Wednesday, January 31, 2007


I'm back at my computer again...Hopefully for good. I don't like hospitals much. Clearly, I haven't yet been able to keep up with my postings, let alone visit your sites...But I will.

I have found an interesting thing has happened to my writing while I've been under the weather. My handwriting has become kind of dyslexic. Words are coming out backwards, out of order and just generally weird. New letter forms are appearing...Seriously. Odd little bunny eared scrawls are Ws. Sometimes. Clever, new and seemingly meaningless punctuation shows up, poof. I started outlining a new novella length piece yesterday, and had to go back and language check the danr thing before closing the notebook, for fear that the text would read like Urdu the next day. My typing isn't much better but then, it never was. At least there's spellcheck.

So, here's a story for Spring. Stu, you remember this one...two weeks...pitchers and catchers, right?


Most visitors’ dugouts in the Blue Water League have a place where Meachum can feel comfortable. He likes to sit in a corner where he can slouch against two walls. He likes wooden benches. He likes it dark. Here, at Huron Park, the bench is aluminum and he squints against the halogen brightness. Lots of managers are pacers or standers or leaners. Meachum sits, his voice sharp enough to cut the crowd noise and find his batter’s ear.

“Come on, ‘berto, pick him up!” Roberto Greenstreet, his tank of a catcher, sways at the plate, the bat light in his hands. Nobody out and Davis is on first. One and two on Greenstreet. The Huron Bay pitcher jams one high and inside, Greenstreet twists away and the ball nicks his bat, squibbing like a bottle rocket sixty feet toward first. The first baseman misjudges and charges the pop fly, grabs the ball on its first bounce and with surprising grace, he whirls and tags the runner. He’s so pleased with himself, he forgets to throw to second, missing a likely double play. Double A ball is like that.

Meachum sighs. It’s only the second week of May and already his Jets are two and seven. He guesses this Thursday crowd to be about twenty-five hundred. This is the Huron Bay Clippers’ second season in the League and they are drawing well. The Jets have been in Wyandotte since the middle eighties and they can’t pull two thousand on a Saturday. A couple of winning seasons could fix that. A title run could fill Jet’s Park. I can give it another few years, thinks Meachum. Or I could leave in September. There’s the IRA and the pension. I could leave. Meachum is fifty-five. There’s some talent on this team, though. A little, at least. There’s Kimbe’ Reese.
“Reese,” calls Meachum. A tall, black, willow-switch of an eighteen-year-old looks up as he walks to the on-deck circle.

“If Scuddy gets on, you just have to make contact. Put it in play.” Reese doesn’t nod, but he understands. “You hear me? Just put the ball in play.”

Kimbe’ Reese takes a few steps toward the dugout, turns to spit at the pitcher, turns back and says, “I can break it.”

“One run, Kimbe’. One run. Put the ball in play, poke it into right. One run.”

Reese raps the rubber weight from the end of his bat, takes a sweet, hard, singing cut at the air and says, “Three runs. Quick. Break that fucker’s heart.”

Scuddy walks. One out. Reese steps to the batter’s box, scuffing sand, tugging his batting glove on with his teeth. He stands in, takes three practice swings and then glaces back at the umpire. Time has been called. The Clipper’s catcher trots out to the mound. Two infielders join him.

For Meachum it’s always been baseball. He played mostly Double A ball but for all of the sixty-seven season he played Triple A. And for two weeks, when God loved him particularly well, he’d been called up to the Phillies. Never mind that more than half of the Phillies’ pitching staff was down with the flu. He’d been to The Bigs. Pitched middle relief in three games. Almost had a win. He told Miriam that when he died he wanted her to tear his page out of the Baseball Encyclopedia and bury it with him. He had also wanted his major league stats on his tombstone but she told him he’d have to settle for, “Beloved Husband.”

Hurley, the third base coach, is giving signs. He finishes with two slaps to his rump and two fingers to his temple. It means, “Don’t be a butt head.”

The pitcher sets. Reese holds the bat high and as the pitcher comes over the top, he coils back, moving the bat less than two inches, and Meachum can almost hear the click, like the cocking of a gun. Curve ball; ball one.

The next pitch is a blur and the swing of the bat is a blur and they meet with a hard thack that fills the air. The ball streams up and out toward right center field. Meachum leans forward on the aluminum and watches, judging the arc, guessing the power. It might go. It might fly for days. The arc peaks, the ball slows a single-star constellation against the night sky. It starts to fall. The center fielder got a late break, but he’s not digging hard to meet the ball…he’s running just fast enough to watch it if it goes out or catch it if it’s short. Meachum knows. Reese put three hundred twenty feet of power into that swing. He needed three twenty-five. The center fielder brakes and stretches out a lazy arm. As clearly as with field glasses Meachum watches as the ball meets the fingers of the glove. He sees the leather flop backwards, as though there were nothing in it; no fingers in the glove, no bones in the hand. The ball bumps the mans’ left thigh and drops off to the left. Reese trots in to third surpressing a grin, trying to be cool, not knowing how close he was to being out. Meachum settles back. Two innings later they loose the game. Two hours later they are at their rooms.

Motel restaurant fish and chips rumble his stomach. He’s changed to khakis and a polo shirt. He can’t remember if he’s locked the bus.

Meachum thinks, I should have called Miriam…it’s too late now, she’d be asleep. She spent the day waiting for the results of the biopsy. And taking the grand kids to soccer practice…not even baseball. He wonders how his sons see him. They wear their suits and ties and go to their offices every day, while he wears short pants and knee socks and goes to the ball park four nights a week to watch old boys and young men play. At fifty-five. He could leave in September. Even owning twenty per-cent of the Jets doesn’t seem like a serious occupation. But I was there, Meachum thinks. Thirty thousand people watched me wear that red cap and kick my leg high and blow a fastball by Willie Stargell.

The bus was tired when Greyhound sold it. It is exhausted now. Meachum opens the door, flips on the lights and sits in the driver’s seat. Five hundred and sixty thousand miles. Yeah, thinks Meachum, but they’re highway miles, and he laughs out loud. He checks for leftover, smoldering cigarette butts and steps down, double checking the door lock.

The baggage door on the side looks slightly ajar. He opens it to slam it tight and a loose ball falls from the lips of an equipment bag and rolls out, bouncing on the blacktop, stopping in the grass by a phone pole. Meachum flips the ball lightly and walks the edge of the parking lot. It’s nearly midnight. He stops at thirty paces. When he was a boy he’d pace thirty steps from the strike-zone box he’d painted on the barn wall and pitch until dark.

He turns now, facing the phone pole. He brings the ball to his waist and turns to check the runner at second. Looking in to the plate, Walker, his old catcher in Triple A, gives him the sign. He gives a quick look to second and back to the plate. Miriam, in the crouch holds one finger down and gives it a waggle. She calls out, “Bring it home, Mac.” He starts his wind-up, loose and young, his arm new and easy as it whips down, the ball like a thing with no weight flies on a line, smacking the pole two feet up from the grass. Meachum retrieves it from the weeds, checks the bus doors and goes in to make a late call to Miriam. He’ll ask about the biopsy. They’ll talk about September.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Lessons Learned?

Hey, that will teach me...maybe. Post a death poem and get a collapsed lung. Sorry...couldn't even crawl to the computer to post after that one! Back from a week at Ford Hospital, ready to start radation Monday. Need to start shoveling some good karma out there. Here's something a little cheerier than last time. Yeah more poetry.


Pick a rich October morning and be the only waking soul about.

Wake to no alarm but the wind swishing drying maple leaves across a dying lawn.

Walk softly, slipper footed, to the kitchen and fill the glass kettle with water to just below "Made in USA."

Fire the burner; a full and rolling boil will take time.

The morning paper is jammed between the front door and the screen.

Carry it to the kitchen table scanning the front page for names you know.

Check the water.

Find the filters.

There is, in amongst the silverware, a plastic spoon,
the last remaining member of an ancient picnic set.

It gives the perfect measure.

Scoop the same number of scoops you always scoop and study each for fullness.

Always add half a scoop knowing you miscounted.

The water boils.

Pour the water full and steady over sweetly musky grounds
watch for overflow.

Settle on a kitchen stool, see the transformation;
the near black mud reduced to a slim stream of oaken brown.

The brew collects.
Just before the dripping stops, disconnect the funnel top and pour a cup.

Sit looking out a window,
seeing patterns in the blowing leaves and the sky,
seeking omens for this day.

Refill your cup and fill a different cup; carry them both upstairs
and kiss your wife awake.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

An Unamusing Poem

I am not afraid of the dark

I am not afraid of the dark.
But of the darkening skies, the passing of the second solstice, the coming of increasing night…these things are troubling.
These things bode of short sharp breaths, taken quickly, held too long, harbored deep against the growing cold.
They speak of early bed and early death.
They speak in a high-wind whine, deep within some second brain; some smooth reptilian cortex stem that only feels.
Sleet and storm are not the things of winter. Ice is only crystal.
Dark begins at noon and lingers long past sleep, in the sky as in the soul.
And there is that pagan fear, that with the flicker of the candle, with the loss of the flame, the night is forever.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

more hospital stuff

Okay. Now it's starting to feel like the beginning of some kind of story. It could easily become the first part chopped away in edit, but it's the spark that lights the story.
Please read the previous post before this one...this is the continuation, and purely fictional...kind of backwards huh?

Hospital Setting

End of previous...
(He raises his clip board, "So...I'll put 'no' for that."
She sighs and lays her head back.)

I look at my wife lying on the gurney. She’s sleeping. This is going to be along night. I walk out to the waiting room and take a seat next to a guy wearing a blue Amoco cap and a blue Amoco jersey. He smells like he just got back from smoking a cigarette outside the front door.

“So what do you think?” he says, nodding at the television on the wall. I look at him. “This guy, Bush? Is he just some kind of ignorant jackass or a fucking genius, or what?”

I have to decide pretty quick if I want to get into a deep political discussion with Mr. Amoco or if I just want to be left alone. “Probably some of each,” I say.

Amoco looks back at the TV and then at me and he laughs. “Yeah. Maybe. I mean, that tax thing, it sounded good, but now they ain’t got no money. I don’t know.”

“I don’t know,” I say and start plowing through a pile of dead magazines. Does anybody outside of waiting rooms really read Field and Stream anymore? I get lucky and find a coverless copy of a year old Smithsonian and begin my study of this tribe in the Chilean Andes that harvests silk from spiders that they keep in these odd little woven grass cages.

“So, what do you think?” It’s the Amoco man. His name is Rob. It says so on his jersey and by way of confirmation, he tells me so, too. I say, “Nice to meet you Rob.” I don’t offer my own name. We aren’t that close yet. He nods toward the TV. Somebody has changed the channel. Regis is looking pensive and a pretty girl looking nervous and thoughtful and panicked is trying to remember if she ever knew who Wagner’s father-in-law was. “I don’t know much classical stuff,” says Rob. “Maybe Schumann?”

Schumann is one of the four possible answers the girl is pondering over. One of the other answers is Lizst. “Lizst,” I say. The girl says, “Liszt.” Regis makes a happy shout and the girl is up to a quarter million dollars. I feel very superior. Rob says, “Huh. Lizst. Yeah, well, gee, let me think…he wrote les Preludes in eighteen thirty two…I guess that makes sense. And Wagner got married in…”

I look at Rob and say, “So, what do you think? Want to go get a smoke while the commercial is on?”
Rob gets up. I get up. On the way out I say, “So, what do you think? About Bush? Crazy? Smart?”

Rob looks at me, “Maybe some of both?” We each burn up three cigarettes before the chill breeze gets us and we move back inside.
Heading back to our chairs we see the million dollar qusetion appear on the TV screen. It reads, “The predominent mineral underlying Niagra Falls is what?”

“Mr. Collier? Collier?” The ER desk clerk looks for recognition.

“Yeah?” says Rob as he turns to walk up to the desk. Over his shoulder he calls to me, “Dolomite. Niagra Dolomite.” Sure enough, five seconds later Regis tells the sad faced girl that indeed, Niagra Dolomite is the stuff the falls is built of. I sit down. I find my Smithsonian and notice that the man across from me is reading Field and Stream.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

dialog snippet

I've spent most of the last few weeks in the hospital. Lots of stories there but I don't want to tell most of them. I will share this...a snippet of dialog as best as I can remember it. Little pieces of life like this are where stories are born, and small slices of the human condition are far more enlightening than all of the great philosophies.

The doctor was a cardiologist-Pakistani or Indian-very dark red-brown skin. He seemed to have a "matte" finish-no depth to his skin tone-a kind of spray painted look. He was questioning an elderly white lady, as translucently white as he was matte dark.

"So," he said, "your heart-it hurts when you walk?" His voice rose and fell in a predicable, sing-song accent. Pakistani or Indian.

She shook her head. "No. When it hurts I can't walk.." she shook her head and frayed Grey hair spilled from her elastic plastic cap.

"So," he went on, "you would say it does not hurt when you walk?"

"No, I only walk when it don't hurt. But that isn't quite it." A woman, possibly her daughter, patted her hand. She said nothing.

The doctor chuckled but was clearly becoming exasperated at her being so contrary.

"I don't walk if it hurts. If I walk and it starts to hurt, I sit down. If I'm sitting down and it starts to hurt, I don't walk."

He raised his clip board, "So...I'll put 'no' for that."

She sighed and laiy her head back.