“Remember that time we almost lost to Hugheyville?”
“Yeah,” Dan Dimmelmeier replied. “Us playing against a school so small that they barely had enough boys in the student body to field a team.”
“Went into the seventh inning trailing by a run,” his best friend, Brandin Porcher, recalled.
“Then we tied it on a single after two walks,” Dan said.
“I hit a routine ground ball in the hole, kid booted it, and we had the lead. All we had to do was shut it down.”
“Well, I did, didn’t I?”
“Yep,” Brandin said. “You didn’t throw a single strike. Crossed me up twice. They were so surprised, having a chance to beat us, they were swinging at everything. Two of the three strikeouts, I had to go chase the ball and throw the kid out at first.”
“I didn’t give ’em a pitch to hit,” Dan said, laughing.
They sat in lawn chairs, far down the right-field line, atop a mound that had been formed parallel behind both foul lines and the cyclone fences. The old friends liked their privacy. Their sons were playing now.
Dan reached in the pocket of his Claywood Clippers windbreaker.
“Here’s a little something,” he said and slipped it into Brandin’s fist. Everyone else was watching the game.
“Hunnert fitty, right?”
Brandin handed him an envelope, the kind a bank used for withdrawals of a hundred dollars or more. Dan knew he didn’t need to count it. They had been buds for twenty-five years. He couldn’t wait to try it.
Not much had changed.
Down the hill, sitting in the simple, open-ended shack that provided the relief corps shelter, were Lachey Porcher (la-SHAY por-SHAY), the team’s closer, and his best friend, Joshua Dimmelmeier, who caught and played first base frequently but wasn’t a starter at either. At the beginning of games, his principal utility was as the bullpen catcher. The roles had reversed in a generation. The white pitcher’s son was now a catcher, and the African-American catcher’s son hurled in relief. They were best friends, though, just like their dads.
When the pitching coach, Snuffy Tedison, who dipped snuff, went out to coach first base, he left the bullpen unsupervised. The bottom of the first was when Lachey Porcher swapped a bag of weed to Joshua Dimmelmeier for a hundred fifty dollars that weren’t from a formal bank but rather the stash where Joshua kept his weed, his papers, and the paper money he saved for more weed. His weed had been gone. Now it was tucked away in his first baseman’s mitt because he knew that, at least in the early stages of the game, he was only going to need to be a catcher. He zipped up his Clippers Baseball bag for some protection from a hapless teammate who might grab his scoop to play catch or a sneaky one who might suspect what was in it. The bag was under the bench beneath his feet. There was a pretty small chance anyone had noticed. They all had their earbuds in, now that Coach Snuffy was posted at distant first base.
With two out in the bottom of the sixth inning, and the score tied, Ozzie Abercrombie strode to the plate with evangelical fervor. Ozzie’s father, the Reverend Hobart Abercrombie, had not named his only boy by thumbing through his Bible. Though he had never been called anything but Ozzie, his first name was Ozymandias because the reverend wanted to ingrain humility in his son. He read the poem to the boy when he got old enough to understand it, but its meaning got lost once Ozzie reached high school and the work of Percy Bysshe Shelley showed up in his senior English textbook. The other kids in school paid little attention to the irony. They focused on “Look upon my works, ye mighty, and despair!” That’s when they started looking up to Ozymandias Abercrombie as a bad ass.
A breaking ball sailed high and outside. Ozzie was looking “dead red,” which meant he was looking for a fastball, about crotch high and down the middle. A fastball arrived next from the lanky lefthander of the Updike Authors, or as they were known in Claywood, the Arthurs. Ozzie, who batted lefthanded, was at a disadvantage against a southpaw. The kid backed him off the plate, high and tight. Two and oh. Come to Papa, Ozzie thought.
He wasn’t disappointed. He pulled it to right-center field. A man announcing the game at a folding table behind the screen started yelling, but all anybody could make out was his repeated use of the word “no-doubter.” It landed in the tops of the trees beyond the fence.
Between third base and home, Ozzie looked up in the stands to see his father and mother cheering, and a row below them, Larry Creighton, his wife Laura, and their sixteen-year-old daughter, Francie, smiling and clapping. Tears reddened Francie’s smiling features, which had a sorrowful edge. That’s because she was pregnant, and it was Ozzie’s responsibility. And Ozzie’s father, the Reverend Hobart Abercrombie, was also strong in spirit but weak in the flesh, and he was spending time illicitly in the company of Laura Creighton, whose husband Larry was the youth minister. Helena Abercrombie suspected such a liaison and was looking for a way to get back at Hobart, most preferably with Larry Creighton.
The third baseman, Jerry Silbermann, struck out to end the inning. Lachey Porcher arrived to shut the door on the Arthurs, retiring them in order while his buddy, Joshua Dimmelmeier, watched from the bullpen, happy at the impending victory but with a dull edge of melancholy because Ozzie Abercrombie stood between him and playing first base and he hadn’t gotten so much as a chance to pinch-hit.
Out of the whole imperfect, sinful bunch, not one was going to let any of the problems bother them tonight.
As you may have noticed, I use these blogs as a promotional tool for my novels. One, Crazy of Natural Causes, has been out since late July of 2015.
Another, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, will be out soon. I’m expecting to be given a release date soon. It’s a crime novel about corruption and patronage in a small town. The tale unfolds across two generations at the same time.
Crazy and Trespasses are my third and fourth novels. The Audacity of Dope was published in 2011, The Intangibles in 2013.
I’m working on a fifth, Cowboys Come Home. Most of my books can be examined and purchased here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1
My nonfiction, much of which involves sports, is on display here: http://montedutton.com/
Follow me on Twitter @montedutton, @hmdutton (about writing) and @wastedpilgrim (more humor and opinion). I’m on Facebook at Monte.Dutton and Instagram at Tug50. Look for me by name at Google+. Whew. It’s too much.