Pitcher in the Rain
The cacophonous noise of our car trunk slamming down rung throughout the sedan. It was a raw Sunday morning. Shades of salmon and peach trickled down into the abyss of the horizon; making room for a faint shade of blue to consume its nothingness. I quickly hopped out of the car and bent down towards the concrete. Fresh dew still lay recumbently on the grass. I placed my lens down carefully, and focused on a dewdrop, the colors of the alluring sky concealed within the water.
“Meg, I’m sure that’s a wonderful picture,” my mother said from the driver’s seat, “but we must get a move on. Hendrich is five hours away.”
“It was just a picture,” I replied as I made my way up from the ground, “besides, I already packed up early. You still have to get Ollivander from the laundry room.”
“That damn cat!” she yelled, realizing Ollie had completely slipped her mind, “I’ll get him. You get in the car. Joel is expecting us at 4:30, and I can’t be late to my own engagement announcement!”
“Of course. I’ll get in”
She disappeared back into the house. It’s semblance seemed stiff. Almost lifeless. The window that was once home to my room bared nothing but the seafoam walls my father had painted all those years ago. It seemed like all the joy that once lived there had been murdered, and now, the lifeless corpse of a once elated home sat stiff on the ground, awaiting a new life after our departure. I couldn’t even imagine it, a new family living in this house. New pictures on the mantel. New flowers in the gardens. New sleepovers being held in the living room. Somehow, it just didn’t seem equitable.
“I got him!” my mother yelled, holding a cat carrier in her right hand, and her left one behind her back, “and look what I found when I was doing a final sweep!”
She set the carrier down mildly and opened the car door. She held a baseball bat in her palm.
“Remember this? Rob bought you this all those years ago,” she paused briefly, “when you were going through a softball stage.”
As she set Olivander in the back, I grabbed the bat and held in my lap. It was a craggy old thing. Dents covered its frame and the grip had peeled off. I hate commemorating things like this. Mementos left behind from when I had my father at my hip, when he was still with us. He purchased this for me on my eighth birthday. He offered to take me to Clicker Stadium the following day. Clicker was the only place in this lowbrow town where baseball could be played. It usually consisted of baseball teams run by enthusiast dads, cheesy team names like the “Clicker Bats” or even worse the “Clicker Crickets”, middle aged moms with 12 oz. Diet Cokes on standby, and grown people arguing over whether a toddler sliding into home was safe or not. My dad and I despised that place.
“You good to go?” she asked me as she placed the keys in the ignition.
I looked down at the bat, then out at the sky. It was starting to rain.
“Almost” I replied in almost a whisper
“Have you said goodbye to Callie?”
“she couldn’t remember my name,” I confessed, “both times”
“So what’s holding you back, kiddo?”
I glanced at her morosely, then returned my gaze to the bat lying in my lap.
“Can we stop at Clicker on our way out? You know, the stadium?”
She huffed, “but we need to be at Joel’s at-”
“4:30. I know,” I broke her sentence and continued with mine, “It will only take a couple minutes.”
“But it’s starting to rain!”
“Precisely,” I choked a bit, “it’s just a few minutes. Won’t be over five.”
“Fine. We’ll go. But five is it!”
She started to back up. I cracked open the window a bit, and I could already feel the winds of change infiltrate my senses as we pulled out of the driveway. The rain carefully formed a sonata on my pane. Clicking and clanking gently, one after the other. Creating a lamented melody.
The day after my birthday, it started to rain. I felt morbid that morning. I had my cleats tied up and my uniform on, prepared for a day in the sun. I heard my father and mother discussing in the kitchen about how the precipitation was only going to greater throughout the week. That’s when my father marched through the doorway, umpire outfit strapped onto his body, and told me we were going to go play some baseball. I probably replied with something along the lines of “but it’s raining!”. He didn’t care. He took me out to Clicker, the field was idle. Not a Diet coke can stirred in the pouring rain. We slid all over the bronze gravel. We hit home runs and lost the ball in all the boundless puddles, and not a single person could tell us that we struck out. It was illustrious. Just my dad and I. Sliding into bases in the bleak rain.
The car shifted into a halt. I hadn’t thought we were already here. Clicker was drowned with water. Puddles pooled on the evanescent bleachers and the white streaks that marked the boundaries were as pale as a ghost.
“Go on, now,” she mellowly said, “and no more than five minutes”
I could say yes, but I couldn’t even find words. I just nodded. I grabbed the baseball bat carefully, not wanting to afflict it with my emotional grip, and walked out of the car. Rain fell on my shoulders like bricks. The blue dye from my hair leaked onto my white shorts. I didn’t mind. I didn’t even like them anyhow. My feet carry my body closer and closer to the field. Water squished and squealed from inside my Converse sneakers. When I finally landed my trudging feet on the turf, I felt my lips quiver. Not in fear, in sadness. I’ve tried too hard to be the one who smiles through everything. To look upon life as if it was just one planned event after the other. I dragged the bat with me to home plate and stared out into the nebulous void.
“I know you’re there, Dad. At least your spirit,” I say out to the vacant field, “so this is me, taking one last pitch with you. Taking one last pitch with Hertfordshire. Taking one last pitch with this life that I’ve known, and starting a new inning tomorrow.”
My feet sank into the ground. The gravel was staining my shoes. I pulled a baseball out of my pocket. It was old:used. The red stitches were soft from years of fading, and dirt carved itself into the thin crevices marking the ball. My chin raised up again, and I stared back onto the field.
“Remember when I was little, Dad?” I chuckled a bit, “and you took me out to the field when it was raining? For once, this crowded little cranny of a stadium was empty. Just you and me. And when I was tired, you carry me on your back all the way home.”
I began to pace slowly. My hands began to toss the ball back and forth, I didn’t even need to command them to. “We missed you; Mom and I. We watched your story on the county news that morning. We couldn’t believe it,” I gripped the baseball even harder, “how someone you love-someone who’s ran through hell with you-could just be gone because some idiot ran a stop sign?”
The ball made its way up to my torso. The tough texture sat on my hip.
“So,” I turned towards the field again, “here’s my last throw. This ball is my past. I’m letting it go, Dad, I’m letting it go.” I held the ball in front my chest, and then, the silence of Clicker stadium filled my ears. The roars of crowds, the laughing of children, the gossip of mothers all ceased to exist. I opened my eyes slowly, afraid to disturb the peace. “And Meg Felton steps up to bat,” I yell into the vast downpour, trying my best to mimic my father’s cordial voice, “she carries a Louisville Slugger; blue with white accents. Unfortunately, her pitcher couldn’t make it. He’s caught up in traffic Meg will pitch it herself.” Then, in that moment, I threw Hertfordshire up into the air, and everything in it. Every cast list that didn't contain my name, every boy who broke my heart, every friend who left me in the dirt, every birthday, every tear streaked down my face, and every stop sign. It was all being thrown into the misty air. I've never heard silence quite so loud before the bat made contact with the ball. It was incredible. My whole life flew across the field. Just as it had all those years ago, when he'd take me out here. It landed somewhere, I didn't know and I didn't care. I arched the bat on my back and stared towards the car. Clicker Stadium began to vanish behind me. I would miss Hertfordshire, not going to lie, but somehow I feel as if the heavy weights that burdened my shoulders had been lifted. My head was clear. I gazed back into the misty void. As the car began to slowly accelerate, I closed my eyes and imagined my pitcher in the rain. Covering me from the rain as we exited the field. Kissing me on the forehead as I fell asleep to the sweet sonata of rain tapping on my ears. I leaned back into my seat and tapped Ollivander's nose.
“Everything is going to be fine, Ollie,” I say to him as the stadium disappears from the corner of my eye, “we’ll be okay”.