The Outfield

Posted: May 19, 2014 in Uncategorized

1994

youngclayton

At four years of age, I wore my blue overalls–Oshkosh B’gosh. I felt like a farmer, running around all afternoon “Ole MacDonald”. With my toy tractor and plastic rake, I played on the patio, while Mom pretended to be busy in the kitchen. I wasn’t sure how long it took to make a meat loaf and mash potatoes, but one thing was pretty clear: it required her soaps playing in the background.

About one o’clock in the afternoon the voice of Ed Prentiss boomed through the window: “like sands through the hourglass, so are these the days of our lives”.

“Howdy, there… partner,” a low voice echoed off the patio.

A man with a thin red beard and bright blue eyes stood before me. His shadow stretched all the way across the patio and I remember thinking that he must’ve been a giant. Wasn’t at all afraid of him. He looked like he belonged there, like he was coming home.

“You’re durdee,” I said, taking a good look at the red dirt that covered his pinstriped baseball pants.

“You’re allowed to get dirty when ya play ball.” He dropped his duffel bag on the patio, took a knee. He kept an eye on me, as a hand fumbled around inside his bag. He faked surprise as his fingers curl around a lump inside of the bag.  “Looky what I got.”

“Whad?” My voice reached a pitch usually reserved for magic shows.

In one swift motion, like a gunfighter drawing his pistol, he pulled his hand from the duffel bag and raised a clean white baseball into the air. He held the ball out for me to take. I tried to grab it with one hand like he was doing and almost dropped it.

“Better use both hands,” he said.

“You gonna teach me how to throw?”

“If ya want.”

I sat there marveling the ball for a full minute, before I heard the patio door slide open.

Mom stood just inside the door with her hands on her hips. A frown furled her pale face. She didn’t seem too happy to see him. “Sweetie, you stay out here on the patio and play. Mister Glove Love and me need to have some grown-up talk.”

“Looks like I’ve been summoned,” he said, as he stood up and took off his ball cap. A long thick mane of curly red hair fell to his shoulders.

“In here,” Mom said to Mr. Glove Love, motioning him into the house.

The door rattled shut and I began rolling Mr. Glove Love’s ball around the patio. I’d roll it up against the side of the house and wait for it, as it bounced and rolled back to me.

It seemed like I was out there forever, rolling that ball around, when I noticed Mom’s raised voice bouncing around inside the house. I could tell she was yelling, but couldn’t make out any of the words. Every now and then, Mr. Glove Love would get in a word or two, but it was mostly just her…yelling.

A little while later Mr. Glove Love stepped out onto the patio again. He didn’t seem quite so tall as he had earlier. His eyes had narrowed to slits.

“Looks like we’re gonna have to postpone our game,” he said, as he crouched down to me.

“Posspone?”

“It means we’ll have to do it…” His eyes darted around the backyard, like he was looking for something. “…some other time.”

He unzipped his duffel bag, took the ball from my hands, and dropped it inside.

“Sweetie…” Mom was in the doorway. Time to come in now.”

Mr. Glove Love zipped his bag and patted my head. “I’ll see ya, kid.”

He stood up, grabbed his duffel bag, turned away, and looked out into the yard again.

“Bye-bye, Mr. Glove Love,” I said.

“You take care of yourself… And be good to your mother.” He spoke without looking back at me. He slung his duffel bag over his shoulder and lumbered off the patio. At the corner of the house, he turned, and disappeared from sight.

“Come on in,” Mom called again.

“Mom, who is that man?

“No one, Sweetie. No one who matters.”  She sniffled, doing her best to hide her tears from me, but I could tell she had been crying.

I ran to her and threw my arms around her waist. She pulled me away from her and closed the door behind me.

“It’ll be alright,” she said, but she didn’t mention Mr. Glove Love again for years to come.

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