petersburg, FL, home, where he teaches Language Arts, Critical Thinking and Religion.
The Cricketer and Beckett
My wife died giving birth to a small boy with a head not much bigger than a cricket ball; Samuel Beckett and I were crowded around the new-born and the dead woman. I wasn’t sure who the father was.
“What do we do now?” I asked.
Samuel Beckett retrieved his glasses from a coat pocket. “It is important to think of us not as rivals, but two players trying out for the same team.”
Beckett was the first to pick up the boy. I wanted take away the child and strike the man. The room was small and grey. A cricket bat was propped up against the handle of the door.
“I know what has to happen,” said Beckett, “but what has to happen and what you will do, are interchangeable, and both lead to very different things.”
“What does that even mean?”
Beckett shrugged with the baby still in his arms. My wife lay uncovered with her legs apart—a spool of lochial blood and tissue between them. All dignity that could be apparent would never exist in that grey room. Shrouded in moral ambiguity I thought that I might kill Beckett.
“Are you a good player,” Beckett asked.
“Cricket, you mean?”
“I’m a good bowler,” I said, “fast-pitch.”
He nodded as though I’d reaffirmed something. Samuel Beckett didn’t hold the child in a manner one normally would, instead he held it outright with both hands, examining it with eyes peeking over glasses. His face reminded me of folded leather, and his hair was feathered back like a bird’s. I wondered what my wife found attractive about this man.
“You are good,” Beckett said, “because you pitch left handed. The batters do not know how to hit against you. They admire or hate you. That’s the way it is. I bowl left too.”
“Did you fuck my wife?” I asked.
“And did you love each other?”
“No,” he said.
I wondered who the door and cricket bat was keeping out.
“Do you know what the great cricket player does?” Beckett asked.
“No,” I said.
“He teaches himself to bowl right handed. He perfects pitching with both hands. He also becomes a great batsman. Then he will learn other sports; he masters those too. Other cricket players might not like him, but they know he’s the best.”
“What if the cricket player is only good—not great?”
“He will hide the skills he has and uses them when necessary. He hides his good bowler hand, makes use of the weaker one until it’s time. The good player knows what things to hide and take away until he becomes great, even though it’s never to be so.”
My wife’s eyes were open, though dead, she watched as her husband did his utmost to hold onto whatever pieces of his former life big enough not to slip through cracks of his wavering sense of being.
“Is the child yours or mine?” I asked.
“There is a way—the best way, in which this all can happen.”
“What is it?”
“I won’t tell you, you must decide, but it all matters—the details, I mean.”
“And what if I get it wrong?” I asked.
“I’ll write a note with the correct way, though you must not read it until you decide. But keep in mind only two of us may leave the room.”
Samuel Beckett placed the child down close to his mother. He retrieved a pen and notepad, jotting down a quick paragraph. He thought for a moment before turning the page and writing down another note. Beckett ripped both pages from the notepad and placed them on the floor. I went to the door and removed the bat from underneath the handle. I weighed it in my palms, checking the balance. I corrected my grip to right-handed. I swung, slightly bowing my knees, throwing my elbows—locked—across the body, making contact and striking through Beckett’s head. The bat’s swing was true and sweet, but it got stuck around about where the spinal column connected to the head. The grey walls had more color. I let the body drop, replacing the bat with the baby.
I do not say goodbye to the mother. We left the room.
Outside the moon was absent. I could see its silver hue shining through a sheet of black nimbus clouds, perhaps it was too cold to rain just then. Remembering the notes, I placed the child down on the floor and left him to fetch Beckett’s last writings.
The two pieces of paper are folded over one another and there’s a minimal amount of blood on both.
The first note read:
If the following path is not taken the child will surely be forever a bastard. The cricketer removes the bat from the handle of the door for it only keeps us inside by mere suggestion of importance. The two men leave the room. The child stays behind with the mother until the more caring man returns to the infant; the implication of fatherhood then ensues. –Beckett
The second note was in French but Becket didn’t sign it; I deemed it unreadable.
Back outside the child waits for the moon. He does not wait for the father because the father put him on the floor for a reason. If that reason was for the child to wait for the father, there would be no thought previously towards the moon’s absence. The father’s mention of the moon’s absence implies its importance. The father’s absence and the moon’s absence correlate directly to the other in only one sense—in there un-relatability to one another. The moon and the cricketer are never the same, neither are metaphors, they can’t be because they are things—organic.
All things absent are undeniably somewhere. Matter can’t be destroyed. But that doesn’t matter; it’s irrelevant.
Beckett and my wife are still dead. When I go outside, the child is watching the moon.