A back story for the NaNo Prep.
It was Emma’s first softball game ever and they were both nervous. A cloudless blue sky had just appeared through the morning mist and the dew on the outfield grass had begun to sparkle.
Martin and Emma tossed the ball in high lazy arcs back and forth to each other. They had been doing this same routine for the last six Saturdays which were the days Martin picked his daughter up from his ex-wife’s house sharply at half past seven.
It was now almost eight and the game was not for another hour and fifteen minutes. The other players had yet to arrive. It was nice out here. Quiet. It felt good to feel his old fielder’s glove on his left hand again. It made him a little sad, too. Martin couldn’t help remembering his days at USC on the baseball team. The grass smelled then as it did now. He caught his daughter’s throw and returned it sharply, side-armed; a short-stop’s bread and butter throw to first.
“Daddy!” she said.
The ball had come in a little hot.
“Sorry! Sorry!” he said.
She threw it back in a long lazy arc.
“Are you nervous?” Martin decided to ask. He caught the ball and took three steps back and lofted a high fly ball which his daughter settled under in the exact manner Martin had trained her to do. She made the catch two handed. Perfect.
“Nice! Nice! Now whip it in here!”
“Sorta,” she said. She put her hands at her sides and stood up straight watching her father pounding his glove with his right fist.
“Burn that pill in here!” Martin coaxed.
“I sorta am scared,” she said again, louder this time.
“I want it right here’a! Right here’a!”
Emma twisted her body around in a strange semblance of a pitcher’s wind-up, then unleashed with a grunt. The ball carried ten feet over her father’s head.
“Sorry! Sorry!” she said, rotating her arm in windmill fashion. She then began practicing the proper throwing motion of catch-turn-step as her father chased after her errant throw.
Martin caught up with the ball at the dirt of the infield. When he turned around he threw the ball back in one smooth motion, showing off just a bit, a long throw from the infield to Emma where she positioned herself correctly in front of the ball as Martin had taught her. The ball bounced once, twice and somehow caught her in the crotch area. Emma immediately crumpled to the grass.
Martin broke into a run toward Emma, seeing from afar she was withering on the wet grass.
“Baby!” he said as he came up to her.
She looked at him with her eyes squinted and her head lolling from side to side.
“Oh, man!” she said.
He reached out, patting her on a blue-jeaned leg. “Are you okay?”
“Got it right in the balls!” she said, smiling now, and watched her father’s face as it changed from worry to confusion and finally a smile. She laughed with him as he threw his head back in a thundering sound of approval.
He seemed to stagger then, half bet over and then flopped down on his back where, side by side, the two of them continued their laughter.
“I can’t breath!” Martin choked out.
Emma listened to the good sound of her father’s laughter, which to her delight, didn’t seem to be diminishing.
“You had me going there,” Martin said regaining his breath. “What a kid!” His laughter began again in coughing-like grunts as though his stomach hurt.
“Do you wish I had been born a boy?”
“You mean, do I wish you had balls?”
“Daddy! Oh my God!”
“I really think I’d rather my daughter didn’t have--”
“Baby,” Martin began, “when you were born healthy, I was thrilled to the bottom of my heart.”
They lay there looking up at the sky, silent now, comfortable but for the wetness seeping through their clothes.
“Really, Baby. Now come on! Batting practice!”