Before the last sticky globule of partially chewed Corn Flakes found its way to my startled stomach, I bolted from the kitchen table, grabbed my backpack, squeezed the side of the bag to make sure my ball glove was inside, and slung it over my shoulders.
“Bye Mom! Luv ya!” I hollered down an empty hallway as I bounded down the stairs, two steps at a time, narrowly avoiding an unfortunate encounter with our cat enjoying her post-overnight-sleep, pre-midmorning-nap snooze.
Slapping my Expos cap over a hastily combed mop of hair, I stuck my toes into my runners. They were still tied but loose enough to get my feet in with a bit of twisting and heel grinding. Mom hated when I did this, assuring me that such lazy habits would lessen the lifespan of the shoes. She was right, of course, but irrelevant nonetheless. To me, the value of each conserved second greatly outweighed any concern over premature footwear purchases, and tying shoes was a sure bet for being late. And being late for scrub meant ending up in the field which was as desirable as, well, shoe shopping.
The rules for scrub were simple. The first two kids to touch home plate at the school diamond were up to bat. Everyone else was scattered throughout the field, a couple token basemen and an anarchistic plague of outfielders. Batting was bar none the most enjoyable part of scrub and therefore getting to school first was the singular focus of mine and everybody else’s morning routine. The only other ways to get up to bat was to wait your turn or to catch a fly ball. Waiting your turn was as pointless as Casey’s last at bat, especially if you were beyond second in line, since it required the turning of a genuine baseball plays to advance. This almost never happened. Fly balls were much more common, but with upwards of twenty or more fielders simultaneously attempting to catch the same pop up, each skyward hit ball initiated a reenactment of Lord of the Flies.
Neither of these options appealed to me much. I was competitive, sure, and I could catch fly balls with the best of them, but inadvertent body-checks and uncontrolled flailing elbows were too easily delivered and not so easily avoided. Besides, getting to school early only required a little extra hustle each morning and guaranteed me of one of the first two spots. And I knew that if I got one of those coveted first at bat spots I could easily remain batting until the bell rang.
I ran into the garage, yanking the door behind me, letting it slam shut with a jolting bang that shook the entire house and no doubt sent the cat scrambling for more peaceful sleeping quarters. I took a quick peak at my watch and grinned at the digital bars glowing 7:55. I was right on schedule. I tore out of the garage, banging another door shut behind me, jumped on my bike and raced toward school.
My route was quick and easy; King Street into town, left onto Henry Street, a quick right onto Queen Street, down the hill, across the sports field, and finally skidding to a stop on home plate to emphasize my triumphant arrival. Paying only the slightest attention to the handful of cars on the road, I ratcheted through all ten gears, reaching top speed within seconds. The cool morning air chilled my hands and screeched past my ears forcing me to turn my cap around backwards so that it didn’t blow off my head. Never bothering to sit the entire way, I leaned left into the first turn then quickly alternated to the right for the second turn.
With success now only a few hundred meters away, I experienced a rather perplexing sensation for a bicycle ride; weightlessness. And silence. No hum of tire rubber on asphalt. No grind of bicycle chain on sprocket. I was flying through the air on a human-powered, ten-speed rocket with no guidance system. Then a brutal jolt and there was noise again. The scraping of alloy on asphalt. The ripping of skin on gravel. And in the distance, the heart-wrenching thump of the first two batters stomping on home plate.
(this was edited from a writing course draft circa early 2000s)
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