Short fiction: "Interview with an Intangible Aspect"

in fiction •  19 days ago  (edited)

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Photo by Jeffrey F Lin on Unsplash


I recently sat down for an interview with the Spirit of the 1986 Wauwatosa West High School Intramural Field Hockey Quarter-Finals (hereafter referred to simply as “SPIRIT”) during the Fifth Annual Conference on Intangible Qualities and Aspects, which was held this year at the Clarion Hotel and Convention Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The following is a transcript of that conversation as it occurred amidst the noise and commotion that normally accompanies this event.

JAMES DEAGLE: First of all, thank you for taking the time to talk.

SPIRIT: My pleasure. There normally isn’t much interest from the public in this event, so it’s good to see we’re not lost to the material realm.

JD: (laughs) Don’t kid yourself. Some people outside the convention center tried to buy my press pass off me.

[There is an awkward silence for a brief moment, and I can sense that SPIRIT would like me to start asking a question or two.]

JD: Right, then. For starters, can you tell me what exactly you represent, and how you are still relevant, especially to those with no connection to Wauwatosa, Wisconsin?

SPIRIT: I embody the accumulated emotional atmosphere that hung in the air during the 1986 Wauwatosa West High School Intramural Field Hockey Quarter Finals. There was something palpable that everyone could feel but nobody could put their finger on. Sort of like the fog drifting through the Menomonee River Valley. You have to experience it in order to know it.

JD: Care to expand on that?

SPIRIT: (Growing wistful.) Well, every now and then there’s a moment in time, a fleeting instance, when a young person's life takes on a certain magic. And then, before you know it, vamoose. Gone. In this case, the 1986 Intramural Field Hockey Quarter-Finals was not just about the competition itself. It was a turning point in the lives of those involved, as many of the participants would soon be graduating, or going away for college. You know how people are. “We’ll stay in touch. I promise!” Never happens. Another thing to consider was the music and the fashions of the time. Mid-80’s glam metal was all the rage, and many girls had moved beyond the “Sheena Easton” fashion of the early 80’s, and were now walking around as various incarnations of Madonna. Also, the air in the hallways of that school was thick with some cologne, the name of which escapes me now.

JD: Polo?

SPIRIT: Polo! That’s it. So, everything I'm talking about coalesced into The Spirit of the 1986 Wauwatosa West High School Intramural Field Hockey Quarter-Finals. Which is me, of course. Er, what was the second part of your question?

JD: How are you still relevant 24 years after a decidedly trivial high school tournament? I mean, it wasn’t the finals, or even the semi-finals. It wasn't even the Trojans--it was intramural, for crying out loud.

SPIRIT: Socially, things at the school took a nosedive after the quarter-finals. The “blue team” captain found out that her boyfriend had gotten one of her teammates pregnant. That disrupted the team's overall equilibrium, and so by the time the semi-finals rolled around the blue team just wasn’t into it, and were eliminated pretty quickly by the purple team. That drained the life out of the whole event. When the participants look back on it now, they’ll remember the quarter-finals as that last transcendent moment before they turned the corner into adulthood. In short, they’ll see the quarter-finals as the final whiff of youthful magic in their high school years, and thus feel a warm balm of sentimentality, whereas thinking about the semi-finals likely causes them to relive, even momentarily, the sort of anxiety that normally signals impending adulthood.

JD: Yes…?

SPIRIT: (A brief contemplative pause.) And finally, I’m still relevant because I’m unrepeatable. I’ll never happen again. I live on in the minds and hearts of those who felt my presence way back when, but there is no possible way to transmit me to anyone who wasn’t there. So I’m relevant due to my rarity. I’m a classic, so to speak.

JD: Have you ever tried to bring a bit of that old something special back to Wawautosa West High School?

SPIRIT: (Winces and nods.) I did my best to come out of retirement and pervade the 2013 Intramural Field Hockey Quarter-Finals, but it just caused a feeling of paralyzing disorientation in everyone. The nicest reaction I got was someone wrinkling their nose and saying, "What the fuck is that?". I am of a certain time and place, so I don't make sense to anyone outside of my original context. Mid-life crisis isn't a good look for me, so from now on I'm sticking to shuffleboard.

[At this moment SPIRIT is approached by an obvious friend, albeit one who seems fearful and suspicious. SPIRIT then realizes that some introductions are in order.]

SPIRIT: (To me.) Sorry, I didn’t mean to exclude you. This is The Sense of Mild Foreboding One Feels After Hearing a Noise in the House at Precisely 3:36 a.m. that is Probably Nothing But is Disconcerting Nonetheless. We met at the first conference and have been tight ever since.

[SENSE looks around with concern, and seems like he wants to run and hide.]

SPIRIT: (To SENSE.) Don’t worry. We’re safe here. (To me.) Look, he and I have some catching up to do. We have some meal vouchers to use up, and we promised we'd go for drinks with The Essence of Ineffective Management Styles in the Human Resource Departments of Sweet and Sour Sauce Producers.

JD: You've got to be kidding me. (Pause. No response.) Well, okay then. Thank you for your time.

SPIRIT: No problemo. See you next year in Bowling Green, I hope.

JD: For sure. Of course, by then I’ll be trying to snag an interview The Overall Aura of the Fifth Annual Conference on Intangible Qualities and Aspects.

SPIRIT: I guess that goes without saying.

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