carl’s father

Posted: January 19, 2012 in Fiction
Tags: , ,

The bright sunshine filled the summer sky like a blessing. Carl wished he brought his Donald Duck sunglasses, but it was too late now. His father handed the tickets to a man in a blue-striped shirt. The man roughly ripped them in two and handed one half back to his father. “I’ll hold these for safekeeping,” he said evenly and took Carl’s hand in his.

They walked to an escalator, the tallest escalator Carl had even seen. As they began their ascent Carl wanted to look back and see exactly how high they were, but he couldn’t. He once heard a story about a boy who wasn’t paying attention on an escalator and when he reached the top he failed to lift his feet. His sneakers got caught and ground down into the complex machinery. As the tale goes the boy lost three toes and to this day those sneakers remain stuck in that escalator as a warning for all little boys to lift their feet.

Carl concentrated hard and they safely reached the top. They wound their way through the crowd and found Section 212. Carl’s heart beat so fast he felt as if he could fly. His father looked at the sign, checked the tickets, and looked at the sign again before proceeding up the ramp. His grip was secure and tight around Carl’s damp hand.

When they emerged Carl’s first thought was that he had never seen grass so perfect. Deep green and perfectly trimmed. Several men on the field were spraying the infield with a huge hose. His father said, “They wet the dirt so dust doesn’t fly into the player’s eyes during the game.”

Another man wearing a blue-striped shirt took their tickets and studied them. They climbed a few stairs. The man unfolded two orange seats at the end of an aisle, wiped them with a rag and handed the tickets back. His father slipped a few dollar bills into the man’s hand like they were passing secret notes in class. The man said, “Enjoy the game.”

Men in blue-striped shirts walked up and down the aisle carrying boxes strapped around their necks. One man came by and his father bought a bag of peanuts to share. Another sold him a beer. Yet another handed Carl a cup of Coca-Cola. Carl had never seen so much activity in his life. It was thrilling.

Carl loved the collective energy of the crowd. When his favorite player hit a homerun in the 2nd inning he cheered as loudly as his 7 year old lungs would allow. As things happened on the field his father explained why something was a good or bad play. His soothing voice made everything easy to understand.

In the 4th inning his father bought the team yearbook from another man. He handed it to Carl as if giving him a sacred text. “Take care of this, son. It will always remind you of the first time we went to a baseball game. That is a special day in any boy’s life.” Carl tucked it away and promised to take care of it.

In the 6th inning long shadows started shooting across the field. His father bought a hotdog for Carl and more beer for himself. A foul ball came their way. His father jumped up and tried to snag it, but stumbled. A man sitting behind them caught it and laughed. He told his father to leave the jumping to the young people. His father told the man to shut up and mind his own business. “Everybody’s a critic,” he said to Carl in his angry voice.

His father’s face was red and he grew quiet. This always happened when he drank beer. His face would turn red and he would get quiet, then suddenly yell and scream. Since Carl’s mother was at home Carl was not sure who his father would yell at. Carl hoped it wasn’t him.

In the 8th inning someone behind them said a bad word. His father quickly stood up, splashing beer all over. “Watch your mouth around my boy!” he shouted to no one in particular. “My boy doesn’t need to hear that filth!” He remained standing for a few more seconds. When no one responded he sat back down and said loudly, “If anyone has a problem with that I’m right here.” Carl could feel the heat from his father’s body. He pretended to focus on the game.

The score was tied going to the bottom of the 9th inning. Some people had already left. His father looked at his watch and said, “It’s time to go.” Carl wanted to stay, but he didn’t want his father to get mad at him. He thought if he just kept quiet maybe his father would forget he what he said about leaving. Carl knew that was what his mother did. She kept quiet until his father forgot what he was saying or fell asleep. Suddenly Carl was afraid his father would fall asleep. If that happened he didn’t know how they would get home. As much as he wanted to stay to see the end of his very first baseball game he also wanted to be in his bed under the covers.

Carl grabbed his father’s hand and said, “Okay, daddy. Let’s go home.” His father looked at him and started to say something, then stopped. He let go of Carl’s hand, gazed into the distance and said in a small voice, “Don’t forget your yearbook.” Carl picked the yearbook off the ground, its pages wet with beer. He cleaned it on his pants and followed his father down the ramp.

  1. rangewriter says:

    Oh, you turned this happy vignette of classic summers of the past on its ear. You did this so quietly, so obscurely, I really didn’t see it coming. Sigh. A beautifully told tale of loss.


  2. Centaureg says:

    Excellent character development in a very short story. I could readily identify with Carl’s dilemma. Good work.


  3. kayjai says:

    I feel bad for Carl. Nicely done. Thanks for sharing.


  4. A very good snapshot of these two characters, John!


  5. whiteladyinthehood says:

    That was really good and definitely left me wanting more of the story to unfold…(excellent)


  6. A snapshot of sadness, but it was good, John.


  7. When the story began, I felt good and thought I knew where it was going. As it came to a close, I felt a little sad. And part of that sadness was because there were no more words to read. Nicely done, John.


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