“The Baseball Player” by Ed Nichols

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Mike Burke and the woman lay in bed until late in the morning.  The last game in this North Carolina town was a night game and Mike was in no hurry to get out of bed.  He turned his head so he could look out the window in their hotel room. Some birds flew by close to the window.  He was very comfortable and his muscles were relaxed. The sun was straight up and bright. The woman sat up on her side of the bed.  She said, “I’ll go to the deli down the street and order two sandwiches.”

He told her that was a good idea; he would remain in bed awhile longer.  Then he asked her to buy another bottle of wine.

“Are you sure?”

“I’m sure.  It’s a long time until the game starts.”

The woman dressed and left the room.  Mike put an extra pillow under his head and continued to stare out the window.  They were on the second floor of the hotel…in the distance he could see green hills.  They looked familiar, but he knew that was impossible because he had never played in this town before; the town was a new member of the Southern Association.  He knew he would probably come back to it again and again, if he were never called up to the majors. Then he wondered if he would see this woman again, if he did come back.

She returned just as he was putting his pants on.  They sat at a little table near the window. Eating their sandwich and drinking wine, they watched children playing around a fountain in the middle of a plaza.  Some of the children sat on a wall with their feet dangling in the fountain’s pool of water. It was already hot so he knew the water must feel good to the children’s feet and legs.  He knew it would be hot and humid during the game.

After eating, they made love again, then took a nap with the window open.  He could hear the children playing at the fountain…but the sounds did not bother him and he slept well.  He woke first and turned his head to the window. Cottony clouds moved slowly across the bright blue sky.  Not rain clouds—there will be a game tonight, he thought and smiled.  He didn’t realize she had woken until he felt her fingers tracing the big scar on his left shoulder.

“Does it bother you,” she asked.  “I mean when you’re playing baseball.”

“Sometimes, when I have to reach very high with my left arm. But not when I’m throwing or batting, since I’m right handed.”

“That’s good.”  She studied the scar closely and asked, “I guess it really hurt when it happened.”

He didn’t answer for a moment.  He stared at the green mountains in the distance.  Then he turned to face her in the bed. “Very much so. A piece of shrapnel.”

“Do you think it will keep you from getting to the big leagues?”

“Well, I sure hope not.  It’s what I’ve been working for.”

“How long?”

“A long time.  I was almost there when I got drafted.  Made it to triple-A when I was twenty-one.”

“The war messed up a lot of people’s lives, didn’t it?”

Mike didn’t answer.  He got up, walked to the window and stood watching people milling

about the plaza.  He remembered Joe Lee.  He didn’t make it back—he would have made the

majors first, he believed.  “Yea,” he answered. “It really did.”  He sat and stared at the mountains. She was silent for a while, leaving him to his thoughts and memories.

Finally, she asked, “If you do make it, which team, or town, will you be with?”

He turned to look at her.  “Probably the Yankees or maybe the Red Sox.  There was a rumor a few weeks back that the Red Sox were going to buy my contract.  So it’ll probably be New York or Boston.”

“New York or Boston!  That would be something.”

“Yea.  I prefer the Yankees, but whoever wants me can have me.”

She laughed, and then told him, “When you make it, I will catch a bus and come see you play in the big leagues.”

That night he got her a seat near his dugout.  It was hot and humid, but he had a good game going three for four with a home run.  He also threw out two runners, one at second base and one at home plate. She kissed him before the team loaded their bus.  Then she told him she was not an expert, but he sure looked and played like a big league player.

Riding through the dark night in the team bus, his thoughts focused on the war for a while.  Then on Joe Lee. Then on the woman. He wondered if she would really come to New York or Boston when he made it to the majors.

 

Ed Nichols lives outside Clarkesville, Georgia. He is a journalism graduate from the University of Georgia, and is an award-winning writer from Southeastern Writer’s Association. He has had many short stories published, online and in print.  He is currently working on a collection of stories.