LATE LUNCH

The Old Ball Team, by Rich Paschall


When they started the monthly get-together it was almost 15 years earlier. There were a dozen of them then, and two of the “boys” had already retired. They had all known each other since childhood and were within a few years of one another in age. They went to the same park as kids and most played on the same teams.

They had decided years ago to meet once a month for dinner, so they could be sure to see one another regularly. Over the years dinner changed to lunch, as some of them did not want to drive or be out after dark. The sessions remained as lively as ever. It seemed none lost their boyhood personalities.

With the passage of time, the group had dwindled in size. While the first ten years saw no loss of participation, recent years were not kind to the group. Three had passed away and another three were no longer well enough to attend. One just seemed to disappear. No one could ever say what happened to Roger, although a few tried hard to find out.

nationals in DC baseball

The meeting was now on the first Tuesday of the month at 1 o’clock. Most of the lunch crowd was gone from the Open Flame Restaurant by then and the old guys could sit around and reminisce for as long as they wanted. Today they wanted to hang on just a little longer.

Raymond had arrived right on time which was his way all through life. Like the others, Ray was retired now. Unlike the others, he carried a secret with him that he would not tell, even to his best friends.

Bob came with Ray. He was no longer able to drive and in fact, needed a good deal of help to get in and out of Ray’s car. Ray always allowed enough time for Bob, so that they could walk slowly together and get in and out of the house, the car, and the restaurant safely.  To Ray, Bob was like a rock, the anchor of the team. Now Ray was Bob’s rock of support. There was a certain irony in that, and Bob would never know it.

Frank still worked a little. It is not really that he wanted to do it, but he could not shake free of some business obligations he had over the years. He did not need the money and tried to steer any business to someone else. If you asked, Frank would tell you he was retired.

Bill was always late. Everyone would have been surprised if he had been on time. He maintained an active life and was always finding more to do than he had time. This seemed to keep Bill healthy and robust.  Perhaps he was the only one of the remaining members in such good shape.

Without any doubt at all, Jerry was the talkative one of the bunch. If others wanted to tell a story or share some news, they had better do it before Jerry showed up. He was likely to dominate the conversation from the time he arrived until the time the check came. It was guaranteed that Jerry would tell his favorite stories, although all of these guys knew them just as well as Jerry. In fact, one or more of them probably participated in whatever episode he was recalling.

At every meeting, Jerry was sure to get around to the championship baseball game.  “What were we Bob, 12 or 13?  What a summer that was!  I remember when Bob dove for that ball in the last inning.  If that got through the infield we were screwed.  Raymond was so damn slow out there in left field.”  They all would laugh, even Ray.

Usually, the boys would be planning to leave around two, but they told stories and laughed their way past 2:30 in the afternoon.  Finally, Ray called for the check. Over the objections of the others, Ray paid the bill. They had always split the check evenly. No one ever paid for everyone, but Ray was a diplomat and a businessman and knew how to get his way. The matter was settled.

They all made it out into the warm autumn day together and stood on the sidewalk for a moment.  Raymond gave them all a long hard look but said nothing. He knew Bob could not come out any longer.  Bob’s wife had strongly objected to Raymond continuing to take him to lunch. This would be the last time, for sure. Raymond was dying of cancer but kept it to himself. He looked well enough, so the others just did not know.

As the two walked to Raymond’s car nearby, the others said goodbye to Frank. It seems that Frank’s wife had been insisting that they move to Michigan to be nearer to the kids and grandkids. Since Frank was the practical one of the group, he also realized it was better to have a safety net of younger people nearby if the need should ever arise. These old guys may have promised to always be there for one another, but that now came with the heavy reality that it just could not be so.

As Frank wandered off in the other direction, Bill and Jerry stood looking at one another, and big, knowing smiles came across their faces. Nothing more had to be said.  It was all right there before them. Words, tears, and hugs would have been out of character.

Finally, Jerry left Bill with the same words he issued for years, “I’ll see you at the next game. I’ve got the ball and gloves, you bring the bats.”

“OK, Captain,” Bill said and walked away.

OVER AND OUT – FICTION

A family short story by Rich Paschall


It was not like Billy’s dad to just walk into his room. At 17 years old he really expected his parents to knock first. He quickly closed out of his chat and turned around to see what his father wanted.

“What’s up, dad?” Billy began.

“Son, I think there is something you should tell me.” Billy’s father paused and waited for a response. Billy was clueless. He could not think of a thing he should say, so there was this long awkward silence as the two of them shot puzzled looks at one another.

Over the last two months, Billy’s father had noticed the nature of his son’s friendship with a handsome young classmate named Josh. They went everywhere together. They studied together and they spent hours on the phone together. Going to the movies on a Saturday night was just like the dates Billy’s dad had with his wife when they were teenagers. Billy would spend a lot of time getting ready. He picked out his best date-night-type clothes and he absolutely lit up when Josh appeared at the door. Dad felt he could not be mistaken.

empty chairs

“No, Dad, I can’t think of anything,” Billy finally said in his best “I’m innocent” voice.

“Are you gay?” his father shot back. All of a sudden something heavy fell on Billy’s chest. It must have been the weight of reality hitting him. He was unprepared.

“Yes dad,” Billy responded as boldly as he could after the truth was already out there anyway.

“And this Josh fellow, is he your boyfriend?” Billy did not want to out Josh to his father but he figured that he somehow knew so he gave up that truth too.

“Yes, dad.” Once again they stared at one another until Billy could finally throw that weight off himself and speak up.

“So, it’s OK then?” Billy asked. His dad did not want to say “yes” because it was not alright with him, but he did not want to say “no” because he recalled how difficult teenage love could be and just figured that gay teenage love was even harder. After a few moments deep in thought, Billy’s dad had a course of action in mind.

“Son, I want you to tell your mother this week. Am I clear about that?”

“No dad, please,” the boy replied in horror. “Can’t you tell her?” If his dad was not all “open-arms” about this he could not imagine his mother’s reaction. She was far more right of center than dad.

“Billy, if you think you are old enough to be making out with another boy, you are certainly old enough to man up and tell your mother exactly who you are.” At that, Billy’s dad left the room and quietly closed the door on the way out.

For the rest of the week, Billy was a nervous wreck. Every time he saw his mother he could feel a knot in his stomach. His father started shooting him angry glances for failing to tell his story. Billy did tell two people though, Josh and his sister, Mary. The latter was a tactical error, to be sure.

One night when they all happened to be at the dinner table at once, a rare occurrence for two busy parents and two teenagers, Mary could not hold her brother’s secret any longer. “So, little Billy, did you tell mom yet that you’ve been kissing boys?”

Billy’s mom immediately looked like she had seen the ghost of her dear departed mother glaring at her. “Robert, did you know about this?” Billy’s mom shouted across the room at her husband. He did not respond but she could tell after twenty-three years of marriage what the response would be. “How dare you!” she screamed at either Billy or her husband, neither was quite sure, and then she stormed out of the room.

Over the next few weeks, Billy’s parents argued often about why the boy was gay. Each thought the other had a hand in it, but only mom was mortified and angry beyond reason.

“If you had been a stronger father,” she took to telling him almost daily, “This would not have happened.”

To which he frequently responded, “I tried to discipline the boy but every time I did he would run to you and get off the hook. I would say you are the reason he’s a mama’s boy.” From there it only got worse.

After one particularly stormy session, Billy’s mom finally declared she was through. “I want a divorce. We can not continue these fights in front of the children.” Robert agreed and went to their room. A stunned Billy, eavesdropping in the next room, began to cry.

Robert called his brother and asked to stay a few days. He packed a bag and prepared to leave when Billy ran into his room. “No dad, please don’t leave. I am sorry, it’s all my fault. I’ll change, I promise. I won’t be gay anymore. Please.” Billy buckled at the knees and went down to the floor. His dad helped him up and sat him on the edge of the bed.

“Look son, my marriage was over years ago. It took something like this to point that out. You can not change this anymore than I can change who you are.” At that, he reached over to hug the boy. He planted a kiss on his forehead, got up, grabbed his bag, and walked out the door.

BE CAREFUL, DAD

The following appeared last year on Fathers’ Day on SERENDIPITY.

A Father and Son story

The knocking on the door was expected. Jack got up, shuffled across the room, and opened the door for his neighbor. “Well, old-timer, I hope you have the coffee ready,” the guest said cheerfully. “Who are you calling old? If I recall correctly, you are older than I am,” Jack replied

It was true. The neighbor was in fact almost a month older.  It was Jack’s reminder whenever David called him an old-timer. The two had been friends for over 50 years and neighbors for almost 40. Now they were old and alone and sharing coffee two afternoons a week.

Conversations at Jack’s kitchen table ranged from sports to high school antics. A few stories had probably been told hundreds of times. It was not that they forgot they told the stories, it was just that they loved recalling certain memories. It was their way of passing a little time.

If David stayed on too long, he would meet up with Jack’s son, John.  It was John Junior, actually, but no one dared to call him that. He hated being referred to as a Junior and would tell you so if you tried it. Many things seemed to annoy Junoir so there was no reason to add on to it.

This was one of the days David stayed too long. Junior had arrived.

John stopped in around the same time almost every day of the week. He would ring the bell, then let himself in with his own key so his father did not have to get up. Jack liked to answer the door just for the exercise of it, but Junior was impatient.

“I see you two are drinking coffee late in the afternoon again,” John began without any greeting.

“We have a rule, no coffee after 6 PM,” David explained.

“It’s almost six now,” John declared.

“And we’re almost done now,” Jack replied.

“Well don’t be telling me how you can’t sleep at night when you are drinking coffee at this hour, because I don’t want to hear it.” Exasperation was seeping out of Junior faster than the sweat on his forehead. Following that declaration, he began his inspection like a drill sergeant checking up on hopeless recruits.

“Dad, you have put the empty coffee pot back on the hot burner again. Can’t you turn this off when you are done?” Junior looked right at David as he continued, “One day last week I had to clean this thing up. There were coffee grounds in the water section.”

“I guess I must have gotten confused and put some grounds in the wrong spot,” Jack said in an embarrassed tone.

“I guess you really need to concentrate on what you are doing,” John said. “Last week I found the soup all cooked away in the pot and the stove was still on. You are going to burn the house down one of these days if you are not careful.” Junior’s annoyance had now reached the level of full-on lecture. He reminded Jack of all the things he needed to do better. He admonished his dad for not concentrating on the task at hand and just sitting down and forgetting about things.

“I guess I better check on everything else while I am here. There’s just no telling what other problems we have going on.”

The two elderly gentlemen sat in embarrassed silence as the Junior one went from room to room looking everything over. He checked what was turned on and what was off. He looked at electric cords to make sure they were in good condition and not in the way. He took up throw rugs and moved items around. He returned to the kitchen armed with his report.

“Dad, you’ve got shoes and slippers in your path from the bed to the washroom.  You need to put those things out of the way.  Some night you are going to trip and fall.”  Jack just nodded. “You should get one of those buttons you wear to call for help.”

“They are too expensive,” Jack reasoned.

“You won’t say it’s too expensive if you fall some night and die right there on your bedroom floor,” Junior declared in a disheartening manner.

porcelain sink sunshine BW

David leaned across the kitchen table and said to Jack, “Yep, I am pretty sure you won’t have much to say then,” and he gave him a wink. John the junior one completely missed it.

“One more thing, I see you are still leaving the light on in the bathroom. Can’t you at least turn it off during the day?”

“I might not get there before dark,” Jack explained.

John shook his head. “I see I am going to have to get some night lights. OK, I can’t be spending any more time here today. I have my own things to do.” The visit had reached its peak on the Junior annoyance meter and it was time to go.

“I guess I will stop by tomorrow. Please be careful, dad”

“All right, son.” Junior was already at the door by the time Jack got out those three short words.

When John was out the door, David said, “You know if I talked to my father in that tone he would have slapped me. As a matter of fact, he is 95 now and I think he would still slap me. You should not let him talk to you like that.”

After a moment’s reflection, John explained, “Sometimes I think about how I talked to my mother as she got older. I was always impatient and frustrated. I did not like having to take so much of my time to deal with her issues. She was forgetful and as she got to 80 and beyond I should have realized how she struggled with certain things.”

Jack looked off in the distance and saw the past float by, “I guess it is true.”

“What is?” David asked.

With regret written on his face, John answered. “What goes around, comes around.”

A BOUNTIFUL LIFE

A short story of gratefulness from Rich Paschall. The following originally appeared on SERENDIPITY.

Max had to get an early start on Monday.  Three times a month it was the most important day of the week and he did not want to be late.  It was quite the walk to the Methodist church but he felt he was up to it.  Anyway, he did not want to ride part of the way on the bus as that seemed a waste of money.  If he had a good haul, however, he would definitely consider public transportation on the way back.  Even though Max was not a Methodist, he was headed to the Methodist church.

Next door to the church stood a small wooden building.  It was painted grey, like the church building, and it seemed too small for most uses.  No one recalls why the building was there originally, but now it served as the neighborhood food pantry.  Three churches participated in the collection of goods.  Each took 1 Sunday a month to collect canned goods and non-perishable items at their services and then bring them to the pantry.  The Methodist church got the honor of running the pantry because it had the extra space and the Reverend Lawrence J. Shepherd had the time three mornings a week to hand out goods to those in need.  The fourth and sometimes fifth Sunday of the month found no collections and the food pantry was likely to run out of food.  In the final weeks of the month, the Reverend Shepherd asked his own congregation to consider bringing in items again.  If there was a fifth Sunday in the month, the good reverend was practically begging.  He would call local stores asking for assistance.  It was the small shops that would donate, never the big supermarkets.

UU door

It was a good plan to be at the food pantry at 9 am when the Reverend came to unlock the door.  It was also a good idea to bring a sturdy bag with you, one that was good for carrying goods a long distance.  If you had no bag, the reverend always had some used plastic bags from the markets and the donated supplies.  People seemed more willing to recycle their old plastic bags than to actually give food or money, but the reverend was thankful for anything that would help him out.

“Good morning, reverend,” Max said in a cheerful voice.  Max always had a smile on his face and seemed to absolutely light up when he ran into anyone he knew.  People were as glad to see this happy person as he was to see them.

“Hello Max,” the reverend said.  “I think we have some good items this week.”  That pleased Max very much.  He felt quite fortunate to be getting good food.  It was not something that Max could afford on his own.

When Max was pushed out of his job at retirement age, he had little savings.  Almost half of his fixed income went to pay his rent.  The utilities and regular monthly expenses took about a third.  He only filled prescriptions that were low-cost and skipped the others in order to stretch his funds.  The little that was left did not exactly cover the food costs.  That is why he saw the food pantry as a blessing that was bestowed upon the neighborhood in general and himself in particular.  He just could not imagine why he was so lucky to have the pantry.  He knew other neighborhoods did not have one.

After the reverend had gathered up a nice selection for Max, he handed him back his bag filled with goods.  Max was not one of those people who asked for specific things from the shelves behind the counter.  He was pleased with whatever he was handed.  “I guess we will see you next week, Max,” Shepherd said.  “Bless you.”

“Bless you too, reverend,” Max replied happily as he reached out and shook the reverend’s hand. It was just as if he was shaking God’s own hand right there in that little building next to God’s house.  Of course, it was not the house of Max’s God, but he figured they all pretty much belonged to the same supreme being.

Despite a brisk north wind blowing right at Max, he bravely made his return trip on foot. He did not feel that being handed some excellent cans and boxes was any reason to turn around and throw away good money.  His fingers and toes were rather numb when Max got into the small apartment and finally sat down.  He would make the trip again the following week and the week after.  The reverend only allowed you to come once a week.  Few showed up on the weeks when there had been no collection of goods that Sunday.

Each Sunday Max made his way to his own church.  They participated in the food collection once a month and did their best to minister to the needs of the parish poor.  After such a fine selection of goods that Monday, Max felt it was very important to show up at church on time the following Sunday.  He greeted everyone with a smile as he walked in.  He paused at the back of the church where there was a small safe.  In the top was a slot to receive donations for the St. Vincent DePaul Society for the poor.  Max reached into his pocket and found a quarter, dime, 2 nickels, and a penny.  He dropped them into the old safe.  Even though his coat and gloves were given to him by the Society, Max did not consider himself one of the poor.  Instead, he felt obligated to help out if he could.  He helped on the coat drive, the Christmas tree sale, the donut sale, and other activities to benefit the poor.  Why should he not help, when he had so much?

As he moved up the center aisle, Max spotted an empty pew.  This meant he could get a nice seat on the aisle where he could look right down the middle and see the service.  He stepped in, knelt down, and gave thanks for the bounty in his life.

I AM HOME

This short story originally appeared on SERENDIPITY. It was also previously presented here. I must confess that it is one of my favorites.

A piece of home alone fiction by Rich Paschall


The alarm went off at 6 am as usual.  Instead of hitting the snooze bar, George turned off the alarm and got up.  It was Wednesday, trash collection day in the small Florida town.  He no longer had Ethel to push him out of bed so he had to muster the resolve to get up and take care of the chores.  Jack, the faithful terrier, got up as well and was running around George’s feet as he tried to go through his morning routine.  Terriers do not lack morning energy.

96-Rockers-NK

After he got dressed and made his way to the kitchen, he started the coffee.  Ethel used to take care of this while George took care of the hyperactive dog, but his wife of 40 years was gone now.  George had to make his own coffee. George had to do all the chores, had to eat his meals alone.  It was not the retirement George had envisioned.

A little over two years earlier, George retired and moved from a big Midwestern city to a small town in a warm climate. This was the retirement George always wanted. He was no longer going to cut the grass. There was an association for that.  He was not going to do major repairs because there was an association for that too. And he certainly was never going to shovel snow again. Before he moved south, he sold his snowblower, gave away his shovels and winter coats, and vowed never to return north in the winter, if at all.

As the coffee was brewing, George set down a fresh bowl of water for a disinterested terrier. Then he went to the kitchen door that led into the garage.  As he started down the two steps to garage level, he reached for the button that opened the garage door. At that Jack came racing out the kitchen door and when the garage door was open just enough, he ran under it and onto the front lawn. There he ran around in a circle for a couple of minutes before looking to see what George was doing.

George was busy dragging the plastic trash can down the driveway to the street where he parked it right next to his old-fashioned mailbox.  After that, he walked back to get the recycle bins.  One bin held old newspapers and magazines and the other had some cans and bottles.  He put one on top of the other and then maneuvered them onto a two-wheel “hand truck.”  They were too low and too heavy for George to drag down the driveway.  When this task was complete, George went back inside to get his American flag, which he promptly took down to the post that held his mailbox.  On the side of the post, he had affixed a flag pole holder so his flag could be seen as he came down the street.  George would never admit that it was a reminder of where his driveway began so he could find it easily when he returned from a drive, but that is why it was there.

“Come on, Jack,” George called and the dog raced halfway to George and stopped.  It was a game and Jack expected George to play.  George was well aware of this game, every time George would move, the dog would race around in a circle and stop.  There he would wait for George to make another move and the race was on again.  George was too old for the game today and went into the garage and headed toward the kitchen door.  Jack watched carefully from the driveway.  When George hit the button to close the garage door, Jack raced inside.

On their return to the pale yellow kitchen, George put down a bowl of food for Jack.  Then he fixed some toast and took that, a cup of coffee and a newspaper he collected from the front porch and went to sit on the screened-in patio.  Jack came and laid down at his feet.  George liked reading the local news each morning.  Everything about small-town America seemed exciting to him.  He read about civic improvements, about events at the library, and about meetings at the town hall.  He read about the plans for the upcoming year and even the New Year’s party at a local hall.  George survived Christmas on his own and guessed he would not even be up at midnight on New Year’s Eve.  Without dear Ethel, he had no desire to stay up late.  While ringing in the New Year at a party might help bring back fond memories, they would also recall his dear wife who was gone too soon.  He was not sure he could bear that.

When the news had been devoured, George got up slowly and took his plate and coffee cup to the kitchen sink and placed them there.  He looked all around the room and could not decide on another thing to do so he thought he would go lay down awhile.  It was 10 am.  At that moment, the phone rang.

“Hello,” George said with a hint of surprise that anyone would call him.

“Hello George,” Ethel said softly.

Soon after George and Ethel moved to Florida, Ethel’s father had passed away.  He left her the big family house in rural Iowa.  It was the sort of house Ethel always wanted.  It had a big front porch where she could rock away the summer hours in her own rocking chair and a nice fireplace where she could get warm and read good books all winter.  George had no idea this is what Ethel had wanted for years, just as she had no idea he would take them to Florida on his retirement.  When she got the big Iowa house she announced to George she was moving there without him, and soon thereafter she was gone along with virtually every personal effect she could take.

Once every few months she called to see if George was OK, nothing more.

“Please come home, Ethel,” George said with a heavy dose of sadness in his voice.

“I am home,” she said and quietly hung up the phone.

THE NEXT TO LAST STOP

This short story originally ran on SERENDIPITY.

The Inconvenience Store, by Rich Paschall

It was a peaceful summer evening.  The sun had just set.  The air was warm and the light breeze was refreshing.  Jorge had walked three blocks from his small apartment to the local convenience store for a Big Drink and Big Sandwich combination.  He had little food at home and did not feel like making anything anyway.  It felt good to take a walk on such a pleasant evening.  There was nothing quite like summer in the city.

There were a few others in the small store but Jorge paid no attention to them.  He went directly to the soft drink machine and then on to the Sandwich Stop.  After he made his selection, he noticed there was a bit of a commotion at the front of the store.

Three young men rushed in.  They looked like they were in their late teens or early twenties.  Two were tall and wearing white t-shirts and baggy shorts.  The third was a large guy wearing a black sleeveless shirt with some design Jorge could not make out and black baggy jeans.  The big guy was also carrying a machine gun or automatic rifle.  Jorge was unfamiliar with weapons and was not too sure.

Do Not Cross

Do Not Cross

“Don’t anyone move,” the big guy commanded.  “Don’t anyone make a sound neither, not a sound.”

One of the others told the cashier to give him all the money if he wanted to live, and the third thief looked down all the aisles to see if anyone was hiding or there might be trouble there.  The few people in the store had not moved.  The aisle checker then stopped at the cooler and reached in for a twelve-pack of beer, but paused like he did not know if he should steal it.

“Just take it,” the big guy shouted, “and let’s go.” He grabbed the beer and the thief at the counter only collected a small amount of money which he put in a backpack.

As they prepared to leave, there was a small whimper from the next aisle from where Jorge was standing.  In response, the big guy sprayed the aisles with bullets.  Jorge hit the floor.  There was a sharp burning sensation in his abdomen.  His head was groggy and he could not make himself move at all.  He slowly drifted away from the conscious world.

The cashier gasped and as the big guy got to the door he turned and sent a few shots in the direction of the cash register.  The convenience store worker had already hit the floor and shots went over the top of him and heavily damaged the display behind the counter.

As the thieves got to their car, the police were pulling up to the lot.  The cashier had set off a silent alarm when the trouble started and the response had finally arrived.  There was an exchange of gunfire as the young men were able to get in the car and out of the lot, with a squad car in pursuit.

police car

Two officers wearing bulletproof vests had their guns out and cautiously entered the store.  The cashier saw them in a monitor high on a wall and shouted, “Help them, help them.”

One officer carefully went around the counter to find the cashier lying on the floor.  He approached slowly with his gun pointed at the young man.  He had to be sure it was not a trick.  Finally, he helped the trembling cashier to his feet.

The other officer looked down the aisles and immediately called for medical attention for multiple victims.  He searched the aisles before going over to one of the victims.  By the time he checked to see if the first one was alive, more police were in the store and in the parking lot.  One ambulance came onto the lot closely followed by another.  A police officer outside was now obviously taking charge of the scene and ordering onlookers away.  Paramedics rushed into the store and observed pools of blood in two different aisles.  There was a lot of damage caused by the bullets of just one man.

The next thing Jorge was aware of feeling was the burning of his stomach.  It was the sharpest pain of his life.  His head was heavy and he could not open his eyes.  It seemed, however, that he was now lying on his back, rather than face down on the tile floor of the convenience store.  In his stupor, he could not tell where he was or even if he was alive.  He drifted off again.

Three adults were taken to The Resurrection Hospital.  It was the closest trauma center.  The Catholic hospital had become familiar with treating gunshot wounds.  It seems they saw someone every week who had been gunned down.  The victims may have suffered from a gang dispute, domestic violence, armed robbery, or were just innocent bystanders.  The increase of guns had brought an increase of gunshot victims to the Emergency Room.

Sometimes the medical staff could do little more than calling the chaplain to say a prayer.

Back at the convenience store was one more victim.  A ten-year-old boy was going to be taken directly to the morgue.  He would not whimper again.

LATE LUNCH

With baseball season upon us, I recall the story of old friends and late lunch. This story originally appeared on SERENDIPITY

The Old Ball Team, by Rich Paschall


When they started the monthly get-together it was almost 15 years earlier.  There were a dozen of them then, and two of the “boys” had already retired.  They had all known each other since childhood and were within a few years of one another in age.  They went to the same park as kids and most played on the same teams.

They had decided years ago to meet once a month for dinner, so they could be sure to see one another regularly.  Over the years dinner changed to lunch, as some of them did not want to drive or be out after dark.  The sessions remained as lively as ever.  It seemed none lost their boyhood personalities.

With the passage of time, the group had dwindled in size.  While the first ten years saw no loss of participation, recent years were not kind to the group.  Three had passed away and another three were no longer well enough to attend.  One just seemed to disappear.  No one could ever say what happened to Roger, although a few tried hard to find out.

nationals in DC baseball

The meeting was now on the first Tuesday of the month at 1 o’clock.  Most of the lunch crowd was gone from the Open Flame Restaurant by then and the old guys could sit around and reminisce for as long as they wanted.  Today they wanted to hang on just a little longer.

Raymond had arrived right on time which was his way all through life.  Like the others, Ray was retired now.  Unlike the others, he carried a secret with him he would not tell, even to his best friends.

Bob came with Ray.  He was no longer able to drive and in fact, needed a good deal of help to get in and out of Ray’s car.  Ray always allowed enough time for Bob, so that they could walk slowly together and get in and out of the house, the car, and the restaurant safely.   To Ray, Bob was like a rock, the anchor of the team.  Now Ray was Bob’s rock of support.  There was a certain irony in that, and Bob would never know it.

Frank still worked a little.  It is not really that he wanted to do it, but he could not shake free of some business obligations he had over the years.  He did not need the money and tried to steer any business to someone else.  If you asked, Frank would tell you he was retired.

Bill was always late.  Everyone would have been surprised if he had been on time.  He maintained an active life and was always finding more to do than he had time.  This seemed to keep Bill healthy and robust.  Perhaps he was the only one of the remaining members in such good shape.

Without any doubt at all, Jerry was the talkative one of the bunch.  If others wanted to tell a story or share some news, they had better do it before Jerry showed up.  He was likely to dominate the conversation from the time he arrived until the time the check came.  It was guaranteed that Jerry would tell his favorites stories, although all of these guys knew them just as well as Jerry.  In fact, one or more of them probably participated in whatever episode he was recalling.

At every meeting, Jerry was sure to get around to the championship baseball game.  “What were we Bob, 12 or 13?  What a summer that was!  I remember when Bob dove for that ball in the last inning.  If that got through the infield we were screwed.  Raymond was so damn slow out there in left field.”  They all would laugh, even Ray.

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Usually, the boys would be planning to leave around two, but they told stories and laughed their way past 2:30 in the afternoon.  Finally, Ray called for the check.  Over the objections of the others, Ray paid the bill. They had always split the check evenly.  No one ever paid for everyone, but Ray was a diplomat and a businessman and knew how to get his way.  The matter was settled.

They all made it out into the warm spring day together and stood on the sidewalk for a moment.  Raymond gave them all a long hard look but said nothing.  He knew Bob could not come out any longer.  Bob’s wife had strongly objected to Raymond continuing to take him to lunch.  This would be the last time, for sure.  Raymond was dying of cancer but kept it to himself.  He looked well enough, so the others just did not know.

As the two walked to Raymond’s car nearby, the others said goodbye to Frank.  It seems that Frank’s wife had been insisting that they move to Michigan to be nearer to the kids and grandkids.  Since Frank was the practical one of the group, he also realized it was better to have a safety net of younger people nearby if the need should ever arise.  These old guys may have promised to always be there for one another, but that now came with the heavy reality that it just could not be so.

As Frank wandered off in the other direction, Bill and Jerry stood looking at one another and big, knowing smiles came across their faces.  Nothing more had to be said.  It was all right there before them. Words, tears, hugs would have been out of character.

Finally, Jerry left Bill with the same words he issued for years, “I’ll see you at the next game.  I’ve got the ball and gloves, you bring the bats.”

“OK, Captain,” Bill said and walked away.

SERENDIPITY: SEEKING INTELLIGENT LIFE ON EARTH

The Old Ball Team, by Rich Paschall


When they started the monthly get-together it was almost 15 years earlier.  There were a dozen of them then, and two of the “boys” had already retired.  They had all known each other since childhood and were within a few years of one another in age.  They went to the same park as kids and most played on the same teams.

They had decided years ago to meet once a month for dinner, so they could be sure to see one another regularly.  Over the years dinner changed to lunch, as some of them did not want to drive or be out after dark.  The sessions remained as lively as ever.  It seemed none lost their boyhood personalities.

With the passage of time, the group had dwindled in size.  While the first ten years saw no loss of participation, recent years were not kind to…

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THE FIFTY PERCENTERS – Rich Paschall

This is a short story of politics and resistance. It is a mythical time and a mystical place, or is it? Be sure to click on “View original post” at the bottom to head over to SERENDIPITY for the rest of the story.

SERENDIPITY: SEEKING INTELLIGENT LIFE ON EARTH

Resistance, a short story by Rich Paschall

After Durward Tower narrowly won his election to the Presidency late in the century, he declared that he had a landslide victory. It was a mandate by the people to make big changes needed by the country. The wealthy leaders of the Congress and of big business helped to spread this myth. It was to their economic advantage to do so.

The many appointments to the courts gave Tower supreme control of the judiciary. Many were not actually qualified for their roles, but they would support any case for which Tower had an interest.

Both houses of the legislature also bowed to the whims and wishes of the so-called Leader. The minority party had little to say and much less money to say it. By the midterm elections, Durward Tower considered himself the Supreme Leader of the land.

All during his time in…

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GOODBYE AND GOOD LUCK – Rich Paschall

A short story of business, life and what they hold for some. Be sure to click on “View original post” at the bottom to head over to SERENDIPITY for the rest of the story.

SERENDIPITY: SEEKING INTELLIGENT LIFE ON EARTH

Thanks for your service, Rich Paschall

He had been in the business for almost 40 years.  The last twenty-seven of those with the same company.  He liked his job and thought he was good at it.  In just a few more years he would retire.  Everything seemed to be on track.

When Carl started in his career, orders were processed with typewriters.  Carbon paper was used when multiple copies were required.  Details of international orders were sent overseas by telex machine.  Everything was done manually and file cabinets were stuffed with files of all the orders and shipments.

Carl made it through all the changes.  At first, he thought an electronic typewriter with memory was just about the coolest thing.  Fax machines took the place of telex machines and worldwide communication was getting easier.  As the decades went on, technology and communications advanced faster and faster, but Carl kept right…

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DEATH OF DEMOCRACY

In case you missed this little piece of fiction in the past, we offer this as fair warning to what could happen when democracy is bought and sold. Be sure to click “View original post” at the bottom to head over to SERENDIPITY for the rest of the story.

SERENDIPITY: SEEKING INTELLIGENT LIFE ON EARTH

A cautionary fairy tale by Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

The King Brothers strode through the luxurious lobby of the grand Wilford Washington Hotel. It is a stately old hotel with all the modern amenities. Only the richest of the rich can stay at the Wilford, and the King Brothers were among the one percent that controlled most of the nation’s wealth. It was a particularly joyous night for the highly successful businessmen as they again used their business skills and wealth to get what they wanted.

Your Vote CountsAlthough they were knowledgeable and successful businessmen, Chauncey and Derrick King owed most of their wealth to inheritance. Their father discovered a new way of making energy. It was not the most environmentally responsible method, but it sure made a lot of money.

When old Farley King passed on, Chauncey and Derrick aced out two other brothers to grab control of the largest privately held…

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