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(_15) Chapter Fifteen

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Suddenly it was afternoon and the light burst through again, clean and sharp.. energized.. an impossible afternoon not to love..  moisture in the air carrying all sounds further it seemed and within Jimmy it all folded into a very special place of his, where many unusual thoughts.. memories.. and messages floated.

They weren’t all his of course.. only some of them. Sitting by the seawall in English Bay he had sat lost in all those thoughts.. letting them just wash into, over and through him.

They were fine thoughts.. all in all. Voices of the others.. the ones before.. and of course his grandfather was among them.. though he had not gone.. but was simply there.. as he had voice. And there were many swimmers from before him as well.

By his side the great dog seemed to share the mood and the idea that was obviously arising from within Jimmy.. his partner. But the dark eyes rarely left the young man who now was shaking his head as a delicious and light Katherine  thought..  about the beautiful and independent marine biologist invaded his thoughts and chased away all others for the moment.

Across the sprawling city not far from the University of British Columbia, Katherine was lost in her own dark world of computers, but her thoughts were very much outside suddenly.. in the sun.. questing for a picture.. a sense of that interesting young man.. who seemed to have such a subtle smile on his face.. always.. but she’d only seen him twice..

“Another look won’t hurt.. and he is into this whale thing, maybe even more than me and he does seem to have.. some kind of confidence.. that way of moving.”

At noon she’d found her car with boat and trailer neatly parked in her driveway and could only think of one person who might have accomplished such a trick. Although this mysterious anoneemoose might also have the capability to have cleared up her little mess.

Her thoughts drifted to the scene at the inlet, but she let the other events of the last few days filter over the shocking capture of the whales.. and realized that there had to be larger and more forces than she, involved here.

Patiently thinking through the situation.. she began to identify each of the players and began aligning them in her mind, and projecting what moves or options they might have in mind.. like a chess game.. she began to see ahead.. several moves. And once she accepted that someone.. some unseen force was waiting for all or some of those whales, she began to make progress. What had Jimmy said in his truck while she had tried to warm up and think coherently.. he’d said something almost cryptic about who was for and against the whales.. Yes he was one player who kept drifting into the picture.. like a wild card. She had to accept that the young man from the pool who’d rescued her at the inlet was going to be a serious player, and kicked herself for discounting his involvement. He needed to be understood. He had something, and she admitted that she had been too stubborn to accept that perhaps he had the solution.. and not she.  Frontal confrontation was not going to work in broad daylight. She needed  help.. and a better strategy, and she needed to be much more realistic about just what was going on at the inlet

Her computer showed mail she had not read yet. Honeybear the young surfer kid from the island seemed to be a fountain of information about Jimmy.. her brief email request or probe last night had gotten a fast  but late response from the kid.. Jimmy Walker had been at the inlet last  night with a huge pretty awesome  black dog and had been in the cove with the orca. Kyle’s note indicated that he’d heard about this Jimmy who lived up the coast and was familiar to many of the local kayakers that Kyle hung with.

Another beep..

And now here was another message just come in from the young surfer.. Jimmy had been at the cove again this morning.. and had asked Kyle for help in contacting her!! His message was that the whales would be ok today.. and.. there was a game today in Vancouver.. !! A baseball game.. ! When did she last see a baseball game .. ?? With her dad.. she thought..  that was a long time ago..

She rapidly typed out a response to his last message.. 

“I’m going to that game. Thanks Honeybear.. keep your eyes peeled.. keep me informed .. please.. and stay away from trouble. I’m going to figure this out and get help to release the whales. And yes.. that skiff was mine and its parked out front of my house at this moment ! Can you tell me anything more about the two idiots you mentioned.. that picked it up at the cove? This is very interesting to me, thanks.”

Away by only a mile or two..  

“Creighton this is my Grandpa Joey.. Grandpa.. Creighton Everland.. He’s a mighty main man .. How did you get here Grandpa ? Sorry.. Creighton.. this is who gave the spirit of baseball to me.. And much, much more.. this is one of the most precious people on the planet to me and to have him here at this moment is…..

Generously stepping into the moment, Creighton simply stepped forward and after a firm handshake put his bat in Joey’s hands and said.

“I’d be honoured sir.. if you would lay down just a few for me.. I could rightly say just to see you bat would help me in a large way.. especially if you anything to do with Jimmy’s amazing bat.”

The bat was lightly returned with the comment.

“Young man I’d be equally honoured  if you’d show me what those mighty arms and keen eye do with a thrown ball.. and if young Jimmy would give us some nicely thrown pitches we’d surely see.”

“show me”

The simple request was gently passed as Joey crossed in front of Jimmy heading to the pitcher’s mound, and the young man had little time to consider the typically brief direction from his grandfather. He gathered himself on the mound and as always felt the silent power of his position.  Creighton was now simply another part of the puzzle that Jimmy solved as his father and grandfather had shown him. The pitcher deceived or misled.. or befuddled those who stepped to the plate with a deep misconception of who was really in charge of these confrontations. The duality of Jimmy’s unusual mind conversely had no misconceptions about who was in control.. when he was the batter at the plate.. an equal part of his perception knew that as the batter .. it was he who had control…

With this prescient idea settling into his moment, Jimmy stepped lightly into his first pitch to Creighton.. a sizzling fastball that was dutifully drilled far over the distant left field fence.. In a moment a deceptive change up was sent for inspection and promptly joined the previous pitch far beyond the fence.

With another lazy but purposeful delivery Jimmy send a fast breaking curve right over the plate, befuddling Creighton who twitched mightily but failed to swing at the juicy ball crossing the plate.

Joey grunted at this and meeting Jimmy’s eyes.. nodded slightly.

Jimmy delivered a simple variation.. bringing in a high hard curve that sizzled the air, breaking early to slash across the plate and dropping as it did so.

More mighty twitching from Creighton.. but no swing..  and a further grunt from Joey, who stepped to the batters box.. head down and thinking.

Young man.. Creighton.. do you know how to bunt ?

“Yessir !”

With a look.. Joey sent Jimmy a simple message.. more of the same.. and stepped away from the batter’s box. And so Jimmy sent a procession of curve balls to the waiting, willing and capable Creighton who effectively dropped them where his large frame had a chance at outrunning the eventual throw to first base.

Joey dryly spoke from his viewing spot behind home plate.

I think if you “showed” bunt.. at the plate Creighton.. you’d see less curveballs. I don’t see how you could improve as far as hitting the fastball or offspeed pitch unless you raised your hand position an inch or two.. you have a marvelous and pure swing.. and your bunting on a curveball is mastery.. and takes that pitch away.”    

There was this perfect easy tableau happening.. a young man stepping with a clear  and light smile from the mound to join a very large man and a very slight man chuckling with each other..  right on top of home plate. A spot they were both very familiar with.

“I’d just come out of the clubhouse with Dusty after we’d filled out the lineup for the game. The pregame fielder’s drills were underway  when he surprised me. I knew there was something going on.. there was that old flavour in the air.. and the smell of crushed grass seemed awfully strong.. and the pine tar too.. even the whipcracking sounds of Creighton with the fungo bat seemed almighty clear to me.. so maybe I wasn’t too surprised.. and Jimmy was looking in at me from the outfield with a bit of a lazy smile.”

“Hi Darcy.. long time”

Dusty of course had never met the Big Chief.. yet as I gaped in astonishment at his apparition.. they were already introducing themselves.. each with the natural sunny smile they both seemed to have been born with..

Creighton was as usual taking it all in without breaking his steady rhythm at the plate.. there was a whistling sound followed by a sharp crack every 10 seconds or so.. and the soft thump of the balls landing and rolling in to him..

The Chief seemed to have quite an interest in the power Creighton could put into those towering flies but his eyes seemed to flow from home plate to Dusty and back to Darcy as if his attention was on each.. with complete focus.

“Darcy.. you look good.. real good.. and I’m mighty glad to see you today..”

“Chief.. its been a long time.. long time.. and I got to say.. looking at you that you got to be just the most unlikely suspect to be a grandfather.. unless what that dark haired kid out there is sayin.. aint true!”

“Darcy Darcy Darcy.. you always did have a problem with the way the world works sometimes.. and always I was trying to convince you that truth is stranger than fiction and yet you struggle with it.. but to put your constantly questioning mind at ease.. that is my grandson in center field.. and thank you for the backhanded compliment.. if that’s what is was.”

“You sure got the way with words Big Joey.. always did.. guess you always will.. but got to say its a pleasure to hear your way with them again..”

I could see the intense curiosity in Dusty’s eyes about the Chief.. and got to say there were a few questions that I wouldn’t mind having answered.. like what the heck had he been up to for the last forty some years or so..? So I served him up a leading answer..  knowing full well that Joey could easily dodge it if he felt inclined.. he did have an astounding way of delivering words.. kind of like the way he pitched.

“Joey.. the last I saw.. or heard of you.. you were having a baby.. and just couldn’t see how you could play ball with us.. and be a dad at the same time..”

“Well Darcy.. in case you’re not to clear on all this.. my wife had the baby.. Mother Nature has not yet given man the power to be with child..  by the way.. I know you’re curious.. the child grew up.. become a woman.. and had her own manchild”

His eyes turned skyward and followed another massive fly ball.. watching as the center fielder settled gracefully under it and casually launched it back to where it had come from. There was a sadness in the eyes though.. and as I thought to make another joke that he could turn around on me.. there was that something in his eyes that made me falter.. and I kept things simple…

“What brings you down this way Joey ?  After all these years.. “

“Oh I have cousins down this way visiting.. thought I’d look in on them.. see how they’re doing”

“Jimmy was saying something about that the other night.. almost the same words as yours.. had him over for dinner with Shirley.. that’s my wife”

“Did he now..? almost in my words”

Chief Joey Walker let his eyes drift to where Billy was working his arm loose and gradually letting more and more emphasis creep into his warm up pitches. The three sets of eyes watched the tall kid from Texas as he jawed with the catcher and scuffed the dirt between pitches.

The game had begun and was into the early innings but Katherine had no trouble finding a seat. There were empty spots scattered here and there and she found herself sitting down not far from the third baseman. For a few moments she had to think about which team Jimmy played for.. but she found him quickly sitting in the dugout. He had a bat in his hands and was lightly twirling it, rolling it with his wrists and yet twitching it with his fingers. There was an odd motion to the bat it seemed to her.. rhythmic.

In the shadows of the dugout Darcy watched from the corner of his eye. That darned bat in the kid’s hands was alive. He wasn’t even on deck and he was into his next at bat. Strangely, other than looking at the pitcher, he often seemed to be looking somewhere just  above the tip of the bat. What did he see?

The inning ended with Jimmy on deck and he quickly dipped into the dugout for his glove and glided out into position ball in hand juggling it on the web of the glove occasionally bouncing it off the flat of his wrist or bumping it lightly to his open hand.. then with a simple lazy roll of the shoulder sent it on a high arc over to the left fielder..

Still Darcy watched without seeming to. It was almost impossible he found to keep his gaze from straying to this incredibly balanced athlete in center field. But he was a pro’s pro.. and finally got himself focused on Billy who was popping the ball into the catcher with real ambition..

Just steps way, Dusty was watching the scouts in the stands. How could you miss them.. ? Hard faced old pros like himself.. he thought. But they had left the playing field while he had stayed among the ball players. Scouts stayed on the road.. hanging onto the magic.. or the hope of magic..  traveling from game to game.. city to city.. while he had decided to stay put.  To work with the young players.. not try to find them.

Billy was just what they wanted.. young power.. the big heat.. small town lightning. They’d bring him up to the majors to throw that heat in relief.. if they’re smart.. but they’ll bring him up..  that’s a done deal.. he just throws too hard not to notice..  He glanced over at Darcy and their eyes met. Then it seemed that they both found their eyes traveling to the empty seat in the stands where Jimmy’s grandfather had been enjoying what seemed to be an endless supply of peanuts.

The middle innings rolled by. Billy was in a zone, and so was the opposing pitcher, a big lefthander with a vicious sinker and an equally mean, cut fastball. Only Jimmy had gotten on base with a lazy but dancing bunt that fiddlefooted the opposing third baseman. Katherine got a close look at how a bouncing bunt that seemed to hug the edge of the grass could befuddle a baseball player.. would it curl out.. go foul.. ? Seemed so.. yet it somehow stayed alive and skeetered .. tantalizingly close but not over the white chalk line. The two batters following him struck out but Jimmy took second on a steal that the catcher didn’t even contest with a throw. It was just too late as Jimmy was long gone as the pitcher was just beginning to step toward home plate with his delivery.

It was hard to keep her eyes off of Jimmy.. she recognized that he was a very handsome young man.. but she felt something more.. It had something to do with how he moved.. there seemed to be something so fluid.. almost liquid.. and although she really didn’t understand all the nuances of the game.. she  was pretty clear on what the primary objectives were. Jimmy just seemed to be ahead of the events of the game.. at bat he seemed almost motionless before the pitch, not frozen, but coiled and waiting in the moment. In the field.. the opposite.. he never seemed to pause. There was always some slight motion that seemed to blend into smooth and very effective action.

Her mind wandered away from baseball, thinking about what she was seeing in the young ballplayer and attaching it to her other experiences with him.. and then it started to form into an interesting mosaic of  natural  elements, primal images, hunters,  the whales, .. shaman?  hmm.

In the bottom of the ninth with a scoreless  tie and two out, a teammate made it to first after being knicked  on the elbow by an inside pitch. In the batter’s box she saw Jimmy square away to the pitcher, showing bunt all  the way for the first pitch. The infielders danced closer to the plate to protect against the baserunner advancing and the pitcher coiled to throw.  Jimmy suddenly stepped back into a more normal batting stance and chipped the ball in a high arc  up over the third baseman’s head directly toward the foul line, not far from where Katherine sat. There was no play for the left fielder but he thundered in regardless as the third baseman backpedaled then wheeled to chase the shallow pop fly. The baserunner had already cleared second base when the ball landed with a puff of white dust smack on the foul line and an even bigger cloud of white dust exploded as the third baseman’s desperate dive missed the falling ball by at least a foot. The onrushing outfielder had to leap wildly over his team mate to follow the ball which was spinning to the edge of the stands and it gave a last lively little hop as he tried to make a barehanded pickup for a play on the runner who was continuing to third and the waiting catcher who’d smartly charged to the base to back up any play.

Totally committed to third base.. the runner had lots of time to spot his third base coach staring at the pitcher who stood frozen by the mound watching the play.

Jimmy’s shout as he alertly headed toward second base turned the pitcher’s head and that was enough for the runner to go for it all. There  was no-one  covering the plate and he was taking it. With the catcher parked inside the third base bag and blocking it, the baserunner simply kept running  without any attempt at sliding.  The low throw to the catcher’s glove was perfect.. but there was no slide to drop the tag on. Instead there was the thump of the runner’s foot slashing over the bag and continuing to home plate. The pitcher suddenly came to life and realized he was very, very late for someone who was supposed to cover the plate and he lunged off the mound, flatfooted toward  home plate with a sinking feeling as he saw the huge head of steam on the big baserunner. Would he slide ? Or simply run over him.. With these confusions he was poorly equipped to handle the catcher’s laser throw while on the run and though he made a stabbing catch, he simply didn’t get a good handle on the ball as he tried to pull it out of his glove for a barehanded reaching tag of the runner , already sliding deep behind the plate with only his arm reaching for the plate. The game was over.

Far overhead an eagle wheeled sharply to the west with the strong currents flowing from the mountains and headed toward the distant island.

In the dressing room there was a knot of people still buzzing around Carlos who was the center of attention after his seemingly reckless and adventurous game-winning race around the bases. Darcy wondered where this Dominican kid who barely spoke English had suddenly gotten this base running initiative from. He was just a steller first baseman with a great swing and real power.. but as a baserunner ? Darcy was just starting to look through the tangle of players for the one player he thought just might have inspired the big Dominican kid, when he felt a rough hand on his elbow.

“Geez Darcy.. we’ve got a problem. They’re onto Jimmy in Toronto.. expect a call from Chito. Someone here in Vancouver’s been yakking it up with a big ears somebody in Toronto.. and there was  reporters askin him about the new kid in Vancouver.. not Billy either”

“Are you kidding me Dusty ? How the…. Where you getting this from.. not Nellie ?”

“yes.. Nellie.. he heard the questions put plain as day and called me pronto… askin.. and telling ! He says there’s a courier heading to the park with a plane ticket right now.They want him up there and they want him now for the doubleheader tomorrow. They got injuries, no pinch hitters worth a damn and they’re last in the league in stolen bases.. and they don’t need strikeouts if they aint scoring any runs.”

A scowling look from Darcy.. was barely equal to the one searing Dusty’s face.

“Mr. McGee?”

The trainer was leaning through the dressing room door and making that universal signal with an imaginary phone to his ear. Dusty growled an unhappy sound and stomped away, leaving Darcy to take a long walk to the phone.

———————————

reprise and follow the style of all Darcy’s “recollections”

 

Anoneemoose would know a little later that sonar had been used on the whales

as would Hunter via Kyle and via Thunderhead.

Written by diamondwalker

November 26, 2008 at 2:57 pm

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