Academic journal article Nine

End of the Season: Tough-Luck Ballplayer in the Diamond Bluff Tavern

Academic journal article Nine

End of the Season: Tough-Luck Ballplayer in the Diamond Bluff Tavern

Article excerpt

His wounds are always on the inside--nothing you can see.

It always happened years ago, in a high school playoff or a state championship game. In a bar, sipping a beer, the bottle slowly beading with sweat, Willie will tell whoever's listening about the knee. One game, after a great backhanded stop at third, he pivoted, felt the whole world pop out of its socket beneath him. He swears he's never turned the same since, not even to look into his wife's eyes.

If you go to the Diamond Bluff Tavern this Friday night, your job will be to nod and listen to Willie. As you sit a few barstools down from Bud and Dusty, try, if you can, to see the faded rerun playing inside his mind and to understand its meaning. Buy him another beer, when he finishes this one, and then ask him to tell you more.

When you do, he'll tell you about the elbow. On a long throw from center to home, he heard his elbow shattering. The sound of glass marbles clacking together. No pain at first, he'll explain, just the sound. A sudden stinging, as though a million bees had landed on his arm. He shakes the arm a little to remind himself, to let the memory enter the bone again.

He pours the new bottle of beer into a glass, sips. There's a white mustache of foam on his upper lip for a few seconds and then it's gone. He inhales his Lucky deep into his lungs. He exhales from the sides of his mouth, the wisps of gray scaling the outfield walls of his temples.

He works his way up to the shoulder, tells you how the ligaments pulled as he slid past third and tried to grab the bag with one arm. "That hug cost me," he'll say, half smiling, half grimacing. The sound inside his shoulder as if someone was tearing a thick paper grocery bag in half. He could swear everyone on the whole field heard it. But all they heard was the ump leaning close to his face and bellowing, "Yer out!"

"It's a life," he'll muse, "being an ex-minor-league ballplayer. It's a full-time job, almost."

You listen, though it's a little hard to hear his gravel voice beneath the whine of Hank Williams and Patsy Cline on the jukebox, a little hard to see his face through the thickening smoke. Maybe everything he says is true--the world doesn't explode all at once; it falls apart bit by bit: tendon, hamstring, ankle, wrist, heart.

He'll tell you he might join the Diamond Bluff senior softball league one of these seasons, as soon as he heals. …

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