Writing inspired by the SWC creative writing prompt: Write a conversation between two spectators in the crowd at a football match (or other sporting event). Is their team winning? Give the reader a sense of the action on the pitch but maybe the conversation is about more than just the game
By Connie Phlipot
The ball shimmered in the late afternoon sun, hovering like a humming bird over the outer edge of home plate. The batter, mesmerized by the elegance of the pitch, hesitated a moment too long. Strike! A sigh rumbled up from the bottom rows to the Press box. The batter spat out tobacco juice.
“Did you see that?” Laura asked Benjamin.
“The bad call, you mean?”
“No, it was a perfect call. I mean this.” She touched her cap with her index finger.
“What? He was adjusting his hat. It’s a hot day.” Ben wiped sweat from his forehead with the end of his shirt.
“No, it was the sign to the catcher. See he moved over a smidgen. The next pitch will be slightly wider. The batter is rattled, he’ll swing and be out.”
Strike. Side retired. An electronic rendition of an old-fashioned organ’s Take me Out to the Ballgame signaled the 7th inning stretch and the spectators shuffled out to the concession stands.
“Want something?” Ben rose from his seat.
“Yeh, just a soda water if they got it. But no plastic bottles of water, okay?”
“If they’ve got any kind of water you should drink it. Re-hydrate.”
Laura shrugged. It was an old argument. She studied the team-line up on her program.
“Hey, you know a lot about baseball.” A man, silvery hair peeping out from under an Orioles cap, leaned over Benjamin’s empty seat.
“Well, just the average amount. Why do you ask?”
“I heard you. About the secret symbols.”
“Oh that. I guess I’m just a good observer of people. Body motions. Baseball is all about body language, you know. And you? Why the Orioles hat? They’re not even in this league and 500 miles away from here.”
“I like the colors and that bird. He’s so perky. And I guess I don’t have to worry about the name being changed. I mean, unless the birds get together and protest. Maybe together with the St. Louis Cardinals.”
Laura laughed weakly and turned back to the program. She didn’t want to get into that conversation. Identity politics and everything. That was a problem with sporting events. People conflating their politics with their sport passions.
“No, don’t get me wrong,” the man said. “I understand that names can be insulting. I just never thought the whole time I was growing up that the Cleveland Indians had anything to do with real Native Americans.”
“That’s the point, isn’t it?” Damn, she was letting herself get drawn into the debate. Wouldn’t Benjamin hurry back to rescue her?
“Sorry, I’ll drop the subject. I’m more interested in your observation of the pitchers and other people. Are you a psychologist, or a writer?”
Come back Benjamin. Laura looked down the aisle. No Benjamin. The electronic organ music had stopped and the players were taking up their positions on the field. The man was looking at her as if trying to derive secrets from her face.
“No, I work in an advertising firm. Pretty dry stuff. I guess I just do this to amuse myself.”
“Excuse me!’ The man stood up to let Ben slide past into his seat. “You’re in luck.” He handed her a paper cup of soda water. “No need to compromise your principles to get a drink of water.”
“Thanks.” She leaned forward to watch the exchange at home plate. A relief pitcher had been called in. Apparently the team felt pressured after the last innings strike out. Laura couldn’t figure out his signals. His hands were quiet except when pitching. The catcher shifted his weight back and forth but didn’t change the placement of his feet.
Pop-up fly. Caught easily.
“What do you mean, I over-intellectualize?” Laura asked after the batter had hit a long shot to the right field, reaching second base.
“You don’t seem to let yourself enjoy the game. Sit back. Enjoy a water even if it’s in a plastic bottle.”
The man in the Oriole’s hat was leaning forward.
“Get a look at that!” The batter swung sharply, sending the ball over the heads of the outfielders, clean out of the park, into the stands.
“Somebody got a good souvenir,” the Orioles man said. The crowd was screaming. The manager of the visiting team walked out to the mound to consult with the relief pitcher. “Listen, people enjoy themselves in their own ways, you know.” Laura finally replied to Benjamin.
“I agree!” The man leaned over Benjamin and gave Laura a thumbs up.
“Who asked, you? Benjamin turned, noticing the man for the first time.
The man smile and tipped his Orioles’ hat.
Sunday Writers' Club Member
Connie draws upon her experiences as a former U.S. diplomat in her short stories, flash fiction and creative non-fiction. Her novel-in-progress is loosely based on her grandparents’ lives as Belarusan immigrants in the coal mining community of early 20th century America.