The Prodigy

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Chapter 9

Before we leave, I message my mom and inform her I am leaving early to go to a baseball game and will meet her at home in the evening. I’m secretly thrilled to be going to a baseball game with people my own age. I would prefer calling them friends, not colleagues, but I’m happy nonetheless. Secretly, I’m also excited to spend more time with Josh. Getting ready this morning, I couldn’t stop thinking about him.

When we all meet after the interviews are completed, we board the train, which takes us around the northern loop of Manhattan. We get off at 155th Street on the East side and start walking over Macomb’s Damn Bridge. It is strange how alliances are already shaking out based on work assignments. I find myself grouped with Josh and Kevin, while Jiang, Jacki and Marcus gravitate toward each other. They are comparing notes on their new assignments. When we arrive at Yankee stadium, Josh announces that all work talk is off limits for the rest of the day.

The energy is palpable as we walk into the stadium, as if it is a living, breathing entity. The crowd is humming as everyone stands in cue. Perhaps it is because the weather is perfect. The temperature is eighty-four degrees and there is a slight breeze. It is the kind of day where anything can happen. Or it could be because the Yankees are on a winning streak and look like they might win the pennant this year. There is a new player at shortstop, who is in contention for Rookie of the Year. Not surprisingly, we had been given great box seats on the third base line, courtesy of the largesse of the Lucas Institute.

“Hey Josh, be sure to thank your mom for me. I love the seats.” Marcus calls out as he and Jiang take their respective seats in the next box.

“Noted. These are actually my box seats. I spent a great deal of time with my grandfather growing up. If we weren’t on the water, we would be at a Yankee game. These are the seats that he left me. I know the owner of those two seats you and Jiang have and I traded tickets with him. I am going for some beer. Can I get anybody anything? Analia would you mind helping me?”

“Sure, no problem. Kevin or Jacki, would you like something to drink? Eat?” I ask as Josh takes drink requests from Marcus and Jiang.

“I’d like a seltzer or bottled water, if there is no seltzer, please.” Kevin responds. Jacki asks for a beer.

As we walk up the stairs to the concession stands, we stop for a moment as the national anthem is played. As we resume walking again, I ask him about the history of Yankee stadium.

“You sure you didn’t get sick of the history lesson yesterday?” Josh replies with a smile as we step onto the line at the stand.

“No, not at all. I grew up on the West coast. We have Los Angeles and the beach. Not much history there. Although, San Francisco can be quite interesting.” I feel my head swiveling as I take in the swarms of people around me

“Well, fortunately Yankee Stadium survived the complete revamping of New York City. They threatened to move the stadium out to the Meadowlands in New Jersey. The Yankees belong here. See over there.” Josh points to the area behind centerfield. “That is Monument Park. For years there were six Yankees there, and then they put Derek Jeter in there. A legend, whose status is up there with the Babe and Big Lou Gehrig. My grandfather was lucky enough to witness Jeter’s milestones when he was young.”

“Are there any good players on the Yankees now?” I ask.

“The Yankees always have good players, but if you mean someone with the potential to become a legend, there might be one player now. The third baseman was rookie of the year and golden glove three years ago and the most valuable player of the World Series last year. Plus he has consistent stats.” Josh holds up his hand and asks for two beers, three waters and a coke from the attendant. “Plus, the short stop is looking phenomenal right now. We can order our food from the seats. Have you thought about what we talked about yesterday?”

“I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. I am nervous about the whole thing.” Damn, I would rather talk about work than discuss anything about Rosewood on a perfect day like this. I still haven’t resolved whether I trust Josh yet and need some time to figure it out.

“You are not involved yet. You can back out anytime.”

“I didn’t mean I was nervous for myself. I am more concerned about if we fail. It could be potentially disastrous for my father and the other detainees.” I watch as the attendant hands the drinks to Josh. I pick up the second tray.

“You have a point there. It just means failure is not an option. Are you free Sunday for brunch? We can go over the memory card together. The genetic data is on it. I have some questions for you.” We start walking back to our seats. On the way back, Josh grabs a food attendant and asks him to come down to their box when he gets a minute.

“You already looked at the card? Is it as bad as we feared?” For a moment, a dark cloud blights out the happiness of the day. I will have to make up her mind about Josh, very soon.

Josh shakes his head with a grimace. “Yes it is. Let’s not get into it here. It is time to enjoy the game. Have you ever had a New York hot dog?”

“I‘ve never had a hot dog. Remember, I’m from California? The land of the uber-healthy.” I say with a smirk.

Josh sighs and shakes his head. “Analia, you are clearly the smarter one, but there is so much I can teach you. Or at least help you become a true New Yorker.” He turns to the group. “Hey guys, here are the drinks. I asked the attendant to come down and take our food order.”

“Josh thanks so much for these tickets. It feels so good to be out in the sun and drinking a beer. This is heaven.” Jacki is beaming. She is the most carefree spirit of the group.

“It’s my pleasure. The thing I miss most about school are the summer breaks. I think we should have a four-day work week in the summer.”

“I don’t think that would go over well with your mother. I have never had a summer break, but I am enjoying today immensely.” Kevin says dryly. I raise my eyebrows and give Josh a look. He just smiles back at me. Kevin really tries hard to relate.

The six of us start to fall into the rhythm of the game. We are a diverse group. Jacki dresses in bold colors and is striking. Marcus dresses as if he left a fashion shoot. Jiang is quiet in a white shirt and skirt and Kevin looks rather formal. Only Josh looks laid back in a t-shirt and shorts, but then again he knew he was going to the game. The Yankee bats are hitting well. However, excitement really starts to build in the sixth inning as everyone realizes that it may be a no-hitter game. Josh keeps putting his hand on my back and hugging me anytime a Yankee hits a homerun. I keep hoping the Yankees continue their winning streak, at least for this game. Marcus, however, keeps, checking on the two of us and pointedly looking at Josh’s arm on my back. It makes me uncomfortable.

During the seventh inning stretch, I ask Josh. “Did you play baseball or any sports when you were growing up?

“Analia do you assume all geneticists are unathletic nerds?” Josh laughs as he says it.

“No. Yes. Most of us are nerdy in school. I know that sounds terrible.” I cringe as I say it.

“I am kidding. My mother was opposed to me playing sports but my grandfather, and even my father, made sure I played little league and basketball. I continued to play basketball when I went to boarding school and Hopkins. I was the captain at Hopkins. It plays against type for a nerd to be somewhat of a jock. But, I like doing normal things.” He is interrupted as the crowd goes wild. The pitcher has retired three more in the eighth inning.

“What about you Jacki, are you a typical nerd?”

Jacki turns to us with a smile. “I have never been your typical nerd. I am both ethnic and a lesbian, which automatically disqualifies me as a geek. I just happen to be very smart.”

“That does not disqualify you from being a geek. Do you play sports or have any hobbies?” Kevin interjects.

“I am not athletic and my hobbies include reading and travelling.” Jacki laughs as she realizes her words belie her statement.

“Geek.” Josh, Kevin and I say in unison.

“Well, I for one am a certified geek. I have accepted my reality and embrace it.” Kevin says. “There are advantages to being a geek, besides the obvious of being exceptionally intelligent. Geeks statistically are healthier, live longer and are usually quite rational.”

“Well said, Kevin.” I tell him. “How do you like living in New York?”

“It is definitively different from San Francisco. I haven’t been out that much. I have been working on a new statistics program.”

Josh jumps into the conversation. “Kevin, you and I should talk about putting together a fantasy football pool next month.”

“Ok. But it has to be legal. I helped my cousin create one in Vegas two years ago and the authorities shut us down.” All eyes turn to Kevin.

“Were you arrested?” Marcus asks.

“What did you do Kevin?” I ask simultaneously.

“I built predictive models on every football player and how they would interact with other players. Some of my family members became involved and we were accused of fraud.”

“What happened to you?” Alarm bells are going off in my head.

“Well I met with an officer from the Nevada gaming commission and after he talked to me he dropped the charges but I am never allowed to start a fantasy football league in Nevada again. Honestly, we didn’t know it was illegal. It wasn’t like we were counting cards. My father was furious at my cousin.”

I just stare at Josh and mouth, no, while shaking my head. Josh is chuckling softly to himself. I can tell Josh would like nothing better than to start a league.

“Hey guys, isn’t that the vice president behind home base?” Marcus calls out

Sitting with the vice president is Katharine Lucas, the governor of New York and several other dignitaries plus their bodyguards. I feel Josh stiffen next to me and I put a hand on his wrist. He is staring at Kevin and when I look in the direction of his gaze, I see a visibly shaken Kevin. All of a sudden there is a seismic shift in the energy of our little group.

Kevin looks at Josh. “Did you know they would be here?”

“No. My mother failed to inform me of that fact.” Josh responds. “Sorry, I would not have scheduled this game if I had known.” I sense that Josh and Kevin have a shared secret between them but I can’t imagine what it is.

Kevin whispers softly to Josh and me. “That vice president runs this country. Unbelievable. He is an evil man. They all are.” I wonder what happened to Kevin that he feels like this. As I glance towards the game, I notice Jacki observing the three of us.

“Do you see those people at your family dinners?” Jacki asks Josh.

“No, I deliberately avoid those invitations, much to my mother’s chagrin.” Josh answers.

“You don’t like politics, Josh?” Jiang asks in halting English. I am reminded of how little Jiang had spoken today. I feel guilty about not trying to draw Jiang into the conversation more.

“I hate them with a passion, particularly my mother’s politics.” Josh responds.

“But Josh, the Institute has had such a positive impact on our society. Just look at what we are working on now. We need that kind of influence in government.” Marcus adds.

Very carefully and politely, Josh responds. “You’re right Marcus. The research we do is beneficial. I just resented the attention growing up.” If I weren’t so close to Josh, I would have missed his jaw muscles twitching as he spoke. Kevin at this point is staring straight ahead as if he has decided to block out this unwelcome intrusion. Fortunately, the leftfielder catches the last out at the top of the ninth and the Yankees win a no-hitter game.

We all start heading out to the exit. Even though the Yankees won, the mood of the group is quieter on the way out. Jacki grabs my arm and holds me back towards the rear of the group.

“Josh is quite sweet on you, isn’t he?”

“We are just friends. He is really very nice.”

“Well, he is very good looking too. If I didn’t play for the other side, I would like him. There is definitely a spark between the two of you. Do you like him?”

“He’s a good friend.” Emphasis on friend. “At first I thought he was a player, but I don’t think so anymore. And you’re right; he is good looking. The only problem is we work together. Things could get messy.”

“The only draw back I see with him is his mother, the dragon lady. Have you ever had a boyfriend before?”

“Sadly, I have never even been kissed.”

“Oh you are a baby. You must have spent most of your time in the lab at Stanford.”

“I did. There was no place else for me. I was always just too young. My nickname was JB. It started when I was twelve and wound up sticking all these years. It didn’t bother me at first because I was too young to care. I am just happy it’s not an issue anymore.”

“I don’t understand. Why JB?” Jacki asks.

“It is short for jailbait. It wasn’t terribly original. Better than geek, nerd or weirdo at any rate. Right?” I respond.

“What are you doing for the weekend?” Jacki asks.

“I am going running with my mom tonight. Tomorrow night we are going to the theater to see the revival of ‘The Elephant Man’. What are you doing?”

“Oh, that’s great. I hear it is a wonderful production. My partner and I are heading to Montauk on the high-speed rail to the Hamptons. I can’t wait to hit the beach. Do you want to come over for dinner next week?”

“Sure, that sounds great. I would love too.”

By this point, we had crossed back over the bridge and arrive at the train station. Jacki hugs me and takes the train heading in the Southeast direction after she thanks Josh again. The rest of the group boards the northern loop train that goes past the Institute. Marcus, Liang and Kevin depart when they reach the Institute and that leaves just Josh and myself.

Sitting on the train, Josh is pensive. His whole joie de vie has vanished. “You ok?” I ask.

He puts his arm around me. “Yeah, I am ok. I was just having a really good time and then I saw my mother. I really need a break from her.”

“Well, I had a great time. I think we all did. It was a perfect afternoon. Thank you for that. Just put your mother out of your mind. You can’t change her. I also think it helped the group dynamic to bring us all together.”

Josh smiles at her. “Well I’m happy you’re happy. You said you wanted to see a baseball game.”

I wonder if he put this whole thing together for my benefit, but that would be conceited of me. “Thanks. I loved it. Still have to figure out who all the players are, but maybe Kevin could help me.”

Josh laughs. “Kevin will be your man for any and all statistics. I love that guy. He cracks me up. About Sunday, would you rather cruise out to a beach for a few hours? We can get our work done when we dock.”

“Sure, I think I can go. Where should I meet you? At the boat basin?”

“Do you remember how to get there? I would come to get you but I need to prep the boat.”

“Of course. Here’s my stop. Thanks again for today.” Josh gets off the train and walks me to my building despite me protesting that he doesn’t have to make the effort. He kisses me on the cheek and tells me he’ll see me Sunday. I’m not sure how to interpret the kiss. Does he think of me like a little sister or a friend? It is the end of the week and my brain has been in overdrive. I’ll leave the question for another day.

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