Foul Ball

Late September. Bases loaded. Bottom of the ninth. Three balls and two strikes. Two outs. Over and over the pitcher throws his hardest fastball; over and over, the batter fouls them all off. After the eighth foul, the crowd cheers both men’s refusal to yield. After the sixteenth, fans turn in their seats, marveling in joy and wonder with complete strangers—who’da thunk it?! After the nineteenth, a cloud in the shape of the future floats by, unnoticed; by morning it resembles a love song. After the thirtieth, an uneasy hush falls over all but the very young and very old, the former still teething on the lie that nothing need ever end, the latter too dreaming to care. After the forty-fourth, the home plate ump thinks of his ex-wife, unaware she’s there, in the stands, wondering how to tell him something she spent years mouthing, then resenting, and is only now accepting. After the sixty-seventh, the on-deck batter remembers the time he was 7 years old and his father announced plans to skip church and take the family to a ballgame, arguing if God is love and God is everywhere, Oughtn’t He oughta be there alongside us?, his mother hotly hissing There’s no home runs in Hell. Today the son suspects his old man was onto something—some dramas are unending for good reason. After the seventy-eighth foul, the manager figures it’s time for a pitching change. As he rises from the bench a siren sounds, its song looping up and down and criss-cross, like a sideways eight. He sits. A hawk swoops toward a vole who will reincarnate as a war criminal. A drop of rain falls from the sky, cursing its comrades for their diffidence. Nine days later, it will forgive them. It always does. The dying light of a long-dead star says its peace, then vanishes within the false dawn of the outfield floodlights. The pitcher gets the signal from the catcher, shakes him off once, twice. The hitter asks for time. An aspiring meteorite considers stopping by unannounced, then remembers she already has other plans. 


MATTHEW MIRANDA has had fiction published in Carrier Pigeon, Black Heart Magazine, and Postcard Shorts, as well as nonfiction in The Southampton Review, Prick Of The Spindle, and Artvoice. He is a sportswriter for SBNation and The Step Back and teaches writing.