Jack Matthews was a literary giant for this nation whose value and importance will only increase with time. He was also a constant source of joy and hilarity. His stories displayed a keen understanding of human motivations and a knack for recognizing beauty and humor in the smallest of things.
Early on Thanksgiving morning, Ohio author Jack Matthews died after a long-standing illness. He was 88. I will be making a bigger announcement and posting my “literary obituary” about him this weekend, but for now, here is a flash fiction he wrote from his soon-to-be-published Abruptions flash fiction collection. Three years ago in an audio interview Jack Matthews mentioned that Abruptions contained 88 short stories, a number which was formally interesting because it corresponded to the number of keys on a piano. In a kind of cosmic irony, that same number 88 also corresponded with each year he lived on earth.
THE LESSON (By Jack Matthews)
This was one of his first memories. He was five years old and begged to join the older boys in their baseball games. They finally relented, gave him an old glove that hung almost to his knees when he put it on. And to keep him out of the way, they placed him in the “outfield” beyond a ragged row of barberry shrubs.
From this position, the little boy couldn’t see any of the other players. Nevertheless, he faithfully kept gazing up into the sky above the little shrubs. Waiting, waiting, day after day.
Then late one afternoon it happened. He saw a dark point in the sky. It grew swiftly bigger and bigger until it hit him in the face, knocking him down and bloodying his nose.
This was a mystical experience for him, and he never forgot the lesson, which is that there are some things which grow bigger and bigger, and then there is this brief blunt painful spasm of darkness, after which they are gone and you find yourself lying on the ground, looking up at the sky.
(Flash fiction from “Abruptions”, which will be published in 2014).