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News & Features » November 2014 » “Cup Check” by Carolyn Smuts

“Cup Check” by Carolyn Smuts

Are you a parent going through the Terrible Twos? Did you live through them and survive? Terrible Twosdays is a place to commiserate over the unending shenanigans of your Darling Children (as the online parenting communities say). Nonfiction stories will be considered, so long as names have been changed to protect the guilty. Inspired by our best-selling gift book for parents, Go the Fuck to Sleep, Terrible Twosdays joins the roster of our other online short fiction series. Unlike Mondays Are Murder and Thursdaze, we’re looking for stories with a light and mischievous feel, all about the day-to-day challenges of parenting. As with our other flash fiction series, stories must not exceed 750 words.

This week, Carolyn Smuts brings us a hilarious true story.

carolyn smutsCup Check
by Carolyn Smuts

Rule 1.17 Athletic Supporter & Catching Gear Requirements:
All male players must wear athletic supporters; metal, fiber, or plastic type cups are acceptable. Cups must be worn at all times and not removed during breaks or between innings.

“Un-fucking-believable,” I mumbled. I was at my third sporting goods store of the day looking for a cup that fit my skinny four-year-old son. I thought I’d made peace with the idea the night before when I questioned the rule at our first team meeting.

“Coach, these are preschoolers playing T-ball for the first time. Do they really need to wear cups?” I asked.

Coach Rob’s reply was a condescending glare. “Ma’am, do you really want your boy’s nuts blasted off by a hardball heading for his crotch at seventy miles an hour? I’ve seen it happen, and it’s not pretty.”

I stared at him for a long second. “Seriously? I don’t think any of these kids could hurt anyone with a ball off their bat if they wanted to. Most of the time, these kids don’t make contact with the ball in the first place.”

“Ma’am, this is one of Seaview Little League’s regulations for every age division.  No exceptions. Your kid is going to be wearing one of these things for the rest of his life, so he needs to get used to it and you need to get used to it.”

He followed in a louder voice with: “Please know I will conduct cup checks before every game and practice.”

Cup checks?

I shut up. For one thing, I don’t have testicles, so what the hell do I know? For another, Craig was my oldest—my first kid to play any sport—and maybe the Little League folks knew better than me. Mostly, though, I knew I was beginning to sound like that mom—the too-many-questions mom—and I hate that bitch.

But, cup checks?

The first store we visited had a million styles and sizes to choose from . . . if you were a full-grown man. There was precisely nothing for a kid younger than twelve. I asked the sales associate for advice. His face scrunched up like I’d just stepped on his big toe.

“Ooooh, yeah. I heard Little League changed its rules. So, yeah . . . we don’t carry little kid sizes. You might want to try the mall—I heard some folks were having luck there.”

Well, I was not destined to be one of those folks—the only thing I found at the mall was frustration. My son was getting tired of shopping, and I didn’t blame him.

We tried another sporting goods store on the other side of town and found some kid sizes that were still humongous, but at this point I just didn’t care. I was getting a damn cup even if it was so big the kid could sled on it in the off-season.

An old episode of Beavis and Butthead flashed through my mind: the eponymous duo couldn’t find anything small enough to hold their junk in place, so they used eye patches. It seemed like a brilliant idea to me.

We proceeded to the register. As I pulled out my credit card, the adorable teenage boy behind the counter asked if we’d found everything we needed. Before I could answer, my son announced, “They need to make wiener cups smaller to fit people with little wieners like me.”

The clerk stared, speechless.

It was not my proudest moment.

The whole cup experience was a pain in the ass. Not once did a kid receive a ball to the, well, balls during the season, and it turns out the only thing the protective devices saved the kids from was the cup check itself.

Each time the team met, the four-year-olds lined up with their feet shoulder-width apart. Coach Rob walked down the line and whacked each kid in the crotch with a metal bat, one after the other. He was right—the cups saved them in the end.


CAROLYN SMUTS holds BA and MA degrees in history and enjoyed extensive academic work before fleeing to become a writer-for-hire. Prior to that, she survived a seven-year stint working at Disneyland and an array of exciting temporary positions ranging from German steel imports to Pennsylvania coal mines. Carolyn’s work has appeared in the Orange County Register, the Los Angeles Times, the Ventura County Reporter, Woman’s Day, Glamour, Level Renner, Family Circle, Self, Ultimate Motorcycling, and Creative Living magazines. Two of her books were shamefully and secretively published under pseudonyms. She lives in Southern California with her family.


Do you have a story you’d like us to consider for online publication in the Terrible Twosdays flash fiction series? Here are the submission terms and guidelines:

—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Your story should focus on the challenges of parenting. Ideally, stories should be about children aged 0 to 5, but any age (up to early teens) is acceptable. Stories may be fiction or nonfiction.
—Include the child’s age at the time of the story next to your byline.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—E-mail your submission to info@akashicbooks.com. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.

Posted: Nov 18, 2014

Category: Original Fiction, Terrible Twosdays | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,