Friday, January 09, 2009

The Streak - 15

Evan patted the dust off his knees and ass and picked up his bat. He was a bit shaken but he'd be OK in a minute. This pitcher got on top of him and it was his job to get on top back, that's all. Tap right cleats, bat-groin, pull gloves tight, bat in right hand, plant right foot, wriggle, lift left foot, tap one time, foot slight angle, bat straight out, bisect plate, feel helmet, bat over shoulder and handle in fists.

The pitcher looked back and forth to second base and home again, just as he'd done before, a replay of a hologram. He wound up and delivered and Evan thought he'd get the slider this time and that's what he got: the ball emerged with pace but Evan had his eye on it the whole way and he thought he knew just where it'd break. Again he released his shoulders, arms and legs; he rotated his body with full force and conviction and a desire to pull the ball from down around his knees and up into the stratosphere. But his brain perceived something that filled him with shame, regret and worry even as the ball was on its split-second voyage home. Kyle was sprinting for second base. Evan missed the bunt sign. His swing was instantly corrupted; he made good contact with the ball, feeling it weigh against the sweet spot for an instant, but his will to drive it was gone, replaced by a dreadful hesitation. The ball shot hard off his bat, to the right of the pitcher's ducking head and directly into the head-high glove of the second baseman, who promptly tagged second and ran back to tag Kyle, scrambling in futile retreat, thus recording the 15th unassisted triple play in the history of Major League Baseball.

Evan walked numbly toward the dugout as the bewildered silence in the stands gave way to raucous boos. Jim Bosworth was standing by the steps and Evan could see that his face was red and his mouth was opening and closing spasmodically, like some infernal ventriloquist's doll. As Evan approached the boos grew louder and Bosworth's mouth kept moving and Evan couldn't hear what he was saying but he could guess. At about ten feet away he began to hear.

"... a stupider fucking cocksucker than you! Get the fuck over here, you fucking piece of shit! You call yourself a motherfucking professional ball player, you cunt!? You don't look for the sign when you're at the fucking plate in a goddamn game of baseball!? Cunt?"

Evan nodded solemnly and walked down the steps. Bosworth hounded him into the dugout. A strand of spittle extended from the corner of his trembling mouth to the left shoulder of his jersey.

"Are you listening to me, I said cunt? Is that what you fucking are? You son of a bitch? I'm not gonna stop yelling until you get your next hit, you know what? You overpriced fucking jerkoff! You wanna play in the Little Leagues? You don't look for the sign!?"

Evan picked his glove up off the bench and turned back around. Bosworth persisted.

"Are you new to the game? Tell me. Are you a fucking little boy? Didn't your mamma teach you to take a sign? Did you take a fucking shit in your pants, for fuck's sake?"

Evan gamely hopped up the steps and trotted out toward third base. He could feel the prickly heat of Bosworth's taunts until they were masked again by the jeers and howls of the crowd.

"That's right, go back out there and play baseball you fucking piece of shit! Go catch a fucking grounder, you fucking jerkoff! Open up your fucking eyes, cocksucker!"

Illustration by Louise Asherson

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