The bright lights of Dodger stadium illuminate a manicured field of deep green Bermuda grass and red Beam clay for 50,000 or so excited spectators. The L.A. faithful consider the evening’s pleasant spring weather as an unneeded attendance aid for their perennial contender. Throughout the bleachers, several fans wear their baseball gloves; for the occasional foul ball. And a few, who apparently don’t trust their own eyes, lugged portable radios: to hear the action explained to them by the legendary Vin Scully. Near the Garrett’s dugout level seats, the smell of roasting hot dogs, peanuts, something resembling nacho cheese and continuous banter floats through the night air. Those season seats (only five rows behind the third base dugout) and the game have exceeded Greg’s hopes. Thus far, he’s been treated, along with most of the Garrett clan, to eight innings of very exciting, back-and-forth baseball. Although the lead has toggled six times so far, the scoreless fifth inning was unquestionably the most memorable-- for the Garretts’ anyway. With bases loaded and one out, the batter hit a screaming foul ball that ricocheted off an empty seat: and BAM! Just as some poor guy was raising a fresh cup of beer to his lips the hot tater said hello. Allowing the spectator no time to react, it smashed squarely into his cold beverage. The plastic vessel and its amber contents exploded like a roman candle. Besides a bruised palm and drenched t-shirt the spectator was essentially unharmed. But as fate would have it, that guy’s seat and cup of suds were directly in front of the Garretts. The ensuing shower of cold Budweiser was not well received by Amy’s mom (Evy) but her nine year old nephew (Matt) thought it hilarious. He must have repeated his Dad’s quip: this Bud’s for you Grandma, about ten times before Evy silenced him with ice cream. And, for Greg, the price of all this entertainment has been a few awkward hours with an inquisitive, bordering on prying, family. The interrogation thus far has been mostly mundane: questions dealing with occupation, place of residence, age and so on. But with the seventh inning stretch having come and gone, Evy believes the time for trivial questioning has ended and more personal ones to begin.
“You know, you’re a good looking man.” Evy says to Greg.
With shock etched across her face, Amy responds. “Mom...”
“I don’t mean it like that…I can see you’ve got depth.” Evy says. “Amy’s a little scattered, but she’s very passionate, she always dives in with both feet… Have you two slept together yet?”
Amy’s brow plummets. “MOM! We just met and no and you don’t dive in with your feet and Greg, you might as well know she’s the dainty, understated member of the family.”
“Oh yeah.” Greg says. “I get that.”
Heaving a heavy sigh, Greg tries to re-focus on the game, while echoing off in the background is the commentary of Mr. Scully. “Well, here we go folks. Top of the ninth, two gone and the Dodgers still clinging to a one run lead…and coming to the plate, the Phillies’ last chance and always a deep threat…right fielder, Daryl Saunders. ”
Appearing agitated, Hank yells. “Come on, get Johnson outta there!”
Matt, enjoying the game from his aunt’s lap, looks confused. “Aunt Amy, why’s Daddy mad?” He asks.
“He’s not really mad. He’s just concerned that the Dodgers might lose the lead.”
“If they don’t pull Johnson…” Hank stops in mid-thought to grab a beer from a passing vendor. “As I was sayin’. If they don’t pull wild-ass Johnson, I’m gonna’ be real concerned.”
Greg glances over at Hank sipping his new brew. “I don’t know.” Greg says. “I’d let em’ pitch to Saunders.”
Quickly backhanding beer residue from his lips, Hank glares at Greg. “What? Johnson’s wild tonight… and in case you didn’t know, Saunders has a twelve game hitting streak on the line, dude.”
“Exactly my point.” Dipping his chin, Greg responds. “Saunders doesn’t have a hit tonight and he isn’t a team player… he won’t take a walk.”
“So you think he’ll swing at a bad pitch?” Al says.
“I do.” Greg replies.
Hank rolls his eyes before saying. “You know Greg, you might want to stick with the flower-tending and leave baseball to the men.” Greg smiles and shrugs it off.
Down on the field, Saunders fouls off the first couple of pitches, takes a ball and then swings mightily at a low curve. His bat merely tops the offering, sending the white orb skipping across the infield grass and straight into the charging shortstop’s glove. A quick scoop and throw precede a loud smack into the first basemen’s mitt. The umpire’s concluding out signal ignites an eruption of deafening cheers throughout the stadium. ”Johnson was taunting Saunders with that curve and he went for it: grounding mildly to short. And the Dodgers win seven to six!” is Vinny’s final call.
Al slaps Greg on the back. “Nice call, son.”
Matt reacts to his gramps approval. “Yeah, nice call.”
A short time later Greg and the Garrett folk weave their way through a thinning crowd of joyous fans (many adorned with the jersey of their favorite player) all working their way back to their cars. “So is Greg smarter than Daddy?” Matt asks.
“Oh honey, everybody’s smarter than your daddy.” Amy replies.
Hank takes a playful swat at Amy who runs a few yards ahead with Matt. “You called it bro’. I’m impressed.” Hank says to Greg. “Whatta’ yuh say we all go back to my place and down a few Margaritas.”
“Honey, I’m sure your sister and Greg would rather be alone.” Evy says.
“And they will be, just as soon as I see a ring and a blood test –“ Hank replies.
Suddenly a large man in a hooded sweatshirt springs from behind the darkened confines of two parked vehicles. He aggressively latches onto Amy’s purse, trying to pull it free. Greg immediately starts to sprint up toward Amy. “Amy!”
The mugger was hoping for a quick ‘snatch-n-grab’, but Amy is not accommodating. The feisty woman holds on tight, fighting back with all she’s got. Engaged in a fierce tug-o-war contest over her purse and pride, Amy lands a kick to the muggers shin. He growls, but only starts pulling harder. The contest is well fought, but it doesn’t last too long. “Let go, bitch!” The thug yells. The purse strap can’t take the enormous stress and breaks loose: spinning Amy forcefully to the ground. With the broken purse in-hand the thug instantly takes off; disappearing among the many parked cars. Hank sprints up, followed by Al and Evy. Greg is already there; down on one knee, checking out Amy.
“I’m fine, I’m fine...” Amy says.
Greg looks over at a very wide eyed Matt who just witnessed the theft of his aunt’s purse up close. Looking into Matts eyes, Greg says. “It’s okay, she’s okay. You okay?” At this point Matt can only nod.
“You’re bleeding...” Evy says. “She’s bleeding.”
Having worn denim shorts on this warm spring night, Amy had little protection from the abrasive asphalt. Her bare knee displays some roughed-up skin and blood where she hit the ground; the only imperfection on an otherwise flawless pair of limbs. “It’s nothing.” Amy responds. But it’s not nothing to Greg; his typical calm demeanor has vanished. A trigger pulled; the natural order disturbed. Mister Mugger has just hurt someone Greg cares about: there will be hell to pay. He jumps to his feet, quickly scanning the lot with Hank.
“Where’d that shithead go?” Hank says.
A car off in the distance screeches to a halt, nearly hitting the thug as he darts out from a row of parked cars. Greg spots him and yells. “Hey!” He immediately takes off running after the thug with Hank trying his best to keep up. Greg rolls over one car, leaps onto the roof of another and sails over a third. The panicking goon looks back, sees Greg going full tilt. Greg and the mugger tear past row after row, dodging pedestrians and cars trying to leave the park. Several yards behind, Hank is in full stride when he spots an LAPD patrol car cruising through the parking lot. He changes direction, flagging down the car.
Greg shows no sign of slowing down as the purse snatcher hops a fence and starts to run up a hill. Greg leaps the fence, gaining ground all the time. The thief looks back over his shoulder and feels a zing of panic. Afraid and out of options the guy tosses the purse back. Greg ignores the purse, keeps going, leaps and gets the thug by the legs, taking him down. They tumble back down the hill; over ice-plant, rocks and dirt, one on top of the other. The thug ends up on top and slams a fist into Greg’s face. Again the mugger tries to bolt away, but Greg rebounds quickly. He grabs the fleeing thief by the shoulder, spins him around, and nearly gets stabbed by the blade in the mugger’s hand. The thug yells. “You’re dead, assho –. “Unintimidated, Greg kicks the guy square in the crotch. Bent and gasping for air the shocked goon simultaneously cups his damaged testicles. Without hesitation, Greg seizes the wrist, clutching the knife, and with his free arm delivers a powerful blow to the backside of the mugger’s extended elbow. The ensuing pop is loud enough to be heard several feet away. Gawking at an arm contorted into a grotesque position, the mugger releases a deafening shriek of agony. The bad boy’s eyes start to roll in their sockets and his knees begin to buckle, but Greg has other ideas. He grabs the fading mugger by his sullied hoody, forcing him to remain in an upright position. Now I flatten your nose dickhead. However, before he can unload on this guy’s grill, the LAPD patrol car screeches to a halt, only feet away. Two uniformed officers (weapons drawn) and Hank jump from the vehicle. When Greg sends his glance toward the cruiser, the mugger envisioning a chance for survival, pulls himself free. He awkwardly flings his body over the fence and lands in a heap at the feet of the two officers. Reeling on the ground, holding his disfigured elbow the mugger yells. “Ahh god, that fucker broke my arm!”
The cops level their guns at Greg. “On the ground. NOW!” One officer yells.
“Hold on, fellas.” Hank says, walking up from behind. “That’s the good guy.” Pointing over at the pathetic mass on the ground, he adds. “That’s the thief.”
Looking at each other for moment, the two cops lower their weapons, trying to stifle a giggle.
The bright red orbiting lights of emergency vehicles blaze in the background as two para-medics lift the mugger onto a gurney-- his undamaged arm cuffed to the side rail. A sizable crowd of baseball fans have stopped to observe the para-medics load the moaning felon into their ambulance. A short distance away, the police seal up the evidence bag containing the mugger’s knife while Greg and the Garretts huddle together; all watching an EMT bandage Amy’s injured knee. Al places a hand on Greg’s shoulder and says. ”That was very courageous.”
“That was awesome!” Matt shouts.
Hank leans in by Greg’s ear and says. ”Looks like someone’s gettin’ some tonight.”
“Darling, don’t be vulgar.” Evy says. Then turning toward Amy, she throws her a thumbs up, mouthing the words: “I love him!“.
’The Sand Dollar’ is a cozy eatery only a few blocks from Greg’s house. They specialize in a variety of organic sandwiches and desserts for those who appreciate such fare. And although he tends to make most of his meals at home, Greg has found this place to be a wholesome change of pace…especially after some of those lengthy faculty meetings. Sitting in a corner booth, sharing a slice of apple pie, green tea and infatuated stares, Greg and Amy already resemble a budding couple. Amy slides the bill of her faded Dodger cap above her brow, reaches for her tea, but never breaks her gaze on Greg. While sipping the tea she scans his warm smile, sensing that there’s something special about this guy. Likewise, Greg’s eyes barely blink as he studies Amy’s facial features with extreme interest. The combination of beauty, strength and affability draw him in deeper. That mystifying sense of comfort settles in once more and Greg feels a developing connection, unlike any before. “How’s that knee doin’?”
“Stings a little, but no biggie. I’ve had worse.”
“Rock climbing mishaps, no doubt.”
Amy shakes her head. “Softball. I’ve had more than my fair share of road rash, sliding and diving around the infield.”
“High school team?”
“Uh uh.” A proud smile emerges. “Varsity, four years.”
Greg leans back, shaking his head slightly. “Is there no end to your talent?”
“You probably wouldn’t wanna’ hear me sing.”
Greg laughs. “Ditto.”
“So, who’s Doris?”
Looking confused, Greg says. “Doris?” Suddenly it clicks. “Ohh, you saw the check in my office… Very observant.” Amy shrugs with a grin. “Doris is a what, not a who.”
“Yup, a 57’ Chevy Bel Air, to be precise.” Leaning in, Greg slides both elbows onto the table. “Remember the older couple I mentioned; the last ones to foster me?” Amy gives an affirming nod. “Well, their names were Mel and Dee Webster…really nice couple. When they first met in college, Dee was obsessed with Doris Day. Saw all her movies, dressed like her, cut her hair the same… even sang Mel some of her songs. And don’t ask which ones, I haven’t a clue.”
“Aww, I was hoping you could belt-out a medley of favorites.”
“Right… Anyway, Mel tagged her with that nickname, which apparently she didn’t care for; thought it was a tease.”
Amy starts nodding. “Yeah, been down that road.”
Greg cocks his head a little. “Oh...misguided old boyfriend?”
“No. That probably wouldn’t have been so bad. It’s my stupid brother.”
Grinning, Greg says. ”You guys do seem to have an adversarial relationship…” Injecting an inquisitive tone, he adds. “Sooo?...What is it?”
Amy stares at her tea cup for a long minute before sending her eyes back toward Greg. “Buffy.”
With a dip in his brow, Greg says. “Buffy?…as in vampire slayer? Is that…”
Amy shakes a cautionary finger. “Don’t go there.”
Sliding back in his seat. “Where am I goin’?”
“Not sure.” Relaxing a bit, Amy says. ”Go ahead…but be careful.”
“I was just wondering if she was your teen idol. Because I see the similarities…” Amy’s eyes thin before Greg adds. “Good lookin’ blonds that both kick butt.” Amy’s smile returns when he rubs the fading scar on the side of his head.
“Let me just say, it was my favorite show in middle school…I’ve moved on. But Hank won’t…Always enjoys messin’ with me…’nuff said.”
Greg makes a cross with his index fingers. “Peace. I’ll stick with Amy.”
Leading with an approving nod, Amy says. “Sorry for the interruption, let’s get back to Doris.”
“Oh yeah… Anyway, after a while, Dee started to view her nickname, as a term of endearment…Unlike some people.” After absorbing a playful sneer, he adds. “So apparently it stuck. And I think it was about a year later, Mel’s flyin’ bombing missions in Korea … And guess what he has painted on the side of his plane?”
“Doris, I assume.”
“Close. It was actually Deadly Doris.”
A distrusting look grows across Amy’s face. “Seriously?”
Greg raises his hand. “I swear. Mel showed me pictures… He’s standing with his crew, in front of the plane, and painted under the pilot’s window, in cursive, is ’Deadly Doris’… And underneath that, is the face of a vicious looking woman; furrowed nose, clenched teeth, narrowed eyes.…You know, just how you looked, playing tug-o-war with that mugger” Greg leans forward, mimicking Amy’s look.
Amy shakes a fist. “Ooooh, keep it up and you’ll see vicious.”
Greg covers up. “Sorry, don’t hurt me.” Amy glares as he slides forward.” Okay, just kidding about the face, but the name part is all true.”
“Ooh-kay, but I thought you said Doris was a Chevy…I’m pretty sure that’s a car not a plane.”
“Very true. Mel’s project car. Weekends and sometimes after school, we’d hang-out in the garage and Mel would tell his stories while we worked on that beauty…really sweet ride.
“Bet you liked that.”
Nodding, Greg says. “Yeah, that was a good time. But yuh know the best part, at least for Mel, was at the end. Even though he hadn’t called Dee, anything other than Mom, since their kids were born; the day after we finished, he had Doris painted on the driver’s side door.”
Amy’s face beams. “How sweet… and the check?”
“After Mel died, they sold the car and gave me that money for school…You believe that.”
“That’s so awesome”
Greg’s head nods in contemplation. “To say the least.”
” Yuh know, I think you made quite an impression on my family.” Amy says.” They’ll be talking about tonight for weeks.”
“Yeah, add another scuffle to my tally.”
“Scuffle? I meant the way you predicted the final out of the game. Now, that was somethin’.”
Greg looks perplexed for a moment then slowly sports a grin. “Now you’re messin’ with me.”
Amy giggles, sliding back in her seat. “Gotcha uh.”
Greg nods, expanding his grin. “And I thought I was the jokester around here.”
“Guess you’re already rubbing off on me.”
“Careful. Next, you’ll start referring to your veggies…” Points at the pie. “…or the fruit in your dessert by their species name.”
Amy’s eyes expand. “You really do that?”
“On occasion.” Greg shoves a big piece of apple pie into his mouth. “Mmmm…malus domestica.”
Amy follows suit with a big bite of her own. “Mmmm…delicious.”
“Yeah, that works too.”
Greg opens the door of his small but classy home, inviting Amy in. The interior is much like that of his office; very neat, organized and hosting a variety of flourishing greenery. Amy, still wearing her Dodger cap walks about the front room, favoring her bandaged knee. Taking notice, Greg asks. “Hey, I think I have some Advil, if you’d like to take the edge off that knee.”
“No thanks, I generally avoid that kinda’ stuff…It’s not so bad.” She breaks into a wide smile, observing the absence of any clutter and the vast collection of books that are so perfectly aligned on the shelves. “Your place is so neat.”
“I like things organized.”
“I don’t.” She tosses her hat on his couch, casting a sultry smile. “Is that going to be a problem?”
“I’m not sure.” He says. “Why don’t you keep going.”
She tosses her sweater on the floor, kicks her shoes across the room. They look at one another, heat building. “How you doin’?”
“It’s tough, but by God this is a thing I’m just going to have to get over.” Greg’s eyebrows start to jump. “Keep going.” She smiles, lifts her blouse over her head, flings it. He pulls her body to him, stares into Amy’s soft eyes and slowly slides his hands downward along the contours of her ribs. They continue to glide across her smooth skin eventually coming to rest around the warmth of her trim waist. Gently pressing his fingertips into the small of her back, Greg initiates an ascent that finds his digits leisurely descending over the clasps of her bra—there is so much more exploring to do. One by one, each released hook intensifies the craving and excitement of the moment. There’s just one ‘bad boy’ to go when he suddenly he stops.
Amy leans back, looking puzzled. “What? The mess?”
Eyes narrowing, Greg says. “You’re not packin’ any wooden stakes are yuh?”
Wearing just a sliver of a grin, Amy leans forward, whispering into his ear. “If I am, you’ll be the first to know.” Greg’s brow arcs as he frees the grip of that last little fastener: the garment slides away from Amy’s shoulders. Then, without ever breaking his gaze upon her face, he spins the liberated bra around his index finger and just lets it fly; destination unknown. Amy lets her jaw slacken a bit and says. “You are a quick study.”
“I told you I could focus.” Greg replies. Then the words stop, they’re kissing, her long golden mane spilling across his broad shoulders...and clothes are falling everywhere.
The words may have ceased, but the communication was as clear and vibrant as ever. Their locked eyes spoke of an attraction that would rival a Shakespearean sonnet. Their soft and tender sighs whispered tales of anticipated and wondrous pleasure. And those wild exploring hands told of desire that no words could replicate…it was one of those splendorous moments in time that require no verbal translation. That was the first time Greg and Amy had sex together and it was pleasant, meaningful and exciting. But as the spring rains turned to warm summer winds and those winds gave way to crisp autumn nights the relationship deepened. Each dinner, movie, ballgame, hike and sexual encounter that ensued fed an evolution of feelings. Over the course of those several months the unseen forces of physical attraction, mental stimulation and cognitive comfort seemed to meld into an exhilarating hybrid emotion for both of them…could it be love?