Redux, adjective: to restore, to revive
La Mancha is the posh section of Letongaloosa where the streets are winding and the house numbers are hand painted on Spanish tile. Among the leading residents of La Mancha are Archibald and Olivia Sommerset. The Summersets’ daughter, Madison “Madie” Sommerset, was the suburb’s leading high school athlete.
Madie had been respected by all and revered by many for leading the La Mancha Amazons to victory in all sports, particularly in softball.
But then Madie’s athletic career suffered a serious setback. The Amazons had let their dinky rivals, the Fairfield Fusions, tie the score in the last inning. The fusions had a runner on third and a scrawny end-of-the-lineup batter at the plate. The Amazon pitcher’s finger slipped off the ball and the pitch came over the plate looking like a watermelon.
Scrawny Arms closed her eyes, swung and hit a blooper that looked like it was going foul. But then the ball came back fair–between home and the pitcher’s mound. Madie called for the ball. But Madie muffed the catch when she couldn’t get her catcher’s mask off. The mask was stuck on her face by an excess of makeup. Madie applied the makeup in anticipation of being photographed for the local newspaper. When she did manage to rip the mask off, the makeup made her look like a raccoon.
When it came to academics Madie had been an indifferent student. She worked hard enough in school to stay eligible for athletics and extracurricular activities, but she often failed to turn in assignments. She never tried to get good grades, much less make the dean’s list.
After the Fusion High debacle, people at the country club treated Mr. and Mrs. Sommerset with pity rather than deference. When her parents found that Madie was, academically, a nonperson, they demanded she make the honor roll and excel at some other extracurricular activity than sports.
At Letongaloosa High School, forensics was to the brainy kids what athletics was to the athletic kids: a ticket to popularity and recognition. Madie had always distained non sport activities. But now, she signed up for forensics, and focused on poetry recitation. She memorized and practiced reciting “Casey at the Bat.” She loved the poem, and maybe because she looked the part, the judges liked Madie’s recitation. She won the local and district forensics poetry competitions and went on to regionals.
Madie managed to win or place second in poetry recitation at regionals and found herself in the final round facing an opponent from Fusion High School. Madie’s opponent was listed on the forensics tote board as Sally Teasley– her old softball nemesis, A.K.A. “Scrawny Arms”.
One of the judges said: “We’ll begin this session with Sally Teasley reciting “The Highwayman,” by Alfred Noyes. Sally went to the lectern:
“The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees…” Then she paused and turned pale. The room was silent. Sally stood frozen at the lectern. Then Madie’s quiet voice came from behind her: “The moon was a ghostly…” Sally finished reciting the poem beautifully, and after Madie had recited “Casey at the Bat,” the two girls left the room arm in arm.
Madie did well in forensics, and found she liked academics as well.
About that time Madie met Tyler Kirby. Tyler was a brainy kid with a 4.0 grade point average. He hungered to play football. The problem was, he weighed 187 pounds. On the first day of practice the coach took one look and told Tyler to turn in his uniform.
A phone call from the school principal changed all that. The principal lowered the boom on the team because most of the football players’ low grades.
The coach got back in touch with Tyler Kirby.
“Son, do you get good grades?” asked the coach.
“I have a 4.0 grade point average.”
“Come on back to the gym and suit up, son, you’ve made the team.”
From then on, Tyler tutored male athletes and Madie tutored female athletes. That was the year Letongaloosa High School won state finals in athletics and forensics.
Larry Day is a retired KU J-School professor turned humor writer.