Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Day I Nearly Killed Curtis

“Alright, give me a good one this time,” I shouted to my nephew Nathan.

It was a warm Sunday night in June and the empty street in front of my parents’ house made the perfect field for an impromptu batting session.

After a half hour of pitching tennis balls to Tate, Curtis and my teenage nephews, I figured I deserved to take a few swings myself.

Sure, the teenagers could hit a pitch or two. But there’s no way these young punks were going to show me up. After all, I was a baseball All-Star…in 1992.

I hike up my shorts, tip my cap, raise my bat, and point it to the outfield wall (which was really just the neighbor’s front yard).

I tighten my grip around the handle of the first-and-only bat I’ve ever owned, the 22-inch tee ball bat that has lived in my mom’s hall closest since 1987. The War Lord (such a politically incorrect name for a blunt object) has aged gracefully over the past three decades. Though it lost its original grip years ago, my industrious mother replaced it with blue painter’s tape. As good as new.

Nathan winds up. Throws. The ball hurtles toward me. I lean back, twist my hips, and lurch forward. Hands at ears. Then hands at torso. Then snap the wrists. Always follow through.

The ball rockets off the bat.

But no one watches.

Instead, all eyes turn to the aluminum missile sailing through air — straight toward Curtis’ head. In an instant, his life flashes before my eyes.

The sound of his first cry in the hospital.

The moment that two-year-old Paige walks into the recovery room, sees her new brand new baby brother and exclaims, “Put him back!”

The first day of soccer.

The first day of school.

The first day of braces.

I see it all while the War Lord spins through the air, en route to Curtis’ still-intact skull.

What have I done?

I have killed my first-born son.

His mother will kill me.

And then the window of mercy blows ever so slightly. The bat innocently grazes the top of his hat before meeting the asphalt with a clank.

Before Curtis has time to consider his own mortality, he is smothered by his father’s hugs and kisses and a barrage of I’msorryI’msorryI’msorryI’msorr-ies.

War Lords and painter’s tape are make a bad team. 

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