Wednesday, January 07, 2009

The Streak - 14

Evan backed out of the box and tapped the dirt out of his right cleats. Not his left. He leaned the base of the bat against his groin and pulled his left glove tight, and then his right. Then he picked the bat back up in his right hand, stepped up, planted his right foot just inside the lower right-hand corner of the box and wriggled it a little until he could feel the dirt resist his spikes. He lifted his left foot and tapped his instep with the tip of his bat one time. He dropped his foot and let it rest lightly at a slight angle. He held the bat straight out from his waist so that the barrel appeared to bisect the plate. He felt his helmet. He brought the bat up over his right shoulder and gripped the handle in his fists.

The pitcher, operating from the stretch, was immobile but for his head, which he turned from side to side, glancing at Esteban on second and his catcher and back again without seeming to so much as notice his adversary at the plate. His gaze went blank as something transpired behind the webbing of his glove, where he held the ball in his right hand; some conspiracy of fingers, you could tell. The light came back in his eyes and he kicked his leg up high, pulled out the ball, stepped forward and whipped it 'round just as he had before and Evan wanted to hit it this time, knew he could hit it; he was hungry for it and so began to reach, an elemental act of will that opened a floodgate within him, and in the moment before it was manifested as massive torque upon his frame - like the moment after letting go of something but before it falls - something appeared to be terribly, terribly wrong: the ball hung in the air. Preciously. Mockingly. A changeup. Evan did everything he could to stop what he'd let loose. He twisted his knees, tried to turn against himself, tried to pull at his bat, pleaded for a momentary dispensation from the laws of physics. Evan wound up stabbing the dirt with his right knee and landing on his ass, the bat rolling half up on the grass.

"Strike two!"

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