Zest Lit Issue 2, October 2013 - Page 51

younger Grumps, one with a father still, picks at the loose stitching on the ball, his arm aches from too many pitches and he can hardly stand, he’s run the bases so many times. Grab your bat, you’re up first Tommy slaps his back and disappears into a fume of young sweat and flushed joy.

Grumps closes his eyes and slowly slides his fingers into the mitt’s leather opening.

‘You see,’ he whispers and opens his eyes again, ‘that’s me.’

And Cowboy does see. His nose and eyebrows wrinkle up. He stares in silence at Grumps’ hand until Grumps looks, too. They both see Grumps’ exposed knuckles, his purple veins and faded brown spots. They both see that his hand doesn’t fit.

The boy sniggers and wiggles the mitt off Grumps’ frozen fingers. ‘See, your hand is way too big.’ He slides his own slender fingers easily into the openings. He opens and closes the mitt. He’s never owned one before. He doesn’t even know anyone who plays baseball. But he’s going to take it anyway.

‘Admit it, Grumps. You always been old.’ Cowboy cocks his free hand and points his index finger right between Grumps’ eyes. ‘You never been young like me.’

Grumps holds very still and stares down the barrel of the imaginary gun. And time happens. Wooden playgrounds turn to bright colored plastic. Mothers grow grey in nursing homes. Wars steal fathers away. The Lone Ranger never rides again. He’s in a faded room with a cracked plaster ceiling and rusted metal toys. He could tell the boy that six years old and a sweltering afternoon don’t last. That neither would Cowboy. But the boy would discover that too soon enough.

‘You’re right, son,’ Grump says, ‘I never been young like you.’