One of the best things about baseball is that it allows you to feel like a caveman, carrying around a big club, until you get to the place where you use that club to hit things really hard. There’s nothing like it.
Fact is, on this day, I rather looked like a caveman, too. I hadn’t shaved in a week, and that’s long enough to make me look vaguely like a certain Muppet drummer. Permission to look slovenly is one of the few advantages of not currently having a woman in one’s life.I had a visitor at the cabin upstate that I’d inherited from my Dad. Robert is my miniscule friend, attorney, occasional conscience and frequent co-conspirator. The previous day we’d been fishing on the lake, which resulted in dinner. Later we’d sat by the water consuming beer and a naughty plant, which resulted in laughter. Today we collected our weapons, drove to a nearby diamond and proceeded to hit things really hard.
Robert is extremely precise in everything he does. That’s an excellent quality in a lawyer and in a pitcher. He can put 20 pitches in a row right over the plate, between 60 and 70 miles per hour. It’s one of the many reasons I love him. My pitching is not quite so good. Sometimes I hit Robert, but he never complains. That’s another of the reasons I love him.Like me, Robert is a bachelor, though it’s not his first choice. It’s why he can quit the city on a whim, and come out to the country to play.
We spent a perfect couple of hours under the sun, pitching and hitting and sweating and grinning and searching for balls in the trees beyond the chain-link fence. We were 14 again, because baseball is a time machine.I looked at my watch. “Ice cream,” I stated.
“Yup,” he said.Into the car trunk with the bats, the gloves and the balls we hadn’t lost. Then we strolled down the dusty road, kicking rocks out of our path, to the little store in town where the nice Korean lady fills cones with a flourish, and doesn’t care if your money is a little damp with sweat.
We sat on a bench outside, waving to the locals, lapping away at double scoops of Black Cherry.
“You ever get lonely?” he asked, not looking at me.
“No,” I said.
“I mean, maybe on weekends? Holidays? Middle of the night?”“No,” I said.
Now I could feel him looking at me. “Yes you do,” he said.
I sighed. “So what? And what does that have to do with whatever subject you’re trying to bring up?”
He took a bite of his cone, and I listened to him munching and thinking. “I had lunch with Annalisa last week,” he said, referring to my supremely competent office manager.
“Yes, I know.”“We had some work to do on that Brazil project,” he continued.
“Yes, I know.”“We went to that Thai place…”
“Robert!” I barked.
“I think I like her,” he said.“You think you like her,” I repeated.
“I’d like to ask her to dinner?”“Is that a question?”
“It’s… no, it’s a statement. I’d like to ask her to dinner,” he said, more firmly.“And you want my approval,” I nodded.
“Right.”“You can’t have it,” I nodded.
“What?” he said, voice rising.“You think my office is your own private stocked fishing hole?” I asked, rounding on him. “You work with Annalisa. I count on Annalisa. She has signing authority on my money! It’s a huge conflict, you fucking prick. And what happens when you break up with her? Or she breaks up with you? How’s that going to work out for me, huh?”
Robert stared at me, mouth open, white-faced under the sun. I stared back at him.
Then he started to laugh. “You’re an asshole.”
“I totally am,” I chuckled, then finished off my cone.“You never, uh…”
“Nope. She works for me.” I glanced sideways at him. “Now, Robert, remember: Single mother. Rules are a little different, you know.”“I know,” he said, looking thoughtful. “Do you think…” he began. “Could you maybe ask her…”
“Ask her if she likes you?” I grinned.“Well, yeah.”
“What are you, fourteen years old? You want me to pass her a note in History class?” I asked.
But I did talk to Annalisa for him, and it was kind of fun. Because he was 14 years old. Because love is a time machine.
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