Paul calls it wandering. I heard them talking about it at supper. I don’t see the harm in it, the golf course is peaceful at night, without Janet shouting questions at my face, asking if I’ve taking my meds or need to use the bathroom. Out here I can piss where I please.
I pull a beer from my pocket. Pop the top with a pfft, the sound thrown into the slate blue night. The stars pulse over my head and for a moment with that first sip and smack of the lips, life is as good as it gets anymore.
It’s clear and chilly out. Paul would have a fit if he knew I was out, that I’m only wearing my windbreaker jacket. But it’s not so bad, spring training was always cold like this, a bite to the mornings, chilly at dusk. But those afternoons under the sun, the thud of the ball on the bat, fists pounding mitts, those were days worth remembering.
My behavior is considered “at risk”. Though if you ask me I’m at risk of losing what’s left of my damned mind in that house. My son’s house is a nice home, spacious enough, but I spent most of my life stretching out across the country and back, and now I’m reduced to a few photo albums and a cheap TV in my room above the garage.
I like it out here, in the night, with the stars. The constellations and planets. It reminds me of how little all of this means in these later innings. Life. Dust. Light years. Cosmic activity.
The beer goes down easy. Makes me glad I brought two. I pull the other from my pocket and go to pluck the tab when a flash in the sky catches my breath.
A comet streaking past. It’s coming hard and fast, about 92 mph as I get to my feet and grip my bat. I know a thing or two about timing—not that my grand kids take to coaching—so I ready my swing and bash that sucker to the cosmos.
The crowd launches into cheers. I take a second to relish the rope of a shot, the ball screaming back to the stars. But then I get to trotting. No sense in showboating, I play the game to win not for pageantry.
The green of the outfield. An organ cranks up and I can smell the vendors descending towards the dugouts. Peanuts, popcorn, cold bottles of beer, dripping icicle trails down my wrist on a roaring summer day.
Home plate and I tip my cap in appreciation. They’re calling my name. Danny. Danny.
The scoreboard in the sky goes black. And there’s Paul, my manager, his coat pulled crooked, his thinning hair a mess.
His face is tight with irritation. “Dad, what are you doing out here?”
I look back to the sky, hoping he’d seen it. I wish for another pitch. I squeeze for my bat but have only fists. The sun is gone, the night black and the chill wiggling its way down my neck. My beer lays tipped over, foaming at my feet. I look around for peanuts, the salt from the shell still on my tongue. I’m not wearing cleats, or shoes. I shake my head, because I can’t come up with anything to say.
“Come on,” he says. “Let’s get you back.”