Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Flash Fiction Tuesday - Play Ball!

It's your twice-weekly dose of flash fiction! Please, no biographical fallacies here: the only similarity between myself and the character in the story is my complete and utter inability to throw a baseball. Well, that and sometimes achy knees. 

"Play Ball"
by Leonard C Suskin

"My father never taught me how to throw a baseball."

"And do you want to be your father? Do you want him to be you?"

We were looking out the big bay window towards the lawn across the street, watching Eddy, our oldest son, with the neighborhood kids. At five he was't the youngest, but not quite the oldest either. When he caught the ball - or, more accurately, picked a dropped ball up from the ground, his throw was weak and awkward, stiff-wristed, all arm and no body.

It was Sunday afternoon.

I didn't answer her last comment. There wasn't much to say. She looked from the game to me. "You watch enough baseball. Don't you see how they throw?"

"I know it isn't like that. I don't know enough to teach."

With a quiet "hrmph" noise she turned back to the window.

The modern world is a miraculous place; we carry the answers to nearly any question literally in our pockets. How to patch drywall. How often to water the lawn. What to expect in couples' therapy. How to get rid of gypsy moth caterpillars. How to tell fortunes. The many names of god, and of the devil. And, of course, how to throw a baseball.

Those sidearm, jumping, half-spinning throws you see from a major league shortstop fielding a hard grounder in the hole? That's not how you learn. Everyone on the internet seems to agree: grip, comfortably across the seams, hold the ball chest high. You don't throw with your arm and your shoulder. You throw with your wrist, your hands, your elbow, your shoulder, your hips, your legs. It's two steps of a dance; grip position on the upbeat,  pivotstepreachrelease on the downbeat.

It isn't an easy step. And I'm not a good dancer.

The previous owner had installed outdoor floodlights in the backyard. The kind with the bluewhite glare that make sit look unnatural, not artificial daylight but an oversaturated, paintedover night. I had a hard rubber ball, the side of the house. A YouTube "How To" on my phone.

Grip,lift, turnpivotthrow, thunk.
Grip,lift, turnpivotthrow, thunk.
grip, lift, turnpivotthrow, thunk.

The smack of rubber on brick played counterpoint to the voices on the AM radio, painting a word-picture of a young local kid pitching a gem for the home team.

Grip,lift, turnpivotthrow, thunk.

The blue rubber ball blackish in the nighttime light. Perhaps someday I'll watch Eddy pitching on the radio? 
I come to bed after she's fallen asleep, silently slipping under the sheets beside her.

It was Tuesday.

I awake to a dull ache in my shoulder, a persistent throbbing in my hip. Callouses on the inside of my fingers. I'm not accustomed to this. Not one bit.

In the floodlight, I chalk a square on the back of the house. Chest-high, three feet across.  Sometimes I hit it, but not many.  Again, the word picture on the radio accompanies me. The home-team's pitcher is a veteran, nearly my age. Too old to be pitching in the big leagues, really. Way too old to be starting out.

He leads the team to a win, 2-0. I catch the edge of the target, sending puffs of chalkdust into the air.

She's up watching a late movie when I come to bed, but I'm too tired to talk. I drift to sleep to the flashing lights and whispered dialog of the TV.

It was Wednesday.

Thursday is a travel day for the big league club, a late day at work for me.

Friday I get home early. It's one of those nice early summer days before it's too hot to be outside. I take Eddy out into the backyard, show him the target on the wall. It looks different in the daylight. Sharper, more real. As if the place I practiced at night was from a movie, or a dream.

I demonstrate once, and it's my best throw yet. Arms, hips, legs together, and a perfect strike in the middle of the target.

His eyes are wide and eager.

"How'd you learn to do that? Did your daddy teach you?"

I ignore the stabbing in my knees as I kneel beside him, bend my lips into a smile. "Yeah. And now it's your turn. Let me show you what he showed me."

I take his hand in mine and wrap his fingers around the ball, fingers across the seams.

No comments:

Post a Comment