Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Dreamers Chapter 14 of 47

Chapter 14 The Dreamers

Gloria goes to tell Mel she is leaving for a while. We head out to my car after she changes clothes in Mel’s office. She threw on a pair of blue-jeans and a light blue turtle-neck top, she looked so beautiful. It was hard to imagine the mess she had caused, but I could somehow begin to understand how upset she would have be to have her dreams dashed due to some prank. Truly amazing.

At the hospital we find Gus, Mary, Red, Skip McCormick the Pirate Manager, Emma and Joe Curtain in the waiting room. Sitting next to Emma was a most attractive young, woman who beginning to show her pregnancy. It must be Sharon Curtain I thought. They were all sitting on 2 sofas in the waiting room. As Gus and Red spot Gloria and I coming down the corridor, Gus comes to meet us half way.

“Gus, have you heard anything from Doc Martin,” I asked softly? The marble floors and concrete walls make sound travel too easily. Mary had stopped her conversation with Emma Curtain and came to meet us.

“What we know is that he was in Intensive Care, but on the critical list, and everyone thought he was stable. They knew he had some brain tumor, that was the dark spot they saw on the X-ray, but they were hoping he would get stronger vital signs before they undertook such a grueling operation. He never did come out of the coma. Doc said he was sure there would have been vision damage even complete blindness in his left eye. The funny thing is that no one knew about his brain tumor, not Joe, Emma, or even Sharon, his wife, that’s her sitting over there next to Emma,” finished Gus.

“Can you believe it,” asked Mary? “No one knew about his brain tumor. How could that be?”

I excuse myself and walk to the Curtains. I introduce myself.

“Excuse me,” I begin. “I’m Bill Alan of the Monarchs, and I just wanted to say how sorry I am for what has happened. I never wanted anything like this to happen; I even hate it when someone gets hit by a pitch. Please believe me when I tell you how sorry I am.”

“You’re the boy who hit the ball, aren’t you,” asked Emma?

I look down to the floor in shame. “Yes, maam, I am,” I admit to her and their family.

“We wanted to talk to you sooner, but didn’t know who you were,” she added softly. “We want you to know we hold no ill feelings toward you or any of the Monarchs. Please don’t carry this burden around with you for the rest of your life. IT WAS AN ACCIDENT, NOTHING MORE,” she said firmly. “You need to believe that right now.”

“She’s right,” said Sharon Curtain as she reached out and touched my hand. “Please don’t blame yourself for this. We know you could not plan this or stop this from happening. I was just a freak accident.”

She looked warmly at me as tear started to well up in my eyes. I did my best, but one rolled down my cheek. Sharon was quick to wipe it away with her soft, little hand. “Hey,” she said, “It was just an accident, OK?”

“OK,” I said. “If there is anything I can do for you, just say the word. I gave Sharon a piece of paper that I had written my name, address, and phone number on. I also included the Monarch’s contact information who could always track me down. “Please, call me if you need anything, really,” I conclude. I squeeze Sharon’s hand and as I rise up I reach out to meet Joe Curtain’s out-stretched hand and we shake warmly. I nod to Emma who went back to be seated with Sharon. I go back over and re-join Mary, Gus, and Gloria.

“They started the autopsy about two hours ago,” said Gus. “They decided to perform it right here rather than move the body. The Monarch’s owner heard about it last night and called the hospital administrator and is paying for all the arrangements, including the autopsy. He will also take care of Sharon Curtain once this is settled. If the best doctor was in Bangladesh you can bet George would have him here pronto. He is funny that way. He has asked us to keep him informed all the way.”

As we were talking Sharon Curtain came over to us and tapped me on the shoulder. “Can we go for a little walk,” she asked? “We need to talk.”

With that we made our way down the hall, walking very slowly. I was getting somewhat more nervous with every step. I didn’t know if I was up to this or not. What kind of bomb shell was she going to drop on me?

“As the news of Chuck’s accident reached me from Joe and Emma,” she began, “I started to make arrangements to come here. I called my folks in Florida, and Chuck’s brother and sister in Arizona and California. I then called our family doctor, Dr. Franks.” Sharon paused for a long time with a serious look on her face.
“He came over to the house right away and he dropped quite a bomb on me,” she continued. “Seemed Chuck had gone to see him over these awful headaches he was having. Chuck even complained that he would lose the feeling in his arm once in a while. He refused Dr.’s offer of running some tests to see what was causing it. Doc then told me that Chuck even admitted that he would black-out once in a while. It always happed when he was alone, so no one else knew. Chuck made the Doc swear not to tell a soul about this. He never did.”

“Why would he want to keep such a secret from you,” I asked?

You see, Bill,” Sharon went on, “we lost our first child, a son we named Barry, five months ago. It was that sudden infant death syndrome, you’ve probably heard about it where children just stop breathing in their sleep. Well, anyway, it was really tough on us for a while. I guess especially me. I was mad at God, mad at the doctors, just mad at the world I guess. I just couldn’t understand what I could have done that was so bad to deserve this happening to my child. I went to Church every Sunday, even Wednesday nights once in a while. I’ve never been with any other man, Chuck was it. I think that is why Chuck never told me. He was afraid I couldn’t handle it, I guess. So he never did tell me. Doc did tell me that Chuck was afraid that if they performed surgery he might not be able to play ball again, he feared that something would go wrong during the operation. Doc Franks told me he desperately tried to convince Chuck with the great advances they’ve made it could probably be removed successfully, but Chuck was not buying it. Chuck was always great for putting things off, anyway.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing from Sharon. “I’m so sorry,” I reply to Sharon. “What a terrible mistake, all of this.”

“Bill, the reason I am telling you this is that I don’t want you to go through the rest of your live carrying ten tons of guilt about this,” added Sharon. She stopped walking, turned and looked me square in the eyes. She reached out and threw her arms threw mine and around my chest, burying her head in my chest, starting to sob.

“Sharon,” I begin as I put my arms around her trying to console her, “don’t worry about me. I am more worried about you and this baby you are about to have. My problems are small compared to what you are looking at. I think you would agree.”

She released her arms from me and pulled back to look at me. “I’m not worried about any of that she said. Chuck has $2 million of life insurance so money is not going to be a problem, no father for my child is, but there are many other people with worse problems than mine. I will be able to afford to deal with mine and I have a loving, supportive family behind me. Many single moms don’t,” she concluded.

“You are taking this better than I ever thought you would,” I add. “I guess all you know and have gone through has brought you to this point.

“What you must understand, Bill,” Sharon went on, “is that one day Chuck could have fallen over dead in some gas station wash room from this tumor he would not deal with. Whether it was a hit baseball or nothing at all, it doesn’t matter. Problems never go away. We must deal with them the best we know how and get on with it. Chuck couldn’t do it and so here we are today. He probably should not have been out on that mound pitching. He always complained about these wicked headaches, but kept telling me it was just migraines. We know now it wasn’t.”

We talked just a little longer and Sharon gave me another hug, which I returned. We made our way back to the families waiting for us. They still had not heard anything.

Joe Curtain spoke. “I think we’d like to go get some lunch if that is all right with you folks?”

With that the Nurse came over and asked if we could join her in a private room off the main corridor. The Curtain family headed off, but Sharon turned to see us all standing still. She motioned for us to follow.

“You all come with us,” she stated. “There is no reason for you not to be with us. There are no secret here. She motioned again for us to follow, which we did. We entered the room with the Nurse, Doc martin, and another Doctor.

“My name is Dr. Rosenbaum,” he began. “I am afraid I have some rather startling new for you. Chuck Curtain had a very large brain tumor. The sad part was that I truly believe that it was operable and it was not malignant, which would have made any surgery less dangerous. The size of the tumor would have caused him terrible headaches, and might have even caused occasional black outs, or at the least severe dizzy spells. Did Chuck ever complain to anyone about this?”

Sharon filled the Doctor in on what she had told me. He just stood there, shaking his head. Emma and Joe were shocked. Emma started crying uncontrollably. Joe held her tight. Everyone looked at each other.

“Well,” Doctor Rosenbaum continued, “that was only part of it. The autopsy found a huge amount of cocaine in his system. I am quite surprised he could even make it out of bed let alone pitch in a baseball game!” he concluded.

Everyone in the office was stunned. The silence was broken only by Emma’s increased sobbing which was muffled by her face being buried in Joe’s chest. Sharon Curtain didn’t move or make a sound which kind of frightened me. I guess my chauvinism was expecting her to fall apart. Skip McCormick moved up near Sharon and put his arm around her shoulders. He was visibly upset.

“Sharon, I don’t know what to say,” Skip began. “I really can’t believe it. We are drug tested all the time. Not once did he test positive for anything. How can this be?”

“Well, there is no doubt about it,” said Dr. Rosenbaum. “We double checked everything. It was definitely cocaine.”

“How soon can I begin to make arrangement to transport my husband’s body back to Maine for burial,” asked Sharon?

“We can have him ready by the morning if that will be alright with you,” replied Doc Martin?

“That will be fine,” replied Sharon.

Mary went over to Sharon and Emma.” “Let’s go back over to the Dodges and get some lunch. I think Emma could use some piece and quiet. A little rest might do us all some good,” she concluded, coaxing them to move into the hallway.

With that, Mary and Sharon moved down the corridor arm in arm. The men all shook the doctor’s hands and thanked them for their efforts. We were all so numb, not really believing what we had heard. I felt prepared, but not for this kind of news. His death was one thing, but his medical condition and cocaine use were something else all together. This is a game of pulled muscles not Last Rites. I couldn’t help of thinking of Sharon and her baby as Gloria and I made our way down the hall and into the elevator. It was a very quiet ride to the ground floor. None of it made any sense. At least not to me.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Dreamers Chapter 13 of 47

Chapter 13 The Dreamers

Red decided to scratch me from tonight’s game. I can’t say whether he was right or wrong for doing it. Emotionally I was pretty low, but I thought all the talk from Dick was going to help. Honestly, I was not that disappointed when he told me. The season was only two games old, but it seemed like a hundred games had gone by. I felt sluggish even though I hit great in the cage. Maybe I’ll get to pinch hit or something.

Scott Andrews came up to me as I sat in from of my locker, tapped me on the shoulder and told me Red wanted to see me in the office. Gus and Mario joined him there.

“Bill, I know you saw the line-up card tonight without your name on it,” Red started. “I think tonight it is the right thing to do. We still made need you to pinch hit or something. You’ll be back in there on Tuesday when you take the mound for the first time. I have decided that you will pitch Tuesday night’s game, just as we had planned. Neither Gus, Mario, nor I feel that an extended period of time off is an answer. I’m going to put in Del Ray, our back-up catcher at third for tonight. But if the game gets close I will probably put you in for defensive purposes. Our pitchers deserve a better fate then Del Ray at Third base. I think you would agree.

Marion and Gus started laughing. A smile broke across my face even though I knew it was bad to think poorly of a teammate. What Red said was true, having seen Del try and take infield practice with us. It was hard to see someone who was such a good defensive catcher look so lost in the infield. He did have a strong arm and was willing to take anything off his body to block the ball. But, just the same, he was considered dangerous and a liability.

Red, I understand,” I reply. “I am a little down, but working with Dick was a big help. I’ll be ready to do what ever you want. I appreciate all that you are doing. I really do.”

“It might be good for you to get in a little throwing off the mound in the middle innings, just don’t leave too much of it there. We have a game on Tuesday remember. Is that OK with you?”

“That’s fine with me,” I reply. “Anything else?”

“Go shag some balls in the outfield and get in some running,” instructed Red. “I think you’ve had enough BP for the day. And another thing, I just want to say how sorry we all are, but trust everything will work out fine. ”

The Pirate players were all wearing the number 23 on their sleeve in memory of Curtain as I made my way out onto the field. This season would be tough enough for them I thought. Chuck Curtain had a lot of friends on this team. Some had been promoted from their rookie league team in Florida with him. Others had just arrived from other teams.

Don Jackson, our starting pitcher, got through the first inning giving up only a lead off single that was erased in a double play. Adams, Andrews and Tavy too care of that.

In our half of the first Jones doubled to right center on the first pitch. He stole third. Mike Adams hit a foul pop that the Pirate catcher made a nice play on sliding into our dugout, but came up with the ball unhurt.

Tavy hitting third, stroked a line-single into left field, going the other way again, scoring Ross Jones with the first run, giving us a 1 to 0 lead. Reggie Bond hit a tower fly to the warning track in left that was caught that almost made it 2 to 0, and Scott Andrews struck out to end our half of the first.

Through the fourth inning the teams traded base hits, but could not score any more runs. We still led 1 to 0 going into the fifth.

The Pirates mounted a threat in the top of the fifth. Jackson walked the lead-off hitter. The next batter tried to lay down a sacrifice bunt and dropped the ball just to the left of the mound. Jackson came off the mound, but did not hear Bolton calling him off. As he tried to make the play himself as he reached down for the ball his cleats didn’t dig in the ground and he crashed down on the seat of his pants. He tried to get up and make a throw, but it was too late. The Pirates had men on first and second with no outs. Mark Moran, their clean-up hitter was up and the Pirate bench started to heat up with some chatter. Jackson knew he was in a spot and now he knew that bunt play was Bolton’s all the way, but it was too late to worry about that now. You could tell by the way he was firing the ball into his glove 3 or 4 times as he waked up to the top of the mound. Bolton patted him on the butt, shouting encouragement on his way back behind the plate.

Jackson knew he had his work cut out for him. He had to be careful pitching to Moran. He couldn’t afford to walk him as Moran hit 35 homers in A last year. Michaelson, their big catcher was on deck and was no easy out either.

Jackson threw the first pitch fastball way outside in the dirt with Bolton making a great play to save it on his knees. Bolton got up and took a couple of steps toward the mound and said something to Jackson as he threw the ball back. Bolton got set as Jackson looked for the sign. He took a deep breath, exhaling very hard. Jackson went set, looked at second, and threw a fastball right down the middle that Moran got all of, depositing it in the next county, just foul. The crowd gave the largest collective sigh of relieve I had ever heard. As soon as the ball left Moran’s bat Red took his hat off and slapped in against his leg real hard. The ball was hit so high and far you would have thought it was a rocket launch at Cape Kennedy. The Pirates could have been leading 3 to 1, but it was nothing but a long, loud, strike one.

Jackson threw Moran nothing but off-speed stuff from then on, striking him out on wicked curveball in the dirt at Moran’s feet. He also got Michaelson on an easy pop to short, and got a fly ball to left for the third out. The crowd went wild as Jones squeezed it in left-center field. Jackson took his hat off and wiped his forehead as he walked off the mound. That was a close one. Amazing what a difference one pitch can make in an inning.

“Billy, grab a bat and hit for Ray,” stated Red from the bullpen telephone. “This one run lead is making me nervous. Get something started for us, will ya.”

I walked down from the pen along the left field foul line and picked up two of my bats and my helmet. As I climbed down the dugout stairs I stuffed my soft hat in my right back pocket, inside out. I dropped my bats onto the on-deck circle and pushed my batting helmet onto my head. The batboy handed me the pine tar rag and the rosin bag. I used a little of both on my bat handle. I picked up the weighted bat and began to get lose as I was announced to the crowd. A big roar went up as my name was announced. Reggie was kneeling down next to the circle. Reggie had a big grin on his face, like he always does. Those white teeth of his could nearly blind somebody.

“What are you smiling at you big lug,” I said? “You know something I don’t?”

“I’ll always know something you don’t,” said Reggie. “You rookies don’t know anything,” he said with a little laugh. “Now go up there and don’t embarrass your whole family.”

With that I smile back and make my way to the plate. I stepped into the batter’s box and smoothed out the dirt as I found my footing and began to dig in. the Pirate catcher, Moran, winked at me.

“Doesn’t get any better than this, does it kid,” he said. “Getting paid to play a kid’s game, who would believe it?”

“Play ball,” the umpire shouted as I took my practice swings over the plate. I tried to relax as I looked out to the mound. For a moment I saw the ball jump off my bat and hit Curtain in the face. I asked for time and jumped out of the box.

“You all right, kid,” asked the Ump?

“Kid, shake it off,” said Moran. “Get back in here and forget about last night. It’s over. Time to play another game. Come on, let’s go.”

I looked at him and the umpire as they were waiting for me to get set again. He was right. Let’s get on with it. I looked at Red who was clapping his hands in the third base coach’s box. “Come on Billy, hit your pitch,” said Red.

I can do this I said to myself. I get back in the box and start my routine all over again. I take the first pitch for a called strike, fastball right down the middle. I should have swung at it, but I couldn’t.

My teammates were cheering me on from the dugout, chanting my name. The crowd was getting louder with every passing second. The second pitch was on the way, a fastball inside. I turned on it and hit a rocket just inside the bag at third. The Pirate third baseman dove, but came up empty as I approached first base. I rounded the first base bag and the ball rattled around in the left field corner and I cruised into second base standing up with a double. The fans erupted chanting my name. “Bill-lee, Bill-lee, Bill-lee!” I put my hand on me knees as the tears streamed down my face. The second base umpire called time.

“You alright kid,” the umpire asked?

“Ya, I’m fine,” I reply, quickly wiping the teas from my face before I look up. “I think I’m going to be OK.”

We went on to win our third game in a row as Dave Bolton hit a towering home run to dead center driving me in and giving us a 3 to 0 lead. Later in the inning with Bill Marshall batting for Jackson in the eighth, he walked. Jones toped a little roller off to the side of the mound for an infield single. Adams hit a liner to second with both runners just able to scramble back to first and second. That brought up Tavy with Bond to follow. The fans were going nuts.

Tavy took the first pitch curve for a strike. He stepped out of the box and took a good long look at Red at third. Red had no play on as he did not want to take the bat out of Jon’s hands. He stepped back in and dropped the end up the bat in the middle of home plate. He then rolled his wrists and made big circles with his bat ala Willie Stargell. The pitch arrived as Jon met it with a nice level swing and lined a one-hop single to left. The left fielder charged hard and made a perfect throw home, but Red had held Marshall at third. The bases were juiced and Reggie Bond was coming to the plate. We were about to break this game wide open.

The Pirate manager signaled for a new pitcher, but it made no difference. Reggie deposited his first pitch way over the right-center-field wall, a mammoth homerun that must have traveled nearly 500 feet, clearing the bases and giving Reggie his first Grand Slam of the year and the Yankees a 7 to 0 lead.

Morse closed out another game with a perfect ninth inning with 2 strikeouts and the Monarchs won 3 in a row. The locker room was joyous to say the least. You would have thought it was Times Square on New Year’s Eve. Everyone was congratulating each other. Even I became so caught up in the clubhouse excitement that the previous day’s events lay dormant in my mind.

The team showed a lot of character tonight. Don Jackson brought me over a cold Coke and thanked me for my getting the team started and giving him some breathing room. I told him the way he pitched the one run we had was all he needed, which was true.

“You pitched a great game, tonight,” I said to Jackson. “Did you feel good out there?”

“Are you kidding,” he said with a smile. “I left the bullpen with nothing. My curveball was flat; everything I threw Bolton warming up was way high. I was surprised when I survived the first inning, but then it came to me in the second. I’ll never figure it out. This is some crazy game, isn’t it? Nice hitting.” He shook his head as he got up and started to go over to his locker.

Bolton called a great game for Jackson. Catchers never get enough credit for keeping pitcher in a game. He knew he wasn’t sharp, but kept on him the whole time, getting him to keep the ball down, hoping it would eventually come to him.

“I guess it was just what the doctor ordered,” said Jackson as he just got up from his chair next to mine. He looked at me and wanted to take it back as soon as he said it.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “What a stupid thing to say right now.”

As soon as he said the words he wanted to take them back, but it was too late. My mind started tracing back to last night’s game. Chuck Curtain, Doc Martin, Emma and Joe Curtain…I needed to get dressed and get to the hospital and find out what is going on I thought. What am I doing sitting here gloating over a baseball game?

“Bill, I’m sorry,” Don rushed to say as he reached out touching my shoulder. “That was sure stupid of me. Sometimes I forget to engage my brain before I speak. Don’t let me spoil this celebration for you and us.”

“Don, it’s OK,” I reply getting up out of my chair. “Hey, we all need to get on with it, don’t we? It’s all going to be alright somehow.”

Don noticed a little smile coming back on my face. I could sense how relieved he was by the way some nervous laughter escaped from his face.

“Ya, that’s right, Bill,” said Dave, “things will work out fine, you’ll see.”

As he excused himself to clean up and go meet his wife I could see how much pressure last night was putting on all of us, too afraid to say the wrong thing. Even those not directly involved couldn’t remove themselves from some level of pain and sorrow, but tonight this celebration was just what the team needed. This young season was off to a great start. I felt happy for Red, Mario, and Gus. They deserved a winner for a change. I was going to be apart of it.

I was one of the last players to dress and leave after the game. Mario came back into toe locker room to tell me someone was waiting to see me. I asked him who it was, but he said I’d find out soon enough. I pulled my dark blue knit shirt over my head and just ran my fingers thru my very damp hair to put it in some order. Who ever it was would just have to take me as I was tonight. I kicked most of the other things into my locker floor and threw my uniform and towel in the laundry cart. I put on my black leather coat and headed out through the double-doors to the corridor leading to the parking lot.

There was Gloria waiting just outside the doors. I didn’t know quite what to say. As soon as she saw me she raced over and threw her arms around my neck and squeezing me like she would never let go. I immediately threw my arms around her, holding her tight, pushing my face hard into her warm neck. It felt wonderful. I don’t know how long we stood their holding each other, but it could have lasted forever a far as I was concerned.

In a while Gloria loosened her grip from around my neck, just enough to draw her head back enough to start softly kissing my cheek near my ear. She began moving around to my face and began gently kissing around my lips in a circular pattern. I let her do what she wanted. It was very nice. I just stood there enjoying it all. Then she moved right onto my mouth and gave me the warmest kiss I think I have ever had in my life. The passion I was feeling started to make me more the aggressor as I joined in to this remarkable kiss. Our breathing became labored and neither of us wished to stop. Our cheeks became very moist. I pulled back from the kiss to see that tears were streaming down her face. She placed her fingers across my lips.

“Please don’t say anything,” she said softly. “Can we just be quiet for a while?” She kissed me warm and passionately again. How could I say no to that?

She pulled back and brushed her hands across her cheeks wiping the tears away. I smiled and put my arm around her shoulder leading us to the exit, not saying a word. I did not want to say anything stupid and spoil this moment.

We got into my car and I just started driving with no particular destination in mind. I got on I-91 north heading toward Hartford. At the Capitol exit I moved off the interstate fond a parking spot at Bushnell Park Green. I got out and opened the door for Gloria. We walked back and forth around the part, holding hands, but still not saying anything. I found us a bench and we sat for awhile. I put both of my arms on the top of the bench back, looking up at the sky. I had to break the silence.

“I can’t tell you want a pleasant surprise it was to see you waiting outside that door at the ballpark, waiting for me,” I said to Gloria who was starring at the ground. “I really need someone to take to tonight. If I could have picked someone it would have been you. I wanted to call you but didn’t feel right about it after our last meeting and all.” The sounds of the birds fill the silence as I finished talking.

“I heard what happened in the game, and then, about, well anyway I felt for once in my life it was my turn to be there for somebody,” Gloria began. “My mother has been telling me how stupid I was for turning you away. She said she could tell how much I really loved you, and you me, and that what I was doing just didn’t make any sense. If Bob Lollar really cared about me things would be different already, but they are not, because he is NOT. He probably never will be. She told me that I needed to understand that he is history, not the future, and that I needed to wake up and see it for what it was. My letting you go could be the biggest mistake of my life.”

She leaned her head into my shoulder, her hair touching my cheek. She stayed there for about a minute, then raised up and looked at me.

“I know I may be way out of line here, especially after sending you away like I did,” she continued in a soft voice. “But, I do realize now that I do really love you and how much I care for you. Sometimes I get confused, but I would like another chance if you’ll have me back,” she asked sheepishly?

I moved toward Gloria and kissed her as warmly and passionately as I knew how. She kissed me back with just as much passion and feeling.

“I would like for us to start over,” I said warmly. “I do love you and care for you very much. Where this will lead I can’t say for sure, and it sure isn’t going to be easy with the Lollars and all, but we can make this work if we both want it.”

A smile broke out across Gloria’s face. What a beautiful, perfectly wonderful face she had. So radiant, so innocent, so stunning, I thought to myself. I was one lucky guy.

“I think we should start heading for home,” I offered. “It’s getting late and some people will be wondering where you and I are. I have another important stop to make when we get back to town. I think it would be best if I make it alone,” I conclude.

“I understand, said Gloria as she kisses me warmly again. “Let’s go home.”

The twenty minute ride was peaceful as he sat next to me hugging my right are very tightly the whole way home. The console was certainly in the way, but we’d be alright.

The Chicago Symphony was playing on NPR. I really had not desire to change the station. It might be better if no lyrics were being sung tonight. This was more than I had hoped for. This only happened in fairy tails, didn’t it?

I dropped Gloria off at her house and I kissed her good night in the car. We promised to talk tomorrow. I couldn’t wait. It felt good to have someone to care for and that cared for you as well. I needed to feel it right now more than ever. Then I thought about Sharon Curtain and how she would need for someone to be there for her. I couldn’t even imagine how she was feeling right now. Would she ever be happy again? Could she ever be happy again? Would she want me to come to the hospital? Mary would know what I should do.

As I pulled into the drive way only a small light was on in the kitchen. I went in the back door like always. I could see the flickering lights from the TV set in the living room. Gus was fast asleep. Mary seemed to have already gone to bed. There was a note on the kitchen table:

Bill, Doc Martin has Mel Brinkman assisting in the Autopsy on Tuesday.
He feels there is something strange about Curtain’s death. He will be starting early Tuesday and should have all the results back by late Wednesday. He’ll keep in touch as soon as he knows anything.
They also found out that Sharon Curtain is expecting their first child.
She is due in tomorrow. Try and get some rest.

ps I hope it works out for you and Gloria. Mrs. James called.
Love, Mary and Gus

Curtain is dead? How can that be, I thought? Oh. Man, this is worse than I could have ever imagined. Their family must be devastated. What is Doc Martin speculating about? This whole thing is freaky enough with out some new twist, I thought. I just wanted it to be over. That’s all. Just over. I headed up stairs, mentally and physically exhausted. I must have laid on the bed for an hour before falling asleep.

I woke to tapping on the bedroom door. It was Gus.

“Hey, Bill, you awake,” asked Gus softly?

“Yes, Gus, I’m awake,” I reply. “What time is it?”

Gus opened the door and came into Bob’s room as I sat up in bed. Gus plopped himself at the foot of the bed.

“Ja sleep OK last night, Kid,” asked Gus? “Ya came through list night like a champ. I told Mary all about it, your double to ignite the team and all. Did you see the note on the kitchen table?”

“Yes I did,” I replied. “It makes no sense, though, to me at least. What do you think Doc Martin’s looking for or suspecting?”

“Not a clue here,” said Gus, scratching his head. “Beats me. Doc will tell us when he knows something for sure. Don’t worry. Come on down when your ready and Mary will have some breakfast for us. Sure hope is works out for you and Gloria. ” With that Gus started to head down stairs.

“Gus, I think I’ll grab something down at the BlueLight if you don’t mind,” I state quickly before Gus got to the door. “I think Mary will understand.”

Gus turned and winked. “I think she will too,” said Gus. “I really mean it when I say I hope it works out for you two. Anyway, Mary and I are going over to the Dodge’s and see if there is anything we can do to help. If you need us you can try and reach us there.”

“Please tell the Curtains how sorry I am,” I ask. “I hope they really know how sorry I am.”

“Don’t let Gloria wear you out. Your pitching Tuesday night you know,” added Gus with a smile. Mary and Mrs. James will surely come out for that. Remember what I said. You don’t what the headlines to read: LOVE INTEREST SAPS STARS STRENGTH. ROOKIE GETS BOMBED! Details on the 11 O’clock News!” Gus is really laughing as he leaves the room.

“Gus you have really weird sense of humor,” I add. “I won’t let her put Kryptonite in my shorts or anything. It would be nice to pitch in the big Metropolis one day.”

“Who knows, Kid, anything is possible,” finished Gus halfway down the stairs.

I take a quick shower and head over to the diner, feeling good about seeing Gloria again, but still very sad about the news of Curtain’s death. I arrive at the Bluelight and spot Bolton’s truck in the parking lot. I park next to him and head inside. I find him and Reggie Bond at a booth in the right corner and head over to say Hi. Reggie spots me coming down the isle.

“Hey, Billy, have a seat man, we just got here ourselves,” says Reggie with the big smile of his.

“Reggie, Dave, how you guys doin,” I respond as I take a seat. “Some game last night.”

“Ya, we broke a few windows didn’t we,” smiled Reggie. “At least me and Bolton did. Gonna have some breakfast with us?”

“Thanks, but I have a pretty lady waiting for me over at the counter,” I tell Reggie half embarrassed. Not that you guys aren’t great company, but let’s face it, she’s got much better legs than either one of you.”

“How do you know about OUR legs anyway,” asks Bolton? “You been checking us out in the shower or something? I thought there was something funny about you. I don’t think Reggie’s your type, though. He likes partners that can dance, cut a rug, know what I mean? I don’t think you’re the dancing type.”

“Lucky for me, ay boys,” I jokingly respond. “Reggie, looks like you’re off the hook. See ya! I got me a gal to go see.”

“Make sure you let Reggie know if it doesn’t work out,” said Dave laughing. “He could always get you dance lessons.” Now Reggie is laughing as well.

“That’s OK, you go see your girl friend, girl friend,” said Dave laughing harder now. Bond has already lost it. “Ok you guys I’ll quite. Truce. I thought you guys could take a joke.”

“We have,” said Reggie. “We’ve taken you for going on two years now. That should be enough for any one.” He was talking to Bolton. “Bedpans, jockstraps on the head, Voodoo exorcisms. I think we know who the weirdo is around here.”

“Hey, I don’t have to take this you know,” responds Bolton. “After all I’ve done for this team. If I had left this curse on this team we would not be 3 and 0 right now.”

“Oh, I see,” I said looking at Dave. “You are the reason we are 3 and 0? It has noting to do with the great pitching we’ve had three games in a row? How about some clutch hitting by some of your teammates, and yes, we admit your homerun yesterday was a thing of beauty.”

Dave stands up and takes a bow.

“You are too much,” I state waving my hand at him heading off to see Gloria. “I’ll see you guys later. Try and enjoy what’s left of your breakfast. Reggie, you have my condolences.”

Reggie and I glance at each other and start laughing again. Bolton is a real cosmic cowboy, really off the wall.

“Oh, listen,” I say going back over to the table. Curtain from the Pirates died last night. There’s going to be an autopsy today. I’m not sure what is going on, but there must be something Doc Martin is looking for. They found a large dark spot on Curtain’s brain from the X-Rays and the MRI. This could get really bizarre.”

They are both stunned with the news I just dropped on them. “NO problem,” said Dave in all seriousness. “Just say the word and consider it done. Reggie just sat their speechless, putting his head in his hands.

“Thanks,” I reply putting my hands on Bolton’s shoulders. “I’ll talk to you guys later. Don’t forget you are picking Becky up a college.”

I head over to the counter where Gloria is waiting on some customers. She excuses her self and motions for me to take an empty booth in the far corner. She goes back to her customers for a moment. As I wait, Mel, the owner, comes over with a cup and a pot of coffee. He pours me a steaming cup of coffee.

“Good to see you again, Bill,” says Mel. “I’m sure Gloria will be along in a minute. Hey, congratulations on the team doing so well. 3 and 0. Big Shots now, uh?”

“Hardly,” I respond to Mel.

“Guess I’ll have to get out to the park and see what all the excitement is all about. Remember Kramer and Conklin, those two guys you first met in here? Big baseball fans. They’ve been keeping me up to date. They haven’t bee this excited about the town team in years. You must be doing something right.”

“Mel, let me know when you can make it and I’ll have some tickets waiting for you, right behind the dugout. Spirits are pretty high after last night’s win,”
I add.

“Hey, well listen, good luck to you. The boss is coming and I don’t was us to get in trouble,” concluded Mel with a little chuckle.

Gloria took off her apron, threw it on the seat across from us and sat down nest to me. She took my hand in hers. Her face was absolutely radiant. She leaned in a gave me a warm kiss.

“You look beautiful today, even in your waitress garb,” I state. “I’m glad were friends again.”

“This time we’re going to be friends for a long time, you can count on it,” she adds with a big grin on her face.

“No, I didn’t forget, but you know what I mean,” I reply. “Something more that just friends would be just fine with me. I never really wanted to let you out of this as I did. I was trying to be too much of a gentleman. I was hoping you would change your mind and I’m glad your Mom helped.”

“Well, here we are together again, hopefully for a long time,” offered Gloria as she squeezed my hand. “Let me get you some breakfast and then, Mel has given me a couple of hour off before the lunch crowd comes in. I wish I had to whole day off to spend with you. It’s not often you have a day off.”

“Honesty, I was going to be busy today and tomorrow, but I’ve had a change of plans,” I stated and then hesitate. “Curtain, the Pirate pitcher, died sometime last night. Doc Martin is performing an autopsy today as he must suspect something out of the ordinary, as if someone dying from a baseball game is ordinary. I can’t figure it out, but I am going over to the hospital when we leave here. Do you want to come with me?”

“Sure, Bill, I’ll come with you,” said Gloria with deep concern in her voice. “Just let me know what you want me to do.”

“Just be with me for now,” I ask. “If you get uncomfortable about this you just say the word. I do not what this to be too hard on you as well. There are enough people hurt by this without adding another.”

“No problem,” add Gloria as she rises and goes off the get me some breakfast.

I notice that Dave and Reggie had already left. It is just me and a couple down at the other end of the diner. What a day this was going to be.

Gloria brought me my breakfast and sat quietly while I ate, sipping her own cup of coffee.

“Bill, tell me, what were your other plans,” asked Gloria. “Are they just postponed?”

“Why, yes they are just postponed, I was going to California,” I state without much thought.

“Why would you have to go out of town now?” asks Gloria with a puzzled look on her face. “What could be so important to make you leave the team for a couple of days? That is not an easy trip to make quickly.”

“I am only postponing it for a week, but it has to be done quickly so we can settle this thing once and for all,” I inform.

“Where are you going in California? Who do you know there,” asked Gloria with some concern in her voice? “Could I come along?”

“Sure, I guess you could, but why would you want to go,” I ask? “This is not going to be a joy ride I assure you.”

“Why is that,” asks Gloria?

“I am going to see Chris Tavy out in California, that’s why,” I state in a firm voice. “She doesn’t know I’m coming, yet,” I add. “Jon doesn’t know I am going either, but this must get settled between them. Would you still like to come along? Did you know Chris very well?”

“I’ve never talked to her before,” states Gloria Firmly. “Not even once.”

“Is that so,” I state in a slow, firm voice. “Gloria, I may be young, but I am not totally stupid. I thought what happened between us last night was real and that you really do care about me. How can you be truthful to me when you can’t even be truthful to yourself? I am going out to see Chris Tavy to tell her that I think her husband was set up, positioned so that it appeared like he was having an affair. Then, when the time was right, someone called Jon’s wife when she was out of town, and exaggerated about his little lunch date, making it out to be more that is was, and lying that it may have not been the first time. Then sent anonymous letters informing her of other exploits between Jon and these women that never really happened, knowing full well how upset Chris would become. But this person didn’t expect Chris to get so upset she would separate from Jon, and then demand a divorce. I guess this person was just wanting a little practical joke, but this one went too far, this one got way out of hand, kind of like the practical joke that Cheryl Tavy and Bob Lollar were involved in. You remember THAT practical joke, don’t you Gloria? Maybe it didn’t get too far out of hand at all? Only the person who made the phone call and wrote the letters would know for sure?”

Gloria sat there in total silence. She was hurt, angry, embarrassed, all at the same time.

“It was really too bad for everyone. Too bad for Bob and Cheryl. Too bad for Jon and Chris. To bad for Mary and Gus.” I went on. “It was really too bad for you and Bob, wasn’t it, Gloria?

Gloria looked up at me with tears swelling up in her eyes.

“Maybe it would be a good idea for you to come with me,” I state to Gloria? “I think you may have something important to tell Chris Tavy. Don’t you?”

“Maybe you should just mind your own business,” blurts out Gloria. “This has nothing to do with you. You have no business getting involved.”

“And you do," I reply? “Just who do you think you are ruining people’s lives with vicious lies? What did it do for you…did it make you feel good to write those letters full of lies? And, now that it was almost all over did you think you would taste the sweet flavor of revenge? Did you think it was going to put your and Bob’s life back together again? Did you think that Bob Lollar would come running back to you once he knew what you had done? It didn’t happen did it?”

“NO! NO! NO! ” shouted Gloria as she really started weeping loudly, dropping her head into her hands, trying to hide her shame.

People in the diner turned to look at what was going on. Mel came out from the kitchen area to see what was going on.

“You guys all right out here,” asked Gus? “Gloria, what’s going on?”

“It’s OK,” said Gloria clearing her throat. “It’s OK, this is all my fault. We’re alright.”

Mel shook his head as he went back into the kitchen. He probably thought we were loved starved lunatics by now, having our first lover’s spat.

“Maybe I should go with you to California after all,” said Gloria with a sincere voice. “I guess I really did something awful, didn’t I? I never thought it would go this far. I never meant for them to get a divorce. When Bob left I was so hurt. I had no one to blame but the Tavys. It was their daughter, Jon’s sister, who messed up my life with Bob. I was so angry and so disappointed. If Bob knew what I did he would be so mad at me.”

“What I don’t understand is how you thought ratting on Jon was going to do you any good.” I asked? “When it was over, why did Bob just leave you here and run off and join the Army? It makes no sense, none of it. Didn’t he know how much you loved him? Didn’t the two of you ever talk? Really talk?”

“I don’t know,” Gloria replied. “After I did it I wanted to take everything back, but it was too late. The damage was done. Bob was gone. I wanted to call Chris and tell what I had done, but I just couldn’t do it. The Lollars and my Mom could never believe I could do such a thing. I was so embarrassed about how stupid I was. It was just easier to pretend I had nothing to do with it. Make it look like Gloria was on the outside looking in, just another victim in the Lollar tragedy. Then you came along and started filling the void left by Bob. But, then I realized I was falling in love with you, but you were now a part of the Lollars and it was just getting too complicated with Bob coming home again. My leaving you WAS a lie. It wasn’t about Bob anymore. It was about my being found out and you hating me if you found out. Then Mom made me realize that I was making a big mistake letting you go. That if I really cared about you, really did love you, that I needed to tell you and be honest with you, like I am being honest with you now. No matter how much it hurts, I had to tell you the truth, even if it means you never what to see me again, or if you couldn’t love me any more.”

“I think Mom suspected from the start,” Gloria continued. “She knew I would have to figure it out on my own. I just didn’t think you could have figured it out so quickly. I just didn’t think anyone could care about strangers as much as you seem to. You seem too wise for your years. I just hope that over time you can forgive me. I really do love you and hope someday you can love me again.”

“Gloria, I do love you,” I respond lovingly. “I am not letting you go this time, but you have to make this right by everyone, especially Jon and Chris Tavy. As far as I am concerned they are the only ones how need to know anything about this. This will not change what happed to Bob or Cheryl by them knowing what you did. That is over. Bob and Cheryl have chosen their lives, better or for worse. I am in this with you all the way. We need to help Jon and Chris now. That is all that matters. They have a son to raise together. He deserves a Mom and a Dad.”

Gloria threw her arms around my neck, sobbing. “I do love you Billy Alan, I do love you,” said Gloria softly in my ear. “I am not going to let you go, ever”

She kissed me warmly. She softly caressed my face as she kissed me again.

“This is not going to be fun, is it,” she stated?

“No, I don’t think so, but we can get through it together,” I reply. “We can do this. Things can never be like they were before, but we can make this right for the Tavy’s. When Bob comes home this week, you can stop living in the past. So, Ms. James, would you give me the honor of accompanying me to Disneyland next week? I think that is where we should start. If you have any pixie dust I suggest you bring it along. What do you say?”

“I most graciously accept your kind invitation, Mr. Alan,” responds Gloria. A smile was creeping back on her face. ‘I do need to do this, not just for them, but for me too. This is really not who I am, you know.”

“I know,” I say sweetly. “If it was I couldn’t love you like I do. I have some things I need to tell you as well. For now, all you need to know is that I am madly in love with you.”

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Dreamers Chapter 12 of 47

Chapter 12 The Dreamers

We leave the church at about 9:15am as the early service get out right before the Sunday School crowd show up at 9:45am. We head out to the car as Mary and Gus thanks the Minister for a good sermon. I look back and find him motioning for me to come back, which I do. He tells me that he would like to have lunch with me sometime next week, if possible. We arrange to meet on Wednesday at noon over at the diner.

Mary smiled as we made our way back to the car. Gus unlocked the car doors and well all got in and headed back to the house. Mary just smiled as I made my way to my car. I made quick time getting to the ball park in record time. There was only one car in the lot; it must be Dick’s.

I made my way into the locker room and find Dick taking a couple of bats from my cubical. He had a large leather bag at his feet full of baseballs, and under his arms were a couple of VCR tapes.

“Hey, Dick,” I ask, “what is this clandestine meeting all about? “You know if you steal all my bats it will make it a little tougher for me to go 5 for 5 tonight.”

“The way you are hitting right now, I think you could break off a chair leg and hit a double,” he said with a grin on his face. “That’s why we are here right now.”

“I’m hitting so well now you want me to take some extra hitting practice,” I state? “That’s a new one on me.”

“I want to accomplish two things today,” Dick goes on. “First, I want to get your swing on tape now that you are really in a groove. You are swinging so well from both sides of the plate now is the perfect time for that. It is time to capture you perfect mechanics so we can study them, compare them if you will to when you are not hitting so well. Then we can make the necessary adjustments and get you back into the groove. Sometimes when you are not hitting so well it is some little quirk you have developed, some little hitch in your swing, something you don’t even feel you are doing. Where you hold your bat when you start your swing, the movement of your hips, or even your feet in relationship to the plate. It can be something so small you wouldn’t believe it. It doesn’t take much to miss-hit the ball, a fraction of an inch either way and a hit turns into an out.

“Boy, you are really into this aren’t you,” I respond somewhat amazed. “I’ve heard of video at the Major League level, but not in the minors. What’s the other thing?”

“After what happened last night the best thing for you is to get right back in the batters box as soon as you can,” stated Dick emphatically. “You must keep on ripping the ball the way you have since you got here. Your at-bats after Curtain were pretty pathetic, but you probably didn’t notice. That seeing eye single to left was not you. It kept you 2 for 4 for the night, but those swings were not Bill Alan swings at the end of the game. We are going to fix that right here and now. It is important mentally and emotionally for you to get back in here right now without the least bit of apprehension and trepidation. If you do you could get hurt and give the opposing pitcher the greatest advantage of all, fear! Come on now we have a lot of work to do.”

With that Dick made his way past Red’s office, through the doorway leading under the stands. I sat down in my locker and began getting dressed. I stood up and took a towel and my batting helmet and took the same path Dick had done. It was time to get back to work. That is what professional baseball was now…work.

Dick and I worked out for about 2 hours, spending about 10 minutes hitting in intervals, then taking about 15 minutes analyzing the videos. He was intense about his job, braking down each swing into the mechanical movements, defining each part until the bat hit the ball. By the last half-hour, Dick had Harvey, our pitching machine, throwing over 90 miles an hour, but I was on every offering, hitting each one solidly. After about 15 more swings Dick turned off the machine and began picking up the balls putting them back into his leather bag. I picked up my bats and helped in the “egg hunt” Dick was finishing.

“Dick, I want to thank you for working with me early this Sunday,” I respond. “I see what you mean about how I need to get back in there after last night. I was really in a funk about Curtain. I still don’t understand it. This was great. Thanks again for all your help and support.”

“Bill, sometimes you can’t repair things,” said Dick in a serious tone. “Life is made up of opportunities, some good, some bad, and once in a while something bad happens we can’t explain. Sometime life brings you a great opportunity, like what you have here with the Monarchs. If you succeed it can bring you great joy and happiness. You have to try and make the most of it. For Christians like us there is only one Savior in the world we live in and the one we go to after this is all over. Jesus IS the answer, no matter whether life throws you a curve ball, a fastball, or a wicked slider off the plate. It is most of the time not a fastball right down the middle. No one can even begin to make a dent in the world’s problems like Jesus can. We each can only help our little bit. You can’t change the past. You can brighten the future if you trust in him. You have the most remarkable gift I have ever seen since I’ve been in this game. I have never seen any one person pitch and hit like you do. No one has ever done it at this level before. I think you have what it takes to do this in New York City. It is up to you work hard enough, want it bad enough, and remain focused through all of the ups and downs that are to follow. You have a gift, Billy, take it and run with it all the way to the top. You can live the life thousands of kids can only dream about. You can live it for them.”

I started laughing at the thought of someone wanting to be me. How could that be real? I’m just some guy from Illinois.

“Go ahead and laugh,” said Dick. “Millions of people come to ball parks like this one to relax, to cheer, and to look at ballplayers just like you and fantasize. They dream that they are Don Mattingly, Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds, Cal Ripken, Ernie Banks, and Roger Clemens. And then, Billy Alan comes along. What I am telling you is true. When you were a kid, who was in your dreams? Ron Santo, Billy Williams, Randy Hundley, Glen Hobbie, Fergie Jenkins? Can’t you remember the crowd jumping to their feet, cheering wildly as Ernie Banks rounded the bases after hitting one onto Waveland Avenue? Billy, that is going to be you.”

“Dick, I think I understand what you are saying,” I replied seriously. “It’s just that it is hard to say my name in a sentence with those great players. It is hard to believe that my name even belongs in the same sentence as theirs. I would be afraid to think it for fear of jinxing myself or something.”

“Billy, I know, but listen to me,” said Dick. “You belong with them. As sure as I am standing here talking to you I have never felt it as strongly as I do now. Many guys have left this team and made it. Many others could have, but didn’t. They wasted their chance. I am not going to see that happen to you if I can help it.”
“I will try and put last night behind me, if I can,” I said to Dick. “If only for myself, I must still try and make some amends, somehow, someway, the problem is I do not even know where to begin.”

“Bill, let me give you one more piece of advice before we leave here today,” added Dick. “The things that Curtain and his family need right now are things you can’t supply. He is going to get the best doctors money can buy. The team and the league will pick up all his medical bills. He has people around him that truly love and care for him. Then, he will need time to heal, time to think about his future without the game most likely. That will be up to him and his family. Later on there may be things you may want to do for him and his family, but right now he has everything he needs. What you need to do is get on with YOUR life, YOUR career, and then when the time is right you can be there for Curtain if it is the right thing for everybody. When the times comes it will all fall into place. Just be patient and let things happen in their own time.”

He tapped me on the shoulder as he left the batting cage with his gear. A lot of what he said was true. It just wasn’t making things easier for me right this moment, but it would. What I was going through was noting compared to the Curtain family. Dick was a class guy and a good friend. I walked back into the locker room with my bats and towel. Dick was standing outside Red’s office door. I could see Red at his desk.

“Hey, Dick,” I shouted. “Maybe you could come over to Gus’ house for dinner some time?”

“That would be great,” he responded. “Mary is a great cook. Clear it with her and let me know. I’ll get with my wife, Suzanne, and we’ll reciprocate.”

“Deal,” I replied.

Dick headed into the equipment room and I made my way to my locker. I had just enough time to get fully dressed and get out the field. The locker room was filled with players, but they all just nodded to me or waved. What cold they say? It was just going to take some time for us to get back to normal.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Dreamers Chapter 11 of 47

Chapter 11 The Dreamers

Gus and Mary had been waiting for me to come home. “Any word at the hospital,” they inquire?”

“No, they’re still in surgery,” I replied. “The Nurse told Red it would be many hours before they knew anything. Maybe 3-5 hours. There was swelling on the brain and many fractures to deal with.” I sat down on the sofa and put my head into my hands.

“Bill, you know it wasn’t your fault, don’t you,” said Mary? “You never intended to hit that ball toward him. You know most of the time you hitters have not idea where your hits are really going. Most of the time when you try and hit a ball a certain way you end up not doing it. You know that.”

“I know,” I replied. “It just makes no sense. Why me? Why now? I just hope he is all right.”

“It is up to the doctors and God, right now,” added Gus. “There is nothing any of us can do at this point, accept pray Dr. Martin can be of some help to the boy.”

“I think I’ll try and get some rest,” I state rising off the sofa and heading down the all to Bob’s room. “I’ll see you in the morning.”

“I’ll wake you around 7:30am so we can have a good breakfast before going to the ballpark for our day game,” said Gus. “I think it might even be good if we got up earlier and went to early Church, if you would like.”

I stopped as I heard Gus say the word-Church. I turned around as saw Gus and Mary in the living room next to each other.

“I think that would be a good idea,” I respond. “We should do that. Good night.”

I turn and head into Bob’s room hoping for any kind of sleep. If only it would come. I lay down on the bed with my clothes on looking up at the ceiling. I closed my eyes. The next thing I hear is a tapping on the bedroom door. I look over at my alarm clock, it is 6:45am. Did I sleep all night? How impossible could that be? I rise up and get my bearings, grab my suit and clean under cloths and head to the bathroom to take a shower and get ready for church.

Gus was sitting on the sofa leaning forward with his elbows on his knees, hands clasped, starring at the coffee table.

“Bill, I don’t quite know what to say,” Gus began. “Accidents like this don’t happen very often. I think we forget just how dangerous this game can be. Thrown balls traveling over 90 miles an hour. Batted balls traveling over 110. It is really a miracle that there are not more injuries than there are. Don’t ask me how, but I think this happed for a reason. I can only hope the Curtain kid will be alright. I know it looked serious last night. The fact that we still have not heard anything is troublesome. We just need to go to church and ask God to place his hand on this situation a hope is will is that for Curtain to be alright.”

“Gus, if God wanted to look after Curtain don’t you think he waited a little too long, like maybe before I hit the ball,” I asked? “I mean, Gus, look at this situation. Curtain could die. Maybe be in a coma the rest of his life? Will he ever play the game of baseball again? Will he ever walk or see the light of day? All these things we take for granted could be gone for him and his family. He is so young and was just like me, thinking of playing for some Major League team. It is hard not to think his dream is gone for good. It just seems that some times God seems a little disinterested at times. I mean, I don’t expect things to be perfect. I guess that is reserved for heaven, but I find it hard to believe that God is going to bring any good out of this accident on the baseball field last night.”

Gus sat quietly on the sofa after I finished my little tirade. I was hurting after last night and was, quite frankly, in no mood to hear how God was watching out for all of us all the time. It made no sense. I hoped I had not hurt Gus’ feelings, but I just couldn’t see how a loving , caring God could allow Curtain to be dying and let something like this happen.

“Bill,” said Gus, “I know this makes no sense now, it may never make any sense, but often faith is all we have. God never promised us a stress-free life. Look at Job and how the devil treated him. God allowed that to prove a point. It is not up to us to ask why.” Gus paused. “Oh, by the way, Dick called and left a message for you early this morning.” Gus handed me a piece of paper with Mary’s writing on it.

Be at the ballpark by 10AM
Meet me at the batting cages
Underneath the stands.
Don’t be late,

“I wonder what Dick wants from me,” I asked out loud. “Can we make it with church and all,” I ask?

“If Dick wants you there, be there,” added Gus in a stern voice. “He doesn’t bother people unless there is a good reason. We have plenty of time. Let’s get to the kitchen and eat some of Mary’s best cooking, what do you say,” asked Gus?

We make our way into the kitchen and I take my usual seat. Mary come over and puts her hands on my shoulders and gives me a kiss on the cheek.

“Hope you slept well,” she asks? “I’ got scrambled eggs, sausages, bacon, pancakes, and strawberries, here’s the orange juice, come on fellas dig in while it is still warm.”

“Thanks Mary, “I say warmly. “This is quite a spread for Sunday morning.”

“One thing you’ll find as the season goes on,” states Mary, “is that you must eat well and the right foods to keep up your strength. The season is long and will slowly wear you down if you don’t get enough rest and eat right. You are not going to blame your slumps on me, Mister,” she adds with a big smile on her face.

“I would never do that, Mary,” I reply. “This sure looks great.”

The phone rings in the living room and Mary goes to answer it. She come back it to the kitchen and tells me it is Red for me. I go into the living room.

“Hello,” I respond.

“Bill, this is Red. “Doc Martin just called as they operated all night. Curtain’s condition is pretty bad, worse than they first thought. The force of the ball broke bones all the way down to his eye socket, including the cheek bone, and nose area. Doc Martin called in Doc Woods who is our best Ophthalmologist in the area. Curtain may loose sight in his left eye. But that is not the worst of it.” Red was silent for quite a while.

“Come on Red, what it is,” I ask impatiently. “How could it be much worse?”

Red finally answered. “When they took X-rays and an MRI they found a dark spot on his brain, on the left side. They’ve called in some doctor from Yale to consult some time today. They decided not to operate any more until they consult with him. Curtain is still in a coma, but he seems stable, but his pulse is weak.” Red’s voice trails off.

“Oh my God,” I said out loud. “Red, you let me know if you hear anything else before we get to the park, will you?”

“Sure, Bill, you’ll be the first to know when I hear anything,” replied Red. “I know it will be hard, but try and eat your breakfast. It is important for you to keep going. It is important for you and this team. Your worrying won’t help Curtain, this hospital, the doctors, or either the us or the Pirates. I see you in a little while.”

Red hung up the phone before I could even respond. The dial tone just buzzed in my ear. The monotone just kept droning in my ear. I dropped the phone to my side, finally placing it in the cradle. I heard footsteps coming up from behind me. Mary and Gus were standing right behind me.

“Looks like Curtain may loose sight in is left eye,” I begin. “He is still in a coma, his face full of fractures, but they found a black-spot on his brain from the x-rays and MRI and they’ve called in a specialist from Yale to assist. The parents must be loosing it by now,” I add.

“Bill, we’re so sorry,” said Mary as she put her hand on my shoulder. “Come back into the kitchen and try and finish your breakfast, if you can. Gus go down and get ready for Church. I’ll be down in a minute.”

Mary’s plan was to see that someone was with me all the time this morning. She was really something.

I sat down at the table and ate a little, but mostly just pushed it around my plate. I did eat more than I thought I would or could for that matter. Gus was back quickly and sat with me while he finished his eggs and toast. I drank the last of my juice and Gus finished his coffee. Mary came back and cleared the table, loaded and started the dishwasher and whisked us out to get the car pulled out of the garage. As Gus and I backed down the drive, Mary was closing the front door and came down the steps. We headed out toward Church.

“Billy, it is alright to feel like you do,” said Mary. “We’ll just have to see what the plan is God has in store for us. Today is a new day and you’ll just have to decide you’re going to deal with and get on with it. What’s done is done. It is up to God now.”

I took a tissue from the box in the back seat and dried my eyes. I felt like this one other time. This one wasn’t any easier.

“Mary, what are you talking about,” I ask? “What do I have to decide?”

“What do you have to decide,” shot back Mary? “Your future that is all. You’ve got to decide whether you are going to stay a part of the living or about to decide if you are about to join the dying. If you are going to be of any help to that Curtain boy you must remain a part of the living. If not, you might just as well be in the bed next to him. If you think the only way to reconcile this problem is to offer your life for his then you might as well get on with it. It makes no sense, but that is not the point, is it? Your feeling sorry for him and yourself is not going to do anyone any good, and most of all yourself. You get no points for self sacrifice. You want to help the Curtain family do it by living, not wallowing around in grief and pity. You really want to help them? Do it by living. They’ll see it in your face. They do not hate you for what happened. They probably feel worse for you than you do yourself. They know it was an accident better then you do, probably. Nobody planned for this to happen. They know it and it is time you did as well. To help them you must be positive, strong, and most of all your compassionate self. Lord knows, they’ll need it from you. They do not wat to look at a second victim.”

As I listened to Mary I could sense the love and concern she had for me and the Curtains. I could hear it in her voice. I could see it in her eyes and she looked at me. She was right. I knew it, just as she and Gus did. It was just this situation made my life seem so insignificant for a while, worthless considering all the pain the Curtain’s were feeling. It was an accident, truly.

As we arrived at the church and got out of the car I reached for Mary and gave her a big hung. “I really love both you and Gus,” I said. “You mean so much to me.”

“We almost lost one son,” said Mary, “we have no intention of losing another, do we Gus?”

“You’re darn right we’re not,” replied Gus. He had a big smile on his face.

“Let’s get on into church as we have a big day a head of us,” instructed Mary. She took my arm as we headed up the cement steps into the Sanctuary.

“Gus, you are a very luck man to have Mary for a wife,” I state.

“Luck had nothing to do with it. I won her at the State Fair,” said Gus with a big grin on his face.

“You won me, did you,” snapped back Mary with a surprised look on her face. “I found him on the street homeless, I did,” Mary added. “He was so pitiful I had to take him in. Living in a refrigerator box on Lexington I think it was.”

We all start laughing as we made our way through the Church doors. If only we could get back to normal. What ever that really was.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Dreamers Chapter 10 of 47

Chapter 10 The Dreamers

Bolton knew of a guy who had a plane who could give me a ride to LaGuardia on Sunday night, after the day game on Sunday. It would take less than 30 minutes and save me considerable time over the 2 ½ hours of driving. Dave made all the arrangements for me and agreed to take my car and pick up Becky. I would need to talk to Red about what I was doing. I walked into his office as he was talking to Mario. They began laughing as I walked into the room. I looked to see if my fly was opened. It wasn’t.

“Hey, are you guys talking about me again,” I asked. “I thought my fly was opened or my socks didn’t match.”

“No Bill, Come on in,” said Mario still laughing. “Someone smeared Red-Hot into Meyer’s jock strap this morning. He has had a little personal problem to deal with since then, you know what I mean! Nothing serious, but he’ll probably never have kids. We just saved the Teachers of America a terrible fate. Red, I’ll talk to you later,” said Mario. “Take it easy slugger, I heard Babe Ruth turned over in his grave last night,” quipped Mario leaving Red’s office with a big grin on his face. “See you ‘round the cage later.”

“Hey, Bill-lee,” beamed Red. “Great game last night kid. That one you hit had a “Hemi” on it. There will be more of those. You have such a natural swing. Guys who don’t try to hit home runs are the ones that do.”

“We’ll Red, I hope your right,” I replied. “The whole team was on fire last night, not just me. Seemed like we could do no wrong. Meyers was sensational. I don’t know how a guy who can pitch like that can loose 15 games.”

“Concentration, Bill,” replied Red. “It is nothing more that concentrating for a full nine innings. For most of these guys the game has always been easy, up until now. They never had to exert themselves to excel, never had to work. Never even had to concentrate or remember one batter to the next or what they did in their last at bat. In high school most of these guys were so good they could just throw a fastball down the middle and get anybody out. That will not fly here or in the show. Physically they are prepared to pitch here, but not mentally. Their dog ate their homework here. When you get here, long road trips, long season, lousy food, crummy busses, baseball becomes work. The thrill is gone. I am hoping last year woke Meyers up. He is about 5 bad starts away from looking for a new day job. Maybe with last night’s performance he has found and appreciated his day job he has. This team needs him if we’re going anywhere this year. There are a number of guys so close to the show or just going home on this team. I hope they make it.”

“Well, enough philosophy for one day,” added Red. “What’s on your mind? You not looking for a raise already are you? Want to renegotiate your contract, something like that Kid? A big grin formed on Red’s face.

“No, Red, I’m quite happy with what the Monarchs are paying me as it is better than my previous day job,” I jokingly respond. “I don’t intend to give any back, but I am more than satisfied. I’ve come to talk about Tavy. I think I know a solution to the little rift between the Tavys, Lollars, and myself. To begin to solve this problem I need to leave late Sunday night for California and will be back before our Tuesday night game. Bolton has arranged a private flight to get me to and from NY quickly. I’ll be back well before BP on Tuesday. I wouldn’t ask if I didn’t think it was important for Tavy or the team.” There was a long silence as Red was taking in all that I had said.

“You really think you know what’s been bothering Tavy all this time? This is a pretty irregular request. You know once the season starts your butt belongs to the Monarchs. We don’t have time off for vacations during the season.” Red thought quietly for a moment longer.

“I’ll tell you what I’ll do,” said Red in a firm voice. “I hadn’t planned on pitching you this early in the season, but this may be as good a time as any. You’ll start Tuesday’s night game and work as long as you can for 5 innings or 80 pitches. I’m pulling you then, I don’t care if you have a no-hitter going. We can kill two birds with one stone as you won’t have to be back as early for BP, you’ll still have to hit and I’m still going to bat you third in the lineup. You better be back here on time. I could be getting into lots of trouble letting you go to Disneyland on some lark. Understand!”

“Yes, RED, I understand,” I state seriously. “No problem. I’ll get back here early for the game on Tuesday night and I promise not to get shelled to get us both in trouble.”

“OK, go suit up,” replied Red. I hope you know what your getting yourself into,” Red states in a rather fatherly tone. “You really are like no other player I have ever had before.”

“Ya, I hope I know what I’m doing as well,” I replied. “I do love this game, though. I can sense more fun tonight.”

Dave Bolton stops by my locker on his way out to the field. He informs me the plane ride to NY is all set as is the return trip. I tell him Red is having me pitch that night so I better get back in time. A big smile breaks across his face.

“The big Baptism Of Fire,” quips Bolton. “Strap yourself in Kid. It’s going to be one heck of a ride.”

As I was getting dressed for our second game with the Pirates I realized that I still had a lot of planning to do before the LA trip could produce the results that I was hoping for. Red came by and dropped a piece of paper over my shoulder without saying a word. It contained the names, addresses, and phone numbers of Tavy’s parents, his in-laws, and where his wife was staying.

Chris Tavy had decided to go back to USC and work on her Master’s Degree in Biology. Chris’s Mom was taking care of her and Jon’s son, Scott, while she attended classes. I had no idea where Chris and Jon were in their strained relationship. No one knew if they had even spoken to each other recently, or if Jon had ever seen his son. Jon had really shut himself off from everyone on the team. I also had to keep wondering if I was even doing the right thin getting involved. I certainly didn’t cause any of this and could really be jumping right into the fire. It would certainly make sense if I could forget this whole episode between the Lollars and the Tavys. Maybe it wasn’t even a feud. Who knows? Well, one thing for sure, I would know it all in a couple of days. Sunday morning I would try and make my California phone calls to make the necessary meeting arrangements. I just couldn’t let anyone know what I was up to. Dave Bolton had agreed to pick up Becky at college for me, without letting the Lollars know and try to explain to her what I was doing and if she knew of anything that might be of help. She may become mad at me without ever meeting me. I was taking a lot of risks getting involved in someone else’s problems. I somehow felt confident that the risks were worth it.

Red came into the locker room area to address the players before we took the field. He cleared his throat to get our attention.

“Men, listen up, I’ll only take a second,” Red began. “We had a great game last night. That was last night. We had some great performances that made this team look like world beaters. THAT WAS LAST NIGHT! Tonight is a new night and a new game. I know you all know that, but I felt it was worth repeating. Tonight you will have to pick it up a notch because the Pirates do not want to have another repeat performance of last night. Tavy, Bond, and Alan…you may be given a shave and a hair cut on your first trips to the plate tonight. Be prepared. Jones, be ready for plenty of throws over to first. Their pitcher, Curtain, has a good move to first for a right-hander. He throws fastballs 80% of the time in the 90’s. His curveball is only fair and he is still working on a slider. He has good control.”

“Como is starting for us tonight,” as Red continues. “Mike just work on keeping the ball down. Work with Bolton on staying on the black, way below the belt. That curve ball you have should give the lefty’s fits if you set them up. I think we have the team that can catch the ball. You don’t need to strike everyone out. Let’s be thinking on defense. Know the situation. Make your throws from the outfield to the right base and hit the cutoff man. Throws straight to home do us know good. We must keep them from taking any extra bases tonight. I think runs will be at a premium so let’s make the most of our opportunities. First at bat everyone is taking a strike. Alan, bond, and Tavy have a 3-0 green light. Make it be a pitch you can handle. I hate it when guys start out with 3-0 counts and make outs.

Red went back into his office. The mood in the locker room was quiet, introspective, and somber. I didn’t feel nervous, but I think each player found himself in a more serious mood that on opening night. There is usually one player that can be counted on to keep the team loose. Ours was Dave Bolton. He strolled into the middle of the room and began to address the team. His entire uniform was worn inside out. His athletic supporter and protective cup were on his head. The wide waist band ran across his forehead, the protective cup saving the back of his head and the leg straps dangling around and below his ears. For a cheap , comic effect he wore a pair of those black plastic rimmed glasses with the big nose and fake mustache and included the springy fake eyeballs, flailing about with ever turn of his head. Bolton took a bat and began using it like a judges’ gavel on one of the chairs. As well all began to look up you could sense the mood in the room was changing as laughter began to sporadically break out. We could hardly wait for Dave to begin speaking.

“Gentlemen,” Bolton Began, “It has come to my attention that already this team is showing serious symptoms of the dreaded disease that seams to strike all too many baseball teams and players early in their careers, forcing them out of this game that we all know and love, into new career positions that require a starched white shirt, ties, even socks. These positions will pay only a fraction of our current wages. Just the thought of it sends shivers down my spine. Some are even forces to go back to college in a symbolic effort to become more educated and cultured before actually having to enter the dreaded JOB MARKET. I felt it was my duty and obligation as your self-appointed Spiritual-Medical Advisor/ Examiner to help in any way I could. It is not my wish to begin my work as a CSI, arriving late to the crime scene only to assess what when wrong, but to use my SPECIAL POWERS to alert you to these cosmic bombardments that are altering you physical and mental states, robbing you of your full potential.”

Laughter is now spreading throughout the room. Some are just shaking their heads in disbelief.

“Hey, Bolton, you been standing around a leaky microwave too long,” Shouts Reggie Bond? “I think you’ve cooked the few remaining brain cells you had left after last year. Your Mother is a church secretary. It would kill her to see you like this. No wonder your life insurance is rated.”

The team is relaxing as chatter and laughter fills the locker room after Bond’s remarks. Bolton, relentless as he is, continues on undaunted.

“Ah, Mr. Bond I presume,” replies Bolton. “I see you remain an unbeliever in our midst. One of the early symptoms is a lack of concern for this serious medical condition. In most cases early detection is critical in saving the patient. Please don’t this personally; the disease can attack anyone at anytime.”

“It ain’t the disease you need to be worried about, it’s me,” shot back Bond. “Now I know why they call you Dr. StrangeGlove, and it’s not for your catching ability, which is limited to none, either.”

The room breaks up as Bolton bangs the bat on the chair trying to restore order.

“Mr. Bond,” as Dave readdresses the group, “the name calling only further indicates an accelerated necrosis, exacerbating your ability to think clearly, and spreads the disease throughout the extracurricular nervous system. This must not be left untreated. The team cannot take the field with any member exhibiting such fatal symptoms as these. If left unchecked, untreated, bodies could be scattered across the field by the fifth or sixth inning. It could be the equivalent of a Neutron bomb. Leaving buildings intact, but no survivors. Reggie, I don’t think you want THAT on your conscience do you?”

“Bolton, what do you call this disease of which I supposedly have the symptoms,” shoots back Reggie? “This ought to be good!”

“It is called basebathological-inguinal-gymnasial-atypical-systemic-sagitarius-unilateral-practicological-thrombosic-herniated-equallateral-metatarsal-cliptomania-thorasic-catchetore-stromboli. The first to have it was Pinocchio, that is why the last symptom is name after his captor, the great Stromboli,” replied Bolton with a straight face.

The players were even amazed that Bolton could say it. They weren’t even going to ask him to spell it at this point. Everyone is shaking their heads.

“You’ve been watching too many “B” horror movies,” shouted someone from the back of the room.

“OK, Bolton,” as Reggie decides to play along, “what can we do to cure this disease as we sure don’t want the field full of old, dead baseball players, what with all the children watching and all.”

“That’s the spirit,” responded Dr. Bolton. “I can sense you are on the road to recovery already.”

“Let’s hope ONE OF US IS,” replied Bond. “I think you may be too far gone to help anyone, even yourself. That jock-strap cutting off circulation to your brain?”

Bolton spreads some towels on the floor and places the chairs in a circle around the towels, motioning some players to take their seats.

“This will be a team effort. Let the treatment begin,” stated Bolton.

Players filled the empty chairs circled around the towels as Bolton asked Bond to lie on the floor on the towels, facing the ceiling. Bolton went to his locker and pulled out a porcelain bed pan. Reggie started to get back up off the floor.

“Man you are NOT pulling some freaky stuff on me,” shouted Bond to Bolton. “I will hurt you, you know. You have really taken too many foul balls off your mask haven’t you?” The room erupts with laughter.

“Relax Reggie,” says Bolton. “Your part of the treatment is strictly passive as there are no invasive procedures happening here.”

“The only thing invasive will be my shoe up your butt,” laughs Bond. The team breaks up. “No funny stuff, got it?”

“Lie down, relax,” continues Bolton. “Close your eyes, think of yourself relaxing on some beautiful beach in some far away tropical paradise. The warm sun is radiating across your skin. A breeze floats in off the crystal blue ocean, glancing off your skin. You can hear the palm tree branches brush against each other against a background of bird calls. You can feel the heat from the warm sand radiating through your body. The coolness from your favorite beverage tingles in the palm of your hand. Paradise found. You are totally relaxed.”

Bolton takes the bedpan and places it on Reggie’s mid-section. He takes four marbles from his pocket and places them in the bedpan. He slowly moves the bedpan in a circular motion to set the marbles on a circular journey around the inside rim. Dave picks up salt and pepper shakers from out of a brown paper bag and begins to douse Reggie with a liberal amount of “pixie dust” while chanting some gibberish up to the ceiling.

“Ya-stook-ye-mannee. Me-gunk-me looney. Key-largo, keyno-kee-0-kee-do-kee. Mazumba-ga-zinga-zoid. Ya-mamma-she-ugly-she-dances-lika-donkey. You-eeee. You-eeee. HMMMMMMMMM. HMMMMMMMMM. HMMMMMM. HMMMMMMMM. Debob…begone. Debob…begone. Anee-bob. Aney-mal. Aney-okley. Yow. Yow. Eep. Pep. Pep. Pep. Pep.


Dave opens his eyes and looks done at Reggie. Reggie opens one eye to see if he was about to be smacked or something, or some big tub of goo dropped on him.

Bolton then sneaks over to his locker where he brings back a burlap sack that is moving. Reggie is still lying quietly on the floor with the chairs in a circle around him. Bolton opens the sack and starts pulling out some green snakes and starts putting them around Reggie on the floor. The room erupts with a collective gasp, but Reggie makes no move. Most of the players didn’t know a Garter snake from a Copper Head, but I did and realized no one was going to get hurt, accept maybe Bolton when Reggie finally opened his eyes.

The snakes weaved their way between the metal chair legs, some even moving close to Reggie. It is no secret that some people think snakes are just freaky and want no part of them. Reggie is just such a person.

“Hey, man, you know I think I felt something, something cosmic,” Bolton tells Reggie. “It was like a totally religious experience or something/ didn’t you feel it?”

Reggie opens one eye and looks to the left, then to the right. He spots the snakes all around him and his eyes get a big as saucers.

“Bolton, I am going to kill you if I live through this,” said Bond most seriously. “Man, all I cared about is you didn’t get anything on my clean uniform right before game time,” said Reggie sternly. ‘I would hate to have to hurt our star catcher, but you had better get these snakes out of here right now!”

“Reggie, the curse is almost lifted,” added Bolton.

“The only thing lifted around her is going to be you when I kick your behind so hard you’re gonna be airborne,” added Bond, with some nervousness in his voice. “Man you don’t have any idea how much I hate snakes,” he added.

Dave quietly gets up off the floor and helps Reggie up and begins brushing off the salt and pepper from his uniform.

“Hey, Reggie,” yells Moose Riley, “did you have an experience or something?”

Right them Reggie starts sneezing, again and again as some of the pepper must have gone up his nose. He can’t seem to stop. Every ten seconds another sneeze erupts. This is now not becoming a good think this close to game time. Reggie keeps on sneezing for about another minute and a half. I take Reggie some purified water nasal spray and get him to squirt a couple of good shots up each nostril. Reggie waits a minute and sneezes one last giant sneeze. He stops, looks at me, looks at Bolton, and starts laughing.

“Man, I am going to kill you one day,” laughs Reggie. “You won’t know how or when, but some how, some day, when you lest expect it, I…WILL GET YOU!”

“Are you OK,” asks Bolton seriously? “They’re just Garter Snakes…they would not hurt you,” Bolton adds.

“Ya, I’m fine,” replies Reggie. “Man, you are so wacked it’s not funny. Let’s go play some ball. Reggie sneezes again, but at least it is tapering off.

I help Bolton collect all the snakes and put them back in the burlap bag. All the other players did not get within 15 feet of the snakes. I finished cleaning up the towels and put the chairs back into place as the players had long gone out to the field.

“You know, I just might have saves the team from a terrible season,” offered Bolton semi-seriously.

“Man, if we win the pennant I just might believe you,” added Reggie. “If I start sneezing again you may not see tomorrow. Get out there and call the game of your life, will you.”

“Forget this spiritual business and make a difference with your bat and glove,” said a voice from some PA System in the building. “This is the great and powerful OZ, pay no attention to the man behind the screen. I am the great and powerful OZ!”

Bolton and Bond began laughing as they walked done the corridor. Red waked into the clubhouse.

“Hey, you guys get out on the field and stop clowning around,” yelled Red. “Get your butts on the field now! Bolton, get your butt back in here and help Alan clean up this mess YOU made. Get that jock-strap off your head and fix your uniform. Who are you guys really the Bad News Bears?”

Bolton had forgotten to fix his uniform and rushed back into the locker room to do so.

“The men with the white coats will be coming for you, Bolton,” said Red Dodge. “I’m more sure of it than ever now!”

The line-up for the game was basically the same one from last night, except that Tavy and I flipped spots in the order as Tavy hit curtain well last year. I switch hit so it really didn’t matter to me, third or fifth should still have plenty of men to drive in. At this level you must always play the percentages and this was a good one.

The game from the outset was a tough one. Jones grounded to second after fouling off nine, 3 & 2 pitches. It was a great at bat. Mike Adams struck out on four pitches. Tavy stung the third pitch from Curtain, but the Pirates right fielder, Morales, made a leaping catch at the top of the wall to bring back a homerun, just inside the fair pole. What at catch. Three up and three down for the Monarchs.

Como and Bolton worked flawlessly for the first three innings setting up hitter, changing speeds. Mike had six strikeouts and no one hit the ball out of the infield.

Ross Jones led off the fourth with a soft hit to center. The Pirates pitcher, Curtain, became to [reoccupied with Jones and threw to first 10 straight times, wasting his pitch count for the night. The crowd became more vocal with each throw to first. Curtain finally delivers a pitch to the plate; Jones breaks for second and barely makes it off a perfect throw from the catcher. An argument from the Pirate Manager begins that cannot be won. He is all over the second base umpire who just happens to be a woman. She listens to all he has to say with her arms folded across her chest. If the Pirate Manager could read body language he would know he was wasting his time.

I walked done to the end of the bench were Bolton was sitting with a towel around his neck. He left his shim-guards on, but had his chest-protector off to keep cool.

“He’s just setting her up for some other close calls that may happen later in the game,” Bolton stated matter of factly to me. “He knows he can’t win, but he is letting her know he is watching and wants his share of the close calls. Pretty shrewd move on his part.”

I hadn’t thought about it that much, but it made perfect sense. The game within the game. This is what they talked about. The little things that can make all the difference. He was just motivating his team. Dave was right. The Pirate Manager was moving back to the dugout slowly, but would around after a few steps and makes some other comment. Few more steps and some other comment would be made.

Mike Adams stepped back into the batter’s box. Jones had a good lead off second as well. “Ball two!” yelled the umpire.

Mike stepped out and looked for a new sign from Red. He goes through a whole sequence of tugs and pulls and swipes across the head and chest, claps his hands a few times and then turns his back to the plate to get set deep in the coach’s box. It was all for show as Mario was really giving the signs from the dugout.

On Curtain’s next pitch fakes a break for third while Adams drops a perfect bunt down the third base line which neither the catcher or third baseman can get to. Jones held at second and we now had the beginning of a rally with the crowd and the organist really starting to get into it. This crowd was a little more subdued that last night’s crowd.

Tavy stepped into the box and leveled his bat across the plate four or five times and then got set. Curtain was now in a little bit of a jam with Tavy at the plate, and with Bond and myself on deck trouble was a brewing for sure. It was up to Jon to make the pitcher work and swing at only a great pitch he could handle. Tavy took a first pitch curveball for a strike. Couple of players yelled out of the dugout,” Come on Tavy, ripped it out of here! Take him downtown Mr. T.”

The second pitch was a curveball so far outside their catcher had to dive way to his left just to save a wild pitch. Time was called as the catcher wanted to talk to Curtain. The crowd begins to clap with the tension building rapidly.

Curtain gets set again as Jon settles back into the batter’s box. Curtain finds a sign he likes and goes into his stretch. He checks Jones at second who has a great lead. Curtain breaks his stretch and come home to the plate with a fastball, belt high, on the outside black of the plate. Tavy waits, steps right into it, fully extending his arms with a strong push to left center field. With a strong snap of the wrists, Jon’s chin is buried into his left shoulder as the ball rockets off his bat into left center. The left fielder attempts a diving catch, but the ball tips off the end of his glove and rolls all the way to the wall. Both Jones and Adams went half way to make sure no catch was made, but then dashed home as Tavy went diving head first into third base with his first triple, ever! The crowd when crazy as the Yankees took a 2-0 lead.

“Jon-nee, Jon-nee, Jon-nee,” chants the crowd.

As Reggie stepped to the plate, Scott Andrews stopped me as I made my way to the on-deck circle. He had a big smile on his face.

“Last year Tavy would have tired to pull that pitch and hit into a double-Play,” said Scott. “If he makes that hitting adjustment all year we are going to score a whole lot of runs, and you, Reggie, and Jon will all get better pitches to hit. Our own version of Murderer’s Row.”

Curtain further unravels and walks Reggie on four pitches. Red calls for me to come see him as the Pirate’s Manager make a trip to the mound.

“Listen Bill,” said Red. “We’re not taking any more first pitch strikes. If you like the first pitch and you can drive it, go for it. Don’t try and do too much as a hit is another run and keeps the rally alive. Make him work.”

I move into the batter’s box as Curtain stays in the game. I wasn’t as strong from the left side of the plate, so it would be no problem taking red’s advice. I tried to block out the crowd noise as they started chanting: “Bill-Lee, Bill-Lee, Bill-Lee”. For some reason I couldn’t and stepped out of the box. I took a deep breath and pulled the bat over my back shoulders and tried to loosen them up. I took another deep breath and stepped back in. I leveled the bat over the plate a few times and fixed my eyes on the ball in Curtain’s hand as he held it behind his back, but in view. He got his sign and moved upright, into his set position. He checked Bond at first and Tavy at third. He broke his set and brought the ball over his head. I picked it up instantly and saw two fingers close together on top of the ball as he winged it toward the plate.

My brain instantly registered: FASTBALL. The first 15 feet told me belt high. For the first time in my life it looked like a softball. I coiled my shoulder, gripped the bat tighter, and unloaded a smooth, level swing as I looked straight down my arms through my wrists and hands. The ball collided with the closely spaced grain of my Louisville Slugger, but I could hardly feel the contact.

The Ball jumped off my bat sending a screamer 5 feet off the ground straight to the pitcher’s mound as Curtain finished his follow-through. He tired to put as much on the pitch as he could, but he wound up off balance and unable to put his glove up for protection. He tried to put his hand up to his face, but the ball was traveling too fast for him to react and struck him directly on the lower forehead and bounded into the Pirate dugout as Curtain fell in a pile at the bottom of the mound on the first base side. As my second step hit the ground I knew what had happened, but instinct kept me digging for first. A tremendous gasp left the crowd as the ballpark went dead silent as Tavy crossed the plate and Jones walked into second base. The Pirate dugout emptied toward the mound as did the umpires. The medical staff from both teams ran to assist. Curtain never moved. I stood on first base and began to feel sick. As time was called I slowly walked to the mound. Their trainer and the Manager were slowly rolling Curtin onto his back. He was out cold it seemed. Blood was slowly streaming from a gash across his forehead. Curtain was still not moving.

The trainer checked his pulse. “He’s got a pulse, but it is very faint. We’ve got to get him to the hospital fast.”

The ambulance pulled in from the right field corner bull pen and drove all the way in front of the Pirate dugout. Red ran up to the front railing and called up to the press box, “We need a doctor down here, if there is one in the house.” Red needed no microphone as the park was dead silent.

Dr. Martin came down from the stands and helped get Curtain on the stretcher and into the ambulance. Doc was on his cell phone to the hospital as the Paramedics began to take Curtain’s vital signs and start an I.V.

As Curtain lay motionless on his back there was blood all over his face and jersey. The right side of his forehead seemed to be sunken-in almost a half inch in the shape of the ball. I turned around and ran behind first base tossed up my last meal. Shortly, even though there was nothing left inside I could not stop the dry-heaves. I felt someone grab me from behind, underneath my arms and pull me effortlessly to my feet. It was Reggie bond.

“Come on,” said Reggie. “Let’s get into to dugout for a bit. Their going to be a while anyway. Can you walk OK?”

“Ya, I think so,” I half heartedly replied. I wiped my mouth on my shirt sleeve. “Oh, man, why did this have to happen?”

“Hey, forget about it now,” scolded Reggie. “You have to try and forget about it. It was an accident. Nothing more, nothing less. YOU UNDERSTAND? IT WASN’T YOUR FAULT!”

Somehow I knew Reggie was right, but it seemed of little consolation right now. Curtain was hurt, hurt bad. What if he could never pitch again? What if he could never se again? What if he died? No, that would never happen…would it? Before I got to the dugout my stomach was churning again. The batboy quickly brought me a towel and placed it up to my mouth.

“Forget the dugout,” Reggie instructed. “Let’s go into the locker room.” We did. Reggie sat me down on an old sofa in the corner of the room. “I’m going to get a wet towel, will you be alright?”

“Ya, I’ll be alright,” I replied.

“Just relax and lay here for a while. I’ll be right back,” said Reggie.

I hear the cycle of the swinging doors as Reggie exits. Sounds of footsteps sneak through the opening of the swinging doors as they rock back and forth. It’s Gus.

“Hey Bill,” asked Gus. “Are you alright. You’re white as a ghost.”

“I feel better than I did out there on the field,” I replied. “How long before you think we hear something?”

“Doc Martin was in the stands,” stated Gus. “Curtain was still out cold as they put him in the ambulance. Stop worrying about Curtain. Doc will take care of him. It seems like a little color is coming back into your face. Let’s turn this towel over to a cooler spot for ya. You rest for a while as I check on restarting of the game. It will take their relief pitcher a while to warm up. You be OK?”

“Yes, Gus, I’ll be fine,” I reply as I attempt to sit up.

“Lie back down, relax,” said Gus. “The game will not start without you.” With that he heads back out the doors onto the field.

I was feeling much better, but I decided to lie back down and rest a while longer. I closed my eyes and fell fast a sleep.

I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was Bolton and Reggie.

“The game is starting back up in 10 minutes,” announced Dave. “Feel good enough to get back in there?”

I took the towel from my forehead and rub my eyes with it as I begin to wake up. I take a deep breath. “How long was I out,” I ask?

“We’ve been gone about half an hour, man,” said Reggie. “You look a lot better than when I brought you in here.”

“I think I’ll go brush my teeth,” I announce. The taste in my mouth was awful as I ran my tongue across my front teeth. I quickly made my way to the shower room, taking my tooth brush and tooth paste with me from my locker. I brushed them twice. As I came out Bolton was standing there with a cup.

“Here, drink some of this Sprite,” Bolton directed. “It will take some of the rumble out of your stomach. We need to get back on the field and loosen up a bit. Feel good enough to do that?”

“Let’s go,” I reply making my way to the door. I throw the empty cup into the trash can on the way out. “I need to get back out there.”

As we got the top step of the dugout I couldn’t help but look at the pitcher’s mound. Curtain was gone. The new Pirate pitcher was finishing his warm-up throws. Red and the Pirate manager were behind the mound talking. I moved toward the left field foul line and started jogging hoping to remove the tension that started to creep back into my body. I ran to the left field wall and back, just short of the third base bag. I ran back to the wall and back again. I bent over and rested my hands on my knees. The two managers had made their way over to me.

“Bill, Skip McCormick, Pirate manager,” informed Gus. Skip offered to shake hands. I accepted.

“Bill, I’m not sure of all the things that are going through you mind right now.” began Skip. “What happened out their on the mound was an accident. It was nothing more than a freak accident. Starting with the next pitch in the ball game you have to put it all behind you. Curtain will be all right. Do not let this affect your career. You want to help Curtain? Tear this league apart with your bat and your arm. Let him know he was up against the best there was.”

He moved and put both of his hands on my shoulders and looked me dead in the eyes. “I know it’s tough, but I hope you’ve heard what I’ve said,” concluded the Pirate Manager.

“Thanks, I appreciate it,” I respond, not really knowing what else to say.
“Talk to you later, Red,” says Skip as he turns and head for his dugout.

“I’ll meet you outside the ballpark after the game, Skip,” shouts Red through cupped hands around his mouth simulating a megaphone.

“Where are you going after the game, “I asked Red? “To the hospital”?

“Yes, I told Skip I’d take him,” replied Red. “I suppose you’d like to come along,”?

“If you don’t mind, I’d appreciate it,” I respond.

What happened to Curtain seemed to greatly affect both teams. We failed to score any more runs in the inning and maintained our 3-0 lead into the eighth inning.

Como walked the first Pirate batter in the tip of the eighth which immediately brought Red out of the dugout to the mound for a little chat. Red motioned to the bullpen where Jay Morse had been warming up since the sixth. Morse spent last year in the Rookie League in Midland, Texas. He was known not to be shy, even hot tempered at times, and let the batters know which side of the plate belonged to him. Super fast with pitches clocked in the upper 90’s. He could only pitch little more than an inning or two before his speed tailed off rapidly. He could rebound and pitch every day, but seemed to only have about 30 pitches in the tank at a time. That was something Red didn’t have all last year…a real closer.

Como got a standing ovation from the fans as he made his way to the dugout. He lifted his cap to the crowd in appreciation. He was warmly greeted by his teammates as he stepped down into the dugout. As I watched Mike from my spot at third I could not help but think about this team and how well we were playing. Our pitching had been sensational, first Meyers on Friday, then Como on Saturday. My turn was coming on Tuesday after tomorrow’s finale in the afternoon.

The next three Pirate batters never had a chance. If they were looking fastball, Morse broke off the best curveball of the day. If they looked curveball, the fastball “express” was by them before they knew it.

Morse closed out the game with 5 strikeouts and one weak tapper to me at third by a left handed batter. We win 3-0. It was a great feeling for this team to start 2 & 0.

I met Red and Skip out at the front gate after showering quickly. Knowing where we were going took a little out of our win tonight. I knew what Skip had told me earlier was true, but it was not going to be easy to put this behind me. At least not right away. The drive to the hospital seemed long and was very quiet.

The head-nurse in the Emergency Room would only allow one of us to go up at a time. Red told Skip to go ahead. We could go up later.

Sitting in the waiting room were a lot of people, I thought for a Sunday. Puerto Rican couples with another man were sitting in the corner watching TV. He had his hand wrapped in a towel or something, resting between his legs while he rocked back and forth, obviously in major discomfort. A black lady was holding a crying baby, rocking back and forth trying to console him or her. Older white couples were sitting in two chairs next to the Nurse’s Station. The woman was nervously holding a hankie in her two wrinkled hands, occasionally wiping tears from her eyes. The man had wrapped his arm around her shoulders across the back of the chair. An old Security Guard paced back and forth in front of the emergency room doors. A younger one stood shooting the breeze with a pretty nurse’s aide at the counter. Red told me to sit down while he tried to find out some news on Curtain.

“Miss, could you help me,” inquired Red to a lady seated behind the Nurse’s Station? “I’m Red Dodge, manager of the Monarchs. Do you have any information concerning an injured player brought in here earlier from our game with the Pirates? His name is Curtain.”

“Yes, here it is, Chuck Curtain…he has not regained consciousness since he was brought in earlier from your game,” She replied to Red. “His pulse was stable, but weak, and they decided not to wait and operate right away. He had considerable fracturing of the skull and much pressure on his brain.”

As she spoke those words to Red the old woman became visibly more upset and started sobbing.

“My wife, Emma, and I are quite close to Chuck and his wife Sharon. This past year has been tough on them and now this. I’m sorry, my name is Joe, Joe Curtain,” He reached out his had to Red Dodge. “We’re Chuck’s Parents.”

“Seems like the surgery is going to be quite lengthy,” said Red.

“It could be another 3+ hours,” said the Nurse.

“Could I leave you my phone number and have you call me as soon as you hear anything,” asked Red?

“No problem,” she replied. “I call you as soon as I know anything.”

“Do you folks have any place to stay,” asked Red of the elder Curtains.

“No, sir, we don’t,” said Joe. “We had plans to drive back to Vermont right after the game.”

“Why don’t you come and stay with me and my wife tonight,” offered Red. “We’ve got plenty of room at our place and there’s no need to sit around here and wait uncomfortably. I think we all could use some rest and a bite to eat.”

“That’s very kind of you,” replied Joe. “Come along Emma, and let’s take up the kind offer from Mr. Dodge.” Joe rose to his feet, helping his wife from her chair.

“Thank you Mr. Dodge,” this is very nice of you. “We don’t want to be any trouble.”

“Trust me, Mama, this is no trouble at all,” replied Red. “I just wish it was under better circumstances. Come; follow me out to my car. The Nurse will call as soon as she hears anything.”

Red motions to me and we all head out to Red’s car for the ride home. Emma seems to be calming down more and more. What a terrible thing this must be for them I thought. Drive all the way down from Vermont to see a little game of baseball and something like this has to happen. It makes no sense.

Red has me drive so he can have more freedom to talk to the Curtains during the ride home. Red has the radio turned low, but we all can still here classical music from station WPKT, the classical station from New Haven.

Red asked me to drive to the ballpark so I could pick up my car, which I hadn’t even thought about. “Bill, get a good night’s sleep and I see you bright and early at the ballpark tomorrow,” stated Red. “Say Hi to Mary for me.”

With that I get out of the car with the motor still running, but in “park”.
“Good night Mr. and Mrs. Curtain…I’m sure sorry about what has happened,” I offer, not knowing if they know I was the one who hit the ball that injured their son.

“Good night, son,” said Mr. Curtain. “We’ll probably see you tomorrow.” Mr. Curtain said it with a warm mile on his face.

I got into my car and drove him in dead silence. All I could think about was that ball jumping off my bat, heading right for Chuck Curtain. What a horrible night. Winning the game seemed so unimportant right then.