21

Driving to the airport, he was fine until he saw the Shell station sign, a reminder of one last piece of unfinished business. This would be his last goodbye.

He left the Taurus at the pump for fuel as he walked around the service center, picturing the growth that he and Cyrus had cleared away, remembering that they'd even shoveled enough dirt to make a passable mound on which to set the slab. They'd painted the plywood home plate and cleared the setting, a ballplayer's island on a sea of weeds. But what he now saw was an insult to his memory. Not just an unused field but a garbage dump, trash scattered like wreckage after a hurricane. He defied the stench, kicked away old tires and oil cans and rusted parts of old cars, desperate to find that pitching slab. After eight years, what chance did he have? Could a two-by-four survive the weather? There was no sign of what might be left of the mound. He moved a tire, a chrome bumper, a rusted hood. He kept looking at the top of the Shell sign towering over the garage as a point of focus. He kept at it until there it was, the rotted slab in an overgrowth of weeds.

He got down on his knees to pull up clumps with his hands. He found a Coke bottle and scraped away stones and roots. In time, the two-by-four was liberated, and he stood behind it, looking to where home plate had to be. Then he toed the slab, leaned forward with his left hand behind his back, a pitcher looking to pick up his catcher's sign. He closed his eyes to re-create the validity of his memory and saw Cyrus again on his haunches, his heavy thighs pressuring his dirty overalls, the old black leather mitt targeted low over the plate, that high-

-143-

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