Ken’s weekend went slowly. He moped around the motel and went for a jog both Saturday and Sunday mornings. On Saturday he drove out to visit his new house and to see if any work had taken place. Thank goodness the work was moving along. They had begun to install the hardwood floors.
He took in a movie Saturday night and thought about Peggy Waldren.
Finally, on Sunday afternoon, he couldn’t stand it any longer, so he phoned.
In a businesslike tone came the response, “Peggy Waldren”
“Hi, this is Ken, can you talk or is your son close by?”
“He’s out in the yard so yes, I can talk.”
“I had an awfully nice time on our 10 minute date.”
“As I recall it became a 20 minute date.”
“We could’ve done it in 10 minutes if you hadn’t thrown all those complications at me.”
Before she had time to respond he asked, “What’d you tell your son when he saw the flowers?”
“I told him I did some favors for a nice man I met at work. Because I did him some favors, he gave me the flowers.”
“What happened next?”
He told me, “Ah Mom, I hope you don’t start having boyfriends.”
“And you replied?”
“I told him just because I met a nice man doesn’t mean I have a boyfriend.”
“Peggy, let’s get together again for more than 20 minutes. In fact, I have a great idea. Why don’t we go to Warsaw? Its 20 minutes away. The prying eyes, which concern you, won’t be in Warsaw. Also, we could meet at the bank and leave your car there. That way your son won’t need to know anything until you’re ready to tell him.”
He heard Peggy take a deep breath. Her silence seemed to go on forever.
“Ken, you’re a very nice guy. But I just can’t. If you’d seen Ned’s reaction when he talked about my having a boyfriend you’d understand. So, I’m sorry, really sorry, but my answer has to be no.”
There was a long silence. “OK Peggy. Anyway, it was great meeting you. Goodbye.”
“Goodbye, Ken. And thanks again for the flowers.”
Ken stared at the wall in his motel room for a long time after he’d hung up.
Peggy went up to her study room and opened a book. Ten minutes later she was still staring at the first sentence. I hope I haven’t just made a terrible mistake.
Ken arrived at little league practice at 1530 hours. The skinny kid was already there.
“You look different.”
“My Mom let me get a new buzz cut. All that hair was too hot.”
Ken couldn’t remember the kid’s name. “I think I’ll call you Buzz. I’m terrible at remembering names.”
“Buzz is cool. Let’s play catch; I’ve been practicing.”
The kid’s improvement was amazing. Buzz had learned how to hang back on his right leg. When his arm came forward, all his weight seemed to flow onto his left leg. The ball really zipped.
As they threw back and forth, Ken asked Buzz, “How did you improve so fast, I thought you didn’t have anyone to be the catcher?”
“Mom caught some. Mostly I threw against a piece of plywood I put up against the side of our garage.”
“Are there targets on the plywood? Or are you simply throwing at the wood?”
“Just throwing at the wood.”
“OK, here is your assignment for this week. Take some chalk. Stand up next to the plywood. Draw the strike zone for someone your height. Divide the strike zone into six squares. Number the squares one through six.
“From now on, when you throw, pick out a number. Throw until you can hit the number. How many balls do you have?”
“Only one, Coach.”
“Take 5 more balls out of the ball bag. That’ll give you six throws before you have to go pick up balls, one ball for each number. Now, let me explain why I want you to do this.
“There was a major league pitcher named Greg Maddox. He wasn’t big. He didn’t throw very hard. But, he had fabulous control. He literally could paint the corners of the plate.”
“When a game started, Maddox used to throw a ball on the outside edge of the plate. If the umpire called a strike, the next pitch was just a little further outside. It didn’t take Greg long to find out exactly where the umpire’s strike zone was located.
“For the rest of the game, he would paint the outside corner of the box you’re going to draw on your plywood. By keeping the ball outside, if the batter hit a pitch, it usually was on the end of the bat. That meant the bat had no power.
“If a batter crowded the plate, Maddox would start pitching on the inside of the box. If the batter hit an inside pitch, it was right in on his hands. Again, the bat had no power. Greg Maddox is now in The Hall of Fame simply because he could hit the numbers on the squares you’re going to draw on your plywood.
“Buzz, if you can learn to hit those numbers consistently, you’ll be one of our best pitchers.”
Buzz exclaimed, “A pitcher?”
It was easy to tell the idea of being a pitcher was exciting for the little guy.
When the rest of the team arrived, Ken stood in the center of the group again keeping silent until they all became quiet.
“You guys are OK as hitters. Today we need to work on your fielding. We’re going to have serious infield and outfield practice.”
For the next hour, Ken hit grounders and flies to all the different positions. He worked on their throwing motions. Later he worked with the pitchers. It didn’t take him long to realize he needed an assistant coach.
On Tuesday, Ken went up to the college to look up his former baseball coach, Skip Miller.
“Hi Coach,” Ken announced as he walked into Skip’s office in the field house.
Lister,” yelled Skip, (he almost never just talked) “what’re you doin’ back on campus?”
“I’ve a job in the college admissions office starting September 1st.”
“Great, glad you’re back. Ya know, you’re always welcome to use the field house or the track if you want to work out.”
“Thanks. You can count on seeing me often.”
Miller asked, “Ken, come spring I could use an extra hand with baseball practice. Do ya think you could help me out once in a while?”
The suggestion startled Ken. All his life he’d dreamed of becoming a baseball coach. Now Skip Miller was offering an assistant coaching spot to him. An unpaid spot, unfortunately. But Ken didn’t hesitate.
“I’d like that Skip, if my duties permit. I’ll have to see exactly what my working hours are supposed to be first. Working with your team would be fun.”
Ken continued, “Skip, I’m coaching a little league team here in town. I wondered if you knew someone who could help me out with practice a couple of days a week. One coach is not enough to put on a proper workout, as you well know.”
Skip pondered a minute. “There’s a couple of my old players who live in town. Maybe one of them will help you out.
Skip consulted his computer. He came up with three names. All were former ball players who were older than Ken. It was a good place to start.
Then Skip added, “Here’s one other suggestion. As you may know, I took Coach Bernie Davis’ place when he retired six years ago. Bernie still lives in town. He’s only 72 or 73 years old. Maybe he’d enjoy helping out.”
Ken took the names, promised Skip he’d keep in touch, and left.
As he drove back toward the motel, he considered his need for coaching help. The former players Skip suggested were all probably busy with their careers. The most logical person from the standpoint of available time had to be the retired coach. In all probability, he was also the best-qualified person to help young kids learn how to hit, field and throw.
Ken had never met Bernie Davis. He wondered how to approach him. A phone call seemed to be rather direct. It would be too easy to say no. As he pondered this, he pointed his car towards Elizabeth Riley’s real estate office.
Elizabeth welcomed him as he walked in the door. She told him her son Billy was ecstatic at dinner last night about his thorough coaching methods.
“That’s nice to hear. Billy is a good athlete, Mrs. Riley.
“You know, I’m living in a motel now which is quite expensive. Do you think we could move up the closing date? I wouldn’t mind if the painting isn’t completed. I just want to get out of the motel.”
“Let me see what I can do. I’ll call the builder and try to light a fire under him.”
Mrs. Riley then asked a strange thing. “Ken, have you ever considered seeking a job as a full time coach at a high school or college?”
Ken hesitated a minute, slowly forming his answer, “I’ve always wondered about being a high school or college coach. I think it’d be great to work around young people. The problem is, a person needs a lot of education courses and stuff for the profession. Which means I’m not qualified. I do think the coaching part is something I would enjoy doing. I might even be able to do it well. However, the odds of finding a position as a coach are probably very slim. Why did you ask?”
Mrs. Riley replied, “No reason at all. I simply think you’re doing so well with the boys, you might consider becoming a full time coach.”
“That’d be an awesome life, for sure.”
Ken continued, “Now for the other reason I stopped by. I need help coaching the boys. I talked to Skip Miller, the University baseball coach. He thought maybe I could recruit the retired coach, Bernie Davis, to be my assistant. I’ve never met Bernie. I wondered, would it be possible for you to make an introduction for me?”
“I would be glad to Ken, but I don’t know Mr. Davis either. Why don’t you call your friend Mrs. Hennessey? She’s been working at the University for years. She surely knows Bernie Davis because he coached there a long time.”
As Ken drove away from the real estate office, he thought about Mrs. Hennessey. If I ask her for an introduction, she’ll probably ask me for dinner. This could mean another mandatory walk with her daughter.
Maybe I can just ask Mrs. Hennessey to make a telephone introduction for me with Coach Davis. Surely, a phone call request will not mean an invitation to dinner. I hope.
What I don’t do for those kids Ken thought,as he drove up onto the campus.
Hesitantly, Ken walked up the three flights to Mrs. Hennessey’s office. She welcomed him asking, “What’ve you been up to while you are waiting to start your new job?”
Ken filled her in on his house purchase plus the volunteer job he had taken as little league coach. He told her, “The little league job is what brings me here today. I need an assistant coach. Skip Miller suggested Bernie Davis might be willing to help. My problem is I don’t know Coach Davis. I wondered if you’d call him and make an appointment for me. I don’t feel comfortable calling him without a proper introduction. It would be too easy for him to say no.”
Mrs. Hennessey immediately caught the drift of what Ken needed.
“I’ve a better idea. Robert and I have been meaning to ask Coach Davis and his wife, Martha, over for dinner. Why don’t I schedule something? I’ll ask you to join us. Over dinner you and Coach Davis can really get acquainted.”
Ken replied, “Mrs. Hennessey you are being extremely kind. My problem is our next practice is tomorrow night. I need an assistant right away. All I really need from you is a phone introduction.”
Mrs. Hennessey picked up the phone. “Let me see what I can do. Hello, Martha, how are you dear?” After some chitchat Mrs. Hennessey asked, “Martha, how do you feel about ‘Spur of the Moment’ dinners? Well, Robert and I have been meaning to have you over. Today a young man came into my office who wants to meet Bernie. He’s kind of in a hurry. Do you think you two could come over for dinner tonight? Six thirty? Splendid. Thanks for being available for a ‘Spur of the Moment’ dinner.”
Oh boy, Ken thought. Sue Ann Hennessey, here I come.
For a ‘spur of the Moment’ dinner, Mrs. Hennessey served a delicious tuna casserole with homemade biscuits plus apple pie. The food became one of the good parts of the evening.
The other good part was Coach Davis. For a 72 year old, the retired coach appeared to be in excellent condition. He still ran 3 times a week. He admitted sitting around the house bored him. He eagerly accepted Ken’s request for coaching help. He even promised to help at the Friday afternoon games as well.
Ken suggested Coach Davis work with the infielders and coach the batting practice while he worked with the pitchers and outfielders. Bernie readily concurred. The two coaches agreed to meet early at practice tomorrow to get everything organized. Ken was really pleased.
It was the other part of the dinner that became the problem. Ken had to sit next to Sue Ann! She was dressed in another low scoop necked blouse which revealed a generous portion of her anatomy. During the dinner, Ken felt Sue Ann gently place her hand on his thigh. Ken reached down to remove it. Sue Ann simply took his hand and held on to it.
As the dessert arrived, Ken was able to extract his hand in order to eat. The next thing he knew he was out on the obligatory walk with the heavy set girl.
This time Sue Ann headed away from the campus. They walked into the neighborhood behind the Hennessey’s house. The homes here appeared modest. Young children played in the streets. Baby carriages and bicycles were everywhere. Sue Ann clung to Ken’s hand as they walked. Ken felt he would have to wrestle her to get his hand back. He didn’t want to make a scene. Especially since her mother was so helpful in getting Coach Davis to help him. Ken decided to simply leave their hands together.
At the far end of the street, there was a small colonial house with a light burning in an upstairs window.
In that lighted window Peggy Waldren was pouring over a textbook titled, Analyzing Financial Statements. She was bored. Usually she enjoyed studying. But tonight, it was really tough. She happened to look up from her book just as a young couple walked by. How nice, she thought; a couple holding hands.
It was easy for Peggy to remember how good it felt when Peter encased her hand as they walked. She heaved a deep sigh, as she continued watching. The couple crossed the street, turned, and began heading back. As they came into the light from the street lamp, Peggy got a look at their faces. I know that girl. It’s Sue Ann Hennessey. And the man holding hands with her is….. Ken Lister!
Well it didn’t take him long to find someone else after I turned him down. I wonder why I feel so surprised? Ken definitely did not give me the impression on our 10 minute date that he was a smooth operator with the ladies. Well, I did turn him down. I guess I have to wish him luck…. I wonder why I don’t want to do that?
Sue Ann and Ken eventually returned to the front porch. Most of the lights were out. It was obvious the Davis’s had gone home and her folks were in bed.
“Do you want to come in?” asked Sue Ann in a seductive voice.
“No, I have to get up early.”
“You are shy aren’t you?” murmured Sue Ann. “I guess I better take the lead here. If you want to kiss me goodnight, it will be fine with me.”
Ken stammered, “Sue Ann, you’re a very nice girl but I’m really not ready for anything like that.” He turned and ran down the driveway toward his car.
She called out, “Ken, wait.”
He paused. Sue Ann rushed down the walk toward him. Grasping his hand, she directed him to a bench in the front yard under a big oak tree. “Please sit here on this bench, a minute. I need to tell you something.”
When Ken hesitated, she gushed, “It’s really important, Ken, please hear what I want to say.”
Reluctantly Ken sat on the bench. The street light cast enough light that he could see Sue Ann’s face as she stood before him. It took her a minute to organize her thoughts.
“I know you’re not attracted to me. I’m certain some of the reason is because I’m too heavy. I need to explain. When I was in college, I had a nice figure. I was a size 12 in fact, which is relatively slim for a girl with my height.
“There was a boy on campus. We dated for all of our junior and senior years. I was terribly in love with him. I was certain he would ask me to marry him before we graduated. For the senior dance I bought myself a ‘killer’ dress. I just knew he would pop the question that night and I wanted to look special for him.
“After a fun night of dancing, he brought me back to my house. He told me, “Thank you for two years of wonderful times together. I’ll always remember you as my college girl with great affection. Tomorrow after graduation, I’m going to begin the rest of my life. I plan to do that alone without any encumbrances. Thanks for the memories, Sue Ann.”
“I was stunned. I stammered, “What about me?”
“You’ll always be my college girl. You’ll be a happy memory, forever . Good bye, Sue Ann.”
“He kissed me, and then he left!...... I’ve never seen him again.”
Ken interjected, “How terrible. He was just plain cruel.e He w”
“Later I found out he had a girl back home. He simply used me for two years. I was devastated. Unfortunately, I took my sorrow out in chocolate and other sweets. I put on all this weight in about a year.
“I know I have to get the weight off. What I need is a strong incentive to keep me on a diet and exercise program. It occurred to me that maybe you can be my incentive, Ken.”
“I don’t understand.”
“I know I’m not attractive to you. But, you are very attractive to me. There’s a dance next October. I think it’s the 15th. It’s for all the faculty and staff of the college, no students. I want to go to that dance with you. I want to wear my ‘killer’ dress, which is a size 12. If I can lose enough weight to get into that dress, would you go to the dance as my date?
She explained further, “I have the feeling if I can picture myself walking into that dance on your arm, I’ll have the incentive I need to lose all this awful weight. Please, say yes, Ken.”
“Of course I’ll say yes, Sue Ann. If you can get into a size 12 by October 15th or whenever that dance is, I’d be proud to be your escort.”
“Oh Ken, I was praying you’d say yes, if I just could get up enough nerve to ask you. Thank you so much.”
As Ken stood up to leave, she kissed him right on the lips!
Ken had no idea how much weight she needed to lose to get into a size 12 dress, but he was fairly confident he would not be going to that dance with Sue Ann. Losing weight is a long arduous challenge.