Same Thing, Different Meaning
Dad approached the new JAA season exactly like the one a year before. We started with the fundamentals of running the bases, throwing, and fielding for a few practices before working on hitting and game situations. Like the year before, Tom was on the team and his dad assisted as a coach.
As we moved on to hitting, I realized that I was seeing the ball much better both at the plate and in the field. I was making more and better contact with the bat, and was catching fly balls and fielding grounders more consistently. It took a while, but I finally, and grudgingly, realized my new eyeglasses were making a big difference in my game.
As the season opener drew close, my skills were beginning to develop more and more. I knew that I would be getting more playing time, and started to think that I might even get to start some games. My excitement could barely be contained.
Our team name was the Mets that season. The Mets were much better than the Dodgers had been the year before. We had some talent that could rival the better teams in the league, of which there were only a few. The boys on the team were almost all pretty cool kids and easy to get along with. There was, however, one kid on the team who was the first example in my life of a person whom Dad and Granddad would refer to as an “asshole.”
They often spoke about the assholes they ran across at the hardware store, the gas station, or on the road. The worst assholes were the ones they had to deal with through work. What I garnered through their conversations was that assholes were the worst people you could ever meet. They were rude and nasty and, in general, the type of people you just don’t want to know.
Now I was old enough to understand the part of the human body that Dad and Granddad – and sometimes Grandma, too – were talking about. Most of my friends and I preferred the nomenclature “butthole.” It was the same orifice but was a word we could get away with using most of the time. The word held very little meaning the way we threw it around.
If someone beat you in a mad dash to the water fountain, they were a butthole. If you got 19 out of 20 words right on a spelling test and the kid next to you got 10, he called you a butthole. We all were at one point or another – some more than others – a butthole to someone else. It was just the way of life.
According to my world view, people who were buttholes were not nearly as bad as the assholes.
My new teammate, Kevin, was an asshole.
The team roster consisted of myself, Tom and Rod, one-time classmates Scott and Eddie, five second graders, and Kevin. I recognized a few of the second graders from the hallways of school or from the school bus. The other second graders, I figured, were just kids I had never seen at school. Kevin, on the other hand, was puzzling to me. He, too, was a third grader, but he was a third grader I had never seen at school before. My curiosity got the best of me at one of our last practices before our first game.
As the team lined up for a game of catch to get our arms loosened up, I slyly picked a spot next to Kevin. It seemed to me to be the perfect opportunity to break the ice with him in an effort to get to know him better. Instead, it went a long way to explain why nobody else was being friendly with the guy.
After a few easy tosses back and forth with my throwing partner, I looked to my left and greeted Kevin with a friendly “Hey, Kevin.” He shot me a quick look and said nothing before throwing the ball to his partner. A couple of tosses later I turned back to Kevin and tried again. “Hey, Kevin. Howzit goin’?”
He caught his ball, put his right hand on his hip, and glared at me. “I’m good, okay?” he said. “What’s it to ya?”
His reaction caught me off guard. “Uhh… I… uhhhh… just curious… I guess.”
“Yeah?” he said with a nod. “Well, I’m good. You happy now?” With that he threw the ball back with a little extra effort.
I turned around to Rod – who was next to me on my right – and, with eyes as wide a saucers, silently mouthed an exaggerated “WOW!” Rod nodded in agreement.
A few games into the season I noticed that Kevin always seemed to quietly sit alone at the far end of the dugout bench. He never cheered for a hit. He never cheered for a run scored. He never celebrated a victory.
What could make a kid that angry?, I wondered. Maybe he just needs a friend and nobody has tried to be one. I decided to give it another shot.
“Hey, Kevin,” I said as I approached him at the end of the bench. He looked up at me and shook his head with a look of disgust as he looked back at the infield. “What ya think?,” I asked while gesturing towards the infield. “Think we can beat these guys?” He shrugged his shoulders.
Jesus, I thought. Small talk, apparently, was not his thing. The main question about this jerk was still bugging me, so I went for broke. “How come I’ve never seen you at school?”
Apparently he couldn’t be bothered to look at me at this point. With his chin resting on his left fist, his left elbow resting on his left knee, and his eyes locked on the game, he said, “You go to Yorktown, don’t you.” It wasn’t a question he wanted an answer to. “I go to Pleasant View.”
“Pleasant View?” I asked.
“Yeah, Pleasant View. What are you, deaf? Leave me alone.” The asshole stood up from the bench and walked to the other end of the dugout where he took a spot at the fence outside.
Pleasant View? What the hell?
Next: Subcutaneous Irritation