Rebecca Thomas’s fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Prairie Schooner, Hunger Mountain, The Massachusetts Review, Fifth Wednesday and other journals. In 2015, she received a Pushcart Prize nomination for fiction. She received her MFA in creative writing from West Virginia University. She received undergraduate degrees in creative writing and screenwriting from Chapman University. Originally from Orange County, California, she now teaches writing in Morgantown, West Virginia.
From “Spring Training”
Francisco Romero caught a glimpse of her before she disappeared down his street. in his living room, he sat reading the morning’s paper and sensed that someone was watching. His eyes left the news about the Angels’ trade—an outfielder, useless; they needed a second baseman— and shifted to his window. He saw her staring at his boarded-up home as she walked away, and he watched her for as long as the window let him, following her as she passed the vacant dirt lot next door. She kept glancing back as she walked, and he wondered if his house had been tagged somehow and he didn’t know it, that he was losing his sixth sense for graffiti. But then she showed up again, the sleeves of her striped button-up rolled to her elbows, her red hair pulled tight into a ponytail, and he knew. She had come for his land.
On the radio, NPR listed the day’s horrors and advertised upcoming entertainment. She knocked, and he opened his real door first, the oak one that his parents brought from Mexico, before opening a plywood door, cheaper, and sturdier, than a screen.
“Good afternoon,” she said. The woman was young, younger than thirty, younger even than his youngest. He waited. He wasn’t going to make this easy. She scratched behind her ear and asked, “How are you?”
“They make you work on a Saturday, huh?” he said.
From the Contributor Commentary
I didn’t really start writing about southern California until after I left. Sitting in West Virginia, I kept circling back to the neighborhoods I knew. With distance I was able to see the ways that class and race influenced the region. “Spring Training” started during a West Virginia winter with the longing for spring, the brief window of green in southern California when wildflowers bloom before the heat comes, and for the promise that comes with the beginning of spring training for baseball.
My character Francisco Romero reminds me of the ways that we can navigate through the world: by opening ourselves up, or putting up walls. It makes sense why Frank isolates himself. Here is a man who is grieving, who is being pushed out of his rapidly gentrifying neighborhood, who is seeing his neighborhood’s history disappear, and who is separated emotionally and geographically from his children. Frank’s central question in this story speaks to the promise of spring: will he trust in the future, in investing in the neighborhood that he loves and grew up with, or will he continue to wall himself off?