Thursday, April 28, 2016

Play Ball!

We were playing softball at the intersection of 28th and Salmon. My dad was there, and my uncle, Ed, and my brother, and my cousin, David. The women were inside the house. They were not interested in baseball. There was not much traffic in those days, not enough to seriously interrupt a game, but whenever a car did appear, my uncle would call out "C-A-R - car!", and we would all move dutifully to the sidewalk. Home base was the corner where my house stood, and the pitcher's mound was the sewer cover at the center of the intersection. From their duplex kitty corner from home base, Mr. and Mrs. Henderson could be seen peering out from behind their curtained window. They did not care for baseball either, perhaps because my brother had once broken the window with an unusually mighty swing of the bat. Bam! Glass shattering. "Roger Maris!" he yelled. But that ball was ruled a foul, on account of the broken window, and had ended the game that day. But now, with my father there, and my uncle, we felt safe from windows and Hendersons, and played through the long afternoon. On the corner to the left of home base was Mr. Mueke's house. Mr. Mucus, we called him. He was very old and German and spoke with a heavy German accent, and we were pretty sure he was an ex Nazi, hiding out in post war Portland. He had two German Shepherds who ran up and down the length of his chainlink fence and we were pretty sure they were ex Nazis too. Around 4 o'clock in the afternoon, a black and white police car showed up. The officer parked on the pitcher's mound and got out. He stood there talking to my dad, kicking the toes of his shoes on the pavement. They nodded and talked, glancing from time to time toward the Henderson's window. It was determined at last that there was no law against playing baseball. "Not that I know of, anyway," the officer said. He climbed the stairs to the Henderson's house to tell them the same, then returned to his car, waved and drove away. Mr. and Mr. Henderson closed their curtains. "Play ball!" my uncle shouted, just loud enough to be sure he'd been heard. Mrs. Mueke watered the flowers in her yard. She smiled from behind the fence. She was unable, my mother once told us, to have children, and we should always take care to be nice. The German Shepherds ran up and down the length of the fence. And the sun dipped low and at last rolled over the top of 27th Avenue, and we were called in for dinner. Game over for the day, but tomorrow seemed already pressing at the horizon. It was always that way when I was ten.

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