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Kickball

September 7, 2009

Henry had promised himself this wouldn’t happen.  Now his earlier concerns seemed a verifiable premonition, a proof of sixth sense or a self-fulfilling prophecy. He rolled over in the dirt and stared up into the dark cloud overhead.  The field was eerily silent, as if everyone on both teams and the umpire too were frozen in time, staring at this crumpled man on the ground.  Then he heard someone on his bench mutter “jeez,” and someone else, possibly his wife, ask “what happened?”  The clock started ticking again. 

“Are you all right?” It was the young woman, the one playing first base. She had played it like a catcher covering home on a short sac fly, blocking the plate, bracing herself for the impact. Henry had placed a perfect kick between the shortstop and third base. He sprinted up the base path, so focused on watching his opponents field the ball that he neglected to notice her standing there over the first base bag until the instant before collision. He tripped as he tried to avoid her, lost his balance and fell face first to the ground. Only now did he notice how big she was, broad shouldered and muscular, a real athlete. 

“Yeah,” he said, rolling over and pushing himself up. His knees and his elbows were scraped, and the skin on his left wrist too.  Kid’s stuff, no worse than falling off a bicycle.  But his left thigh.  The pain was intense, like nothing he’d ever experienced.  He lifted the leg of his dusty khaki shorts and looked down to discover a nasty cut and badly abraded skin, red and raw. 

 “Was I safe?” he asked. Down the first base line, behind home plate, the game’s sole umpire spread his arms wide, and his team gave a cheer.  Henry lifted his sore arms, a gesture of mock victory.  He had promised himself he wouldn’t do this; he wouldn’t get hurt playing this stupid game. He was always making promises in the morning that by evening he’d forgotten or chosen not to keep. 

He called for time and tried to walk off the pain.  His wife was already at the plate, next to kick.  His leg wasn’t right. It burned as if on fire, and the muscles felt tight and torn. But he was able to stand, he could bear weight, so it couldn’t be that bad, right? 

“No leading, no leading,” someone shouted at him from his bench.  “Get back to the base!”  He hobbled back and tried to focus; the fall had rattled his body and his concentration.  On the other team, the pitcher set and delivered, a yellow rubber ball slowly rolling to the plate.  His wife’s first kick rolled foul by the third base bag, and Henry, off at contact, limped back across the base path between second and first.  He was eager to score a run, anything to save some face, to put the embarrassment behind him; he’d done enough already to humiliate himself before the opposing team, a group of twenty-somethings, some of them young enough to be his kid. Spastic.  Feeble, he thought.  That’s what they think of me

It didn’t help matters when on the next pitch she kicked a soft pop-fly to the infield, easiest catch of all, and Henry, his mind no longer in the game but dwelling instead on a grim future of ACL surgery and physical therapy and premature disability and wheelchairs, was doubled up having taken off toward second; a stupid base running gaffe that ended the inning and the game.  No run would score. His injury was for naught. There would be no joy in Mudville. 

That they lost by seven runs did nothing to dampen his teammates’ enthusiasm for post-game libations. When the other team had gone they opened their coolers, poured their beers into plastic cups, drank and took turns inspecting Henry’s grisly wound.  Many were impressed, and a few mildly nauseated, by the carnage on display: a deep gash and clotted blood, an enormous welt and a formidable bruise that had already started to form. 

After much head scratching and drunken speculation over the severity of the injury, the experts in the group concluded that Henry’s keychain was the cause of the damage. An imposing cluster of brass and silver worthy of a tenement super, his keys had been in his front left pocket. When he tripped he must have fallen on his keys, impaling himself in the process. “I think I heard your car doors open when you hit the ground,” someone joked. Henry shuddered thinking what might have been, the pocket being proximal to some pretty essential anatomy. 

A trip to the hospital didn’t seem necessary. He treated himself at home instead, cleansing the scrapes and lacerations with soap and water, liberally dousing his leg with hydrogen peroxide, and downing a handful of ibuprofen. Most of the bleeding had been internal. Good thing, too, for had he bled the other way it would have been a horrific scene, exsanguination right there on the diamond. He could just see the headlines. Man Dies From Massive Kickball Injury. There would be a lot of suppressed laughter at his funeral. 

Henry’s leg soon became a monstrous thing to behold, so graphic and sensational that people seeing it had to ask for further clarification: “You got that playing kickball?” There was a cut in the shape of a large question mark, mocking him whenever he looked down, as if to say “what in the world were you thinking?” The bruise covered his entire thigh; over the coming weeks it proved to have its own agenda, a bruise on the move, spreading down toward his knee, then his lower leg and foot. He wondered whether it would stop there or just keep on spreading, leaking out from beneath his toenails, leaving a deep purple-black stain upon the floor.  As a complement to the cut and the bruise, his leg from hip to knee had swollen to twice its normal size. So stiff was Henry that for days he walked like Frankenstein’s Monster, and sounded like it too, grunting with every step, “Ogh. Urg. Aghh!” 

No one could grasp how a simple kids’ game could exact such punishing trauma. The severity of the damage set a whole new precedent for the potential of toy-inflicted bodily harm: if horsing around with a kickball could lead to possible amputation, it wasn’t a stretch to imagine decapitation by yo-yo, or evisceration by Lincoln Log. 

Needless to say, he was placed on the kickball team’s disabled list indefinitely.

Written July 5th, 2008. Unfinished.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Todd Whitney permalink
    September 12, 2009 6:11 pm

    Sean, I’m sitting in bed in a Bar Harbor B&B on Saturday at 5:00pm reading this story to Todd. By the time I reach the conclusion I have tears running down my cheeks from laughing so hard. What a great story. This definitely needs to be published somewhere important! Keep up the great work. Love, Your favorite mother in law

  2. Wink Martindale permalink
    September 18, 2009 7:33 am

    That’s good stuff. I wanted more of it.

    • seantabb permalink*
      September 18, 2009 8:44 am

      Thanks. I’m working on it.

      By the way, I loved your work on Tic-Tac-Dough. In my opinion, you could kick Gene Rayburn’s blankety-blank arse in a celebrity game show host death match.

  3. October 28, 2009 11:39 pm

    So funny!!! Thanks again.

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