Summer of Dreams

December 19, 1998

“I slid in hard and bounced to my feet, and the home crowd roared. The tag from short was late and, oh, the look on his face. . . . I’d done my job; the score was now tied and runners on second and third. As I started to pat myself off he suddenly spun about and turned and threw home. No! Jimmy, poor Jimmy, decided to break for home. The throw was early and he stopped five steps short. They had him in a rundown with two outs and everything on the line.”

“A rundown this time?”, said an old man with unkempt hair and a flannel shirt now dimmed with age. “Last time he was tagged out sliding”, he said, as he pressed sideways between the tall stools and sauntered his way down the trodden path to the Men’s room.

“It WAS a rundown, and I had to sit there at second, helpless. I did MY part and Jimmy let us down”. The story ran on, down its path, to the tie in the 10th and that ball dropped in left in the 11th. Suddenly, once again, the tired season was over.

It was a grand and glorious day, and he had to dispute that little voice that told him the game was lost. He WAS a hero, and the game WAS almost his single-handedly. And the story trailed off, always backward from there. Never forward to the next season and the reassignment and the month in cold Montana where man was never meant to play baseball.

How was it that he came back? A train? Hitch-hiked? And where did he stop? And who met him on the porch, the porch with the swing that only company could use? Who was it that said, not ‘glad you’re home’, not ‘tell me about that double’, but simply that the hay would need stacking and Hank was laid up? How much hay had he loaded on trucks one bale at a time?

“But the summer before, ah, that was a year. Everybody fresh and young.”

“Ohhh, the best of the best”, moaned in the man sitting on his right, not even looking up from his half-empty beer.

“That’s right! We were young and full of energy, we had more raw talent on that team than any ....”

But the stranger on his left had already looked away. “Been pretty dry this year, how’s the hay coming in?”. And suddenly everybody had an opionion and the moment, and the season, and the train trip “all the way to Florida” was lost in the din of the small crowd.

He was sitting on the swing, his swing now, as the blue sky turned to red and to black, and the stars came out, one by one, filling the sky like bleachers during early batting practice. You know they were there to see him, the ‘up and comer’, and he would sign their programs so they could pull them out one day and say “I knew him when he played” right here in Fayetteville, in Scranton, in Butte. He kept the scorecards, too, somewhere, but didn’t need to pull them out anymore. With Bobby grown and off in the service and sweet Marie down at the church, there was simply nobody left to show them to.

His fields were still full, but with someone else’s hay these days (someday Bobby’s hay would be there). And his house was full, but with someone else’s memories (where were those programs!) And the sky was full of stars, wanting to hear again the story of the stand up double and Jimmy’s heads up play, beating the throw this time, and sending the team home with the championship (where were those pictures?). Where had Marie put them and why did she never tell him about all the little things you have to do and have to remember and have to keep in case somebody calls and needs to know someone's telephone number or where a policy is kept?

Bobby tried, but couldn’t help. He came by on leave, last time showing off, (was her name ‘Susan’?), like a shiney new car. Susan was so pretty, and smelled so nice, and she sat and listened to the crowd and the tag at second, even after Bobby waved his arm and went inside for another cool can of beer.

They’ll be O.K., and that’s all that matters. And the stars winked and said he was right, that everything would be O.K. This time everything would be O.K. Then they asked again to hear about the play that won the game, and the crowds, and the train ride to Florida.

Copyright, 1998, All rights reserved

Written: December 1998
First Upload: February 2, 2000
Last Update: April 22, 2001