The kind of boy my wife married, this, –This morning I had one of those dreams, dreaming back to a simpler time when I dreamt under a cold war weather system about getting bombed by the Russians and me and my family was running in disarray under forest fire skies of dark amber, filled with noise of invisible machines droning in the heaven, in a recurring dream..that kept happening; and then a big bomb cratered the earth beneath my feet, and teetering precariously, there, I was swallowed by the pit; I clambered up the side of the muddy hole and clutching the rim could see Dad and Mom and Sister through the heavy atmosphere, running away in the distance; and I yelled after them but they couldn’t hear (me..I’ll write the dream down now before it evaporates into foggy obscurity, here is what happened): I got up to go to the bathroom around four A.M. and went back to bed wide awake. I thought, “How can I be productive, lying

here thinking of coffee?” I petted Steve’s cat, then lightly turned the page from wakeful, early morning consciousness back onto a serene landscape of peaceful slumbers..and seen a vision. They aks’d me to join the team and play ball with them (baseball, they needed a pitcher), and I absolutely do not play baseball; or any kind of team sport for that matter to be sure, but it was kind of a MINOR,minor leagues division thing anyway&quite out-of-the-blue and they seemed to think I’d do okay and gave me the feeling I was needed, and there was a confidence in my natural abilities to lead so Isaid,” What the hell! if they’re askin’ I’m goin’!” So next I’m on the train heading for Game One with the guy who drafted me, and a couple, I don’t know who they were but we’re all on the same train (maybe they were the team’s owners). There was a TV showing some thing about a ranch way out there and it was a large, pleasant place with trees and old, empty horse corrals under high mountains (I think this guy and his wife or girlfriend owned it). There was a radio or stereo or something up on a shelf with a bunch of clutter around and it was playing music and nobody could make it turn off and somebody needed it silenced because he was taking a phone call, –maybe about the game? and it seemed like there was unwound tape inside gumming it up..8-Track? (We watched Episode 3 of The Prisoner before we nodded last night, maybe that explains all this..Number 6). But, so, we’re on this train; and then we stopped, I don’t recall why, and I noticed it was an elevated train we were on, running above another track on a trestle for support..it looked okay. And we were paused in front of someone’s dwelling and there was some dry cat-food on the track I guessed they put out to feed strays in the area (which was hilly; we were probably stopped to dump water from a tower for the steam locomotion). Then this guy gave me something like a baseball to practice with and that seemed like an idea! because the last time I played the game I was in the tee-ball leagues around 1962, and our coach was a Mr. Patton and his son Randy was on the team, too..Randy Patton, and of course there’s no pitcher in that game, that position is eliminated..except we did have somebody out on the mound (in case of a bunt??); and even with the ball set stationary on one of those so-called tees at the desired height, kids were striking out in front of an actual umpire (shame!); but I never did. Because Dad practiced with me after school and often on Saturday’s, getting my throwing-arm and catching skills up in the front of the house, which had kind of a yard with grass and some ivy – climbing up the stone foundations of the house and poured cement steps rising to the porch, shaded by the overhanging roof above the attic – ivy! crawling with snails..and I practiced hitting off a few of Dad’s pitches and I was a credible enough player, I suppose; though I lacked the competitive spirit and motivation and drive that spur one to continue along those lines into adolescence, when bodies of young boys who are disciplined enough with diet and exercise and all of those things begin to resemble those of athletes of another epoch, competing in ancient rituals near shores under a brilliant Aegean sun, –when all non-essential activity, including warfare, ceased! for those Olympian competitions, to the honor of a pantheon of Greek mythological figures, –which would have looked quite real to gaze at, seated upon their original perches flanked by these Ionian columns, and sculpted, with the artist’s eye unerringly conscious of seasonally shifting light-rays, affecting human perception in their varying illuminosity’s, –Greek artists..masters of make-believe making friezes about heroes, poised in battle, with Amazons! unlocking the vault containing nature’s deepest secrets; of similarities and differences between men and woman, of the eye and its relationship to the physical universe; and works, lately viewable exclusively in state museums (or, more likely for you, in a book), –of males, wrestling nude, locked in mortal combat in a moment in time, frozen in stone, or fired in kilns (on a vase, say), a discus’ throw from temples to gods of the locals, and their very involved religious systems of many immortal personalities, families of them, including Apollo, Adonis, Heracles..&Artemis, etc., etc; and in these games, c. 4th century B.C., there were other tests of useful skills, like shot-put, and spear throwing, requiring a beyond casual dedication to training, lifting weights, running, etc., for no other purpose than attaining top physical conditioning, and quick reflexes, in order to prevail, and in the end, receive that perishable crown, –which, some of the other guys I saw did that and got in the regular leagues where they had the opportunity to miss actual curve-balls, sliders and others, pitched! from the pitchers’ tool-box of pitches, eyes riveted on the prize, a baseball, while hearing, “Hey! batter-batter..SWING!” chanting from the dugout, and other taunts, spoken in lowered, lisping tones by catchers more learned in sports related oratorical skills than their young age would suggest, and of a far more personal character and a design to flummox..the man at bat; but I never got that advanced with it, preferring individual sports; if at all..anyway, I had a fiercely loyal dog named ‘Rex’ who adopted me and he more than made up for most of life’s shortfalls. So the train begins rolling again and I’m playing with the ‘baseball’ just feeling the weight of it in my hand and acclimating to its shape and scale, there; and suddenly it changes consistency, metamorphosing into a shriveled, spongey orange, quite useless for practice. So I show it to the guy, and I’m like, What’s up with that! so he gets me another one in better shape, and I then realize I have no mitt, too..no mittromney! and neither is that a problem. “Which hand, left or right?” he aks me. And I regard my (2) hands, imagining one of them catching a hot grounder and returning it with a lightning under-hand toss to the 2nd baseman, who relays it to first for an instant double-play! and have a sure feeling that I throw right-handed (though my batting stance was ‘lefty’ back in the second grade when I played..tee-ball! and I never progressed beyond that form because I seen too many kids eat a wild pitch or two; and that was not for me).

So now I got my mitt and we’re at the field where the game’s to be played, and it hasn’t started yet, so somehow I’m trying to imagine myself, intuitively pitching..like Koufax the celebrated left-hander did in the series to the MINNESOTA TWINS in a four game shut-out (or at least like Ernie Kovacs did it on the TV-show, wiggling his butt at the camera in a jocular fashion, and clenching that big black cigar in his teeth), –except I’m a right-hander; and I never pitched a game in my life; and I’m in kind of a tight little corner, here, trying to rise from a cot upon which I am bedded down way out past the edge of the diamond for some reason, in left-field, and I twist my ankle trying to get to the mound because of no useable space on the side I usually get out of the bed from..the right side of the bed; but I manage to get out and out to the diamond where everybody is expecting something and even though I haven’t been in the tee-ball leagues in well over fifty years I see no reason not to follow through with the arrangement of pitching this game. Why not?? and I’m saying to some of the dudes on the team I just joined, “Hey..wait till you see what I’m going to do to these your favorite pejorative for SLOW here!” (starts with ‘R’) “You guys won’t have much to do except hit home runs all day and a few grand slams.” Then I guess that was when I woke up. And was thinking back to some of the guys I knew who pitched hot fast-balls and curve’s (back in the 2nd through 7th grades; and it was real psychological for the sucker holding the bat trying to concentrate while the catcher’s telling him the next story) and one of them that had a red-hot throwing arm was my friend Chris J______, who got all the girls he was like a magnet with that and very mature (physically) with actual whiskers on his chin that his mom made him shave off if I happened to be around – maybe to spare my feelings – which, swinging a safety-razor a couple of licks, took about a minute with a sprinkle or two of water applied to the soap bar laying on the sink (Chris probably got all his testosterone by osmosis from having three older brothers); and he got the sister of a rival team’s pitcher for a girlfriend around that same time who lived out at the south edge of town at The Polynesian* (trailer-park) across the highway from the cemetery, and south of there, and she was very pretty and seemed to me very much a woman. (Wasn’t her name Chris, too?) But anyway Chris started going with her; and Gayle, also liked him and not me..Gayle W___, who I was fond of since the third grade when I changed schools and they shot Kennedy. (She made sure I saw her sitting with him at a football game, after we’d made it all the way to junior-high a few years later; probably so I’d stop bugging her, finally..but I digressed.) And I recall seeing this other girl’s brother, Merle, throwing some nice warm-up pitches before a game which had been part of an end-of-season serial elimination round, comprised of all the best players in the league from our town of Newhall to go to CIF and compete state-wide (all the redneck kids from Newhall enjoyed a kind of camaraderie on the road, and came home with lots of trophies from those things, since, to them, playing and fighting were not all that different from each other; and the referees somehow seemed to miss a lot of it). He had good form it seemed to me, the brother of Chris’s girlfriend – Chris, I’ll call her – and kind of a marine’s hair-cut, too (some kids were so serious); and then, in my freshly awakened state, live-streaming childhood memories on my pillow, I caught a glimmer of a girl that liked both of us Chris’s in our second-grade class which Mrs. Fox taught at Newhall Elementary named Natalie R____ and to me she was Aphrodite! and one day she got to come over and visit me at my house (??) and I was in heaven..we lived in the old manse by the Presbyterian Church (Dad preached there). We played house (we were married, of course). And I came out of my closet, or, in through the front door of our shanty, with my lunch-box in hand, home from a long, hard day at at work. And she was napping on the bed (according to script). And I went to her side and said, “I’m home, darling!” and she kissed me; and we were happy to be together again, at the end of another regular daily middle-class struggle with keeping lights turned on and a bit of bread on the table; and sweet seven-year-olds’ breath from daily brushings (as directed by the Department of Public Health, –?and who were we to defy their edict). And then we didn’t see each other much after that day except in class (where also we weren’t seated next to each other anymore, even though our last names had placed us initially at the same table together by alphabetical order; and random mathematical laws of chance..life is strange). But before there was Natalie in Mrs. Fox’s room, in the first grade there were two sisters, one very blonde and both had freckles..Nikki N_____, and her younger sister Teddy (I seem to recall their dad owned a construction company and I think he got bothered with me calling all the time that one Saturday while he was probably busy with something around the house on his day off). Nikki, who I liked best, had nice brown&white leather saddle-shoes and shock blonde braids and an overbite to die for; and the boys lined up on the playground at lunch-time by the monkey-bars, just to admire those shoes and get kicked in the shins with them..I, myself, preferring to enjoy their pain vicariously (maybe once I had that honor, but I don’t think her heart was in it, and I’m not really sure if that’s at all true..if it ever happened). Once, I got both of them – Teddy and Nikki – to come to a birthday party I was throwing that one year Dad got me a flying scale-model airplane with a liquid-fuel motor that was controlled by a lanyard connected at the plane’s wing-tip by two lead-wires maybe about twenty-five feet in length to a plastic handle-grip at the other end and it nose-dived in the pavement its first time up, UP!–then down. It was kind of through at that point; and I think I may have lost the photograph of me in red cowboy-boots parading it around in the presence of well-wishers, before the demise. I hadn’t been very good with kites, either, one of them still lodged – month after month, into fall and winter – in the crisp, dead branches of a mighty oak across the field next to horses behind barb’d-wire at the bottom of the hillside, –kite, and tree, no doubt! laughing heartily at me, my expense, and my airplane’s plight..I believe the mare neighed derisively, the stallion nodding approvingly at her assessment; and perched atop a neighboring power-pole catching that early December afternoon’s flower withering rays, a single, solitary raven had a word for me, he was chanting it..ever so slowly: “NE-VER-MORE!” I supposed I never would have made good with the Hitler Youth, either, had I been born in those halcyon days of sovereign adolescent knighthood’s, and glider clubs, wings of silver! on our chests, beating to a march on drums big as me..I, –no, not never! they would have, of a certainty! held me up to withering ridicule, joking in nazi-Deutsch to my disgraced countenence, “Sie wissen, dass die Trommel ihn noch kürser aussehen lässt!” (Trans: “You know that drum makes him look even shorter!”); kind of like how it was, presently it seemed to me (destiny of poets..like Icarus, crash and burn). Next, I got up out of bed left-handedly, and made coffee, looking out the window at morning’s first light..skies were grey. There was a nice octopus cloud stretching a bloated tentacle out from behind the hill, reaching casually after a lumbering fiddler crab cloud..they said we’ll get snow. Then the dog made me take her out to the backyard. It was cold. The END

~c.

* ..where also, as it happened, lived another girl from my second-grade class born of Hungarian emigres for parents, who was very quiet but seemed American in most respects..her name was ‘Leslie’; who chased me on a few occasions after class let out, and I showed off by being fleeter of foot than she, losing her in my dust. Back home in my room that afternoon, I reflected on her loveliness..those long, flaxen tresses and dark, searching eyes; I was hearing passionate notes of gipsies’ violins coming from the next room on Mom’s record-player. In hindsight I reasoned, I could have just relaxed a little, –I mean it wasn’t like it was The Olympics or something.

Published by scrunchymacscruff

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