by Paul Dickey
Dickie Pracht, Tommy’s favorite pitcher, admitted he hadn’t actually seen Tommy for twenty-five years. Anyway, at the last minute at the grave site, Tommy’s daughter invited Dickie to the family lunch provided by her church. Tommy had often spoken highly of Dickie and that seemed reason enough.
The Reverend Vance Allen Cauthon, Senior Pastor, presided and opened with a word of prayer. Dickie fumbled with a paper plate of fried chicken and corn to find a seat. He says, “Tommy was the best catcher I ever had.” And he remembers that Ronnie and I were pretty good bat boys. He is trying to be nice, but I protest: “No, Dickie, Ronnie and I also were players.” Dickie says, “Well, maybe we let the little kids play if the score was twenty to nothing.” With a grin as big as Lucifer, he says that Tommy was his best friend and he knows Ronnie is Tommy’s little brother. Dickie says that Tommy always kept him out of trouble, took him bass fishing whenever he always wanted to do something else.
I dropped by the head table. Being a sentimentalist that day, I said to Tommy’s ex-wife that we all wonder now in our own way and our own faith who will keep us out of trouble now that Tommy has been tossed out of the game. “That Ump sure blew the call.” She looked at me as if I were just playing right field. I supposed it was the grief. Rev. Cauthon who was in charge of the table had some suggestions and recited us passages from the rule book. Maybe he is right and Ronnie and I should just take our mothers home any way we can, telling them anything they already believe.
“No way,” Dickie interrupts. “No way.” He’s still the ol’ devil Tommy’s mother always claimed he was. “There still is a ballgame to play. It’s not twenty to nothing. Tommy would have wanted us to finish,” Dickie added sheepishly. So we hung around for hours hanging bat handles through the chain-link fence, cheerleading that all we need is a few good hits and a bit of luck and maybe we can get back into this thing. Maybe Dickie himself even has a few more good innings left in him. Though everyone (even Vance somehow) knows that this ballgame was called hours ago on account of darkness.