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BASEBALL FICTION

Pilgrim at the Plate
By Frank Fyffe

In this recurring dream I have, I'm always batting left-handed and God is on the mound. I'm not speaking figuratively about the Big Train or Bob Gibson or even Roger Clemens. This is the real God and He has a hundred-mile-an-hour fastball and a wicked (if you'll pardon the expression) curve. And to make matters worse, as a righty, I'm not even hitting from my natural side of the plate. We're in this old ballpark somewhere. Just God and me. Nobody else I can see. Just us, surrounded by weathered wood fences, dark stands, and outfield signs that advertise out-of-business car dealers and pancake restaurants. Beyond the fence in right, I can see the roofs of old row houses, the kind of homes grandmothers fill with old-fashioned furniture and too many doilies.

But I can't let myself get distracted by my surroundings because God is already into His windup. He reaches back and lets fly. A big balloon of a medium-fastball, straight across the middle of the plate. It's the kind of pitch I would've taken downtown without blinking an eye during my old playing days. But I let the pitch go by without even lifting the bat from my shoulder. You see, this is a strategy left over from the days when I led the Piedmont League in hitting three years running. I always liked to give the pitcher the first pitch, so I could concentrate on his motion, arm speed, release point, everything, looking for something that might give me an edge. Of course, if the pitcher was any good and he got the first pitch over, I'd be down in the count oh-and-one, with less margin for error. That's the way I find myself now with God. But I'm starting to think maybe this won't be so tough after all. God's second pitch convinces me of this. It's a lollipop curve outside that nibbles the corner but misses for a ball, according to the old scoreboard sitting atop the left field fence. Now we're even at one and one. The way I'm figuring, God is just going to lob them up to me—inviting me to take him deep—so I dig in a little more with my back foot. God looks in for the sign, nods yes, and begins His windup. I'm ready because I'm sure this is going to be my pitch. It's almost my head instead, as God brings the heat high and tight for a little chin music. I just about break my back scrambling, falling, diving back away from the plate and landing right on my keister. Remember, I'm not used to this side of the plate and everything, including bailing out on a high hard one, is off kilter for me. By the time I dust myself off, God is already glaring in, waiting for the next sign. I'm not so sure I want to step back into the batter's box. Then again, there isn't much else I can do. There are no dugout tunnels, gates into the stands, or any other way to leave this field. It's like I'm stuck here and have to finish my at bat. What's worse, now I know God's not fooling around out there. And He's not going to make things easy for me.

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

—EFQ

FRANK FYFFE is an advertising copywriter who lives in New Jersey and teaches marketing communications writing in New York City. "Pilgrim at the Plate" is his first published fiction.

© 2001 Frank Fyffe

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