Small Minds, Ch. 4

Chapter 4 of Small Minds/The Potentially Fatal Ping Pong Ball is here. Chapter 1 is here. Chapter 2 is here. Chapter 3 is here. Enjoy!

The sun knew what “famous” meant. He had seen many “famous” men and women come and go, and knew they never stuck around in people’s minds for that long. There was one guy named Presley that people still liked enough to pretend to be him, and Michael Jackson was big, but he was on his way out.

When the girl he had been watching spoke about making someone famous enough not to be forgotten, the sun knew that it would be a hard task; you had to be abnormal in some way, preferably good, to be even noticed– and unlike that guy who paraded across a highway saying he was “Cuckoo for Coco-Puffs,” you had to be abnormal enough to be remembered.

The old man in the girl’s company didn’t look like the famous type—he was average through and through—so the sun didn’t know how he was going to get noticed, but they were right about one thing: the best place to start would be in a city, especially a capitol city, and the only capitol city in Georgia the two knew of was Atlanta.

The sun watched as the girl drove her grandfather down from his home in the northeast corner of the state toward Atlanta and began thinking about what he could do to help.


After an hour of silence (Gene didn’t want the radio on; he said it was too entertaining), Cole finally got the nerve up to ask a question.

“Where did Nicole go?”

“Who?” asked Gene, too confused to admonish his overly inquisitive grandson.

“Nicole, your cook.”

“Oh, I fired her. She was too good at her job.”

Cole accepted this and pressed his advantage while his grandfather didn’t realize there was one to be had. “Do you know where she went?”

“On vacation.”

“I thought you fired her.” Cole was the confused one now.

“I did, but I fired her because she asked for vacation too much.”

“Did you ever give it to her?”

“Of course not! I can’t feed myself, you know!”

Cole decided to ignore the oxy-moron of those remarks. “I thought you fired her for doing too good a job.”

“I did! Did I ever tell you differently?” Gene said irately.


“I’ve got to stop asking rhetorical questions that need answers,” muttered Gene to himself.

“Pardon me?”


Cole fell silent, feeling that his grandfather was in a less-than-jovial mood, as always.

Gene, now that he was warmed up, decided to have the conversation take another turn. “What are these?” he asked, pointing to some objects on the dashboard: a cube entirely made of chewed gum, a large rock in the shape of a nose, and a seashell with a capital C engraved in it. Cole described each one.

“And these?” Gene pointed to the two ping pong balls.

“Those… are ping pong balls,” Cole said truthfully.

“Yes, but what are they doing among these other strange examples of modern trash?”

Cole didn’t want to divulge the real reason for their presence, and was glad Steve was taped up. He shot a warning look at both of them just in case. “Um… they’re a little bit cracked, and I liked the shapes.”

Gene shook his head disappointedly. “You are truly pathetic.”

All Cole could do was nod.


When they stopped to get gas halfway through Georgia, Gene used the restroom inside. Cole waited in the car as it filled up.

“Gene’s right, you know,” remarked Steve casually, having chewed through his gag.

“About what?”

“’You are truly pathetic.’ That’s what he said, right? Well, it’s true, bud, and it won’t change anytime soon.”

“Steve, I’m disappointed in you,” said Sam. “I thought we agreed to be nice to our new benefactor.”

“That was you who agreed; I was taped up!”

“Yet you didn’t complain.”

“I was taped up!”

“So you say.”

“Just stop it,” said Cole.

“Why?” asked Steve.

Cole was almost at a loss for words, but he forced something out. “Why? Because I said to!”

“Undo my bonds and I’ll…”

“Steve, stop. But Cole, it would be nice if you would untie us. It’s rather uncomfortable in this position. I’ve got this itch…” said Sam.

Cole reached across and untied Sam, but not Steve.

The other ball protested. “Hey! Why is he untied, not me? I’m going to yell at Gene right when he comes back!” The old man was just coming out the gas station door.

Cole had no choice. He picked up Steve as well.

“Put us on your shoulder,” said Steve, “or else!”

Again, Cole had no other options.

“We’ll stay quiet,” said Sam kindly.

Just then Gene reached the car and climbed in with a sigh. “Get going,” he told Cole.

Cole just nodded and pulled away, but the gas nozzle was still attached to the car. He stopped and climbed out, replacing the nozzle, then drove out of the station.

Gene was still determined to converse; his mouth needed exercise once in a while. “Where’d those two round things go?”


“Those round things with the cracks!”

“Oh, the ping pong balls?”

“Oh, I thought they were… Oh, I don’t know, two round things with cracks! They looked too useless to be anything else.”

Cole heard a voice from behind his ear—it was Steve. “Of all the stupid… Useless! That was uncalled for!”

Without thinking, Cole repeated the ping pong ball’s words. “That was uncalled for.”

“What?” asked Gene.

“That wasn’t nice,” Cole said, rephrasing it so his grandfather wouldn’t mistake his meaning.

“So? They were little inanimate round things!”

“Inanimate, indeed! Gene, you are a nasty person!” hissed Steve.

Cole repeated it. Gene was shocked. “What?” Cole repeated it again as Gene turned purple and fell silent. Cole relished the feeling of power he had over his grandfather at the moment. He turned on the radio.

“Shut that off,” said Gene, reaching for the knob.

“Don’t let him,” said Steve to Cole. “It’s your car!”

“It’s my car,” said Cole, “I’ll do what I like.” He turned the volume up.

Thus came about the pivotal moment in Cole’s life. Never before had he stood up to anyone; he was just too indecisive. But now, under the influence of Steve and his anger, he realized that he didn’t have to life in the shadow of his grandfather; he could make his own shadow.

Leave a comment


  1. Nice! I really like the last bit about casting your own shadow.
    I seem to only give you positive feedback. Hmm…. Is this a problem?

  2. Nice one mate! Been a while since I’ve dragged myself from my writing to do a little reading but its coming along well 🙂

  1. Small Minds, Ch. 5 « This Page Intentionally Left Blank

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