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BASEBALL FICTION

Look into My Eyes
By Robert Pope

Peter Zenkewicz had just hung the screen door and popped another beer when he heard his wife calling from an upstairs window. "Peter," she said, pronouncing his name in the Polish manner, "when you finish, could you please come up and help me?"

He pushed the pliers aside with his foot and sat on the top step. He leaned to take the lighter from his pocket and lit the Lucky in his teeth. The sports talk show on the radio had become tedious, but it would go right up to game time. He set the lighter on its bottom beside him.

"Did you hear me, Peter?"

"Sure did," he croaked, brushing ash off his T-shirt. "Be right there."

He turned the beer up and took a couple of swallows. Fritzi growled high and nervous behind him, on the other side of the screen. Peter had needed to pee for fifteen minutes now, but hadn't gone in because Ilsa had gotten it in her head to move the furniture from one bedroom to another or some such thing. It was a cool, spring morning, and he wanted to enjoy it a little before he started pushing heavy objects.

He carried the beer around the side of the house, behind the pink flowering quince bushes, beside the hose curled around the faucet, so he could pretend to be turning the water on or off if someone saw him. He unzipped his pants and urinated longer than he had expected.

Coming around the house, zipping his fly, he saw a fifteen-year-old boy in a blue shirt and cap the exact color of his bicycle pumping toward him down the street. He recognized him as a student in his freshmen world history class. The dog barked high and raspy as the rear tire fishtailed and the boy's feet hit the street.

"Hi, Mr. Z."

"Hey, Adam." Peter glanced behind him. "Sounds like Fritzi's excited to see you."

"Can I pet him?" the boy said, laying his bike on the grass.

When Peter went up the steps and opened the screen, a wild, orange puff of fur dashed out and around the boy's feet four or five times until he got on his knees and scratched the dog's head.

"'Lo, Fritzi," Adam said. "Howsa doggie? Howsa doggie?"

Peter noticed the baseball glove hanging on the handlebar of Adam's bike.

"Going to play some ball?"

"Tryouts."

The dog lay on his back, his forepaws limp as Adam scratched his belly. His ugly snaggleteeth were exposed.

"It's that season, isn't it?"

"Yeah."

Peter came down the porch and sat on the bottom step.

"Think you'll make it?"

Adam shrugged.

"What position?"

Adam watched the dog. "I like to play third, but usually I'm in the field."

"You okay out there?"

Adam nodded. "Most of the time."

"How about with the bat?"

Adam looked at Peter and grimaced. "I strike out too much."

"But you hit sometimes?"

"Most of the time it pops to left field."

"You hit lefty?"

Adam shook his head.

"But you pop left?"

Peter stood and flicked his cigarette into the yard. "Wait a sec. I'd like to check something out." He stepped over his tools and went in the house, closing the screen quietly behind him. He heard Ilsa upstairs, moving a piece of furniture. He went through the kitchen, down the basement steps, to the footlocker behind the furnace. He opened it and folded back a wool blanket.

Inside, packed in mothballs, were baseballs, gloves, bases, a catcher's mask and protector, uniforms, bats. He grabbed a smooth, white bat, the smallest, least battered of the bunch. It clattered against the others as he lifted it out. He felt the heft of it, then carried it upstairs and back out to where Adam sat in the grass with Fritzi.

To read the rest of this story, click here to order a copy of the Spring 2001 issue.

—EFQ

ROBERT POPE teaches at the University of Akron. He has published a collection of stories, Private Acts, and a novel, Jack's Universe.

© 2001 Robert Pope

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