Friday, May 3, 2019

The Ice Cream Truck

It was the last of the last and the white flag stood at the ready. Three runs resolutely held the line between our boys and parity. But one more out and the undertaker was free to begin his task. Hope had exited the building and provided no forwarding address.

So what if this misbegotten squad was filled with members whose eighth birthday had not yet arrived. What matter if those peering into the diamond were merely drawn to this effort by reason of blood. Shirk off a month of losses and permanent residence as cellar dwellers. This was the season's denouement and victory would provide a measure of solace to the beleaguered soul. 

We had filled their heads with praise for effort, result be damned. The final tally of insignificant consequence. But who would it harm to permit a taste of glory? 

The ringing bells on the nearby ice cream truck sounded in wait.

On the mound (though at this stage in baseball development, the truth is that the field is as flat from stem to stern as the world which existed before Columbus) stood a behemoth. Nearly as tall as my Aunt Minny, the hurler measured four feet nine inches top to toe. The fastest of his offerings sped through the late afternoon air with velocity exceeding a 40 mile speed limit.

Yet his thoughts sometimes meandered, and correspondingly thus did his throws. With the piper's carollings of the ice cream truck rendering the hurler's  concentration limp, the ball was unencumbered, developing its own concept as to the path forward. 

And so, one of our brave lads was plunked unceremoniously on his size fives. And, after shedding but a few tears, our fierce warrior gamely limped to first.

Soon he would be pushed forward to the next station as four consecutive efforts from the arm of the giant badly missed their mark. Possibility now peeked out from the grave.

"Time out ump", came the fervent cry from the dugout (in reality, this did not exist, as fence alone served as demarcation of where each side would take residence).

As the only viable alternative to rescue the pelota from the suddenly misbegotten mound man was now travelling somewhere in Pennslvania with his parents and most annoying younger sibling, the opposition leader was without alternative. Thus, after but a brief discussion of quantum physics with the giant, the man tasked with steering our adversaries trudged slowly back from whence he emanated. 

The ice cream truck grew impatient, awaiting the contemplated arrivals.

With a fearsome cut that pierced as a knight's sword, our next hero attacked the incoming sphere and sent it dribbling, ever so gently, between the pitcher's rubber and the bag known as third. The throw from the hot corner to first missed by an eyelash from marking the contest's end. 

The bases were now filled to overflowing.

What happened next is recalled as if it took place but yesterday (it did). The hour was growing late and the gentleman residing inside the truck of ice and cream could remain immobile no more (he had a waiting appointment with a young lass which prompted what now transpired). 

"Last call. Last call". The bells shouted their imminent departure.

Panic descended upon the scene, a beast unlike any other. Gloom attached to each uniform as if another layer of skin. For what is this sport if not excuse for ice cream before dinner? Was this not it's raison d'etre?

The eyes of the young, on each side of the aisle, fixed as one away from the field of play onto something of far greater moment. The umpire, ever vigilant, glanced for mere instant at each manager and then did the unforgivable, or more accurately, the unforgettable.

In the long and storied history of baseball, games have been prematurely concluded by all manner of extraordinary circumstance. Rain,snow and even earthquake have been precipitants for stoppage. But never, until that moment, had there been an abrupt conclusion predicated on this.

With a quick and violent slashing of both arms and a booming voice, the umpire cried out "Game over. Ice cream is on me."

Of such stuff are legends made. And gods born.

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