|The boy ran. He ran as hard and as fast as his legs would go. He ran until they burned hot and painful, until they couldn't support him anymore and finally betrayed him completely. Just like his father, when he needed them most they didn't come through for him. When he could go no further, Willy found himself alone, at an empty playground. There, he collapsed against a fence, inside a baseball diamond. Not unlike the one he had just run from. Weak from his escape, he slid down to the ground, exhausted and miserable. Dog-tired, his head fell forward, to rest on his knees. Only then did he let the tears, he had held in for so long, flow freely.
His dad had promised to come to his tryouts today. Willy had been so excited about seeing him. It had been months. Months of empty promises, of “I'm sorry son, I can’t make it this weekend, something came up.” So many times, the boy had waited hour after interminable hour, starring out the front window, of the new house he and his mother and sister lived in; hoping that the next car turning the corner would be his dad’s. Eventually, his mom would come and pull him away from his vigilant post. She would try to make him feel better; with her made-up stories of how his father must have run into trouble at work or some similar far-fetched tale. Willy knew the lies for what they were. Although, for her sake, he always pretended that he believed them and he was really okay with it.
This time, however, the boy truly believed his dad, when he’d promised to come to see him try out for the little league team. Willy really needed him there today. He was terrified that he’d make a fool of himself in front of the other kids. He wasn’t a very good ball player. But, it seemed that whenever his dad was at his games, when they were still a family, Willy always played a lot better. And, there was even more riding on his doing well, this time. Something he’d kept to himself. He was the new kid in town and, so far, he hadn’t made a single friend. He just had to make the team.
Willy had called his father three or four times, in the days leading up to his big day and each time he’d gotten an assurance that nothing would stop his dad from being at the ball park to cheer him on. When the day finally arrived and his dad hadn’t showed up before they were to leave for the park, the boy still never doubted him. In his heart, he knew his dad would be seated in the bleachers when it was his turn at bat.
As he sat with the other boys waiting his turn, he watched as all the parents and other family members filed in, each cheering on the boy who belonged to them. His mind wandered back to when his mom and dad and little sister would come to his games and embarrass him, like that. He missed that life, so much. Willy saw his mom and sister waving at him, enthusiastically. He waved back, but it was halfhearted at best. There was no sign of his father.
Even so, Willy still held on to the hope that he had just been delayed. He began to make up scenarios that might have caused his father to be just a little late. In each one, his dad would arrive in the nick of time. He would hit the ball out of park. So, his team mates would welcome him into their circle. And the best part of all, his dad would come to all of his games.
The boy was snapped out of his reverie when he heard his name called. He took the bat, offered, but his eyes never left the bleachers. He would have given anything to see his father’s face. But, wishing didn’t make it so. He wasn’t coming.
Willy stepped into the batter’s box. All the excitement, anticipation and energy that had been with him just moments before evaporated in that instant. “Strike one” he glanced at the sidelines. “Strike two”, a peak once more with hope. At the last, his mom watched with sadness as her son stood unmoving, riveted to the audience, when the last pitch flew over the plate. “Strike three”. Willy hadn’t even bothered to swing.
The boy dropped the bat and ran.