Crash touched the pine tar on his helmet and rubbed his hands together as to maintain a firm grip on his bat. The bat that he superstitiously believed had gotten the team this far. This complicated and underrated triad of bat, eyes, and hands was the only thing he was expected to understand. His only task: to swing at anything that came close to the plate. To always have an upper hand against what was thrown at him. To expect, or rather foresee what drew near. To completely obliterate anything meaningful that ever made an effort to get near him.
In an attempt to fill the void both Crash and the ticking clock had created, the announcer bellowed out: As you know, Kenny Nash has struggled at the plate since his wife Kim moved out two months ago. She met a charming police officer at a coffee shop. She forged his signature on their divorce papers, left him with custody of their son, and eloped with the cop to Tampa. They are more in love than she and Crash could ever be. So, let’s give him your support, folks! The audience looked around, confused, and chanted, “Crash!”He stepped back into the box, batted the dirt out from under his cleats, and braced for the second pitch. Tosh reared back and tenderly released his knuckle-curveball, hovering with so much spin that the laces of the ball began to unravel. The leather sidings curled and ripped themselves from the rubber core, which exploded into a million shards of itself as it reached the plate. The hurricane spun and danced viciously on the center of home plate. Before he could back away, Crash was yanked into the eye of the phenomenon by a pair of hands. There, in the safety of the direct center of the storm, he saw his wife Kim, her auburn hair whipping around her cheeks and neck in the slowest, most fragile form of perfection. They were sitting at an umbrella-shaded table outside of their local coffee house. He watched as her hands fumbled nervously and incessantly to remove her wedding ring. He examined his beautiful wife as she reached into her handbag and pulled out different makeup application instruments. His heart leaped out of his chest, as he couldn’t remember the last time she had bothered to wear makeup for him, or if she ever had. Would he have even noticed? As soon as his heart reached the furthest point that his skin would allow, it retracted into an empty cavity, possibly to never beat again, not for anything. It was at that moment that a police officer had asserted himself to a confrontation between lips and saliva. He smiled and handed Kim, who also smiled, her favorite drink, which Crash had long forgotten. He sat next to her and they talked like old friends, taking short breaks to kiss and whisper dirty jokes into each other’s ears, both showing absolutely no regard for a former love sitting across from them. Crash cleared his throat as means to get their attention. Nothing. He said Kim’s name. Nothing. Finally, he stood and swung his bat with every ounce of intensity he had down at the table. The metal slab collapsed, drinks spilled brown splotches everywhere, and the lovers arose, holding each other dearly. Kim looked at Crash, displeased, and yelled, “Strike Two!” The cop pushed him out of the eddy and back into the batter’s box, but not before shouting, “Crash!” Though it sounded much different than it did when it quaked through Grainger Stadium.
Back in the action, Crash turned to see his adoring fans still chanting his name, only the way the police officer coined. Lead by the Indians’ mascot, the crowd was howling, “CRASH-AND-BURN! CRASH-AND-BURN!”
The consciousness stung, that his only way out of a life that had totally abandoned him was hanging in the balance of a game with which he was falling out of love. Baseball was the only thing he had ever wanted to know or love, but while coming to he realized that the game had never once said it back. It was then, one strike away from the next disappointment, that Crash wished he didn’t have the responsibility. He wished that his parachute had never opened when he and Kim went skydiving for their fifth wedding anniversary. He angrily wondered why his son had never poisoned his breakfast or set the master bedroom afire. Crash wished that he had strangled himself to death with his own umbilical chord when in his mother’s womb. He dreamed he had been born a plover so that he could soar through life above the Atlantic on the Outer Banks. With the sunset instead of spotlights to warm his wings. Where the only sounds ever to be heard were the breaking of waves and the caws of his friends.
When Tosh wound up for his third pitch and before the ball had even reached the plate, Crash handed his bat to the umpire and walked off the field, for good. He apologized to the mascot for pushing so hard, but refused to look at the crowd as he made his exit. Every light in Kinston burned out right then and there, never to be replaced again.
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Laura, Toucan Editrice
Enjoy, and Viva La Toucan
Laura, Toucan Editrice