The Kid

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Chapter Twelve

For Jason Stiller the season wound up again, as opposing teams stepped up to the plate and fell right back, defeated, and the pennant race came down to the wire.

Somehow almost a month went by, and the final games were suddenly just around the corner, before Raven and Jason came face-to-face again.

For him it was a complete surprise, though a possibly happy one; for her...Raven had come to the ballfield hoping to see him, hoping to tell him what had happened.

It was like being in love, in fact was such a higher thing than she had known before that Raven had begun wondering if she had ever really been in love.

But to be held by the touch, by the Word of Someone who would never leave nor forsake her, who had loved her while she was a sinner who deserved nothing from His Holy will...

There were still desires in her, there was still a hope that the baseball player with the tousled brown hair and enchanting brown eyes would maybe give her another chance, now that she was learning how worthy of love she was.

Gertrude had mentioned, after one of the church services Raven had shared with her, the bit about unequally yoked. Raven could understand that.

But she had, after all, seen Jason Stiller bow his head for a few grace-before-meals.

It was not very much to go on, maybe it was nothing more than a standard tradition. But maybe it meant Jason knew Jesus too, and maybe that meant there was common ground between them.

Maybe they could start over.

Praying to the Lord of her life was something that she was definitely going to need to practice, but Gertie had said that it wasn’t so important to get the words right but rather to speak from her heart.

While she waited on the Muldowney’s porch swing for the men of the house to get home from the latest ballgame, Raven could and did remember another summer evening that was somehow both not-so-long ago...and ancient, so far back as to be almost unthinkable.

Remembering sitting on the porch swing next to him, remembered the wonderful surprise of his warm hand clasping hers...

But she didn’t need that. Opening her unknowingly striking green eyes, Raven watched life go by on the quiet street and thought about it. There was no use wanting to go back to the way things had been--that was impossible and hadn’t worked anyhow.

And she had just given her life over to another...hopefully there was still the possibility for romance, for caresses and kisses and all those wonderful feelings but still, in the end, He was all she needed.

Raven bit her lip, and hoped that she would be able to believe that and act accordingly. Just remembering that oh-so-recent kiss sent a familiar ache through her heart, the same heart which her Lord had made new.

On top of that was the black cloud on the horizon--the cloud that threatened a nasty storm, as her father had made it plain that he was looking earnestly for a well-financed, well-respected man who was in the market for a beautiful, gracious owner’s daughter...

Then there was no time for anything but a quick prayer as the black Chevrolet eased up to the curb, and the two Boston Braves stepped out.

At least he looked glad to see her...

* * *

Jason had not expected to see Raven, and knew somehow that she was there to see him.

That suddenly the thrill of winning the first game in the league championship was gone, replaced with a sudden anxiety, with a thousand racing thoughts.

He hoped against hope that she would forgive him, that the unreasoning fears had gone away, that there was still hope for them after everything.

D.G. smiled and spoke to his goddaughter for a moment or two and then slipped inside, leaving Raven and Jason alone on the front porch as the sun began to set.

* * *

“Hi.”

“Hello.” Sort of a dumb beginning, but Raven had rarely felt so nervous. And it didn’t help that she couldn’t read his eyes. Would he listen?

“Haven’t seen you for awhile.”

“I guess not. How’s the baseball life?”

“It’s nice to be back on the team again. We won today.”

Good news. But she wasn’t there to talk about baseball. “Congratulations. You and Bud are friends, then?”

“As much as we’re likely to be, I guess. At least we’re working together now.” He sat down on the swing and she sat next to him, suddenly unsure of how close to be.

She kept some distance just to be safe. “That’s good.”

A pause. “I’m sorry, Raven. I shouldn’t have yelled at you and I didn’t really mean the things I said.”

“I forgive you. I’m sorry for hurting you.”

“It wasn’t your fault.”

“Still.”

* * *

Another pause. “It’s funny you mention Bud, because I guess I’ve changed a bit in the past month. And I’ve been thinking about us a lot.” Would she even listen? And what would she say? Had enough time passed that the fears she hadn’t understood had become resolved, or at least gone back wherever they came from?

“I’ve changed too. You wouldn’t believe it.”

He didn’t understand the look in her eyes. It was happiness, it was joy, but it was not something he had seen before. He fervently hoped it was at least partly because he was there. “I just thought that maybe if we could go back, just start from where things made sense, and--”

“Jason, do you know Jesus?”

“Huh?” A silent moment passed. “Sure, sort of.” What was he supposed to say to that?

* * *

He didn’t look like he was getting it.

“I’ve just been, well, introduced you might say. Gertie and I had a long talk awhile back, and I got saved!”

“Congratulations.” Now he wouldn’t meet her eyes. Wasn’t he happy for her? Wasn’t this a wonderful thing?

“Well, I--don’t you care? This is the most wonderful thing that ever happened to me, don’t you care about me at all?”

A long pause.

“Jason, I thought that I meant something to you, and this is the most wonderful thing that has ever happened to me.” She repeated.

“Why is it always about you? Why are you the only one who gets to be important?”

“But Jason, this is so much more than just baseball, if you’d just listen--”

“You know what was the most wonderful thing to happen to me?” Now he was looking at her, and she suddenly wished he wouldn’t. His eyes were still hard, still pained. “You, Raven. Then you decided to strip that away, for reasons I still don’t understand. Maybe you should ask Jesus to make me understand but I just don’t have it in me to throw a parade.”

* * *

He hadn’t meant to say that. He hadn’t meant to say any of it, and if she was happy he wanted to be happy for her...but it just wasn’t something he could do.

Not that evening. “It’s been a long day, and I don’t really feel like listening to you talk about yourself.” Inwardly he cursed his own mouth, but his teeth wouldn’t stay closed.

“I’m sure you’re welcome to stay for supper.”

* * *

Then the front screen door slammed, and Raven was again alone on the front porch.

What in the world had just happened? All she had tried to do was tell Jason the good news, all she had wanted to do was share with him the wonderful things that God had done for her, and he’d acted like a spoiled brat?

It didn’t make sense, it didn’t match the man she knew was inside...somewhere.

Raven pushed her tears away, and just to spite him she did stay for supper, and chatted gaily with Gertrude, ignoring the brat as much as was possible.

Only once she was safely home did she cry. Bitterly.

* * *

Boston Tribune

column copy, KG

Editor-in-Chief, RY

That Was Some Week

by Kip Gumbo

Goodness gracious, baseball fans far and wide!

Whether or not you really have a deep-seated love for the Braves or, for that matter, Boston itself, if you care anything for the greatest sport in all creation then you must have been glued to the radio for the past five days.

But in the unlikely event that this bit of newsprint finds you in a cave or beyond the reach of electricity, I will do my best to recount the National League Championship the rest of us are still recovering from.

The Braves had been making quite a showing of themselves, especially once the in-team difficulties between a player or two got themselves ironed out. Yet they went into the five-game series with more than a little humility and wariness, knowing--as we all did--that the Illinois Reds had handed them a straight up, straight down three game loss the last time our hometown heroes and the pride of Springfield went bat-to-bat.

I regret that mere newsprint is nowhere near sufficient to express the drive, the absolute determination, the acts of heroism from every member of the Boston Braves. Certainly there were major battles won courtesy of the team stars, from Dutch Cattan, Bud Tripplehorne, Sam Washington; but as I’ve said, every member of the Braves was called upon to deliver his best.

Thus we have rookie Ted Conroy, not only hitting several important home runs but also squaring off with a yard of Boston dirt in his zeal to catch a ball that was sailing past second base. And Phil Brice, also in his first season as a Brave and a major-leaguer, sending a surprise line drive right past Johnny Porter, the Reds’ second baseman, to tie up game two.

And what of the third rookie, the young man who has not undeservedly accepted the most interest, the most accolades in the past summer?

The Kid pulled through in flying colors, though not in a way that his fans might have expected.

If you remember, the first game came and went solidly on the side of the Braves, and then after Phil’s single in game two made for a tie game, Sammy Washington knocked one out of the park to wrap it all up.

The Reds found some extra gumption somewhere--perhaps it arrived on a later train. Because they came back and came back fierce to edge out the Braves in game three and completely dominate game four, pitcher Lee Harper holding even Jason Stiller to but one RBI.

And so for game Number Five things came down to the finest of wires--even to the end of the ballgame itself. Both teams came out hungry for a win, playing the best sport they had in them, and if the previous struggles had brought out good playing, if the recent days had seen acts of bravery and sacrifice for the sake of the game, this final contest, as I have said, cannot be described in mere newsprint.

When the Reds scored, the Braves came up with a run of their own; when Tripplehorne sent a batter packing, Harper matched with three strikes for his team. As you most certainly know, the Reds have their own star hitter, Frank Cussler, and this man went bat-for-bat against The Kid...and it was a tie game going into the bottom of the ninth inning.

The clouds were forming thickly over Three Rivers Stadium and even the crowds had quieted, holding their breath, as Jason “The Kid” Stiller went to bat for his Braves, with two outs and a man on third.

Not that the man on third mattered two hoots, or at least that’s what everybody who was there was thinking...the contest was between Harper and Stiller, whether or not the best pitcher in the National League could once again shortsheet the greatest batter in baseball history.

You don’t believe me? Watch this young man’s career and see if it isn’t true. I’m not the only one saying it.

And one excellent, amazing reason why has little to do with distance, with speed, with force from a bat to a ball.

It has to do with heart, and teamwork, and the way Jason Stiller handled the splintering fastball Lee Harper shot at him.

The Kid bunted.

What? You say. What? Thirty-three thousand people at the stadium and hundreds of thousands listening over the radio said.

The Kid followed the signal his manager gave him, choked up on the bat just at the last instant--quite a feat in itself--and bunted, the ball rolling gently towards a spot right between the pitching mound and first base.

I think we have the shrewd mind of Dennis G. Muldowney to thank for that brilliant and daring play. Had anybody else bunted, the Reds would have been prepared for it, would have scooped up the ball and quite possibly--it is the pennant championship after all, these teams have some skill--making a nice if unnecessary double play to get batter and runner out, making it four outs and game definitely over.

Since it was The Kid...well, we can forgive the Reds and the rest of the baseball loving world for not ever, in their wildest dreams, expecting a bunt!

And you know the rest, slugger fans. Both Harper and first baseman Seifert took a good two, three seconds to comprehend what had just happened...and right about then Bill Pickens crossed home plate and the Boston Braves had won the pennant.

Just goes to show you how dangerous a thing it is to assume you know what someone else is thinking.

Although we do have the World Series coming up in less than a week...and personally, I don’t believe there’s going to be a whole lot of bunting going on.

end

* * *

Jason Stiller had seen firsthand the extent of Bud Tripplehorne’s pitching ability, despite what the man himself said about his talents; what The Kid had not expected to discover was just how much water his teammate could displace when performing one of his patented cannonballs.

After sewing up the championship victory over the Reds, D.G. was more than willing to allow his players a little fun--with the World Series only a short week away, he told his boys that he had a good tonic in mind, a way to both celebrate the win and loosen up for the greater trial to come.

All but the rookies knew about the lake, the same quiet spot the Braves visited at the close of every summer.

But to leap off the end of the diving platform as a winner! Splashing about with one’s buddies, making raucous fools of yourselves, with the taste of victory in your souls and in the back of your minds at the same time...

It was magnificent.

More than one teammate congratulated Jason personally, and mentioned how nice it was to have him be a part of things, and in the end The Kid was embarrassed.

And he made an extra apology to both D.G. and Bud Tripplehorne about things past, finally understanding what his childishness had almost caused.

They accepted graciously, and then Bud dumped Jason into the water, quickly following the rookie in thanks to a healthy assist from the manager of the Braves.

It was silly, and juvenile, and the Boston Braves had never enjoyed an afternoon so much ever before.

*

After getting dunked by his loving teammates so many times that Jason would have been better off with gills, he begged off and climbed out of the water, to sit on the dock with his friend Phil for a time.

Phil Brice had proven himself to be a solid outfielder, a fair hitter, and a good friend, but the poor guy did have one failing: he couldn’t swim.

“So I’ll teach you,” Jason offered, as soon as this was disclosed.

“I don’t know, Jas, looked like you were having enough trouble staying above water.”

The Kid laughed, hitting the side of his head to get the water out of his ear. After checking the dock to make sure he hadn’t lost any brains in the process, Jason encouraged, “That was sort of a war, Phil, I was planning on teaching you during peacetime.” He waved a vague hand at a more quiet corner of the lake. “Someplace a little less boisterous.”

“I dunno. I’ll think about it.”

“Fair enough.” That settled, Jason leaned back to absorb a ray or two of sunshine.

He knew his fellow rookie well enough to see that there was more on Phil’s mind than a lack of swimming ability. But Brice was not one to be drawn out. Either he spoke his mind or he didn’t, and the only way Jason would find out which would occur was just to wait patiently.

That day it was spoken. “I thought I was nervous before the championship, but man, the butterflies are doing cartwheels now, you know?”

Jason thought about it, and could at least imagine--though he wasn’t feeling the same thing at all. “Just think of it as another couple of baseball games, Phil. That’s all it is to me.”

“Really?”

“Pretty much. I want to win, certainly, but what makes it more special than any other game, in the end?”

Phil had apparently been thinking about that more than a little. “The pressure, the fact that it’s the biggest, the fact that it’s the last chance, the money involved, the number of people in the stands and listening at home--there’s even talk of getting at least one of the games on television.”

Jason had seen a television in Boston. He had been forced to ask what it was. “That stupid toy?” He yawned. “Like anybody’ll ever really waste their time staring at a little screen.”

“Hey, haven’t you always said you wished you could see what was going on, when we listen to games on the radio? I don’t know, maybe it’ll be something. But anyway, you heard my reasons before you interrupted,” he finished, not unkindly.

“I heard ’em. You’re probably right, too, but it’s just another game, really.

“On top of that, the Mets just barely managed to top out their league--it’s not the same as facing off against the Reds at all, and you know it.” He punched his friend on the shoulder. “You’ll see, it’ll be a cakewalk.”

“If you think so, that’s enough for me, Kid.”

“That’s the spirit.” With a sudden burst of energy Jason got to his feet. “Come on, enough stalling.”

“Huh?”

“You’re going to learn how to swim, Goliath, and no excuses.”

There were excuses, but in the end Phil agreed that if he were ever on a sinking ocean liner--not that there were many of those in Boston proper--he might just find the ability to swim sort of handy.

And Jason proved himself to be a fairly patient teacher. As the two friends worked together, Phil actually took a fair stab at learning how to swim, despite swallowing at least half of the lake along the way.

* * *

The women who agonized and worried after their Braves were also welcome at the celebration, and most of the players’ wives and girlfriends came along, got to know one another better, and did their best to ignore how childish their individual men were being out in the water.

In a modest dark red bathing suit that she knew showed off her eyes, Raven Germane sat next to Gertrude Muldowney and talked with her for a time...but all the while her eyes never strayed very far from one Jason Stiller.

Gertie hadn’t had a lot of advice on the subject, except that she, Raven, should trust God to make things come out right...and be willing to let God do what He wanted, which might not involve Mr. Stiller at all.

Oh, if she could only make her heart pay attention to that! Raven wanted to get on with her life, wanted to just trust her Lord in all things, and she was getting better at it with practice...but just the sight of those brown eyes, the sound of his laugh was enough to pull at her insides all over again.

He was a good man. There was no denying that, as she watched him patiently work with Phil for several hours, without fanfare or recognition, much longer in fact than Raven herself would have bothered. By the time the afternoon began to wane, their time in the sun almost over, the two friends had given up the struggle, but had gone back to their perch on the dock--Jason apparently willing to stay with his friend quietly instead of jumping in with the hep crowd out in the water once more.

Jason Stiller was a good man.

But there were things in his past that he had never dealt with, and despite bowing his head at mealtimes Jason seemed to care little for the things of God.

Raven thought back over their last conversation, for the umpteenth time...and yet suddenly, as she listened not only to his responses but also to her own, she really heard both sides for the first time.

And it was awful! She hadn’t listened to him any more than he had listened to her...she was just as much at fault for their argument as he was.

Amazed at her selfishness and her pride in not being able to really see what had happened, Raven started to do what had been normal for so long--she began to put herself down, mentally, to berate the terrible person she was and always would be...

But He had said she was better than that. He had said that He loved her, and taught her how to forgive.

Even how to forgive herself.

Come to think of it, He had also told her to forgive others.

Perhaps Mr. Stiller deserved another chance. And maybe Raven could do a better job of being the Christian she was learning how to be.

Deciding that she didn’t, for once, want to put things off, Raven got to her feet, brushed away any clinging sand, and then started to walk towards the pier, hoping to maybe find a few minutes to speak with the man she loved.

Just about then the screaming began.

* * *

Jason was also walking back to the dock, having gotten up to grab two bottles of Coca-Cola for himself and his friend...when across the water, out near the middle of the lake, someone began to yell like they were being killed.

He recognized the voice as Bud Tripplehorne’s.

The bottles of pop lay forgotten in the sand as the star hitter of the Boston Braves sprinted the length of the pier and leaped off the end, diving cleanly into the deep blue waters.

Jason was both a strong swimmer and in pretty good shape--all the batting he had been doing hadn’t hurt--and it didn’t take long for him to stroke his way out to the sandbar in the middle of Lake Prekind, where the shouts were still coming from.

He heard the hoarse cries for help as he crawled up onto the sand, but still couldn’t see, Bud being on the other side. Gathering his strength, Jason quickly climbed up the low hill, bursting over the top to see Bud Tripplehorne doing his best to beat off the largest, meanest looking snapping turtle Jason had ever seen or imagined. The thing was as large as a wolf, and looked just as nasty, with blood-red eyes that sparked at Jason and a cruel, strong, sharp beak that was clamped firmly just below Bud’s shoulder.

There was little time to act and no time to think. On blind instinct Jason raced down the hill towards the two combatants, grabbing up something sturdy and wooden he passed that later turned out to be an oar left behind by some long-ago lake mariner.

Distinctly, above Bud’s shouts for him to help and the strange and raucous keen of the turtle, angry that his prey was putting up a fight, Jason could hear the sharp beak grating against the bones in Bud’s arm.

Then with a crack that echoed off the surrounding hills Jason used up all the power he and gravity had to offer and brought the oar down hard on the huge turtle’s head, and then he reared back in a split second to strike again; but there was no need.

The beast seemed unhurt, though the oar had cracked in half from the blow, but despite taking no damage the turtle make a piteous cry, let go his hold on the pitcher, and half stumbled, half fell back into the water. The last Jason saw of the thing it was dazedly swimming towards the swampy far bank, apparently trying to come to grips with what had happened.

But there was no time for stray thoughts just then. Bud was bleeding, and whimpering in a way Jason wouldn’t have imagined the man would ever do, which told him just how much pain his teammate was feeling. “Hang on, Bud, we’re not going to lose this one, okay?”

“I just wanted to swim around the island and the thing started chasing me--” he seemed to be almost disinterested, the cries were quieting into something sort of numb, and though Jason knew nothing about people going into shock he knew somehow that it was wrong. It was bad, and he had to keep Bud from going anyplace.

“Bud, stick around here, come on.”

“It’s gone, right? Biggest fluffernuttin turtle I ever saw, partner, biggest...” and he trailed off, and looked about as dazed as the beast had.

“Francis Tripplehorne, you look at me! It’s gone, I’m here, help is on the way--” Jason had heard the shouts behind him and knew others were coming but he couldn’t go to them, couldn’t leave his friend behind, “--and you’re not going to worry about that stupid monster, okay? Look at me!”

It wasn’t working.

Jason gave it his last shot. “You know, that stupid fastball of yours ain’t nothing. Hear me, buddy, it ain’t nothing!”

Bud blinked. Jason was watching, and it seemed like maybe something deep inside was reacting...

“You remember that first day, day we met? I coulda hit that ball to the moon, pal, there wasn’t a guy out there including Bob Germane that couldn’ta got a piece of that ball.”

Now the bigger man was just silent, but something deep in his eyes...

“The lousiest fastball of all time, your Tripplehorne Special.”

When his teammate suddenly growled at him, Jason sighed with relief and almost dropped the man. “You say that again,” Bud tried to move his arm and let out a short cry once he had, “Ah! And I’ll clobber you with the arm that is working, Kid.”

“Good to have you back, Bud.”

The man was not so happy to have returned to all of his pain. “I wish I could say I liked being here. Is help on the way?”

Jason blinked back sudden tears, not knowing where they had come from. “You bet, buddy. Hang on.”

* * *

It took rather a long time to get the closest rowboat out to the island, though between Jason and D.G. the trip back took almost no time at all, the two men throwing all of their frustration and fear into hauling at the oars until their arms and shoulders ached.

The bleeding was slowing but hadn’t stopped. D.G. and Jason, with the help of Dutch Cattan and Bill Pickens, lifted Bud out of the boat and quickly carted him to where the team’s cars had been parked.

“Who has the fastest?” Jason wanted to know.

“Bob Germane,” D.G. replied without hesitation.

The manager of the Braves, despite his player’s wound and the fear pounding at his own heart’s door, took a perverse pleasure in carting the groaning Tripplehorne into the back of Germane’s precious limousine. A short pause for Missy to join them and then, “Get going, Richard!”

Hearing the tone in D.G.’s voice, the chauffeur didn’t argue. The engine turned over smoothly and within moments the badly injured Brave was heading quickly for the nearest hospital.

With nothing more to do, Dennis had sat back in his seat and closed his eyes, hearing rather than seeing Bud speak.

“What’re you laughing at, rookie?”

Jason sounded embarrassed. “Uh, not to insult you or anything, Bud, but I was just thinking of how pleased Bob’s going to be when he sees the bloodstains in the back of the car here.”

Everyone in the limo, the injured included, found the humor in that--although Bud then scolded Jason for making him laugh.

With an effort D.G. opened his eyes and helped keep things as light as possible, helped find the good news in the situation.

During the entire long ride, no matter what was discussed or joked about, there was one thing that every man in the car avoided mentioning, avoided even coming close to mentioning, no matter what.

The fact that this stupid monster turtle had decided in its hunger or rage to clamp savagely onto Bud Tripplehorne’s arm.

His right arm.

* * *

Raven had driven with Gertrude out to the hospital. Gertie had gone to be with her husband, and Raven...had gone just because she felt she should.

Not that Jason would be happy to see her. Or would he?

She had put the thought away, concentrating on the comfort and encouragement of Missy Tripplehorne. The troubles of the afternoon had little to do with owner’s daughters.

Finally the doctor had come out to the assembly of players, player’s wives and owner’s daughter. Doctor Carvery picked Mrs. Tripplehorne out of the crowd immediately, and put a hand on her shoulder. “He’s going to be just fine.”

As if a sudden spell had been broken the entire group sighed, relaxing a notch or two.

Yet there was still anxiety, mostly reflected on the faces of the Braves. The doctor went on. “I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to see this turtle, it must have been a real beast. Bud had lacerations on either side of his deltoid and you can see bitemarks traveling halfway down to his elbow.

“The biggest problem was the loss of blood, but we had more ready for just such an emergency, and his levels are up to normal. No bones broken, no ligaments torn...” the doctor’s voice slowed a bit, “Maybe some little tissue damage, but it shouldn’t impede the use of his arm.”

“Shouldn’t?” The question came from a worried-looking Dennis G. Muldowney.

Doctor Carvery was a staunch Braves fan. He turned to D.G. and spoke the truth. “I don’t know, Mr. Muldowney, if his pitching will really survive this experience or not. As far as the actual damage goes, as far as my medical knowledge, there’s no reason Bud can’t be back to his old self in time for the upcoming Series, even.

“But this shoulder...it’s a tricky thing and you want to keep an eye on it.”

“Can he pitch or not?”

“You’re Jason Stiller, right? It’s a pleasure to meet you, son. I’ve never seen such batting. To answer your question--well, son, I already have. Give us a day or two of observation, get him some rest, and he should be, may be, might be just fine.

“That’s all I can say.”

Raven watched as the man she was in love with shook the doctor’s hand, nodding. He didn’t look happy. None of the men looked happy. She turned to Gertrude in exasperation, though she kept her voice down. “Wasn’t that good news? That he’s going to be okay?”

She hadn’t meant for it to happen, but D.G. heard the comment, and answered before his wife could. “It’s great news, Coon, and don’t think we’re not all grateful that he’s still alive.

“But the news that he maybe won’t be a star pitcher anymore doesn’t fill us with a lot of joy, all right?”

Raven knew she shouldn’t argue, that it wasn’t the time or place, but something in her got all fired up in a hurry. “I think that’s awful! He could’ve been killed out there today, and he’s going to be okay, make a full recovery, and all you care about is your stupid baseball games? You don’t care about him at all!”

Everyone in the waiting room was looking at her, and nobody seemed to know what to say.

Except the injured man’s wife of twenty-two years. “You don’t understand, Raven. They all,” and she stood and looked around at the assembled group, “To a man, care about my husband.

“And they understand how he would feel, what he would say.” She lowered her voice, sounding actually quite a bit like Bud would, and it would have been funny except that it wasn’t. “My right arm’s the only talent I got, Miss Germane. Pitchin’s all I know. I can’t do nothin’ else.”

Raven wanted to protest that of course the man could do any one of a thousand jobs...but she knew, somehow, that this was beside the point. “I don’t understand you people at all.”

Missy sat down again, looking resigned rather than upset. D.G. stood and looked the owner’s daughter right in the eye, his expression not unkind. “It’s about dreams, Raven.

“If that arm doesn’t get all better, if he can’t hack it anymore, then all of his dreams have been stripped away.”

“Then maybe he’s got the wrong dreams, Dennis.” She snapped at him and felt good for doing so.

“Maybe they are, Raven.” He didn’t look upset, at least not with her...the look in his eyes was more pitying, pity for her that she couldn’t understand.

The waiting room was absolutely quiet save for a distant PA speaker calling some doctor or other. Raven looked around at all of the faces there, all of the people who had shown up to be concerned for Bud Tripplehorne--her father not among them, of course, having something more important to do--and she tried to find a face she could talk to, find someone who would understand, and only Gertrude Muldowney offered her a little sad smile that said volumes...that said she knew what Raven was feeling.

It wasn’t much comfort, not in the midst of such madness.

Finally, after almost a full minute of staring at him, ‘The Kid’ consented to look her in the eye. And Raven was surprised at what she saw there.

Almost as if he understood, too--but she couldn’t believe that. He was the worst of them all. “Don’t you have something to say? Some baseball analogy to help explain things to stupid little me?”

He just looked at her for several long moments. “Yes. I have something to say, to ask you rather.”

“What?”

Jason looked at the floor, then up again, and then she couldn’t read the look in his eyes at all. “Pray for him. You and Gertie, please pray for him.”

She was floored...and as if the breath had been sucked out of her, Raven’s mouth opened and closed three times and nothing came out.

Her mind whirled...he had listened some that night? What did it mean, wanting her to pray? What was behind his words--contempt? Anger? Hope?

In the end she could do nothing more than turn on her heel and run from them all, out of the waiting room and blindly down hospital corridors until she found a quiet, solitary place to collapse into a chair, put her face in her hands and weep with the utter madness of it all.

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