I entered a limerick writing contest when I was twelve and won a catcher’s mitt. But they put me out in center field with it, and I couldn’t catch squat. And at bat I struck out repeatedly so that before long they yanked me out of the line up and made me the water boy.
I ran back and forth from the water cooler to the dugout with paper cups full of water, and the players, the boys who could catch and hit the ball, spat chew on my shoes.
I know, such a thing would be frowned upon today, especially since they were only twelve years old, but these boys were going places.
My father was determined to turn things around. He took me out after supper every night and fired fast balls into my mitt. He could pitch, he’d been all-star in college, but he didn’t make the pros. He’d snarl each time he threw the ball.
When baseball season was over I put the mitt in the bottom of my toy box under the dregs of my early childhood–a stuffed giraffe with no eyes; a music box that played The Hills Are Alive with the Sound of Music; a stack of Marvel comic books; a glass jar filled with marbles.
When spring came around again, I pretended I’d forgot all about my catcher’s mitt, but one night after super my father came into my room tossing a baseball from one hand to the other. “Let’s go,” he said.
I entered another contest and won a pellet gun. It turned out I was a dead shot. I could hit the bull’s eye every time. And then I began shooting birds and squirrels out of trees.
I joined the army when I turned seventeen, and they made me a sniper. My father said he was proud of me, but he could no longer look me in the eye.