Last Saturday, noodling some of what was originally intended to be the post for today, alarms went off. “This is way more than anyone will put up with” alarms. So, I busted-up today’s effort. Posted the first part early, lest I over-edit and decide it mostly worthless,1 ending up with nothing. [You really should stop laughing at me when I can still hear you.]
Here’s the remaining part. Let’s see how much of it survives edit.
One bad apple easily spoils the barrel because the barrel is predisposed to rot.2
Rain awakens seeds to spring’s warmth, eases blistering summer heat, settles late autumn pollen, and lets itself be transformed into winter snow. Rain floods away years of work, hides when needed to ease drought, delays the farmers’ year-end harvest, and makes treacherous ice rinks of sidewalks, streets, and highways. Life is something like rain.
Leron Tackertt, local garage owner-turned Cougars’ outfield coach joined me and June Maverson, spinster Claxbury High Literature teacher in the bleachers after the last practice before the Cougars’ baseball season opener. Miz Maverson was happy to focus on Leron. They talked about things of little interest to me. You can’t blame me for listening with only half an ear. My ears by then hurt something dreadful anyway, it was Leron’s turn. We lingered there after practice because it was such a pretty late spring afternoon. Miz Maverson’s tone changed just as it appeared our afternoon diversion was coming to a natural conclusion and we’d all head home for the evening. That shift grabbed my attention.
“Leron,” she said, “I’d like to ask your help.”
“Ms. Maverson,” Leron replied, standing, “if your Buick needs looking after, you probably should run it into the dealership. It’s new enough, you’re surely still under warranty.”
“Oh, heavens no, Leron, it’s not my automobile.”
Leron snickered and poked at Miz Maverson, “What? You want to apply for a job at the station?”
“Well, Leron, that is an interesting idea! I might do just that, start a new career, but the board won’t insist I retire for at least another year.”
“Pardon me, Ms. Maverson, but that was a joke.”
“Not to me, Leron. I may call you on it. But that’s not what I meant.”
Leron admitted, “I am lost, Ms. Maverson.”
“You’re a good coach.”
“Thank you, Ma’am.”
“You were a good player too, as I recall.”
Feeling left out of the conversation, I interrupted, “Not good, Ms. Maverson, Leron was one of the best Claxbury’s seen in quite a while.” The sun, apparently resigned to setting, was in my eyes, so it was impossible to tell if Leron was blushing. I continued, still directing myself to Miz Maverson, “Spect you’re fix’n to grind an axe.”
“Yes, I have a purpose here,” Miz Maverson admitted. “I see a real talent for coaching in Leron.”
Leron recovered. “Thank you, ma’am, pretty much done now. Jay Vee3 coach will take over now that conference play is starting.”
“Shame to waste skills like yours.”
“Yes’m. Enjoyed it too, but when you’re no longer need…”
Uncharacteristically, Miz Maverson interrupted Leron, “Girls at the high school want a team.”
“Baseball? Unheard of!” said Leron.
“That’s more in the summer, Ms. Maverson.”
“Which means we have time.”
“You and I.”
“Girls want a team. Girls deserve a team. About time we get them one.”
Leron stuck with it. “Ms. Maverson? We?”
“Team needs a coach. Girl’s Phys Ed teacher will be on maternity leave. Already she’s having difficulties. You’re right for the job.”
“Ma’am! I’m a man.”
“Hard to miss, Leron.”
“Also not a teacher.”
“Not an issue. No budget. Yet. We’re left to our own devices. Doesn’t have to be faculty.”
“And I’m, well, you know…”
Leron and I both dropped drawers right there because what Miz Maverson said was hardly out of some Senior Literature textbook. The thought of Miz Maverson using such a word was, well, unthinkable. But to actually hear her say it! Our faces surely reflected our thoughts.
Miz Maverson continued. “Pardon me boys, but I’ve had about all of this crap I can take. These girls want softball, by God they’re going to get softball! I want you to coach, Leron.”
“I have a business. The garage…”
“Didn’t stop you this spring.”
“Not right, Ms. Maverson. Them, girls and all, and me, well, I’m…”
“Piffle! Stop making excuses, Leron.”
“Can’t do it.”
“You’d let the girls down?”
Leron paused, stared through the bleachers to the ground below us. After a few seconds, he took a deep breath and looking at Miz Maverson, began, “Ms. Maverson, I can’t coach. Not any girls’ team. But you can!”
“I can’t coach!”
“You’ve watched baseball as long as I can remember. Baseball. Softball. Near the same.”
“I can’t coach.”
“Seems you’re letting the girls down now. Make you a deal. I can’t coach a girls’ team, but you can. I can help you, but you gotta coach. You coach the girls part. I’ll coach the softball part.”
“You got yourself a deal, Mister Tackertt!”
Notice, I didn’t say anything about Miz Maverson hesitating for a single second. I don’t recall ever seeing Miz Maverson smile like she did that evening. She stood, shook Leron’s hand, and for some odd reason felt it necessary to shake my hand. Then she collected her purse and flew three steps to the ground from the bleachers.
Leron watched, stunned. Miz Maverson turned to face us. “Leron!”
“Ma’am?” asked Leron.
“Meet me at four tomorrow afternoon. At the middle school softball field. We have work to do!”
“Yes’m, Ms. Maverson,” replied Leron, nodding. Miz Maverson walked to her Buick.
Leron and I stood watching. “Be damned,” said Leron as the big Buick’s engine started.
Jabbing at him I joked, “You’ll do okay, Coach.” He rather liked it.
Leron left to go to his garage to help his men close-up. Likely to let them know he’d be tied up afternoons and evenings a while longer. I left to walk the fifteen or so blocks to my house.
Pleases me to report Ms. Maverson and Mister Tackertt coached Lady Cougars Softball the next four years. They did well. Better than that. That first fall, the school board officially funded Lady Cougars Softball and in the same session, established Lady Cougars Basketball. Claxbury was one of the first high schools in the state to field both ladies summer Softball and High School Basketball teams. Because Miz Maverson championed the cause and bullied Leron into being her accomplice.
It was a lovely walk home that evening, as I recall. A few blocks before my house on Main Street, I passed the Fire Barn.5 Hands in his pockets, Drew Martin, Claxbury’s Fire Chief was watching the first stars become visible through the tops of Main Street oaks.
“Evening, Drew,” I offered.
“Say! Just the man I was hoping to see. You got a minute?”
Drew popped his head through the wide-open Fire Barn doors and talked briefly with two of the men on duty. It was a short walk back to midtown. Drew and I had supper at Madge’s Restaurant. Wednesday night. Liver and onions.
I’m rather excited. Next week is the first day of welding school at the career center. Pending resolution of a few PPE and social distancing kinks. Proper welding. More than “this is how Dad did it, and that seemed to get the job done.” I’ve dabbled with arc and oxy acetylene and got by passably. You know, the odd piece of farm equipment, trailers, patio furniture, large gate hinges and latches – things requiring substantial strength but not offending anyone if they’re not works of beauty. This will be serious.
Maybe I’ll even make some ironwork “art.” Are ya listening Don Cabrera?
Again, I’m sorry about the length of Saturday’s post, resulting in it being split into two pieces, concluding here. Well, sorry, yes and no. Only posting once a week, ideas bubble-up not suited for development of an independent piece of any length or real substance. I mean a piece that can stand alone with modest entertainment value. I drop thoughts into a bucket to be compiled and fleshed-out for a proper post. That does mean my mind is still reasonably sharp – that I can remember the whole of what I’d intended from cryptic notes until I get around to expanding, editing, and posting.
“So,” you suggest, “post more often.”
“Well, yunh, but I have other writing I’m working on.”
“What? What other writing?”
“Some of it’s here on the site off the Home Page tab labelled, of all things, Writing.”
“Kind of out of the way, isn’t it?”
“Yunh. These are larger or more serious works.”
“Oh, some are meant to be humorous. Serious or humorous, they take a lot of work.”
“Maybe I’m fooling myself, but I’d like to think they deserve to be more permanent than ‘guess what I had for supper last night,’ or ‘golly, it snowed yesterday’ kind of stuff.”
“We ain’t seen it yet.”
“Yeah, I know, because you in fact ain’t seen it yet.”
“We admitted that.”
“But what you meant was you ain’t seen anything deserving permanence.”
“What I mean was you ain’t bothered to look or been tricked into seeing any of the serious efforts.”
“So tell us about it. This serious stuff.”
“Do. Did. Gave links. Didn’t work.”
“Do it again.”
“Wasted energy. Cheapens the effort. Believe I’d rather put on stiletto heels, a mini skirt, tank top, bright red lipstick, and stand on the corner of Delaware and Fifth.”4
“What the hell are you talking about?”
“Hey, big boy, wanna read a decent short story?”
I’m off to rethink plot. To wait on a devious character who has missed twice already his audition for Midas County’s cameo villain. To cull and shred.
— Notes —
1 Jury’s out.
2 Source adage with multiple variants attributed by multiple sources to an old English saying circa 1340.
3 Jay Vee or JV. Junior Varsity. Depending on the school size, sport team Junior Varsity usually was composed of freshmen and sophomores, Varsity of juniors and seniors. In much larger schools, Junior Varsity was a “second string team,” freshmen resigned to a “Freshman Team.” Sophomores, juniors, and seniors comprising the “Junior” Varsity and Varsity teams based on talent.
4 “Delaware and Fifth” Or similar streets in Soho. Or Budapest. Or Amsterdam. Certainly not in Claxbury Corners.
5 Fire Barn. Fire Station. In days past, in smaller communities, when fire departments were largely volunteer affairs, the building housing fire-fighting equipment was called the “Fire Barn.” Because many times it was just that – a converted barn. In smaller communities and among older folks, the name “Fire Barn” just stuck.