Sunday, February 21, 2010

Waiting For Summer. (A work of fiction)

It always seemed like to me the best time to put together a game was in the morning hours, after the grass had been cut, there was that smell that would always overload your senses. The smell of freshly cut grass, some kind of flowery fragrance would often carry on a slight breeze that would kick up from a northerly direction. Usually from miss Mcgillicutty’s flower garden. Just one block away. Now the game itself was never much of a load of fun for me, but I did rather enjoy being out in the fresh air rather than being cooped up inside my room for the day. So I made the best effort to hold up my end of the bargain even though the team captain knew of my limited capabilities at takin a proper swing at one of Jeb Witherspoon’s curve balls. it wasn’t like I was the only one that couldn’t lay off that pitch, hell, it gave most of the fellas fits as I recall. That day out at Centennial park weren’t much different. Witherspoon gave us fits at the plate most of the day, Strike one! Strike Two! Strike Three.. Next batter, same result. We gave them a battle mostly by virtue of playing sound defense, they were getting close to most of the stuff our pitcher Kenny Ballard was offering, he didn’t have much a stable of pitches though, decent fastball, he could throw a slider that wasn’t half bad for a kid his age, didn’t have much of a curve though. Whenever he tried to cross up a batter with his curve, it never seemed to break right, and after awhile you could see it coming and someone would always get a piece of it.

Top of the sixth, there I am out in the shallow centerfield, Daryl Moxleys playing deep right, just shy of the fence, Jimmy Brennan’s coming up to the plate, and right away from where I’m standing, I can see him laying off the first two pitches, Kenny B throws him two straight fastballs.. I can just tell, he’s waitin for Kenny to throw that curve, he’s sittin on it.. Jimmy, he’s a smart hitter, he don’t swing for the fence much but he’ll nickel and dime you all day with those little shit drop in singles. Now he sees Daryl playing deep in right field and I just know he’s gonna pull this next pitch that way and drop it in front of him, so I turn to Daryl and motion for him to move up into shallow right but he ignores me and sure as shit, Kenny serves him up that curve ball and Jimmy pulls it into shallow right just as I’m moving that way, Daryl panics and tries to move up on him and he over plays the ball and it almost gets past him, he dives on it and comes up throwing. Jimmy rounds first and digs in hard bearing down on second base just as the throw comes in and he beats it out just barely. So now with a runner in scoring position, Kenny digs in and starts pitching, he gets the next two batters to swing at bad pitches and they hit back to back pop ups, two outs top of the sixth Mike Skinner at the plate, Mikey has power to all fields, and he’ll murder a fastball, but anything low and away he doesn’t see as well, and he usually can’t hit it very well. But Kenny tries to go that way and the pitch kinda sails up on him and Skinner gets a piece of it and burns Daryl again dropping it in shallow right in almost the same spot that Jimmy Brennan did.

Daryl gets to it though but Jimmy, damn Jimmy is fast, he’s already rounding third and heading for home plate, in a split second Daryl knows that he isn’t gonna catch up with Jimmy, so he throws to second and holds Mike skinner to a deep single. Kenny knuckles down and strikes out the next batter, some new kid that I didn’t recognize. We hang tough for the rest of the game and hold them until we get to the bottom of the ninth, we’ve got two outs and its one to nothing their favor. We’re down to our last out, Daryl steps into the box and Jeb Witherspoon serves him up a fastball first thing, and wouldn’t you just know Daryl gets a piece of it and drives it into left field for a double. Next up Pete Wiggler gets hit by a pitch that’s sails on Jeb and now we have two runners on, two runners out and I have to step up and make something happen. Jeb Witherspoon has always had my number, he always knows exactly how to pitch me, and here lately I haven’t been able to touch anything he’s thrown at me. But still I grab a bat and dig in at the plate, my muscles tighten as I see his leg raise up into the air almost in slow motion, he follows through on the pitch and delivers it right down the middle, I freeze and it blows right by me untouched. I dig in again trying not to grip the bat too tightly, trying not to over think things, Daryl’s got a big lead off at second, and Petey is jumpin around at first like a frog on a hotplate. And Jeb does something strange, he pulls up and steps off the mound for a second. Now he’s thinking about it. He steps back in, I can feel my toes digging into the dirt, everything moves in slow motion, out of his wind up he delivers the pitch and I swing with everything I have. Strange how everything works out, I feel the barrel of the bat make contact with the ball, as I follow through with my swing, Daryl and Pete are both running on contact, I run like my life depends on it. I round first still not completely sure where the ball landed, I make a bee line for second Daryl is home and Pete is rounding third. As I make my turn at second base I can see the new kid drawing a bead on home plate so I dig in for third just as Pete crosses the plate. Safe at third, safe at home, we win. 2 - 1.

I suddenly open my eyes and find myself sitting here perched in almost an unfamiliar position sitting behind my desk looking at a blank computer screen. As I lean forward, a faint refection off of the window pane behind my monitor begins to form, though not complete, I can see that the eyes staring back at me have aged considerably, and the shoulders although once broad, have slumped somewhat, and the hair that rests on them has turned a peculiar shade of gray. I pull away and stand up to look out the window, and I see an endless line of empty manicured lawns. I step out the front door and walk down a quiet side walk, my feet almost instinctively walking in the direction of Centennial Park. The base ball diamond there, is quiet now, the old backstop is worn and weathered, the grass, sparse, thin, Barely clinging to life. I walk up to it, and slowly sit down on the bench and close my eyes. I can almost smell the fresh cut grass, hear the crack of the bat, some kid scurrying to field a fly ball or a grounder. I rise and slowly turn and walk back to the sidewalk, as I head for home lost in my thoughts, I think about the not so subtle between the youth of today versus the youth of the past. I think about what they may have lost, what they may never have. It saddens me. I open my eyes with a start as I hear a small young voice tugging at my ears. I open my eyes, I am in a new park now.. There’s a young boy standing in front of me with a ball and two gloves.
“Hey Mister? I have an extra glove.. You wanna throw the ball around?”
Upon reflection I suppose the line between dreams and memories can become somewhat blurred at times, to the point where you aren’t sure where memories end and dreams begin. I look down at the boy.
“Well kid, My waistline may have exceeded its bandwidth, but I reckon the ol arm still has a fast ball or two in it.”
Here’s to dreams. And to Memories.. May they never die.

~Scratch.. A.B.T. Copyright © 2010~

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