CURVE BALL

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Chapter Seventy-Three

Jack stood in line at the airport. The way he figured Japan was thousands of miles from the U.S. and while he hated the food he did have a good run-playing ball. The Japanese called him, maitiamu---mighty arm. Well he would play under that name…Jacko Maitiamu. The Japanese, however, did not tolerate drunks. The honky-tonks hadn’t moved from the last time he was there but he didn’t go. He even cut down on smoking. He still knew some agents. After a month in Tokyo he looked one up. American players called him Jimmy, Chikako, in Japanese. Jack found Jimmy’s number and convinced him to have lunch.

Jack walked into the restaurant wearing a beige sport jacket and sunglasses. His hair was combed and he looked and felt much better. The hostess led him to Jimmy’s table where a bottle of sake stood at the ready. Jimmy got up and made a slight bow as did Jack.

Hisashiburi, long time no see,” Jimmy said.

Jack smiled. “I got lucky in L.A.”

They sat and Jimmy poured. “To your World Series victory.” They clinked glasses.

A young woman with long dark hair brought a plate of sushi. Jack lingered on her and only heard Jimmy say, “try… very good.”

The woman stood near him ready to serve.

Arigatogozaimashita, thank you,” Jack said. She dropped a few pieces on his plate. More goddamn raw fish. What he would give for a Big Mac. How was he going to live in this place? He smiled at her when she asked if they needed anything else.

Japanese culture unlike American was indirect. They chatted about everything but the reason why they were having lunch. Jack managed to eat what was served and washed it down with a lot of sake. Near the end of the meal, the same waitress appeared. She and Jimmy spoke rapidly in Japanese. She bowed turned and left. Jack thought he saw a hint of a smile.

“What was that about? Jack asked.

“She is pretty, yes?”

Jack leaned in his chair. “Yes, very.”

“She liked you. She was excited when I told her you were an American baseball player.”

“Yeah?” He wondered where this was going.

“Americans, as you know do well here. The people think you are gods. So maitiamu you have come back to play in Japan?

“Not exactly. I want to coach.”

“Coach, why? I watched you pitch.”

“Those days are over. The sixth game of the World Series was my last.”

Jimmy drank his sake and shook his head. After a few minutes pause he said, “I’ll see what I can do.”

They stood and bowed. “Tell me where you’re staying,” Jimmy said, “Your American charm still works well with the ladies.” Amusement flashed on his face as he nodded toward the other tables where the waitress was serving.

Jack was alone in his hotel room. Jimmy had called a few days after the lunch and told him the Yomiuri Giants of Tokyo were interested. The rest of the conversation faded after Jimmy slipped in that the girl wanted to meet him. Tonight was the night.

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