On Thanksgiving day, when me and Joyce were over at Adam and Allan’s for dinner, we met a family of ‘two mommies’ and their 8 year old boy, Cody. Cody’s moms, Daphne and Simone were nice (not like the scaryass lesbian Adam and Allan had to Thanksgiving dinner last year), and it was hard not to like Cody. Although his father is this really artistic dude Simone has known for a long time, his kid turned out sports-crazy, and, especially, baseball crazy. So when Cody found out that someone who played pro ball was coming to Thanksgiving dinner, he got all excited about meeting me. Ok, I’ll admit…that was pretty flattering. I don’t exactly have to fight off my adoring fans these days lol.
Cody had his heart set on playing some catch with me before dinner, but, unfortunately, it was a rainy day, and, while rain and mud make for fun football (like the turkey bowl this year), they’re not baseball weather. So I had to give Cody a rain check (literally lol.) I could tell he was disappointed…and, like a lot of kids, not sure that grown-ups always keep their promises.
What Cody didn’t know was that I had Sumter’s example in my past: back when I was in high school, Sumter (Henderson…the Tennessee Smokies’ shortstop) in those days) made time to work with me. One of the many things he told me was that, when I got the chance, I should pass the favor on and help out another kid who loved the game and wanted to play. It meant so much that Sumter had kept his word about finding time to work with me…and Cody was my first chance to pass it along.
I didn’t call Cody the day after Thanksgiving, since that was Black Friday and I had a store and a bazillion customers to worry about. But I did call him the following Sunday after church. Daphne answered the phone.
“Hello…this is Hunter Block. We met at Adam and Allan’s for Thanksgiving.”
“Of course I know who you are,” she said, a little abruptly, but still nicely. “I just didn’t expect you’d call, let alone so soon. Cody hasn’t stopped talking about meeting you.”
“I promised your son a game of catch. Is some day after school this week ok? Weekends are a little tough for me since they have me working every weekend until Christmas. I work in retail; it’s our busy season.”
“Any afternoon this week is good. Or early evening if you want to come by after work. We don’t eat until 7:30 because Daphne gets home late from the clinic.”
“How about after work on Wednesday?,” I asked. I had Lucas scheduled for Monday and work on Joyce’s crafting room after that, and then I had a Parrots game on Tuesday. “I can be over by…” I realized I didn’t know where they lived.
“We live in this little pocket of LA that’s surrounded by Pasadena on all sides,” she said. “Do you know where Madre and California meet?”
“Yes ma’am, I do. It’s not too far from where I live.”
“We’re a couple blocks from that. We’ve got a big backyard, so there’s plenty of room for you boys to play. Just go easy on the windows.” She laughed. It wasn’t a bad joke for a lesbian lol. “Do you want to talk to Cody?”
“Yes, please,” I said.
I heard Daphne call for her son. Pretty loud. But maybe he had headphones on wherever he was. He looked like a kid who’d have headphones on a lot of the time.
“Hello?,” he said when he got to the phone, sounding a little puzzled. I guess he didn’t get calls on that phone a lot; I knew from what he said on Thanksgiving that he already had had his own phone.
“Hey, man. It’s…”
“Hunter!!,” he said. I reckon my accent makes me easy to place lol. “How are you?,” he asked, trying to sound grown-up.
“Good. I talked to your mom…” I wasn’t sure what the protocol was for identifying which mom I talked to, but I didn’t want to refer to his mother by her first name to him. I’m not even sure I knew Mom’s name was Ophelia when I was 8 lol. “And we were thinking I could come over and toss a ball around with you on Wednesday, when I’m done with work.”
“What time is that?,” he asked. It was real cute how eager he sounded.
“6,” I said. “So I can be there by 6:30. That ok with you?”
“That’s great. Mom?,” I then heard him call, “when Hunter comes can he stay for dinner?” I didn’t hear Daphne’s answer, but he sounded real polite when he got back on the line with me. “Would you like to…um…join us for dinner too? We have dinner at 7:30.”
“I’d be right pleased to,” I said.
So we left it at that. I just hoped it wouldn’t rain again. It’s been a while since I’ve played catch with a kid, but I did enjoy it a lot when playing with my nephew when he was a little younger than Cody is now. I made sure to pack my baseball glove and a bunch of balls into the shitbox on Tuesday night, so I wouldn’t forget them if I left the house in a hurry the next morning.
It took some doing, but I got out of work a little before 6, and found Cody waiting for me on the steps in front of the house. It was a nice house, one story, kinda old-fashioned and not very Californian looking. Simone came to the door when I got there.
Going through the house to the backyard, the place looked comfortable enough, but maybe a little in need of a sprucing up…but then I’m getting used to Joyce’s brand new décor. I could kinda see why Allan was trying to talk Daphne into redecorating…if that doesn’t sound too gayass of me lol.
They have a big backyard, like Daphne said there would be. There was even a pool, although I figured maybe I should wait and not pull out my boardshorts on my first visit lol. The house wasn’t hugeass like the Andrews’ place over by Orange Grove or the Stuarts’ in San Marino. It was more like a normal family house…the kind of place that probably doesn’t even need a live-in housekeeper. (I didn’t see a housekeeper while I was there, so, unless Wednesday was her night off, I was probably right about that.)
Cody already had his glove out while he was waiting for me, and lost no time in getting us started.
Usually you start out a game of catch pretty easy and talk to each other, then you start getting fancy and throwing harder. Cody wanted to jump in at the deep end and took me by surprise the with the first ball he threw.
“Whoa, cowboy,” I said. I don’t know why I called him ‘cowboy’ – it’s something I obviously picked up from Keaton. Maybe it was because Cody seemed a little young to dude. “Warm up first. You’re gonna need that arm for the rest of your life.”
“Oh…ok,” he said.
“Come in closer and we’ll start out slow.”
So we did.
Turns out, Cody can do more than just ‘play’ catch like a little kid. He knows how to throw straight, and, when I gave him the chance, plenty hard for a boy his age and size. He can catch too, even after I started getting fancy with him after we’d been going for a while. He didn’t catch every ball I threw, but, by the time we were done, I wasn’t making it easy for him. I was even tempted to throw him a ball he’d have to dive for, but I wasn’t sure what Simone would think if we came in and he had grass stains all over his shirt.
Of course all the catch in the world isn’t gonna tell you if someone can run or hit, but throwing and catching are two of the four main baseball skills, and Cody’s good at both of them.
It was a good game, and I was surprised how much I enjoyed it. I got Cody talking some about himself, and found out that his favorite player is Cody Bellinger…and not just because they have the same first name. We got into a little byplay about Seager vs. Bellinger…and then shortstops vs. everyone else on the field, which was fun. He’s a kid who can take some kidding…and I like a kid with a sense of humor. In little league they give everyone a chance to play every position, although, when I asked him what he wanted to play, he answered Bellinger’s two positions, 1st and center. Those two positions couldn’t be more different, which was good: if he wanted to get good at both, he’d develop into a very well rounded player.
I was having such a good time that we both said “oh…already?” when Daphne came out to tell us it was time to wash up for dinner.
I was kinda curious to see what dinner at a house with two mommies would be like, but it turned out to be normal. Daphne and Simone both cooked while me and Cody were outside. It wasn’t anything fancy, just normal food – a spinach salad with even some crumbled bacon, roast chicken, carrots, broccoli, mashed potatoes….and ice cream for dessert. Just what a growing boy like Cody should be eating. He ate pretty well at Thanksgiving, but, after the whole situation with Adam’s sister, you get worried that other parents are feeding their children the starvation rations Ethan used to get.
Both Daphne and Simone wanted to know what I thought of Cody as a ball player. I explained it was hard to tell just by playing catch – that there are other skills a ball player has to have – but that he can definitely throw and catch well. I was pretty sure he could run, too.
“I’d like to see what your hitting is like,” I said, talking to Cody rather than his moms, since I hate it when parents talk about kids like they’re not in the room. “You down for a trip to the batting cage one of these days? There’s a place in Alhambra I go to with this older kid I tutor…in baseball, I mean.”
Cody’s eyes lit up. Dang could I tell he liked the idea.
“If y’all like, I can get your car washed at the same time. It’s a combination batting cage/car wash.” I didn’t offer to bring back some of Abel and Lupe’s tacos, however.
“Oh really?,” Simone said, turning to Cody. “Would you like to go batting with Hunter one day?”
“When?,” he asked. “Tomorrow??”
“I have to see my girlfriend tomorrow,” I said. “You’ve met her – she was at Thanksgiving.”
“Of course, the one who had her house redecorated,” said Daphne.
“That’s her,” I said.
“Can I ask you a question and get an honest answer?,” Daphne asked.
“Sure,” I said, thinking of how Meemaw says people should ask the question rather than asking you to promise you’ll answer something when you don’t know what the question is.
“How do you like the results of Adam and Allan’s redecorating?”
“I think they’re pretty awesome,” I answered truthfully. “I’m sure Joyce’d let you come over and see it. But not until the crafting room is finished.”
“Yes, ma’am. Joyce is a crafter, and I’m redoing her crafting room for her. I’m making all kinds of drawers and cabinets and containers for her supplies and stuff. It was supposed to be done by Thanksgiving…but it’s taking until Christmas. My Dad gave me something for my birthday that’s made it possible for me to do some finer work than I’d originally planned.”
“I wish I were handier around the house,” said Daphne. “I know…everyone expects lesbians to be able to handle tools and fix their cars, but I’m hopeless. So is Simone.”
“I can’t hammer in a nail,” she said.
“So we get handymen off the internet and usually figure we’re being cheated because we’re women.”
From what I’d seen of the guys working on Joyce’s house, they were probably right.
“So you can build a whole room?,” asked Cody.
“Kinda,” I said. “I didn’t build the big shelves. I’m just customizing them, if you want to think of it that way.”
“Sounds awesome,” Cody said.
“It does sound like a wonderful gift.”
“I hope so, ma’am.” I was calling Daphne and Simone ‘ma’am’ a lot, since they hadn’t told me I should use their first names…and I didn’t know what their last names were. (Do they have the same one? And what’s Cody’s last name? Simone’s? His father’s? I thought it would be impolite to ask, so I was waiting until it came out naturally in conversation.)
“So we can’t go to the batting cage tomorrow?,” Cody asked.
“Cody,” Simone scolded, “Hunter’s probably very busy.”
I was…but then I got to thinking about Sumter again. And it wasn’t like I was going to spend the whole night with him at Chuy’s.
“I can make time tomorrow,” I said. If I didn’t go home to change, I’d still be able to make it to Joyce’s by 8:30 or 9:00. That would be cool with her. And Cody was so excited that I really didn’t want to disappoint him.
So it was set. I was to pick Cody up between 6:15 and 6:30 and have him home by 8. I politely excused myself for staying to dinner a second time. Joyce gets annoyed when I don’t show up hungry.
Cody and Simone together were in charge of ice cream after I helped Daphne clear the table.
“What flavor’s your favorite?,” Cody asked me. They had a lot of containers to choose from, Breyer’s and Dreyer’s mostly. They weren’t into Kroger and Thrifty like me and Joyce, I guessed.
Of course I answered strawberry.
“Mine’s mint chocolate chip,” Cody said. “And rocky road. But I’ll have strawberry like Hunter tonight,” he said, getting us each a dish with a couple scoops of ice cream in it.
Keaton was working in his new apartment, getting it ready so he could move in. I asked him to come over before he headed back to his old apartment. His first question was how much are they going to pay me.
“Pay me for what?,” I asked.’
“Baseball tutoring,” he answered. “Duh.”
“I’m…I’m not sure Cody’s my pupil yet.” Or if he ever would be. All I’d done was play catch with the boy and arrange to take him to the batting cage. “Cody’s a good kid, that’s all.”
“That shouldn’t be all, bubba,” Keaton said. “You get paid for helping Lucas out, you ought to get paid for helping Cody out. It’s not fair to Lucas if you don’t.”
That was interesting logic, if it was logic at all. But Keaton can be convincing. It wasn’t the logic Joyce used on the phone later that night; she had logic of her own.
“You shouldn’t be giving away something that can be the start of a good business for you,” she said. “You want to keep baseball in your life, right?”
“Then this may be a way to do it. You already got one hopeless case” for the record, Lucas was never hopeless “onto a varsity team. You should build on that. Even if your next client is just a budding little league star.”
“Client?,” I asked. The word sounded sooo weirdass. “We’ve been calling Lucas a pupil.”
Both Joyce and Keaton agreed about one thing: they told me to think about it and talk to Daphne and Simone the next day.
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