Little League


(originally published in Canada by Exile Editions) 


Howard considered himself a good father. He jammed the rest of the chocolate into his mouth. He looked around at all the other fathers. He wondered if they thought the same thing about themselves.

Benji was standing at second base. He'd gotten a walk and then Gary Hollis' kid had hit a single. Benji should have been able to go from first to third but he was a bit slow to react to the single and he wasn't as fast as some of the other kids. So he had to hold up at second. Howard yelled out on your toes, Benj! because the kid playing second was starting to creep in towards the base. 

Benji heard his father's warning and stepped back. When Benji had taken the walk Howard had yelled out good eye, good eye.

Rabinowitz's son was at the plate. Josh. He hit cleanup. In this league the kids who hit cleanup were mostly big for their age, kids who used their heft to power the occasional home run. But Josh was lean. Terrific athlete. Howard wondered what it must be like to have a kid like Josh as a son. Good-looking kid like that who knows his way around a diamond. And polite too, always with a fine thanks, Mr. Birnbaum, how are you? Kid was going to have the girls all over him, if he didn't already. And those teeth. Gleaming, never seen the inside of an orthodontic office.

Howard looked over at Benji and for no good reason yelled out way to play, Benj!

In the car after the game Benji asked if they could stop for ice-cream. There was a little ice-cream joint where a lot of the parents and players recoinnoitred. Howard asked Benji if he ever saw Josh Rabinowitz at the ice-cream place. Benji said what's that got to do with anything? but Howard said just answer me, you ever see Josh Rabinowitz at the ice-cream place? Benji said no but, but Howard cut him off saying exactly.

Benji didn't know what was eating his father so he didn't say anything. 

Alyssa had made corn on the cob on the cob for her and Howard and spaghetti for Benji. Last time they had corn on the cob he had to spend half an hour picking the corn out of his braces.  As they tucked into their plates Alyssa said so how was the game? Benji said the highlight for him was getting a lead-off walk in the sixth and Nancy said that's great I'm sure the pitcher didn't reckon on someone with such a good feel for the strike-zone but Benji said well he did strike me out two other times and she said yeah but you showed him, didn't you.

And then Howard put lowered his corn and looked at Nancy and said that Josh Rabinowitz is one hell of a little ball player. A hell of a player, he repeated. Nancy shot him a look and he shot her one back and everyone resumed their eating.

And Howard kept looking over at Benji and wondering if he'd married someone a bit more athletic than Nancy, a bit more olive-skinned, if maybe Benji would've turned out a bit different.