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Twelve-Pack Torres
An Evening of Wiffle Ball Between the Kid Team and the Bearded Giants

My son, a mechanic, thought he would be getting home too late to have a cookout. So I left the food in his refrigerator and settled in to write into the wee hours on my laptop over at my mother’s place.

Then I got the text, “Today is good.”

Vance, Ellen and their two children, Maddy [5] and Trevor [6], only live a mile from my mother, aunt, sister and her husband, so I headed out for a stroll into the Secular Promised Land, the manicured, lily white refuge from the urban blight to which Baltimoreans have been fleeing for just over a generation. I enjoyed the stress-free walk, in a world where strangers say, “Hello,” and no one is on their guard, a passing reign of civilized life with a neighborhood pool even.

But still, there are shadows, long and gray, deep and dark: on the main roads unemployed men of the martyr hue may be seen walking, gangs of them loitering at the 7-11, subsidized apartments being built over the next rise down in the bottom land, an occasional golden-hued spawn of oppressed brown martyrs and the pale devil wenches running about unparented, two vacant homes popping up on my mother’s street the very week she paid her home off—the signs of future blight gather and whisper as this idyllic hill I walk over waves with windblown trees and hedges shading the long, narrow footpath that shall one day host muggings, stickups, heroin shooting, crack smoking and perhaps a death.

There are other signs:

Though this looks like an idyll of my youth in Pennsylvania, there are no grouped children playing, no two children unless they are with their parent and not a single adolescent human, let alone a group of them playing ball or hanging out. I know where the teenagers are, chasing the Dragon named Opium down in the blighted hole in the national soul I have emerged from for a day.

Within minutes I arrive under stacked cotton balls in the sky streaked with sunlight and blotched by storm clouds of ashen grey just as Ellen, Maddy and Trevor pile out of their car. Ellen waves and smiles. Trevor runs in circles, declaring a grandfatherly visit and scheduling a ball game between us. Maddy tries to hide, but the tree is too far off, so I console her with the knowledge that I am wearing my hunting hat and child-spying sunglasses and that there is no tree that I might not see through—and she overtakes her brother in his bid to get to the athletic closet in the back yard, seeking refuge in her spritely speed.

The wiffle ballgame is at hand, with Trevor LaFond heading a team of eight imaginary mates, who stack up one by one on base as the goonish Twelve-Pack Torres, limps for the ball, short-stopping now decades behind him, only tagging out the speeding Trevor on occasion because he has hidden a spare wiffle ball behind his back. Tracking the imaginary base runners, keeping score, counting innings, tracking balls and strikes and outs, all exercises the young brain. And there is plenty of exercise for the young body too. For, although none of the lumbering team of out of town ancients seem capable of trotting further than first base, boy can they hit!

Trevor found himself a veritable Odysseus contending with the cyclops, finally arriving at an answer. If one pitches the ball ankle high, the hulking giant has difficulty swinging that low with a child-sized bat. To boot, Buster, the slobbering canid short stop, has retrieved the balls with his drooling mitt so often that knuckleballing is highly effective.

But the fiendish Twelve-Pack Torres and his team of touring giants had a trick or two as well, as grandpa announced that golfing legend Tiger Woods was being released from rehab and permitted to work off his community service by batting for the stiff-hipped giants, swinging with one hand and hitting everything over the fence even grass level cutters—but seemingly no better at getting past second base than the rest of the power-hitting crew, even being tagged out by a boy who has to climb fences and run around sheds to field the ball…

After suffering losses of 14 to 7 and 11-4, the visiting captain of the “New York Giants,” according to Trevor, a team “even more rotten than the Yankees,” walked off into the late evening sunset through a world that might have been, wondering what Trevor will make of it in his time among men.

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Add Comment
LaManoJune 22, 2017 1:16 PM UTC

Great story! Full of contrasts, of a bit of impending doom on the horizon so we don't get too taken up with the fluffy clouds although they ARE nice ...

.... and it's been many years since I was in a whiffle ball game with imaginary baserunners and a doggie shortstop. You described it to a T!