Volume 31



Dodgeball: A Family Story

A short story by Audrey Kim


“Hey, catch!” Stanley throws the ball to me, laughing and smiling. It spins in the air for a few seconds, as I reach out with my hands, anticipating the catch. We were playing on the field, throwing the ball again and again. It finally lands in my hands perfectly, and I give a shout of surprise. This was my first time catching a dodgeball!

“I caught it!” I shout back to him. Stanley runs over to me and gives me a large high-five. He then takes the ball out of my hands and spins it on his finger.

“I told you you would get it,” he responds while still spinning the ball. “Next time we can work on catching while running.” I nod, but I’m focused on how effortlessly he spins the ball. I couldn’t even try to replicate his smooth actions, the way he handles the ball.

“Yeah, I know. It’s just that you’re so much better at…all of this. Why are you even bothering to teach me?” I ask quietly. Stanley stops spinning the ball and gently places it on the grass. It rolls away slowly as he starts talking. 

“Don’t say things like that. You have other things that make you good at dodgeball. Sure, you may not be as good at catching as I am…” He smirks proudly. I elbow him and he gasps. “OW! What I was saying is…you are really good at other things, like dodging. Heck, I think you’re better at that than I am.” I look up in shock. Stanley rarely admits someone is better than him in sports. He’s not a bragger, but he thinks very highly of himself, that’s for sure. 

“So if you keep this up, you’ll be fine. We need a diverse team, some good in dodging, some good in throwing, and some good in catching. You have a place, and no one will take that away from you.” He notices the ball and runs to get it. I stay still, pondering over his words, as the sun shines brightly overhead.


It’s all quiet in the field. 

Nothing makes a sound. No birds fly overhead. No one besides me. I walk through the grass that has grown too tall, it hasn’t been trimmed in ages. Now a dodgeball would have to be very smooth to roll anywhere here. I sit down on the grass and let the sun beam down on me. 

I take out the dodgeball and gently toss it from one hand to another, over and over again. As it lands in each of my hands, I think of Stanley. How he knew how to play with the ball. No one could quite match him, even as I got better. I wonder what his reaction will be when he sees I’ve kept the dodgeball this whole time.

I stand up again and turn to the little hill that’s at the center of the field. Just looking at it chokes me up. That hill fills me with a feeling I can’t quite describe, something between sadness and nostalgia. I start walking towards it, dodgeball in hand. 


Go, go, go!” Stanley yells as he eggs me on. We run together, chasing each other down the field, our feet trampling the short grass. He’s a little faster than me, but only a little. 

“Geez, could you…slow down…I need a breather.” I slow to a stop, panting and trying to catch my breath that has spiraled out of control. Stanley stops and comes to me.

“Tired already?” He says in a joking tone, his brown eyes sparkling with adrenaline, like he could run another 100 miles and still not get tired. His swirly hair is all messed up, his clothes drenched with sweat, and yet he still looks like a handsome celebrity. We look so similar, so why did he get the better parts of Dad’s looks?

Everyone says that we both look a lot like Dad, and a lot like each other. Some people at school even mistook us for identical twins, at which point I’d have to explain that Stanley’s a full year and a half older and that we’re not exactly identical, his eyes are a darker shade of brown than mine. 

“Yes, I’m tired. Now please stop breathing on me.” I say, exhausted. I flop down and bury my head in the grass and dirt. “You can go play with your balls if you want.”

“Wow, call them dodgeballs next time. If you say that to some of the more weird boys at school they’ll call you sus for the rest of the day.” Stanley replies, still in that joking tone. “Also, you still haven’t caught one of them yet.” He throws the ball up super high, and then catches it, spins around, and ends in a congratulatory pose. 

“Yep. That’s cause my brother has all the athletic genes,” I respond quickly after this showcase. Stanley snickers and flexes, while I just roll my eyes. We stay there in the field, two brothers just having fun, as the sun shines brightly overhead.


I arrive at the bottom of the little hill.

I smell the fresh scent of the grass, so natural, touched by the morning dew. The dodgeball is still in my hands, waiting to be played with. I take the first step onto the hill, and the feeling I can’t quite describe starts to come to me. It washes over me like a crashing wave, and I hold back a tear. I have to get to the top, because Stanley is there, waiting for me. We haven’t seen each other in years, and it took a lot of my effort to organize this meeting. I missed him, after all. 

I start walking up the hill, dodgeball still firmly in hand.


“Stanley, come over here.” The voice is quiet, tired, but still full of love. Stanley and I stand at the opened front door, a little confused. The voice calls out again. “Stanley, come over here.” Stanley begins to walk, but I call back.

“Daddy, do you want me to come with him?” Stanley shakes his head no. “If he only calls me, that means he only wants to talk to me. Stay here and play with the dodgeball. Or you can try to eat the tree in our yard.” He winks mischievously.

“Stanley!” Our dad’s voice is firmer now. Stanley briskly strides to his office while I, disobeying him, walk into the house and close the door. Next to the door is a wall of our favorite photos. There’s us at the basketball court, smiling as Stanley hoists the trophy from him winning the 6th grade dodgeball tournament. There’s us smiling as I had just won a state-level singing competition. And there’s Dad standing next to us when I was 3 and Stanley was 5 , except who’s standing on the other side is blacked out. That was the last photo we took with Mom, I’m told. She left a week after, leaving my dad’s heart shattered and us to live a life without a mother.

Stanley finally walks out of Dad’s office, and I’m startled by the grim look on his face. Stanley rarely looks that startled, the usually snarky, bright look he wears is nowhere to be seen.


I am still climbing up the hill, getting ever closer to the top.

The feeling of nostalgia is greater than ever before. The dodgeball is still in my hand, as I anticipate what I will see at the top. I suddenly stop though, to play with the dodgeball again. I throw it between my hands, then I place it on my head and balance it for a few seconds, before it drops and lodges in the grass. It doesn’t roll down the hill.

I try to dislodge it, but it’s stubborn. It must’ve rained a few days ago, if there’s mud underneath the grass. Finally, using a nearby stick, I get it out and clean it a little bit, as it has dirt all over its bottom. This is Stanley’s prized dodgeball after all, I don’t want it to get super dirty.

I continue walking up the hill. 


Stanley, what’s wrong?” I ask him. He doesn’t reply. His face was in shock, a little cold, but nothing like the Stanley I know.  “Stanley, what’s wrong?” I asked again, a little louder, but still he didn’t answer my burning question as we walked to school. The whole day at school I kept thinking to myself about Stanley’s strange new behavior. It was eating me up so much that at lunch, I didn’t even notice my friend Kit sit next to me.

“Yo, what’s up?” He sits down and pats me really hard on the back, which is his usual greeting if I’m distracted or not looking at him. He starts digging into his lunch, but he stops and looks at me, clearly knowing I have something on my mind.

“Is something wrong? You haven’t started eating and you look like that time you made like 5 dumb mistakes on that test.” I sigh and shake my head.

“Please don’t ever remind me about that test again. And it’s not a test, it’s Stanley. He’s been acting weird these past couple days, after he and Dad had a super secretive talk when we came back from practicing dodgeball.” 

“Wait, did you catch the ball yet?” Kit interrupts me. 

“Yes, I did. First time.” I try to put a bit of excitement and triumph in my voice, but I fail miserably, still worried about Stanley.

Kit, meanwhile, doesn’t ever need to try for excitement. “Let’s go! I told you you’d do it this year!” He was always very supportive of my few athletic achievements, no matter how sparse and small they were. The conversation then lapsed into silence as we ate our lunch, but my worry had not gone away. 


I finally reached the top of the hill. 

There’s not much on the top, besides the lone oak tree that the community planted years ago. Around it are sparse little pockets of flowers, dotting the peak with color. And right beside the tree, where there’s always the most shade, a single gravestone stands up. 

Hey, Stanley. My mind says, and then I can’t hold back anymore. 

I start crying. I’ve never cried before, it’s true. Usually when I’m sad or angry, I just sit somewhere in silence, or I talk to Stanley to get those feelings out. But I don’t feel like sitting anymore, and Stanley’s not actually here. How do I talk to a grave without it being awkward? I decide to just stand near the grave, leaning on the oak tree, holding onto the dodgeball firmly. 


It was a couple weeks after the conversation. Stanley was still not his usual self, even when we came to the park. He would just stare up into the sky, as if he was looking for something there, while I played with the ball myself. My mind was starting to worry about what exactly Dad had told him. Kit and I had come up with a couple theories during lunch, the most believable one was that Dad had told Stanley the truth about why Mom left. 

“But if that’s the case, why didn’t he tell me?” I said, a little angry. “I want to know the truth as much as he does.”

“Maybe he doesn’t think you’re ready for the truth.” Kit replied, halfway dug into his burger. We then continued to eat, but I was still worried, worried, angry. Kit was trying to help me, but he didn’t understand why I was so serious about this. I can’t be mad at him for that though, he doesn’t have any siblings. 

“Hey, could you come over here?” I look around quickly and see Stanley, sitting beside the tree on the top of the hill. I ran up to him, confused as this was the first time he had ever talked to me since his mood change. 

“Here, sit next to me.” He patted the grass next to him, smiling at me. My confusion slowly turned to anger. Why was he so happy all of a sudden, when he had been so moody these past few days? Why didn’t he tell me what Dad had told him about, when he usually told me everything? What happened?

“Why are you acting like this all of a sudden?” I said, sullenly. Stanley looked up, noticing my agitation.

“Acting like what? I just want to talk to you.” He replied. Just talk to me? JUST talk to me? He had been acting so strangely this whole time, and he never once had tried to tell me what was going on, what Dad had told him.

“What do you mean, acting like what?! Ever since that day where Dad and you had a talk without me, you’ve been quieter, and, and not your normal self! I know that you’re acting weird, and I want to know what’s going on with you! I’m your BROTHER! Why are you hiding this from me?” I yelled out, letting all my emotions loose in one outburst. I was so tired, and scared, and pent up, and then I felt relieved. I felt relieved that I had finally released my feelings. And then I saw Stanley’s shocked face. 

“Oh no. Have I hurt you, little bro?” He says, eyes full of regret, pain. So much pain. “Im…sorry. I’ve just…Dad gave me some shocking news that day and…”

“And…” I echo him, a little unconsciously. “Is it about Mom?”

“No. Dad’s never going to tell us about her. He doesn’t want that wound to open up again.” Stanley sighs. “But he’s gotten another wound now. He’s scared for me. I’m scared for me.” I’m confused now. What could Stanley possibly be talking about? Was he in danger? And from what? And then all my questions were answered, in one fell swoop.

“Little bro, I’m sick. I’m actually really sick. Dad says I might not live that much longer.” My brain begins to click everything into place. His resigned mood, like someone who’s lost a battle. His constant staring up at the sky, like he’s looking for something, or looking for someplace…like heaven. He’s sick. He’s been sick. He might die. Stanley, who wins every tournament, who keeps fighting till the end, might die from a stupid disease before he reaches college. 

“No…no. Stanley, you’re sick? But maybe you’ll beat it! Maybe you’ll win over the sickness, like you win every time.” I tried to continue, but Stanley was shaking his head.

“I know I win a lot, but you can’t win every battle, man. And winning isn’t even the best part!” All of a sudden, a little bit of pure joy came into his otherwise defeated face. “I just love playing dodgeball, or doing anything, because it makes me happy to do these things. And I love it when you come and watch. You make me happy too.” He sighs and looks out to the horizon. The shock of the whole situation is still rolling over me. Stanley might die, and he’s accepted that. He’s accepted that he will leave the world, leave me.

We lapse into silence for a few minutes. Then, finally, I ask my only question.

“Why didn’t you tell me this earlier?”

“Because I didn’t want to scare you. This is my thing, and I don’t want you to be worried over this.” Stanley says. “Looking back, maybe it would’ve been better if I told you earlier. I’m sorry for making you worry.” He sighs, but then smiles, almost looking like the old, snarky Stanley. “So, you want to play with the ball? I bet I still throw harder than you!”

I smile for the first time in days. “Sure, Stanley. I’d love to.”

He snatches the ball from me, runs down the hill a few yards, and throws the dodgeball, shouting, “Hey, catch!”

And I catch it.

And he cheers.

The sun is shining brightly overhead.

Ten years later and I still remember that day vividly. It took another couple months for Stanley’s symptoms to become clear to me.

Another couple months for him to come home, hair all gone.

Another couple months for him to deteriorate so rapidly, that one day he would be up and playing dodgeball, a little like the old Stanley, and the next he is confined to his bed.

And another few months for him to leave me. 


Standing by a lone grave, by the solitary oak tree, holding on to the dodgeball that used to be my brother’s, I think of all that has happened.

The days we spent laughing in this very park, fumbling and eventually catching the dodgeball. Stanley’s laugh and his boasts. 

The heavy sorrow covering me like a shroud, for ten long years, feeling the absence of my older brother, my best friend, and not letting go.

Maybe it’s finally time to let go.

I place the dodgeball beside Stanley’s grave, making sure that it rests just against the stone that marks where he sat that day he told me everything, and where he sleeps now.  I start walking down the hill, feeling a little freer. But still, I turn back one more time, to see the hill, the tree, the flowers, the stone, the ball. And suddenly I have things to say.

“Goodbye Stanley.” I say. “You were the best brother I could ever have. I’ll always remember you, and how you taught me so much. Thank you big bro.” And I walk down the hill, taking in the park and the surrounding area. 

The birds start chirping, and the park is at peace again.

It’s all quiet in the field. 

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