Dong-po Thum and a Baseball Player

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Dong-po Thum and a Baseball Player

Post by RonCo » Thu Jul 25, 2019 4:35 pm

Prompted by: viewtopic.php?f=23&t=29352&p=167276#p167276


Mother-fuh…Ah…thoughts in Chinese that have something to do with dog feces and water boarding (shakes shoulder out, trying to get blood flow, waves to the trainer). No, I’m okay. (jogging to first)

The asshole hit me. Look at him up there, smirking. Can't he read the scoreboard? Doesn’t he know it’s freaking 10-1? I’m lucky he didn’t kill me. Fastball up back of the neck. Where I come from that’s worth a visit from the police and a trip to the farm.

(reaches first base).

“You okay?” Carter, their first baseman says to me.

Dude’s al right. He’s been around awhile, but knows what it’s like to come up early

“Does your boy know the damned score?” I say back, still glaring at the pitcher. Look at him up there, still smirking like a boss man on the lines. His eyes are glistening like it’s his sister’s birthday. Makes me want to puke. More Chinese.

“I’ll talk to him,” Carter says while Brian Sullivan takes his spot in the box.

Yeah, right. He’ll talk to Gabriel and Gabriel will just laugh. Pitchers are all like that. Assholes with weapons is what they are. A ball ann no strikes, with an out and the asshole hit me with a pitch. Screw that. Carter talking to the guy isn’t going to cut the bologna. This one’s on me. Carter might know what it’s like to be up early, but he’s got nothing when it comes to trying to get your parents out of China while you’re doing it. This asshole could have cost my family their lives.

First pitch to Sully’s called a strike, and the next two are nowhere close to the plate. There’s a reason this flop is pitching in the 7th down nine. Gabriel’s a lefty. Gotta watch him. I take an extra two inches on my lead this time. He brings the glove down to a stop, then throws another called strike. I got him, now. There’s a bend to his knee that says when he’s going home.

One more inch on the lead.

He goes to the plate, and Sully lets him off free by swinging at a pitch in the dirt. That brings up Andy (Mckinney).

“Give him the hole,” the coach says, telling me I shouldn’t run so McKinney, who’s a lefty, will have a hole to hit into. Screw that, though. When the score is 10-1 you get a blank sheet. I take that extra three inches, and wait.

On the whole a man gets 3.1 seconds to make it to second. Now that I’ve got his tell down, I can make it as long as I get that timing right.

The asshole bends down and looks in for a sign—which at this point I assume is the catcher just asking for anything he can catch. He stands and brings the glove to his waist. This is that point, that moment. You watch a pitcher’s face and his body language at the same time—it’s like taking in a painting all at once—you can’t pick just one thing, you know, or you miss it all, so instead you dial into the moment, the breathing, the rising of the chest and the set of a shoulder, there’s a rhythm there, a pulse like the beating of the heat. And in the end you feel second base out there in space, out in a place you can’t see—a thing remote like a dream, but certain like a distant shoreline. In that moment, there’s a rhythm and all I can taste is vengeance.

Second base is mine, asshole.

You can’t take my family away from me and not pay a price.

He moves.

I’m off. Three hard steps, body down like my daddy taught me mornings before he went to factory. Arms pumping. Legs driving. Then upright, eight hard steps and a slide. Grey bodies converge on the base head of me, but the ball skips by with a white flash. I pop up and head to third, making it on a trot at the end.

Only then do I hear the crowd, cheering, and see the third base coach scowling. (bends over and brushes red Ohio dirt from knees and butt, gazes over at the asshole on the mound as he spits). More Chinese. Not proverbs.

“I know,” I say to the coach when he starts talking about the scoreboard and taking it easy. “I know.”

And I do know.

I know the coach doesn’t understand any better than Carter does. He’s American, too. How can he know what it’s like to have to pay off an official just to let your mom come live in your home town because you’re playing baseball and the team’s where the team is? And how can they know what it’s like to look your dad in the eye as you leave him behind because there’s not enough currency left to buy license because he's an able bodied man who knows how to run a production line as well as he knows how to teach his boy to steal second base?

It’s not my fault the catcher’s got a rag arm and can’t get it to second on less than three hops, and not my fault the shortstop can’t catch.

My pulse is back down now. I feel the air coming in and out as I edge off third and as the asshole takes his place on the mound—his back to me this time, the big #56 blazing green in the ballpark lighting. He’s not happy to have me on third, but he gets it. As he comes to a rest, and I edge off the base, I glance at home plate, seeing its whiteness stark against the brown dirt.

That’s when I know I’m not done.

Stealing second was the price for hitting me, but this is different.

The next pitch is a called strike. Count is 1-1 as McKinney steps back and does his routine.

It’s late now, the sky here is dark and expansive under the stadium lights, but I can feel them—my mother and my father. Yes. Stealing second was about the asshole on the mound—telling him he’s not going to hurt me like that without paying something. But now, with the score 10-1 and the game over, I see home plate white and pristine, and I feel my father’s hand on my shoulders and hear his voice say I don’t have to do anything to prove anything to him—but that’s not the thing I remember about him now.

Instead, what I remember is a moment in our little apartment room eating, just the two of us, talking when I was maybe eight years old, and me asking him why he doesn’t play baseball anymore, and him looking at me and smiling, then drinking from his beer, and saying because sometimes you have to decide to make a difference for the people you love, and that when you decide to do that, you can’t go half way.

Which I didn’t understand until right now, standing at third base and looking into the dark skies in Ohio, which really are the same dark skies that my father is looking into when it becomes nighttime in China.

I’ve had a strange year. The numbers aren't where anyone expects they should be, least of all me. It’s been tough. But suddenly I’m thinking how hard it’s been to just let loose and play, to just let things come to me. Suddenly I’m seeing my father smiling, and my mother singing her little songs as she cooks on the stove.

You can’t go half-way, son, is what I hear as I take a deep breath, trying to keep my throat from choking up, but not doing it. The night air is cool. Vision swims a little as I blink my eyes to take in the pitcher on the mound and McKinney getting back into the box, but I feel it all rather than see it. And I feel my dad’s breath on the back of my neck as we look at the pitcher, hear his words as he whispers.

The score is 10-1. It is the seventh inning. And yet none of that matters anymore, just as it no longer matters that the pitcher is an asshole, or that Carter and the third base coach can’t understand what I’m doing.

The plate is ahead there. White. Clean.

I take my lead, dancing like my dad might have back when he was a boy.

The pitcher moves.

And I break for home.
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Re: Dong-po Thum and a Baseball Player

Post by shoeless.db » Thu Jul 25, 2019 5:19 pm

Freaking sweet writing! This was more than I’d hoped. Good work.
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Re: Dong-po Thum and a Baseball Player

Post by HoosierVic » Sat Jul 27, 2019 6:04 pm

There was talk at one point about collecting some of these in a booklet of some sort, which I still think would be a tremendous idea. Many of these spotlights are pure gold.

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