Howie said it was fine with him but I wasn’t so sure.
“It’s fine with me,” He said.
“I’m not so sure,” I seemed to reply with a shrug of my shoulders “But, okay, I guess” and flung the burlap sack over the bridge railing. As it descended it began to assume a variety of geometric shapes like one of those 3-D screen savers you see down at the public library when you realized you’ve fallen asleep during your “job search.” Thankfully, between the roar of the traffic and the gusts of wind cuffing our ears we couldn’t hear the cries. We didn’t even wait to eyeball the splash. Then again, we never do. Some things are best left in God’s hands.
Interpersonal relationships can be tough. Hell, I even hate myself so much sometimes I’ve thought about asking Howie to throw me off the bridge but it’s tough to find a burlap sack that would hold me and he’s always been kind of frail especially since the railroad accident. So, I keep waking up, blinking my eyes three times and telling myself Show The World Your Smile.
Anyways, we walked along the old trolley tracks and thought of a time when people on this side of the river could ever imagine or want to visit the other side. I told him one time at the library I figured out a way to search for things on the internet and found old videos of a the trolley that ran between here and there right along the same tracks we were rummaging around now.
“Never shit where you eat” was all he said. That was his father talking. I knew that because I knew his father. He used to drive us to baseball games over in Jersey. We’d sit in the back of his Toyota truck with the American flag bumper sticker on it and throw old beat up baseballs into the river. We were really something then. Came in 2nd place to a bunch of Brothas from Ewing Township. Never heard the end of that from my old man but Howie’s dad never said much about it. Just kept shoving Beech-Nut chewing tobacco into his mouth and telling me to choke up on the bat. It didn’t matter. I could flash some leather but my stick had plateaued in the Bantams. Last time I saw Howie’s dad his lower jaw was gone. He died a month later. They had a closed casket. Howie had taught himself a slider but by tournament time his arm was a rag, just an empty sleeve fluttering in the balmy Jersey night under the lights outside Trenton. Then he had that thing with the train. I wonder if his mom is still alive. I don’t know for sure. Last I heard she had moved to Florida because her other son, Gary, couldn’t leave the state. He was always wired different. He tried some shit on me one time but I don’t think that’s what got him in trouble down there. As usual, it was something entirely different.
Hey, want to go panhandling down at the bible college? Its Wednesday night and I still have that trench coat and crutch stashed back up under the overpass.
Six to one half dozen the other was all he said.
Now when we were nine years old Howie threw nine straight strikes to close out the Bantam championship. Tony Schmidt, Donnie Ricardo and Tim Kramer. All caught looking. They barely lifted the bats off their shoulders. The ump Mr. Ruggiero said those pitches were so fast he couldn’t see them and had to call them strikes by ear when he was handing us the trophy. It wasn’t so long ago. Then again, I started thinking about how maybe two or even three burlap sacks could maybe get stitched together into one big one. Only if the time was right, you know, kind of like mercy. I was ruminating. Bad.
Penny for your thoughts he asked.
Damnit, he used to be such a smart kid I said to myself then punched his right arm up near the shoulder. Above the Led Zep tattoo. He winced. A wind came down the river and he whistled through his broken front teeth.
Strike three was all I said.