Monster on the Mound
Monster on the Mound marks Mr. Tobin’s third appearance in In Parentheses. His work also appears in Grey Wolfe Press, River Poets Journal, Static Movement, Cruentus Libri Press, The Speculative Edge, Rainstorm Press, Twisted Dreams, The Rusty Nail, Whortleberry Press and various websites and ezines. Follow him on Twitter @TimTobin43.
The six-year old stared at the monster not forty feet away. The thing’s orange head sat atop four skinny legs. Jimmie knew that at any second the monster would sling lightning bolts at him. He tried to defend himself with a stick, a baseball bat, his own kid bat.
Fear gripped his heart. Tears welled in his eyes. Defeat meant humiliation in front of his team, parents and grandparents. Jimmie wished he practiced with his Dad who took him to a real batting cage. Instead he whined about how fast the balls came as they zipped by him. He waved at a couple of balls and hit one foul and decided to go home.
Now the first pitch whizzed by his knees without a swing. A few of his friends hit the machine pretty well but Jimmie’s terror froze the bat to his shoulder.
He whiffed at the next five balls so his coach brought over the tee. Jimmie hit off the tee fine but he was too small, too slow, and too afraid of the monster. Humiliated, he just tapped the ball off of the tee.
Jimmie relaxed a little bit playing defense. Not a single ball came his way but when the other coach called last-batter, Jimmie’s stomach got queasy. He trotted over towards his mother and complained about not feeling well.
She hugged Jimmie, told him he would do fine and sent him back into battle. Buoyed by his mother’s strength and hating the humiliation of the tee, Jimmie concentrated on the lightning bolts.
The balls flew by too fast for Jimmie. He tried to hit a couple, missing them by feet. He wished the coach still pitched, not this infernal monster.
He slouched at the plate for his third and final at bat. Mom and Dad were cheering and his Pop Pop yelled for him to swing for the fences.
“I’ve told him a hundred times, we don’t have fences,” grumbled Jimmie.
Coach Robert walked up to Jimmie. He positioned his feet, told him to bend his knees and set the bat near his ear.
“Good luck,” said Robert.
The machine spit the first ball near Jimmie’s head. He swatted at it any way.
The second ball bounced on the plate. No swing.
The third ball came in at the knees. Jimmie swung waist high.
The fourth and fifth pitches sped by him without a swing.
The next pitch, the last pitch of the game and of the season, sat in the monster’s mouth, ready to fly at him any second. If he hit the ball, he could brag all summer along with his friends. Jimmie pounded the plate with his bat, and took a practice swing.
Coach Robert yelled his encouragement.
Dad held his breath.
Mom’s body language matched her son‘s movements.
Pop Pop yelled, “OK, OK.”
“No!” Jimmie said out loud. “It’s not OK.”
The man behind the machine held up a ball and cried, “Now!”
The machine clanked and the ball sailed from the mouth of the monster. He hitched the bat and saw a ball, not a lightning bolt. Parents, relatives, teammates, screamed for Jimmie.
His coach tensed and said a silent prayer.
The ball started in high and Jimmie hated the coming summer of shame.
“Keep your eye on the ball,” he remembered everyone he ever knew say to him. So he watched the high pitch slow down and drop over the plate. Jimmie unleashed his weapon.
“THUNK,” went the aluminum bat and Jimmie raced towards first base. He didn’t see his hit until he stopped running. Five kids were trying to chase it down near third base.
“Safe!” screamed the coach.
Jimmie beamed at his family.
“Safe is right,” he thought responding to the high five and fist pounds of his family and teammates.