Skip to comments.Day's End
Posted on 08/09/2013 3:34:52 PM PDT by onedoug
Sometimes a high school baseball coach gets thrown a few curves too, such as that initiated when one of our players came to the mound as I was pitching a scrimmage for the kids, to ask whether he could talk to me after practice.
A short while later as the bases had been put away, and with the watering and grooming of the field done, the kids tended to leave the field and dugout in small groups.
See you tomorrow, Coach.
Okay. Good day, guys. Take care. Do your homework, get your grades up.
Once they'd cleared the field, I headed from my own chores to the dugout to put my glove into my team bag with my other gear.
I could see Mack apparently waiting for me, sitting on the bench, writing something in his notebook.
He'd been a pretty good kid from his freshman year on the team, and now he was an 'over-the- hump' senior with only this last semester to go before graduation.
In all that time, I'd never heard him use foul language, as many of his teammates too regularly did. His grades were pretty good at around a 2.6 GPA, to which I'd always - as always I would with the other kids - good naturedly egg him on to 3.
I guess I could say that, as a father of but one now grown daughter and now a grandfather to yet another girl Mack tended to best embody those characteristics that I only seriously then thought I'd like to see in a son. He was a good looking, brown haired, lightly freckle-faced kid who's eyes usually reflected a sense of adventure and enthusiasm for whatever the future had in mind for them.
Howdy, Mack, I ambled, affecting a little twinge borrowed from relatives in the South. Wha' chya up to?
Hi, Coach, he replied. Could I talk to you?
Sure. What's on your mind?
He stuffed his papers into his team bag, and looked around sort of furtively, stressing with a lower timbre, Coach, can I really talk to you?
He seemed a bit nervous, which made me a bit nervous. Though what would I've said then but, Sure.
Hey, man, I added. We go back a fair piece. If you couldn't talk to me, then there'd be something wrong. Nothing's wrong though, is it Mack?
I sure hope not, he replied.
Mack sort of small-talked his way toward his issue, as if even a slight change in my demeanor might change his mind as well. Here he wanted to talk to me about something he seemed to feel was important to him. Any anxiety had instead become a challenge. And it sure seemed flattering. But I was careful to follow his eyes as I didn't want to change my facial expression at all.
You remember that day we were gonna throw, and Somliston gave me the business. And then nobody'd throw with me?
...An' when I reached down just to scratch my butt, he started in that I was pickin' at my poop?
I recall the scatology. What was wrong that day, anyway?
It was clear that something had changed in the team's demeanor toward Mack. But I didn't feel so privy, nor did I want to dig too deeply into their high school minutia.
At least, not then.
Though then too, having my glove on the baseline always for the odd-man-out, I said I'd throw with him.
Well, nothing further on this score was mentioned that day by the team (so far as I knew). And Mack threw well, eventually extending himself nearly all the way from the center-left wall, reaching me on the fly at the third-base line with virtually every throw. He didn't seem to mind that in my mid-sixties I could only get out to him about three-quarters of the way no matter how hard I'd heaved it, though he could usually scoop it up on the roll.
The next day had seen an even number of players, and I was glad Mack had found someone to throw with. But Somliston had always thrown with Mack. And now something had changed.
I guess I should have seen it.
They say I'm gay, Mack suddenly blurted, and stood up quickly from the dugout bench, and sorta walked choppily taking first two steps, then reversing, then reversing again.
Oh, boy. Now we were talking about something. And I tried to weigh quickly what I should say.
And? So what if you are? I hesitated. Are you?
I think I am, Mack blurted.
You think you are? I replied, a little impatiently.
I am, he declared.
I took off my cap and scratched my head. Well then, I think there are gonna be some pretty disappointed girls around this school.
Mack seemed relieved. Ah, they all go for Francis anyhow. He's got a string of 'em.
As you could, I said. Mack, if word got out that you were lookin' for a girl....
But I wouldn't, he insisted. I'm not.
I'm not saying you have to. But can we talk about it a little?
It's a good time to be gay, ain't it?
I'm talking about you, Mack. Society's issues are a little different. They're very different, in fact.
Wha' do ya' mean?
Mack was sitting down now, and I sat on the bench across from him.
Homosexuality isn't always as gay as it's made out to be. As for my own life and all those I've known in it, I only know two gay people who seem happy together. And the jury's still out on them. That lifestyle usually engenders a lot of heartbreak and a whole lot of promiscuity.
A long string of various lovers - (I made ersatz quotes) - with all the heartache one can bare. Not to mention the possibility of sexually transmitted diseases. I wouldn't like to see that for you, Mack.
A lot of girls...women have clap? Don't they?
I suppose they do, though I'd think the actual percentages for women are lower, and the less one sleeps around, the less one's chances of exposure would be.
Did you sleep around, Coach?
Truthfully, Mack, I... started, then stopped. Hmm. I hadn't anticipated that one.
Mack looked at me in expectant reply.
Yeah. Yeah, I did, a bit. But only three times since I was your age, and you know how old I am now.
Did you ever have?... He stopped.
I wondered now if this were getting too far afield. And I wanted to be careful, so, I just sort of, kidded my way along.
Then he persisted. Did you?
What? I said as he sat there, sort of smiling shyly.
He only nodded, and now he was smiling.
I tried to be nonchalant, but took a deep breath, quickly realizing that I trusted him, at least in the sense that he'd come to me with this and that none of it would ever find its way back to the team. Not by me anyway.
I expelled the breath. A man? I asked.
He was still smiling.
I took in another. Yeah, I guess. If one could call it that. We were both about your age, still in high school. So, to me it seemed like we were still kids. Which we were. And we were crazy enough to do all that stuff, and....
What stuff? Now, I thought, he's just a little too amused.
Use your imagination, I retorted, though still good naturedly. Yet, the point is that I moved on from that, had another brief fling with a woman, then married the second woman I dated, and heck, we've been married a long time now, some forty years.
I knew it was a long time, Mack said.
Sometimes, a guy gets married, builds a career, has kids, then somewhere down the line he...and I'm not encouraging it...
...but, maybe he has trouble with his wife, or something....
Like Mr Wembly?
Um, well, yeah. I guess so? How did you?...
Or, Mr Tobias. Or Ms Dexler....
Ya' think I don't know anything, Coach?
Well, you're a bit more sophisticated than it seemed when we started. But that shouldn't surprise me any more. At least you....
So, is that what you think I should do?
I thought for what seemed a long time about society, and stability and God...but it was really only a few seconds.
Hey, it worked for me. The trick is to find a tomboy who'll let your imagination go. I've done a thousand kinky things over the years, with hundreds of different people. Though they were all the same woman.
No one else?
No one else. Monogamy. Do you get that?
One couple forever.
Uh, I think so. A tom-boy, huh?
It turned out to be the best of both worlds for me, I said. But, again, it all depends on the woman.
Gradually winding it down from there, we small-talked a little about some baseball trivia.
Thanks for talking to me, Coach.
Any time, Kid. Thanks for talking to me.
Well, Mack seemed to take my advice, because within a week, he and Becky-Blue seemed inseparable. And even though I'd since left the team, I'd learned that Mack and Becky had gotten married right after graduation, and were awaiting their first child.
It all seemed as though I'd made a difference. And my son was happy.
Huh. I never did those things or had those feelings, although I confess to telling my wingman I loved him after he saved me a$$ one mission in Vietnam. And I meant it.
I should have seen where this was going.
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