A month ago it had been summer. I'd worked production, overtime till six p.m., saving money for school. At night I'd played softball--shortstop for a team called the Jokers. I hadn't played softball since early in high school. This was different, the city softball league. Most of the guys were older, playing after work. The park was crowded with girlfriends, wives, and kids. They spread beach blankets behind the backstop, grilled hotdogs, set out potato salad, jugs of lemonade. Sometimes, in a tight game with runners on, digging in at short, ready to break with the ball, a peace I'd never felt before would paralyze the diamond. For a moment of eternal stillness I felt as if I were cocked at the very heart of the Midwest.
We played for keggers and after the game, chaperoned by the black guys on the team, we made the rounds of the blues bars on the South Side, still wearing our black-and-gold-satin Joker jerseys. We ate slabs of barbecued ribs with slaw from smoky little storefront rib houses or stopped at takeout places along the river for shrimp. Life at its most ordinary seemed rich with possibility.
In September we played for the division championship and lost 10-9. Afterward there was a party that went on all night. We hugged and laughed and replayed the season. Two of the wives stripped off their blouses and danced in bras. The first baseman got into a fist fight with the left fielder.
When I woke hung over it was Monday. I knew I'd never see any Jokers again. . .
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Summer Reading #3
From "Sauerkraut Soup" in Childhood and Other Neighborhoods by Stuart Dybek: