THE RALLY • by Michael Pacholski

Lil ‘Pea’ Adrian swung and missed. Piggy The Catcher snorted in derision. Pea ignored him and spit a seed in the wind, but to Pig it was a shot across the bow. Pig loved baseball, but hated messes, especially small child saliva. Fox, from the mound, looked around the infield. His first baseman, Dallas Dog, guarded the empty bag at first — no one would touch it if he had anything to say and, if you did reach, he’d make your jellybeans jump nervous about running (with just a bark and a little crust in his yellowing eye) or stealing.  Fritz and Lang, a tabby with long leap and range and a kangaroo with dexterity and speed patrolled the baselines, ready for line drives, stranded baserunners, and any hippity hops a 64-stitch white round leather missile might make off of Pea’s Louisville Slugger.

Two balls two strikes, tying run at third bottom nine. Pea’s team The West Head Regular Boys down 2-1 v. The Certifiably Woodsy Animals. Pea’s lil sis Marie screeched at Yellowdog who was holding her at third, literally, the scruff of her trouser leg in his big slobbery jaw. “Driannn hit me home,” Marie screamed. She knew she could just walk to home plate. Yellowdog had big jaws but hardly any teeth and besides he was just pretend, not real. She knew her brother couldn’t actually see them (nobody could) — she could almost see them but only because when she grew up she wanted to be the most beautiful and talented actress. But she also knew that if she just walked to home plate and explained it to him again, it would set off her older brother and he would tell her, “I don’t want to play with you again. You don’t ever play right. Go away.” 

So she held fast. Her brother taught her the rules of baseball well — you can run when the count is full, two outs in tying position and desperately down in the bottom of the ninth. She knew the next pitch would be big, whatever happened

So she ran the moment Fox cocked its paw to throw and she ran so fast she didn’t hear the vicious crack of her brother Adrian’s bat. Once she stepped on the plate, she turned to see her brother’s flat out run become a triumphal fist shaking jog, the ninth or tenth such showing by her count. At home plate Pea crouched for her high five. The animals pouted with oinks and mips and doodly-doos and mews as they faded away, walking back. She was so jubilant herself she thought she too could see capital e Everything. (Touch the bag. Touch the bag, her brother said.)

Pea recounted the whole breathless triumph, adding, “Marie did real good too. She’s learned a lot about baseball. She scored the tying run and I scored the winning run! We beat those animals.” Pea, too excited for conversation, ran upstairs whooping even with his indoor voice. His sister had her own point of pride, making her older brother proud.

“You think you can talk to our son about letting his sister score the winning run once in a while?” Maw asked.

Paw said, “Yeah, but I think there’s something else to talk about too.”

Maw straightened at the thought. “Mmmm… maybe not talk. Just sorta drop a small hint. And give him this. It’ll mean more coming from you.” She handed him a small glass of sweet tea.

“Sweet tea! Your very own brew. That means it’s time to get serious,” he sighed. “You know, I’ve seen the weirdest of weird shit, and the scariest feeling I have is talking to my son about… you know.”

“You’ll be great. But remember we’re doing this in small doses. We’re both doing it, but you have to start.”  She kissed him. “Kisses for courage,” she whispered.

“You’re right,” Paw said, after taking a drink of his own. He then went upstairs with the glass and knocked on his son’s door. When Pea opened it his father said, “Well, uh, you know we’re proud… of you and your sister. How you’re getting along and you’re teaching her a lot. Especially me. Of you. I am proud of you. So here. Sweet tea. “

Pea hardly knew what to say as he took a long sip.

“Now, you don’t just give out Maw’s sweet tea on any occasion so… this is, uh, well. Uhmm…”

Paw looked at his son and that’s all he could do with as many thoughts as he had.

“It’s okay, Dad,” Pea said with a smile, being forgiving even if he didn’t know what he was forgiving or why his Paw was here even. He knew what his dad was really trying to say and Pea believed it. It was just a game, he was proud of him, his sister had done well, and there were no animals. That stuff was for little boys, not big kids.

But as Paw, turning back to look at Pea, remembered what he’d briefly forgotten, he lifted the hem of his shirt to scratch his back, and right there Pea swore he saw the tip of a closely furled wing peeking out of Paw’s shirt. Paw turned to look his son in the eye and say, “I’m proud of you. Always have been. I’ve never said it before. You’re gonna be a fine man real soon.” Pea felt so proud, so wondrous it must have locked up his tongue. Paw took a sly moment to wink before heading back downstairs.

Pea ran to the full-length vanity mirror almost shouting, “I knew it. I knew it. I knew the whole time!” feeling and checking his bare skin for feathers, flapping bone, anything.

Nothing yet.

But how cool!!!

Michael Pacholski says: “I primarily write poetry but I was super inspired by the thought of Lewis Carroll calling balls and strikes. Birth and life so far in short biographies sorta pale by comparison.”

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