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. . . . Id 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 Mens 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
youre 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.
Thats 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, hows 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 didnt 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 elses hay these
days (someday Bobbys hay would be there). And his house was
full, but with someone elses memories (where were those
programs!) And the sky was full of stars, wanting to hear again the
story of the stand up double and Jimmys 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 couldnt 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.
Theyll be O.K., and thats 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.