Lost Angels and Blackbirds Part II

It only took him around twenty minutes to get through the neighborhood and out of what he called the ‘town proper.’ It was another term Pappy had used in reference to the areas of town that actually looked like a town and not like country roads that went on forever with only fields to either side with an occasional run down house or barn to break up the monotony. Then he was driving along a stretch of road just outside of town he thought probably went from one end of the state to the other.

He came up on the dirt road to his left faster than he expected, and passed it. He drove a little further down until he came to another dirt road to his right. Ten yards off the main road was a rusty metal gate, a chain and lock holding it in place. He pulled onto the road, backed out and headed in the direction he had come, this time a little slower.

There was a road sign, but it wasn’t the normal Green background with the white lettering. It was wooden and in the shape of an arrow. It looked as old as he was. Black paint that had faded to gray over the years announced the road was Cherry Park Road. He made the turn and followed the bumpy red clay street. He passed a handful of mailboxes as he went, but he saw no houses anywhere nearby.

Must have fallen down, he thought. Or been torn down.

DSCN2720Two miles fell away beneath the wheels of the old truck. Then, as if he had gone over a hill, a baseball field appeared off to his left. He pulled the truck into the tall grass and shut off the engine. To his right were trees and a set of wooden bleachers that faced the field. A mailbox leaned to one side, forced that way with the growing tree beside it.

As he sat in the truck, he looked through the windshield at the tall grass and the run down dugouts (one of which had the words HOME OF THE CHERRY PARK ANGELS spray painted on the outside). His heart sped up and he licked his lips.

Along the top of one of the dugouts sat a flock of blackbirds, very similar to the ones that had been on the wires along his street.

DSCN2725Wendell stood from the truck, his knees popping in nothing short of sweet relief. He stretched his back and arms and then walked toward the field. There was no dugout gate, just an opening that led from outside the field, to the dugouts, and ultimately, on to the field. He stepped inside.

“Not too bad,” he thought. “I can work with this, I think.”

The wooden frame was still in good shape. The ceiling didn’t look like there were holes in it anywhere. The bench was nothing more than two wooden planks, side by side that ran the length of one wall. Chain link fencing separated the inside of the dugout from the field. Though it looked as if it hadn’t been used in years, it still looked like it could be used tomorrow (or today, he thought) by any group of kids who might show up to play a game or two.

Wendell didn’t spend too much time in the dugout. He stepped onto the field where so many kids had probably played, where so many dreams had been born and probably died, as well. He hated that prospect, but it was true. He was a living testament to that, having been a little boy with dreams of big league baseball in his future, only to realize a few years in that he would never be able to hit that little white ball with the red stitches. It didn’t matter how good he was at fielding and throwing, his coaches wanted hitters, guys who could get on base and produce runs. Wendell frowned at this. Other kids could hit, and hitting, he thought, was overrated. How many of those kids could make a diving stop at third base and still throw the batter out at first? If his memory served him correctly, the answer was not too many. The art of the diving player stopping the ball didn’t become popular, he thought, until the seventies. Now everyone could do it.

“I was cool before cool was invented,” he said as he stood where he thought first base should be, and where it clearly wasn’t. He let out another deep sigh, this one more from remembering than anything else.

DSCN2728Wendell looked back at the dugout, then back to where he stood. “First base should be right around here,” he said and stepped through the knee high weeds and grass. For a few moments he thought the bases had been pulled up the last time the field had been used. It made sense—they weren’t cheap if you bought the good ones and all the accessories that go with anchoring them in the ground. A couple hundred dollars apiece, for starters Unless they went with the throw down type that went on the ground whenever you wanted to play. They weren’t all that safe, in his opinion, but he had seen many places use them to cut back on the cost of equipment. Just as he was about to give up, Wendell saw the dirty base sticking out where weeds didn’t seem to dare to grow.

Wendell toed at the bag with one foot.

“Hard as concrete,” he said.

Wendell looked back to the dugout again. He was a lot further away than he thought he would be. He turned his attention to where home plate should have been. The back stop  was on a slight slope and covered with grass and a few weeds, but not nearly as many as the infield and the outfield had. From where he stood, next to first base, there was no way the bases were the right distances apart.

To be continued …

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Lost Angels and Black Birds Part 1

This piece was supposed to be a short flash fiction story, but it grew much larger as I wrote. I have divided it into parts. I hope you enjoy it. Drop me a note–I would love to hear from you.

Lost Angels and Black Birds Part 1

Wendell pulled the curtain back from the front window and stared out at the world beyond it. Gray clouds loomed off in the distance. He was certain if he stepped outside, the air would be thick with humidity. The curtains fell back into place and Wendell let out a long breath—a deep sigh to his old lady, one she didn’t hear since she was still snuggled up to a pillow in the bed.

He carefully made his way through the dark house, not bothering with the lights. He knew where everything was, and on the off occasion that something was out of place (that usually only occurred when the grands came by) his toes would find it and for several agonizing seconds they would bark at him in pain. That wasn’t the case on this early morning, where the sun was hidden away by the clouds and the birds twittered about on power lines.

DSCN2730Birds on a wire, he thought as he slid his pants on. They like to sing on the wires before a big storm. They will take flight soon. A sure sign, my Pappy always said.

A white undershirt went on, followed by a short sleeved button down, one that was loose and didn’t hug him tight; one good for working in. Socks and dusty work boots came next, rounded out by an old hat with a white B on it. This had belonged to his Pappy when Wendell was just a little boy, and that was sixty-two years in the past. It didn’t stand for Boston, but Brooklyn, as in the Dodgers before they moved to that damnable Lost Angels town. Though Pappy hated the move and never pulled for the Dodgers again (opting instead for the long time losers up in the Massachusetts area who also carried a B on their hats) he still wore the blue hat with the white letter.

Wendell sat for a moment at the kitchen table, thinking a bowl of cereal or a pancake or three would be nice. Maybe if it wasn’t going to be a gully washer of a day, he would have had both and washed it down with a cup of coffee. The table was just a round thing with an ugly orange Formica top that was speckled with black spots. On it was one of Jolene’s notepads and a pencil—always a pencil, she hated the way pens felt in her hand and the way it glided across paper. Wendell thought that was nonsense. Why wouldn’t you want your writing utensil to glide across the paper? Why wouldn’t you want it to be smooth, unlike pencils, which he always thought sounded like something trying to scratch an itch that just wouldn’t go away.

He pulled the pad and pencil to him. The pencil wasn’t much more than a nub, the tip whittled away to a dull point. Writing with something so small usually made his fingers cramp, but the note he would write wouldn’t be long, a few words, tops, to let Jolene know where he was at in case she woke up before he got home. This he suspected would happen.

Jo,

I went for a drive. I found a field that could use a little love.

Wendell

He set the pencil on top of the pad and flexed the fingers on his right hand. Even those few words made his fingers angry.

How am I supposed to work if my hands already bother me?

DSCN2738He stood and was careful about picking the chair up and pushing it under the table. Though he doubted she would wake if he let it scrape the floor, like with something not being in the right place in the house, there was an off chance she would get up, and then there would be no work done. At least not that he wanted to do.

Wendell left out the front door, pulling it shut behind him and making sure both key bolts were locked. He turned and looked around. The clouds were still off in the distance and they didn’t look like the storm-threatening ones he knew were coming in a few of hours. The air was heavy and wet.

Barry Steiner sat in his rocker a couple houses down and across the street. He already had his pipe lit up. Smoke slowly lifted in the air from its bowl. Barry gave a slow wave, just a sideways motion with his hand. Wendell did the same, but he didn’t think it was as difficult for him to do as it probably was for Barry.

He’s got to be pushing a hundred, Wendell thought.

The birds weren’t chirping, but they were on the power lines that ran the length of the street. There was easily a dozen or more and they all seemed to be looking down at him.

“Good morning, fellas,” Wendell said, but didn’t give a wave to them. No, not with Barry Steiner sitting on his porch, smoking his pipe and watching him just as the birds seemed to be. He reached his truck and looked inside the bed. His tools were there, including the ancient Honda lawn mower he got some thirty years ago.

Before getting in the truck, Wendell looked back over his shoulders. The birds were gone, their stares taken with them.

“I reckon I’ll see you there,” he said and got in. It didn’t matter how hard or gentle he closed the door, it always sounded like a slam. He thought of Jolene waking and coming out to see what he was up to. That thought vanished as he cranked up the old truck. If the slamming door didn’t wake her, then the rough rumble of the motor just might. He didn’t look back to the house. He just backed out the drive, put the truck in gear and drove off as gray smoke coughed from the exhaust.

(To be continued …)