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Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Mystery · #2313653
Music and a day at the ballpark have a lasting effect (WC 1860)
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Old Ball Game

By Damon Nomad

          ♫ Take me out with the crowd ♫. Organ music and a woman's lyric soprano voice played in the back of his mind as he jumped off the trolley. He stared, slack-jawed, at the scene in front of him. He was drawn to the iconic building, like a moth to a bright lantern illuminating the darkness. Chattering crowds flowed around the beautiful four-story brick facade. Walking in front of Ebbets Field on game day, with a ticket, felt like a dream. His father's voice jolted him back to reality, "Tim, slow down. We've got lots of time."
          He turned and watched as his father scurried towards him. His dad was a mountain of a man, but a quiet fellow. "Sorry Dad, what time is it?"
          "Ten after twelve. Game time is not for another two hours. Let's grab some hot dogs and soda pops over there."
          They gulped down the food and drinks as they waded through the sea of fans and vendors selling a variety of souvenirs. Tim knew what he wanted as a game day memento. "Can I get a scorecard?"
          "Sure thing. Here's a quarter, get a pencil so you can keep score. You can keep the change."
          He studied the front cover as he shuffled back to where his father was waiting. A drawing of Ebbets Field with the stylistic Dodgers script logo written across the stadium. He opened it up to check out the lineups printed in blue text on thick white card stock; June 6, 1951 Game Time 2:07 in bold at the top. The Saint Louis Cardinals against the pride of Flatbush, the Brooklyn Dodgers. The inside of the scorecard was decorated with advertisements for The Brass Rail restaurant, Gem razor blades, and Old Gold cigarettes, among others. Nothing a ten-year-old boy was interested in buying.
          ♫Buy me some peanuts and cracker jack.♫ Tim wasn't sure if the music was in his head or if it was playing over the loudspeakers as they took their seats along the third base side. For some reason, it didn't seem to bother him. He didn't know her name but she was famous; the organist and singer known as the Field Organ Queen.
          Their seats, about halfway up on the field level, brought them close to the action on the field. Tim looked out at the scoreboard in right-center field. Schaefer Beer in script white letters on a red background sat atop the black panels and white numbers of the big tally board. The green grass of the outfield was like pictures he had seen of pastures at horse farms.
          He knew this was an expensive outing for his parents' budget. Tickets for the game, train fare, even breakfast on the train; they weren't poor but they sure as heck weren't rich. "Thanks for bringing me, Dad. I'll never forget today."
          "Me either, son."
          The first inning was scoreless. In the bottom of the second, the crowd of eleven thousand roared to life with a two-run homer by catcher Roy Campanella. Tim hugged his dad as they jumped from their seats and he updated the scorecard as they sat back down. His dad lit a cigarette. "Looking good for the home team."
          ♫Let me root, root, root for the home team♫. The music crept back as they got home that evening. His mother met them at the front door. "Who won?" She smiled but it looked like she had been crying.
          "Dodgers three to two. It was great." Tim was young, but he could sense her sadness. "Mom, what's wrong?"
          His father put a hand on his shoulder. "Sit down, we need to talk."
          The music dissipated and things faded to black. He felt as if he was floating in a dream of sorts. His sense of time evaporated as darkness swallowed his consciousness.
          ♫ If they don't win it's a shame.♫ The music was there in the background again when he heard his mother's voice call out from downstairs as he sat on his bed. "Are you dressed? The car will be here soon."
          He saw his mother had laid out a suit for him on his bed as he looked around his bedroom. He felt like he was watching himself from the outside as he put on the clothes and headed down the stairs. Two men came through the front door when he found his mother in the family room. Both men wore dress military uniforms. He had a hollow sick feeling in his stomach as he moved toward them; unsure of what was going on.
          His mother brushed tears from her cheeks. "Timothy, this is Major Clark and Captain Holloway. They served with your father."
          Suddenly, the memory of what his father told him that night after the ball game came rushing back. He said he was being deployed overseas in a few weeks; some place called Korea. Then a fresh recollection slapped him in the face. The notification of his dad's death that knocked on their door nearly a year later. Just a few weeks ago.
          Major Clark moved closer. "Hi, Tim. Your dad talked about you all of the time. I know you were both big Dodgers fans and you both got to a game before he shipped out." He cleared his throat. "We will be with you and your mother today at the funeral." He put a hand on Tim's shoulder. "He was a brave soldier and a good friend. I'm sure he was a good father." ♫ For it's one, two, three strikes, you're out ♫. The music got louder for a moment but quickly faded away.
          Tim watched as the honor guard lowered his father's casket into the ground. He gazed out at the peaceful scenery of the cemetery. The grass reminded him of the outfield at Ebbets Field.
          The organ music and the woman's voice came back. ♫At the old ball game.♫ Things suddenly went quiet and everything became blurry. Something's wrong with me. His sense of time slipped away as a dark void engulfed him.
          Tim's eyes fluttered open for a moment and then went back closed. He heard the music, but it was much clearer now. ♫ Buy me some peanuts and cracker jack, I don't care if I never get back.♫
          He had a slight headache as his eyes came open and he brought things into focus. A young man was sitting in the corner of the room wearing a blue ball hat with a white stylized LA logo.
          The boy tapped on something on the table beside him as he stood up. "I'll turn it off." The song stopped and the young man took a step forward. "They said music would be good for you. Dad said you love this old song from the Brooklyn Dodgers days. I've been playing it off and on."
          Tim looked around the hospital room as the cobwebs cleared and memories flooded back. He pushed a button to elevate his head a bit more as he lay in the bed. He smiled with a nod at his grandson, Jason. "Yeah, the real Dodgers. Where are your mom and dad?"
          Jason tapped on his mobile phone. "They're downstairs in the cafeteria with Emma and Aunt Beth. She flew in yesterday. I just sent Dad a text." Moments later, he looked at his mobile phone as it vibrated. "They're on their way up."
          "Why aren't you at college?"
          "It's summer, Grandpa. Baseball season. Are you okay?"
          "Yeah, fine." He smiled. "Dodgers are first in the division and fifteen games ahead of the Diamondbacks, right?"
          "Sixteen now."
          A few minutes later, Tim's son Riley, Riley's wife Ann, Tim's daughter Beth, and Jason's younger sister Emma came through the door. They brought him up to speed about the stroke that had brought him here and the prognosis from the doctors. Riley finished up, "You've been out of it for nearly three days now. You seemed on the edge of waking up a few times. Kind of muttering as your eyes twitched under your eyelids, like you were dreaming. The doctors said that was a good sign."
          "Well, eighty-one years is a pretty good life."
          Beth answered with a scowl, "Don't say that. They just want to watch you for a few more days."
          A few hours later, the doctor left after stopping by for a quick check and they all watched as Tim ate his first solid meal in days. He took a sip of orange juice. "You all look tired. No one is staying here with me tonight. I'll be fine."
          Late that night, Tim's eyes came open and he felt a sense of warmth wash over his body. He was still in his pajamas but he was sitting in a seat at Ebbets field. The exact spot where he had watched the game with his father so many years ago. The surroundings were dark but the field was filled with light. There was no one else in the ballpark and it was strangely quiet. The organ music and lyrics started.♫Take me out to the ball game, Take me out with the crowd. Buy me some peanuts and cracker jack.♫
          A small crowd appeared on the field, near home plate, as the music continued to play. He shuffled along an illuminated path to the gate on the third base side and headed to home plate. He saw familiar faces of loved ones, all dressed in white gathered around home plate. His wife Karen, his father, his mother, and his four grandparents. All looking healthy in the prime of their lives.
          He stopped just short of the group. "Am I dead?"
          His father answered, "No, you're hovering on the edge. We're here to let you know it's safe to let go if you choose."
          "What's it like? Is it like this and my experiences since the stroke?"
          Karen smiled with a shrug. "It's much more than this and different than those brief journeys you took to the past. It's difficult to explain. There are replays of memories like those times. Our wedding day, Riley's birth, Beth's birth. All of these moments exist together at the same time. Almost like channel surfing through your life and the lives of family and friends. There are other realms beyond words or any experience or sensation you have felt or imagined. Those can only be experienced after you cross over."
          The stadium went black. Tim found himself in a dark void with no apparent surroundings. A tunnel of light opened a short distance in front of him, intense white light poured out into the darkness. His family walked into the light and disappeared one by one into the bright void. Karen was last, she turned and smiled with a nod. "You decide if it's your time, darling. We will be here to embrace you, along with many others." She faded away as she moved into the bright light.
          Tim felt himself drawn toward the light. He started singing as he moved into the tunnel. "Take me out to the ball game, Take me out with the crowd."

Word Count: 1860
Prompt: A story about a song and/or sports.

© Copyright 2024 Damon Nomad (damonnomad at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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