The players of
the Confederacy mill about, congratulating each other. Drifting Away turns left
when he crosses the plate and continues straight down the rightfield line,
where he meets and embraces the Black Angel. The Angel's wings enfold him and
the two of them continue down the line, a statue and a myth halfway to being
reunited. The Angel was a good rightfielder; she batted almost .300 and made
only one error in the field.
The rain is
already lessening. The black, metal-heavy clouds shrink away toward the
horizon, turn ashen, dwindle.
The Cubs gather
their gear. Both teams fade away. Stan and I are alone.
is complete. The town of Big Inning has been swept away. The backstop and
bleachers are all that remain. The sky is a blazing amethyst. Somewhere a
meadowlark calls. There is little to do but wait for night. Then I will walk
again with Stan to the end of the railroad spur and, if the sky is in tune,
we'll be headed home.
As we slump on
the bench, I think I hear a click like the snapping of a picture with an old
box camera. I raise my head and the bleachers are no longer a bruised, sodden
black, but owl-gray and dry. The earth at our feet is cracked in interlocking
circular patterns. The field is mowed, manicured, immaculate.
town," I whisper, touching Stan's shoulder, my finger like a wand bringing
him to life.
happened?" he says softly, like a child waking from a dream.
We look up,
beyond the backstop. The town is there in the near distance.
"Was it a
dream?" says Stan, his eyes-looking as though they'll flood. "No,"
I say with conviction. "It happened."
"But what day
do you think it is? Is it July 4th, or 40 days later?"