The man asking the questions put his pen down.
     “That’s okay,” the man asking the questions said.  “There hasn’t been enough time yet.”  
     “Let’s have another drink,” the man asking the questions said. 
     The former major league ballplayer nodded.  
     The man asking questions tried again.  “You remember how the flag blew out in right field at Fenway?" 
     “Flags?  I don’t remember flags.” 
     “The hitters would take aim on that short fence and try and knock one out?”
     “Maybe.  I don’t think that much about it.”
     “You always pitched away to left-hand hitters, when the wind blew out.”
     The former major-leaguer turned and looked at the front of the bar.  Rain was beading up on the window.  He kept looking at the window, the rain making the light dim and gray, and the former major-leaguer wrapped his long fingers around the beer glass on the bar. 
     The man asking the questions kept going.  “You said once, ‘I’ll take a chance with the Monster over the right-center field alley on a windy day’.  You remember?”
     “What I said doesn’t matter anymore.”
     “All the hitters, Williams, Jeter, Yasztremski, they thought that wall was easy.”
     “Really, I don’t think about baseball anymore.  Let me buy this round.”  The bartender put two beers down.  Overhead light threw shadows on the grainy stained wood of the long dark bar and behind it they could see their faces in the mirror.
     A small boy came up and asked the ballplayer if he would sign his name, the man turning and scribbling on the note pad but he didn’t look at the boy.  The boy went away.  The ballplayer emptied his beer glass in two or three big gulps and laid a bill on the bar.
     “Listen,” the former major league ballplayer said, “I’m sorry I can’t tell you anything more.  It’s there, but I don’t want to go there and bring it out, you know?”
     He nodded, the man asking the questions. 
     Almost five years now since the former big-leaguer had pitched off of a mound, in a game.  He could see a batter’s eyes and into their fear and threw hard bullets that flew with late action, smacking the mitt and striking hitters out swinging.      
     “You put it all behind you” the ball player said.  “Every time.  Each pitch, the game, and now, the whole thing.  It’s hidden and I won’t let it out now.” 
     “Was it the surgery?” the man asking the questions said.  “Is that it?”
     “You worked hard, to get back.”
     “You made it back.”
     “Uh huh.”
     “You made it, all the way back.”
     “My arm made it back.”  The ballplayer closed his eyes and rubbed his left arm around the elbow. 
     “Your arm was always good.”
     “Better than before, that’s how good it was.”
     “The way you left the game, do you regret that?”
     “You leave when it’s over.”
     “Your fastball was faster than when you started.”
     “The game leaves you, it passes you by.  If you don’t know when it’s left you, it’s worse.”
     “You don’t watch any games now?”
     “Don’t have a television.”
     “You ought to hear what they’re saying.”
     The ballplayer shook his head, pointed a finger at the bartender.  The waitress came around the bar and held his arm while he whispered in her ear.  She nodded and went away and the bartender put two more beers on the bar and waved his hand.
     “They’re on the house,” the bartender said.  Both of the men thanked the bartender.
     The man that was asking the questions talked about new downtown ballparks; sight lines and suites, wide stadium promenades with sushi bars, imported white wine, playgrounds for kids who were bored by the fourth inning and wanted to slide into a pool of water, shops with MLB logo gear, boutiques where women and men could do almost all of their Christmas shopping with discount cards issued to preferred fans who had Gold American Express and sometimes they had valet parking for season ticket holders, if you bought the right plan.  Yankees were in town, you’d spot Jeter and Mariano Rivera in the hot spots, leaving in limos in the late hours.  The moneyGod, the man that was asking the questions said, the money.  Wouldn’t it be something if Mays, DiMaggio, Hank Aaron had a little of the television money coming in today?  Amazing, he said.  Too much, really, he went on, and just the club house amenities, my God, wide screens and rap music.  Hell, the writers even get carried away, the man asking the questions said, like they’re on the team payroll.  He laughed, swigged some beer and put his glass on the shiny dark bar with the stains and sharp grain like the good wood of a bat.   
     The waitress, she wore a tight black skirt and tank top and she was forty five or forty eight years old, and she held the former major league ballplayer’s arm again and whispered in his ear.  The ballplayer stood up.  Looking past the bar, he took a step behind the bar chairs. The waitress leaned in to the man asking the questions.
     “Mr. DeFrezzio has a phone call.”
     DeFrezzio, moving along the row of chairs at the bar now, gave a nod to the man asking the questions and disappeared into a narrow hallway.
     The waitress used a towel to wipe down the bar, and then straightened the high-backed chairs. 
     “Does he come here a lot?” the man asking the questions said.
     The waitress smiled.  “You want anything else?  Got some meatloaf left.”
     The man asking the questions said no.  After paying the rest of the bill, the man asking the questions stepped outside.  He could see DeFrezzio.  DeFrezzio had on a long tan coat, his hair slicked and sticking out under a newspaper he held over his head.  He was getting into a cab. 
     The sidewalk was wet.  The cab pulled out and headed uptown.


chuckwarn said...

Nice job Kurt.

Alan said...

Talk about soft white underbelly. Nice stuff!