You've cut work and feel free,
giddy like the time you played
hooky from sixth grade and found
a bundle of tied together Playboys
dumped in the Kissena Park lots.
Your breath quickens and legs
tire as you climb to your cheap,
nose bleeder seats. But you're perched
behind home plate and can still tell
a fastball from a curve, still catch
the first step every fielder
takes when bat meets ball.
After standing for the anthem,
scanning the crowd hopefully
for half naked, nearby women,
it's the throw down to second,
the ball tossed around the horn
and the Yanks versus Padres,
two underachieving teams
looking to start a hot streak.
Tim gets two hot dogs, a beer
poured from a dark blue bottle
as you unwrap the fat Italian hero
you bought from a nearby Deli
named after Joltin' Joe DiMaggio.
The game begins and you talk:
playoff possibilities, 'to DH or not
to DH,' whether Joba should start
or relieve, how badly you'll miss
this magical old Stadium when greed
tears it down at season's end.
Giles leads off with a double
down the line and someone says
'there goes the no hitter.'
Your friend's never seen one.
You watched Jim Bunning pitch
his perfect game against
the Mets, Father's Day 1964.
You were ten years old, bored,
fidgety and hoping for a slugfest.
Today, you'd give anything to sit
next to your dad in the middle
of a pitching duel and remember
all those twilights playing catch
with him, shagging flies, getting
in front of grounders, the sounds
of the ball whipping back and forth,
smacking leather, trying to say things
you never learned to tell each other.
The Yanks are winning 2-1
and you're hoping they can hand
the ball to Riviera with a lead
as the crowd starts the dreaded wave.
Tim asks about your writing.
It's going slow. Sometimes you worry
you're writing the same damn crap
over and over. You mention a recent
acceptance from a tiny journal
no one will ever read, sending out
your new manuscript and all
the rejections. You'll spend next
weekend with an ex-girl friend
and her son who you still love.
Jesse's turning fourteen.
He's autistic and gradually
growing further out of control.
Tim describes his writing as steady
and smooth. His book's still selling
well and he's happy, completely
in love with a woman whose name
you repeatedly mispronounce.
They're spending autumn in France,
thinking of renting a house
on the Cape. He can't believe
such good fortune has found him
so late in his life. You know Tim,
his hard work, his heartache
and you try not to think why him
and not you. You're younger, maybe
better looking, maybe a better writer.
Maybe not. You're not even hoping
he'll help you with publications, university
readings, at least not yet. And as Mariano
steps through the bull pen gate
to the first chords of Enter Sandman
all you feel is good, good for him.
You think Tim deserves all this
and more, nearly as much as you do,
as you picture hurling him off
the top tier, his body lying twisted
and lifeless on the dugout steps.
First published in The Ledge