"What's the world for you if you can't make it up the way you want."

-Jazz, Toni Morrison

A Diving Catch

A Diving Catch

All the thoughts that I had about my father were wrong.  It didn’t really matter to him or to anyone.  We’re all just talking monkeys, he used to say: some of us have guns though.

In a way, it’s the best thing in the world, that dumbass Tommy Kane said.  You’re the richest person in town now. Too bad about your dad.

Yeah.  Too bad.

Those awkward hugs that I didn’t want.  Hugs that no one wanted.  Mom crying in her bedroom every night at 7:30 when he used to come home.  Baron sitting by the door for months after the NJ transit train rolled through town at 7:22.   The unclaimed cars in the train parking lot for days.  We couldn’t find his other set of keys.   No one coming up to our house that Halloween.  Uncarved turkey.  Christmas tree with sorry tinsel and no joy.  Tears all the damn time.  A visible scar across the sky, like a wind-strung reminder pointing east north east. 

Charred ephemera. Scribbled notes on torn legal pads that would have been balled and crumpled garbage in a recycling bin after any normal Tuesday, now sacred relics of the man sainted, though with many sins, venial and cardinal, venal and carnal, known to us and unknown.  Who would give such a thing to a ten-year-old boy?

And who would give a wrecked and ruined woman all that money?  She on her beatified plane, one of the Widows, one with the cruel mimicry of wealth as a simulacrum of felicity.  It most certainly wasn’t.  Not for her. Not for me.  

Was it him? The “experts” said maybe, probably, very likely. Dangling over the elongated rectangular oven, shirt unbuttoned, waving vainly for help, for hope, for the chariot from divine providence, deus ex machina.  There would be no god, no good, no plot twist, just a fall worthy of Satan into the furnace.

But that was no drama. It was life. Then it was death, which in his case was really an eternity of uncertainty.  Then it was mayors and governors and letters from the White House and fund administrators. Then came the Creepy Men, would-be suitors sidling up to Mom after church, which we attended again all of a sudden.  Putting their hands on my shoulders after soccer games.

And then almost two years later, after the war started, after the second war started, when it was still almost possible to think for an hour or two about something else, came the call to the Stadium.  Me and Mom, who had probably never thrown a ball in her life, on the infield with the others, shaking hands with the pennant winners one by one, huge men with bulging muscles and sandpaper hands.  After throwing out the first pitch with a dozen others, we went up to the luxury boxes and ate hot dogs and peanuts and met Steinbrenner, posed for pictures like everything was all better. 

Not even two years later and I was getting high with Tommy Kane, watching the Yankees, and listening to Oasis.

That was the start of it.

Did not make the cut for frosh baseball, which left so much more time to smoke weed.  Soon after it was coke.  Mom had so much money by then she thought nothing of giving me a thousand dollars in a month.  Then it was gone up my nose.  Boy was I am an asshole.  Didn’t matter though, no one stopped me, no one even tried to stop me.  Do you know what happened to his Dad?  Of yeah, it’s true.  That’s why he’s the way he is.

And later we found out all the shit.  That Puerto Rican woman in Chelsea of his.  Her claim: she really believed he was going to leave Mom.  Sending copies of the love letters to the Trustee, pictures of them together at the Stadium.  Dad’s name tattooed on her wrist.  I couldn’t wait to go away to college. Away, far away. California away.

One year turned to four and four years turned to six and still no degree, no job, no future.  Just a habit of more than a decade’s standing and a monthly distribution from the trust.  The beginning of the month, trying to stretch it out; and inevitably the last few days of the month, dopesick on the sand by the skate park at Venice Beach.

Now Mom wants to give me some of his things. She’s coming out here with his old junk.  If it’s valuable, I’ll hock it, and if it’s not I’ll just leave it in a dumpster.

She’s staying in Beverly Hills, of course, because the trust is invested in fundamentals, whatever that means.  So I have to take an Uber up there, which means one or two fewer hits this month.   She still looks wrecked, and older now, too, though the expensive suit gives her dignity.

She wants me to give rehab another chance. Eighth time’s the charm.

She brought me some of Dad’s old stuff, pictures of me and him on the 6-year-old White Sox, pictures of him and me on the 7-year-old Tigers, and then the last one:  Me and Dad on the 9-year-old Yankees.  In my mind, he’s still diving, but it’s after a falling foul ball, just out of reach, it never hits the ground, and neither does he.  

John Bersin is a defense attorney living near Sacramento CA. In 2017, his story, Slide 88, was nominated for the Pushcart Prize by the editors of The Remembered Arts Journal.

Cover photo by Ben Hershey on Unsplash

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