Suboptimal

by Channie Greenberg


Brenda refused to budge a centimeter until she and I had sorted out what to do about her favorite trophy. Our room had no closets, no dressers and no storage containers. In fact, we had no beds. All we had was a large “chair,” which had been fashioned, origami-style, out of notices similar to the ones we had received from the Martian talent scouts. In truth, our chaise’s surface resembled a guanaco more than a settee.

Ever since sports had gone intragalactic, players had had to make do with other cultures’ artifacts. At the time of the incident, Brenda and I, recruits for the solar system’s association, were being housed by the home team of the galaxy’s Carina Arm.

A further complication was that Brenda, naked, except for underwear, weighed about 150 kilos. Unlike Yours Truly, commandeered to play forward for the going rate, Brenda received triple fees merely to stop the ball. Her “goalie” title was less impressive than was her means of powering down opponents; anyone she didn’t fancy, she ate. Only one group, the two-headed weevils from Scutum-Crux, had ever managed to defeat her. Nonetheless, their victory had cost their lead player an entire face plus some non-negotiable brains.

Whereas there had been a great public outcry over the necessitated retirement of that contestant, no one from the solar system seemed to care. In fact, investors and fans continued to support our VIP despite the fact that she also necessitated our association’s frequent hiring of substitutes. Specifically, while sport-related injuries accounted for 10 percent of our team’s rotations, Brenda’s mood swings accounted for the rest.

Rather than penalize our goaltender, our club lavished rewards upon her. By casting wagers on her success, our main shareholders took in more profits than did even the most ruthless of their concession-stand counterparts. There was simply more moola to be had by retaining carnivorous netkeepers than by jacking up the prices on refried squid freezies or on silicon-laced candies. As far as our sponsors were concerned, the rest of us sportswomen were expendable.

I, for instance, was a second-quarter replacement. What’s more, there was going to be, in the near future, another alternate since I had failed to locate a functioning cell phone after dinging a plague Brenda won in junior high. In the span of a few seconds, I had learned that it was insufficient to admire Brenda’s ribbons and medals, one had to be careful when handling them, as well.

I had known, having been forewarned by another teammate, one who has survived three consecutive seasons, thanks to playing as far afield from Brenda as possible, that one ought never to refer to our leading light as “stroppy,” as “ill-tempered,” or as “belligerent.” Such appellations would get their utterer’s fascia reoriented or digested.

Neither bunkum nor music was known to calm Brenda. She didn’t drug, hated hot tubs, and had chewed the hands off of the associates who had tried to sooth her through massage. What hadn’t been communicated was that our sporty gal cleaved to all of her knickknacks, no matter how outdated, which made reference to her victories.

Doofus-like, I had accidentally chipped the corner of a ceramic tub proclaiming Brenda as the most ferocious, I mean most dedicated, player this side of the Galactic Plane. My pocket communicator, i.e. my link to the security detail that sleep outside of any room occupied by our team’s big name, seemed to be missing sufficient inductive charge.

The side of the moon where the stadium and athletes’ barracks were based had rotated enough during the few hours when we had performed our requisite ambassadorial duties to have placed us in a static-heavy, radio wave-free space. Since my handheld device was palpably hot but consequently dysfunctional, I was next on Brenda’s menu.

Fortunately, our doorway, formed out of some crystalline substance, was sufficiently pellucid for me to be seen gesturing wildly and for Brenda to be witnessed in pursuit. If only Brenda’s keepers had not been soused on the wine with which she had been gifted but had refused to drink, they might have come to the rescue. As it was, they stayed slumped over, their backs slouched against jambs and their tentacles limply stretched out into the corridor.

Accordingly, those watchers missed the hungry-looking, impossibly large, arachnid that broke into our room and whose palps were filled with knife-like weapons. Speaking through its intragalactic translator, the creature informed Brenda, whom it held from Brenda’s suspenders, akin to a child erroneously clutching a kitten by its scruff, that the creature had had a successful monopoly on vending stands selling honey-coated coxal glands and that the creature had been a notorious intragalactic bookmaker until Brenda had joined the majors.

Squeezing its chelicerae as it boomed, the intruder rattled off curses in languages beyond its microprocessor’s interface. Our chair collapsed from the resulting squawks and bleeps and our door grew opaque. Finally, the visitor punctuated its rant by dumping a vial full of viscous stuff onto Brenda.

My teammate screamed. Her guards, long accustomed to Brenda’s punctuating her roommate’s retributions with shrieks, shrugged and returned to their comfortable stupor. They were hardly enamored of any of the ballplayers. Hence, I was able to watch, uninterrupted, as our league’s human giantess was transformed into a gelatinous monster; the interloper’s chemicals had erased our netminder’s facade.

Twenty minutes latter, when the xenologists and the regional team’s cleaning crew were arguing about who ought to clean up the puddle of supportive tissue, nerve cell bodies, and unmyelinated nerve fibers, which had once been the solar system’s superstar, the electromagnetic oscillations outside of our building stopped and I was able to resume ordinary two-way communication. I don’t remember ever being so excited about the continuity of energy transference.

Naturally, I was less enthusiastic about the minimal severance we ballers received. Our club was dissolved; there could be no further lucrative meets without our hidden alien.


Copyright © 2011 by Channie Greenberg

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