Monday, July 10, 2006

Summer Night

It was the perfect summer evening. Picture it in your mind, won’t you? A father teaching his son to hit a pitch. Turn sideways, feet shoulder-length apart, bat off the shoulder. Keep your eye on the ball. Warm and breezy, the possibility of a storm blowing in from the west, clouds turning orange and purple with the twilight. Fireflies like the lights at Wrigley Field and cicadas cheering the batter, imploring him to hit. Nice swing, now bring the bat through level, don’t chop - his technique more Mickey Mouse than Mickey Mantle. Brother and sister running around, trying to avoid the swinging bat, the ball that just misses. Daddy’s back spasms and sharp pains shoot down his right leg. Sun setting, darkness creeping into the diamond drawn out in the front yard – the car first (untouched), the scooter second, sprinkler third and home a deflated beach ball, or S, depending on what’s available on any given pitch. The neighbors are out front with their dog and applaud for the just-missed pitches. Eye on the ball. JP wants to pitch, wait, now he doesn’t, okay now he does, no?, okay, yes, yes, he’s going to pitch. The wind-up…someone get the ball out of the gutter. Daddy goes inside for a beer because it’s got to be the seventh inning by now. Good pitch. Good swing. Tip foul. Urf! Getting close, C, hands together, choke up. There you go. The street lights are getting brighter now, but still not as plentiful as the fireflies that hover, blinking, calling out pitches. S, bring us back the ball. Now. S! Come here! Don’t you throw it in the street. Don’t do it! S! (dammit) Look both ways, JP. Go ahead. Thank you. Eye on the ball, C, eye on the ball. Everyone is sweat-soaked now with summer heat and humidity and effort. C spits. He’s got that part of the game down. Good spit, C, good loft. Eye! On! The! Ball! There’s the wind-up, the pitch is a soft lob, shoulder high, C swings…contact! Line drive! Daddy goes down, he’s hurt. What’s wrong with him, JP? His wiener? Yes, that’s very funny, everyone laugh, har har. This is why we learn with a soft and cushy “baseball.” Okay, good hit, let’s call it a night. As we gather up our toys, listening to the roar of the cicadas and quietly reveling in the fact that there is no school tomorrow, no pressure tonight, we all realize, but don’t say aloud, that this is what summer is about. C even pauses to thank his old man for working with him, and he works on his gripping, watching the fireflies that are bringing the high heat now, he swings and that’s one less blinking light, one less day of summer.