Thursday, March 27, 2014

Billy Saddle, the Baseball Novel, Chapter Forty-Four: Mother's Day

FREE on Amazon Kindle, March 25-29.
Number Seventeen: FDR
The most striking aspect of this one is that Blaine has portrayed the President in his wheelchair – a pretty radical move for 1960. The choice of Roosevelt is not a surprise – Blaine was a lifelong Democrat – but the dedication is notable. The piece shows the same signs of “working” as Marilyn, indicating a wholly original work. The green features a model of the White House, a door sliding back and forth over the main entrance. A mistimed shot hits the door and rolls back toward the tee. A shot to left or right drops into a tunnel with a less advantageous route to the hole.

David returns home, late at night, to industrial sounds emanating from his garage. He finds Elena flat on her back, pressing a lightly weighted free-bar. She slides it onto the holder and shuffles to a sitting position.
“This must look pretty wimpy to a veteran.”
“Not at all. You should always err on the light side. I gotta say, I’m impressed by the way you’re sticking with this. You look healthy.”
“Thanks. I suppose it was time to do something that wasn’t a reaction to a man.”
“That’s when it sticks – when you do it for yourself.”
She smooths a hand over her biceps
“Just the same. Would it matter? If I was… sexy again?”
David takes a long breath.
“So you’re in love with her.”
“Yet another thing I’ve done to myself.”
He pulls up a milk crate and sits across from her.
“You’re not really losing me. We’re a family. I even like to think we’re friends.”
Elena lets out a gasp of air and wipes the back of her hand over an eye. She looks away, embarrassed. David folds his hands.
“I’ve asked Thomas to draw up the papers. Legally, I’d like to retain half-ownership of the house, but I want you and the boys to live here as long as you want. I’m moving in with Abbey, maybe right after school’s out. I’m telling the boys to drop by any time they want. Well, it seems like I see a lot of them, anyway.”
“You’re a good father, David. I’m glad you… made up for me. Just… could you leave me alone for a while?”
“Sure.” He leaves, trying hard not to look back. He closes the door and hears the clank of the weights.

David and Abbey have been extraordinarily good at hiding their relationship at school. They suspect that everybody knows, anyway – 21st century teens being supernaturally adept at transmitting gossip -–but both are determined to maintain the fa├žade of their hard-won integrities.
This, however, is an opportunity that David cannot pass up. It’s lunchtime, Abbey is standing above a canal that runs behind the school, and she is absolutely alone. He comes behind and grabs, just to hear her squeal, but he hasn’t fooled her at all. She turns and delivers a kiss that she saw once in a Katherine Hepburn movie, then releases his lips and smiles.
“Hello, Mr. Falter.”
“Hello, Mrs. Sparling. I have asked my wife for a divorce.”
Her eyes open wide.
“You… Really?”
“Yes. I have.”
She’s been trumped, chills racing her neural tracks like tiny motorbikes. But she holds one last card in her back pocket.
“Are you aware, Mr. Falter, that one may sit at the windows of the third-floor chemistry lab and see absolutely everything that occurs in this particular spot?”
David turns to see the offending lab – and three young faces at the window.
“Goodbye, Mrs. Sparling.”
And walks away.
Abbey finds herself laughing hysterically.
“Goodbye… Mr. Falter!”
David pauses at the crest of the hill to perform, in the direction of the chemistry lab, a formal Shakespearean bow.

Perhaps it’s an old-school attitude, but David takes a defensive posture toward technology. He turns off his cell phone just before class and leaves it that way until he’s done with his job.
Especially today. Battling the distractions of a March warm spell, he has pulled out an old favorite: the crucial role of coffee in the American Revolution, Thomas Paine and his cohorts filling London coffeehouses with ideas of mechanics, equality and Athenian democracy. The world’s coffee capitol has since moved to Washington state – these kids would take it with an IV if they could – so he knows that he’s preaching to the choir.
The lecture is so effective, in fact, that David has to dash to the teacher’s lounge for a “faculty fix” – half a cup of java, cooled off by three ice cubes for quicker consumption. As the ice disappears, he hits the power button on his phone and receives a text from Pablo: 2nites the nite! 6 pm
Someday soon, the texting craze will finally eliminate all those ridiculous Gaelic gh’s. He bolts his half-cup and smiles.

Six p.m. is gorgeous. He stops at the gate and looks westward, where the sun and the horizon have conspired to throw a tangerine veil across the sky. He follows it up and tries to find the spot the orange gives way to the blue. He finds himself doing these kind of things more often, a clear symptom of being in love. It could be that sacrificing Elena has pushed him from the edge of the cliff. It’s a grand flight.
Inside, the lot resembles one of those Matthew Brady photos of Civil War camps, a jumble of white tents. Someone has planted a snake-line of sand-filled candlesacks, but it’s hardly necessary. Hole 18 is right up front, opposite Macchu Picchu. Its’ tent is larger than all the others, filled with laughter and glowing from the inside like the tooth fairy’s campsite.
He steps inside to find all the usual culprits, gathered at round white tables, feasting on razor clams (the casino), Hawaiian pizza (Laney’s), Gillian’s famed snickerdoodles and a wide arrangement of microbrewed beers. Gerry Kolder hands him a Deschutes porter and slaps him on the back.
“David! Good to see you.”
“Is that a cold beer or…”
“A Kolder beer? Yep, never heard that one before.”
“So how’s the lake?”
“Until recently, rainy as hell.”
“Hope we’re not cutting into your fishing.”
“Wouldn’t miss this.”
David gives the room an all-purpose wave and heads for his seat, which is, at all times, to the left of Abbey Sparling. He sits and gives her a smooch as Charley Nations, clothed in a white fringe cowboy jacket, wraps up a tale.
“This aroused much curiosity, of course, so we called the sheriff. It turns out that Mr. Corralitos had bankrolled his magical session of craps by making a large withdrawal from a bank in Vancouver – at the point of a gun.”
The table roars its approval. Charley raises a finger.
“It is not always so lucky… to be so lucky.”
“Peo-ple! Peo-ple!”
This is Pablo, standing at the base of the mound, making like an aerobics instructor. The room grows quiet in a denouement of shushes and giggles.
“All right. You are all members of the inner circle, you all know why we’re here tonight, so I will keep this short.”
Sarcastic applause.
“Ha-ha. Very funny. Ruffians. Let me just say that this has been like the greatest treasure hunt ever, and I’m almost disappointed that we’ve come to an end. There are a lot of people who have made this possible, notably the Pizza King of Ocean Shores, but I’m fairly certain that no one will object if I give the honors to the son of our designer.”
Thomas stands to applause and smartass remarks. He makes a show of taking off his sportcoat, rolling up his sleeves and spitting on his hands. He grips the sledgehammer, says, “I’d like to dedicate this at-bat to my Little League coach, Mr. Skyler,“ then raises it high and punches a hole in the adobe shell, a foot up from the base. Derek snaps a photo.
“Have to it, men!”
The rest of the process is well-rehearsed. Using hand-shovels, pry-bars and hammers, the men break the adobe-turf composite into chunks and deposit them in the open areas at the back of the tent. As the sand slides into new territories, the top of the pile descends, revealing a feminine face and torso. Thinking quickly, Pablo picks up a grocery bag and hides the subject’s identity. As the men clear the sand away from the figure, the guessing game begins.
“Ava Gardner?”
“I’m betting Katherine Hepburn.”
“How ‘bout Eleanor Roosevelt?”
“Not enough of her.”
“I know! Amelia Earhart.”
“In a dress?”
“What? You mean she never wore a dress?”
Soon they have her all cleared away, a woman of medium height and figure in a forties-style suit and skirt. In one hand she holds a carnation, in the other a small handbag bearing a Celtic cross. David’s guessing Myrna Loy, or Judy Garland.
Pablo hands Thomas a whisk broom.
“Are we ready?”
“Well ain’t this a fun little whodunit?” He takes his position on the sand.
Pablo takes a corner of the bag and lifts. From his vantage David sees a shoulder-length pile of curls, a small, slightly upturned nose; a shy, charming smile and round, alert eyes.
Thomas adjusts his glasses and performs a careful study, then, caught by some puzzlement, raises the whisk and brushes away the remaining sand. He locks on the eyes and goes perfectly still. Gillian comes to his side.
“Thomas?” Then she freezes, too, and presses his hand. “Oh, Thomas.”
Gillian pulls a chair into the sand and eases him into it. He gazes up at the woman as if he, too, has become a statue. Gillian kisses him on the forehead, gestures to the rest of the party and leads them from the tent.
They gather in loose circles at the front gate, sipping beers, smoking cigarettes and talking in library voices. David looks for Abbey but finds Derek, who seems, for once in his life, perplexed.
“Dad? What’s going on? Who is that?”
David places a hand on the back of Derek’s neck and gives it a squeeze.
“I believe that’s his mother.”

Photo by MJV

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