Friday, January 25, 2019

Nurse the Hate: One Perfect Ellipse

As a boy, he discovered his only true skill was being able to draw absolutely perfect ellipses.  Each one, regardless of scale, was pure perfection in its arch and proportion.  This won him a brief acclaim in a second-grade art class for perhaps 15 minutes one afternoon, but after that went unnoticed.  As his classmates matured, their various and more useful skills emerged.  While others excelled in mathematics or sports, he would quietly sit at his desk drawing ellipses in his notebook.  He did not feel cheated or shortchanged when he failed to develop excellence in other areas of life.  Each person is blessed to be gifted in one talent in their lifetime, and the ellipses was his.  There was no sense becoming upset about the lack of application for the talent.  It was better to just accept it and quietly wait for the opportunity to apply it.

He played Little League in the summer when he turned 10.  He was placed on a team christened the Mets.  An overage of late signups forced the creation of this new team.  These boys were mostly unathletic, being forced to play by disappointed fathers or domineering mothers.  The three men that ran the local league had a sense of humor about it, and named this “expansion” team the Mets, knowing full well the team’s doomed fate of being the league punching bag.  The team was coached by a well-intentioned father that knew almost nothing about baseball or sports in general but wanted “the boys to have fun”.   His name was Mr. Phillips (but call me Terry!) and he always wore very tight tennis shorts that seemed ill suited for athletic effort.  He was endlessly supportive but no real help whatsoever.  There was not one boy on the team with a shred of talent.  For six weeks, on Wednesday and Saturday late afternoons, the Mets would lose games ended by the mercy rule.  On the rare occasion when one of the Mets got on base, it was likely because they had been hit by the ball in the batter’s box, and that boy would sniffle back tears stranded on first.

There was a small wooden hut where the VFW manned a booth selling hot dogs and Cokes in waxed paper cups with shaved ice.  The ice would inevitably melt quickly, flattening the Coke.  On the small wooden bleachers wax paper cups would sag on the bottom as no one had ever finished their Coke before discarding it.  Parents and grandparents would sit in lawn chairs, with the more serious and competitive fathers standing along the backstop jawing at the umpire.  “That was a ball ump.  Open your eyes!”  The ump, Mr. Shannon, the day manager from the lumber yard, would stoically ignore the often-heated criticism just as he had seen umps do in the major leagues.  Most sons would dig into the batter’s box, glancing back at their fathers with embarrassment over their father’s behavior mixed with the apprehension of wanting to get a hit to earn praise.   The “ting!” of the ball hitting the aluminum bat.  “Attaboy Tommy!  Go for two!  Go for two!” 

His parents never attended the games as their work schedule interfered.  His mother asked if he wanted her to take the day off to attend one of his games.  He told her “no, that’s all right” as he didn’t want to seem like a baby, and then hoped she would insist, but she didn’t.  She went to work like she always did, leaving him a dollar for the team postgame trip for soft serve at The Dairy Twist.  His father would come home later in the evening and ask how the game went.  We lost.  “Well, you’ll get them next time.” 

It was late in the season.  The grass was brown in the July heat and crunched under foot.  Coach Phillips would move the boys around to play different positions.  “Every boy should get a chance!”  This would lead to complete pitching meltdowns and first basemen unable to record an out as they were afraid of the ball.  He was playing second base.  The pitcher seemed unable to throw a strike.  “Ball!”  Little kids played chase around the hot dog hut.  Older kids in uniforms warmed their arms up on the side of the diamond, preparing for their Pony League game.  They ignored the smaller kids as a show of dominance.  The pop of the mitt.  “Ball!”  He starred down at the dirt of the infield under his feet.  With the toe of his cleat he traced one perfect ellipse.       


At January 25, 2019 at 7:48:00 PM EST , Blogger Honeybee said...

A gorgeous read. Thanks!

At January 29, 2019 at 5:20:00 AM EST , Blogger AZ said...

Your brother Ken is still the man.


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