The Story of Me

I hit it out of the park.

No, I mean I really did.

I. Hit. It. Out. Of. The. Park.

Said I couldn’t play.

Said it couldn’t be done even if I did.

Well, you can tell me “no.”  You can tell me “later.”  You can even tell me you “maybe, sometime in the future, I’ll let you know, how about we have some lemonade.”  Can’t say I’d be satisfied with any of those, but they don’t ruffle my feathers like telling me I “can’t.”

Even now, that just gives me the angry shivers.

Now, all these boys (and how they grow every summer I come back to Kansas), they know to a man I can run faster, throw farther, think quicker, jump higher, holler louder than any one of them.  I’ve become a game to them, who can run, throw, think, jump, holler, whatever, better than Amelia.

Well, not one.  Not yet.  I’ve too much of Grandfather in me.  And Grandmother.  And Daddy and Mama, and even my sister, too.  Set back?  Give in?  I think not.  These fellows, they see the iron in my eyes.  They tell me I get a sideways grin on my freckly face when I get a challenge.  I must grin a whole lot, as they do challenge me regularly.

The one thing, the only thing, the singulary thing I’m not allowed to do, rules of the Great State of Kansas set down to paper state it clear, is this:  “The Ordinances of the Great State of Kansas do hereby and forthwith encourage the fair and honest play of the game of Baseball between organized teams of boys aged 8 to14 representing their communities and towns to be played by the rules and regulations set forth hence.”  And on and on it goes.  But I’m always stopped right there.

Boys?  BOYS?  Well, what about me?

What about you, they toss over their shoulders, heading down to the city diamond at the bottom of the bluff by the river.  In this one case, they don’t bother, even once, to argue the point.  It, they say, is the law.

Well, hang the law.  (That’s what I later told Grandfather, retired judge for the County, just before he bade me exit his presence and rethink my comments in the quiet and loneliness of my room.)

Well, I’ll say it again.  Hang the law.  Just like fences were made to be leapt, laws were meant to be circumvented.  (I was wise enough not to confess those thoughts to Grandfather.  I might have been banished for a month!)

One day, middle of the hottest, muggiest of July days, flys buzzing around my frizzled curls, I’d run completely out of gas.  Nobody around anywhere.  I searched for occupation, but the heavy wet air weighed me down.  I thought about replacing the fallen birds’ nest I’d seen at the bottom of the big oak down by road, but that ended quickly when Mama bird, a blue black Great Tailed Grackle dive-bombed me, pecking my ears and sending me running for the covered porch.  All my ideas for retaliation were shot to heck as I watched her return to her hungry chicks in the fallen nest.  Thought they never did that.  Glad she did.  So I forgave her.

But I was itchy.  Something was calling to me.

I knew what.

And you know what.

I snuck out to the clothesline where Grandfather’s top man, Otis, had  his dungarees out drying.  Grandmother’s ladies, they were nice enough to wash his workclothes every now and again, if he asked real nice.  I hoped he’d not miss them.  They weren’t quite dry yet, anyhow.

And a mite uncomfortable, too.  But rolled up from the bottom, and rolled down from the top, and held up with a leather strap hung just inside the shed, I grabbed an old greasy hat from the garage and marched myself down to the river.

And to the baseball diamond at the bottom of the bluff.

Now I could see from a far off the game had been stalled.  Just a bunch of boys, all doozed up in their baseball finery milling about here and there, not a ball being tossed, not a bat being swung.  I eased myself up into the splintering bleachers behind third base and gave myself a listen.

“You’ll have to forfeit,” said a stringy boy in blue striped socks.  Must be one of them from down to Leavenworth.  They were a tough crew.  Had to be.  Federal prison in their midst either toughened them or scared them away.  That’s what Grandfather said about the population at large, anyhow.

“Won’t do any such thing,”  retorted Jimmy Fair, one of my pals.  “Butch or Isaac or Martin, one of them’s likely to show up any minute.”

Well, you and I know they did not, discovering later they were all sitting side by side on a courthouse bench, caught throwing unripened apples at old man Holyoke’s deaf and dumb donkey.

Then, what you and I know would happen did.

“How ’bout that feller over there on the bleachers?”

Huh?  Jimmy Fair twisted his head around my direction.  I nodded.  His face turned red as an ember and he started to blustering,  denying my very existence.  That’s when all the other Leavenworth boys started in.

“Yeah, let him play!”

“Yeah, he looks like he could play.”

“C’mon, we want a game!”

Jimmy Fair struggled, “Ain’t got an extra glove.”

But those Leavenworth boys, they came prepared.  “Why, feller can use one o’ ours!  Hey, you, kid!  You wanna play?”  They hollered my direction.

You and I know I did.  And with only one sideways grin at Jimmy Fair, and none at the others who watched in silent flabbergasted amazement as I slid off the bench with nary a splinter in my backside, accepted the offered glove and headed yonder to the outfield.

Can’t say I was spectacular in the field that first inning.  Of course, I chased everything that came my way.  Made no errant tosses.  Stayed at the ready.

But it was when I came up to bat, well, you and I know what happened.

I. Hit. It. Out. Of. The. Park.

That, rounding third my cap blew completely off, loosening all those frizzled curls, well, that was what ended my participation, for that day, at least.  That a couple of those Leavenworth boys hollered “Foul!” and chased me half up the bluff, well, that was sport in itself.

Dang.  I hit it out of the park!

A.E.

**************

 

Boy, Do I Hate Them Birds!

Ugliest, most aggressive bird on the planet!

Durn blast, I detest me them birds!

They’s called Great Tailed Grackles.  Come up from Texas and them parts.  An ugly enough moniker, but it don’t tell the whole story.

Attacked Mama’s big yeller cat.  Two of em’ at once, a’while the rest of the herd kept watch from the fence over yonder.  Filthy vultures spooked Blondie so bad she hid under the front porch fer three days, couldn’t even coax her out with chicken leavin’s.

Pecked the dickens outta the roof di-rectly over my bed.  Thought they was comin’ plumb through!  Found sawdust on my pillow next mornin’.  Sounded like one o’ them jackhammers down to the quarry.  Rhythmic, but destructive-like and dishonorable somehow, bodin’ of evil and wrongdoin’.

Dive bomb our ragtag baseball team down to the school regular.  Takes ’bout an inning, maybe two, but after that we get cocky and seems the attack is even more fretful.  Race us to the ground balls, peck the straw fillin’ from second base, all the while we’re a’shooin’ and a’shoutin’.

Big ol’ ugly things ain’t even worth eatin’.  Oily. Taste like last week’s road kill. Figured to a’scare them suckers off, I got me a couple with Grandpap’s ol’ 22.  Mama wouldn’t let me bring ’em in her kitchen.  Shooed me out, fussin’ and a’wavin’ her apron.   Purty near got myself a whoopin’ my ownself.  Enterprisin’, ‘er so some say, I popped ’em in a burlap sack, hightailed it down to the crick, skinned them nasty things, then cooked ’em over a fire right down to the water’s edge.  Smoke stunk.  My clothes stunk.  My personal self stunk.  Everthing within smellin’ distance  stunk something awful.  Ain’t no quitter, though, no matter how you peel it, so I took and peeled me off a gray piece o’ smokin’ meat and took me a taste.  Gagged fer ten minutes, even after a’drinkin’ a good part of the crick and a’dunkin’ my whole top half in the same.  I can still taste that mean things, just ‘memberin’ gives me the shivers.   Slimy and vile, tasted that sucker with ever breath I took, and I tell you what, I reckon I’ll never try that agin.  I’d swear to that, if’n the Lord God didn’t forbid it.

‘ Course, truth be told, these is “devil birds” and nothing the Good Lord woulda created purposeful.   The Almighty might appreciate a curse word or a couple tossed their way.  But now as I’m rethinkin’ it, I just may let some other feller go to doin’ the cussin’.  I sure don’t want to wreck my chances for the everafter and them streets o’ gold.

Look a’ here, there’s a couple a flyin’ over right now.  I’ll admit to duckin’.  My fear is justified and natural and I ain’t ashamed.  They’s disgustin’ and bent on ill.  The more we shoo ’em away, the more o’ them danged things flock to the rescue.  Them beady black eyes challenge us all to just go ahead and  do somethin’ about it.  Why, Daddy and Grandpap tried ticklin’ and tuckin’ aluminum foil to the tree branches and ’round the barbed war.  Heck if them grackles didn’t eat it up, then reguritate it right back on Mama’s back porch.  Putrid piles of hair and half di-gested animal parts didn’t look no purtier with flecks of tin foil sparklin’ amongst the dross and ooze.

Mama wouldn’t even take a step out until we kids scrubbed and cleaned.  Weren’t no piece o’pie, I tell you,  a’cleanin’ and holdin’ our co-llective noses at the same time.  And where Dad and Grandpap lit off to so as to miss the fun, I still do not know.  I do know they was smarter’n me.

So now, I s’pose we just got to live with these creatures.  No pleasant neighborly-like livin, I’ll tell you that.   Ain’t even possible, nor desirable.  I hear tell they work themselves clear across the country, findin’ the fresh and new and innocent of God’s precious creation on which to deposit their gore and disdain.  So I mean to wait them out.  They’ll move along by and by, and I aim to be here after they move on down the line.  I will continue to shake a fist or two their di-rection, and duck if they meet my eye.

Now, this ain’t givin’ up.  I just know when to lie low and let the dark storm pass on by.

This’d make a real good movie down to the picture show.