Carbon and Ash
Former minor league baseball player and little league coach Myles figures he and his buddy Todd have a lot in common. They're both single dads, they both love baseball and camping, and their sons get along great. They also have this thing they do, this touching thing a few times a year that Myles figures is just all about creature comfort.
The thing is, as they both think about dating other people and breaking up their late night tradition, Myles starts to realize maybe he's not as casual about Todd as he thought. In fact, he has to take a long hard look at how he feels.
The evening sun is warm on his back as Myles sends his team onto the field for the final inning. He watches them go, little legs full of far less energy after almost an hour of playing, but he can see their eyes still bright with interest and enthusiasm; it's just the limits of being six and seven years old that makes them slower. He knows how they feel -- the pull of the game warring with the limits of the body, the need to cram as much fun into a day as they can.
Myles makes sure that Joey stays to the right of the outfield instead of drifting off to the left where Matty Jones is. If those two get too close together they won't pay close attention to the game and will start looking for bugs again between batters. It's usually not a problem, but with exhaustion and the fleeting attention span of seven year olds, it would be far too easy for them to miss a play and descend into emotional meltdown. He knows about that, too, frustration and disappointment taking the joy out of baseball.
One of his charges, Sherry, is going even slower than the rest and Myles can see her feet kicking up little storms of dust as she crosses the diamond to second base, so he goes out after her. "Almost done, kiddo," he says, crouching down to meet her eyes. "Think you can catch that ball for me?"
She nods firmly, squinting a little as the sun shines on her upturned face. "Yes, Coach," she promises. "But I'm hungry."
"I'm sure you are," he says sympathetically. "More than an hour since supper, right? There's apples and oranges for you guys after the game."
She smiles and nods again. "Yum."
"You betcha." Myles stands up and pats her shoulder, being careful to keep the touch light and clearly a Good Touch. "You can do it," he tells her.
She looks up at him with six-year-old wisdom, her eyes clearly saying he's crazy. "Of course I can."
Sometimes love is complicated.
Copyright 2016 Chris Owen