This shape, he said to his niece as he tossed her the ball on the grass. This roundness, this perfection of throwing and catching, this can be the thing for a good long while. He did not tell her…
It’s easy to shake off the suspicion that there’s a story contained in something as ordinary as a game of catch. Working (and playing catch) with kids has taught me how wrong it is to be so dismissive. There’s a story in ordinary things because who’s doing those things is people. Children themselves just seem to already know that.
Being around kids can key you in to the story that’s happening around you all the time. And it teaches you to be decisive, which I think is an important trait for writing (and most things). I’ve had to decide if the thing that feels like a story when I’m around kids is a story or not. For a long time, when I first worked at a school, the decision was a terrifying one because I was afraid of the fall. The fall is the feeling of leaving a world with children and wondering if what happens there may be cute and nice and even beautiful, but that somehow it isn’t life. I think this suspicion arose for me because the distance between the world with children and the world without them at one time seemed so vast.
It still is vast, but I decided, around the time that I decided to commit to a certain kind of writing, that it wasn’t too vast. Somehow I’ve come to believe that it’s part of my job as a writer to say that those worlds are the same world. It took an incredible amount of decisiveness, and it is still very much a process rather than a finished effort, but I knew that I liked what I wrote a lot more when boys and girls and men and women all occupied the same world.
In “Ball,” the uncle and the niece assert that they’re in the same world through their love of playing catch. But the game opens them up to more than a game, and they both want to extend that sameness out to the nephew, whose world is very far from anything that involves a ball. That’s really how the whole world of being with kids has been for me: take what you find there and extend it out to the world beyond children. It’s crazy, but it’s the particular kind of craziness that I love, and that makes me love what is possible with writing.
SIAMAK VOSSOUGHI is an Iranian-American writer living in Seattle. He has had stories published in Kenyon Review, The Missouri Review, Glimmer Train, Bennington Review, and Columbia Journal. His first collection, Better Than War, received a 2014 Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction and his second collection, A Sense of the Whole, received the 2019 Orison Fiction Prize.