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Now finish reading the story. Some people might say that nothing really happened. What is your opinion ?
During the nights that follow, I stand sentinel-like at the top of the grandstand, watching as my cohorts arrive. Old men walking across
I haven’t been able to tell my wife — it is like my compatriots and I are involved in a ritual for true believers only. Maggie, who knew me when I still dreamed of playing professionally myself - Maggie, after over half a lifetime together, comes and sits in my lap in the comfortable easy chair which has adjusted through the years to my thickening shape, just as she has. I love to hold the lightness of her, her tongue exploring my mouth, gently as a baby’s finger.
“Where do you go?” she asks sleepily when I crawl into bed at dawn.
I mumble a reply. I know she doesn’t sleep well when I’m gone.
“Aren’t you too old to be having a change of life,” she says, placing her toast-warm hand on my cold thigh.
I am not the only one with this problem.
“I’m developing a reputation,” whispers an affable man at the ballpark. “I imagine any number of private investigators following any number of cars across the city. I imagine them creeping about the parking lot, shining pen-lights on licence plates, trying to guess what we’re up to. Think of the reports they must prepare. I wonder if our wives are disappointed that we’re not out discoing with frizzy-haired teenagers?”
Night after night, virtually no words are spoken. Each man seems to know his assignment. Not all bring sod. Some carry rakes, some hoes, some hoses, which, when joined together, snake across the infield and outfield, dispensing the blessing of water. Others, cradle in their arms bags of earth for building up the infield to meet the thick, living sod.
I often remain high in the stadium, looking down on the men moving over the earth, dark as ants, each sodding, cutting, watering, shaping. Occasionally the moon finds a knife blade as it trims the sod or slices away a chunk of artificial turf, and tosses the reflection skyward like a bright ball. My body tingles. There should be symphony music playing. Everyone should be humming “America The Beautiful”. Toward dawn, I watch the men walking away in groups, like small patrols of soldiers, carrying instead of arms, the tools and utensils which breathe life back into the arid ballfield.
Row by row, night by night, we lay the little squares of sod, moist as chocolate cake with green icing. Where did all the sod come from?
When the strike is over I know we will all be here to watch the workouts, to hear the recalcitrant joints crackling like twigs after the forced inactivity. We will sit in our regular seats, scattered like popcorn throughout the stadium, and we’ll nod as we pass on the way to the exits, exchange secret smiles, proud as new fathers.
For me, the best part of all will be the surprise. I feel like a magician who has gestured hypnotically and produced an elephant from thin air.
Players and management are meeting round the clock. A settlement is imminent. I have watched the stadium covered square foot by square foot until it looks like green graph paper. I have stood and felt the cool odours of the grass rise up and touch my face. I have studied the lines between each small square, watched those lines fade until they were visible to my eyes alone, then not even to them.
What will the players think, as they straggle into the stadium and find the miracle we have created? The old-timers will raise then-heads like ponies, as far away as the parking lot, when the thrill of the grass reaches their nostrils. And, as they dress, they’ll recall sprawling in the lush outfields of childhood, the grass as cool as a mother’s hand on a forehead.
“Good-bye, good-bye,” we say at the gate, the smell of water, of sod, of sweat, small perfumes in the air. Our secrets are safe with each other. We go our separate ways. Alone in the stadium in the last chill darkness before dawn, I drop to my hands and knees in the centre of the outfield. My palms are sodden. Water touches the skin between my spread fingers. I lower my face to the silvered grass, which, wonder of wonders, already has the ephemeral odours of baseball about it.
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