Author's Note: This is the referenced essay from yesterday's post. It was written for a course my senior year at college and just edited today. While this is a true event, names have been changed. I would characterize the editing as "somewhat light." I tried my best to keep the voice and spirit of a college senior while making the essay more accessible, rather than aimed at the class of writers it was originally geared at.
Birth and Death
Senior year spring break is supposed to be filled with trips and friends and family looking forward to the future. A wonderful time spent under the sun, soaking up those rays along with those last few precious gulps of freedom. My spring break was not spent that way, though. I stayed home to attend the funeral of two-year-old Jessica.
Jessica never had a chance in this life. She was born to two very scared, very unprepared kids. Both in high school, he a junior and she a senior at the time of conception, Jessica's entrance into the world wasn't the joyous occasion most births are. And her presence, to be very honest, did not start off bringing much joy as babies are supposed to. Jessica instead became the spark that would drive the couple apart from each other and their families.
Nick, the father, had always been immature. This didn't change when he became a father. He instead clung even more tightly to the end of his childhood, refusing to get a job, citing a knee injury that didn't keep him from playing basketball with his friends at night. He wasn't a bad guy, but he was scared, confused, and depressed. It was all pretty understandable, really. He was not equipped deal with any of these emotions, so, trapped in his youth, he did his damnedest to not change anything in his life. He kept his job at Wendy's, kept playing basketball with his friends every night. During his senior year, he hurt his knee playing football, which he then claimed kept him from working after graduation when his Wendy's job wouldn't pay for the bills and the baby. Further complicating things, Nick's mother threw him out of the house because he had become a father at such a young age, forcing him to live with a deadbeat uncle in Illinois. All of these complications ended his relationship with the mother, Katie, though not Jessica.
Katie didn't react well to becoming a mother, either. She had always had a strained relationship with her parents, which also got even worse with the birth of this child. After ending things with Nick, her choice of men was less than desirable. At the time of Jessica's death, she was dating a twenty-three year old drug addict who had already abandoned three kids, possibly more. While Nick might have been immature, he was still very harmless. This guy might not have been.
There was a cloud of suspicion around Jessica's death. Nick had her from Thursday to Sunday afternoon without incident. On Sunday night, Jessica was found cold and stiff in her bed and rushed to the hospital. The rumors sprung to life. The story went that the first doctor to examine the baby claimed it to be blunt force trauma, saying Jessica was either shaken or hit, which led to her death. Suspicion immediately fell on Katie's boyfriend. The story was further bolstered by Nick saying he had previously discovered a bruise on Jessica's back, roughly the size and shape of a handprint. This handprint was also too large to have come from Katie, the only other person with the opportunity to have bruised the baby. All things seemed to point towards a frustrated young man with a shady history overreacting to a fussy toddler. The family sought a second opinion to be sure, and the second doctor said it was a brain aneurysm, and that it would be the first he saw in twenty-plus years in treating babies and toddlers. This, for the moment, cleared the boyfriend, but suspicion did not fade away. It may never die.
I Was Born in a Small Town
Anybody who has lived in a small town can tell you, everybody is immediately connected somehow. Given this, I had known Nick almost his entire life. Though Nick was two years my junior, we had hung out quite a bit, as he was one of my brother’s friends and classmates. And, even though I had cut almost all ties with Covington, I was still kept in the loop by my brother and girlfriend. With such a tight-knit town, it's nearly impossible to stay totally disconnected, despite my best efforts. Though I hadn't talked to Nick or Katie for a few years, word still got back to me in almost real-time throughout Jessica's rush to the emergency room through her death. When the final word came, it hurt; I was angry at a suspicious ruling by a doctor, probably trying to save someone trouble, I was angry at a man I'd never met, though I was sure what he had done, I was angry at the situation, these kids didn't deserve this. The reaction surprised me. I had only seen this kid maybe twice during the last summer and hadn't regularly talked to Nick in some time. But watching Nick grow up and see how this kid had affected his life, it still hit close to home. It also surprised me to hear that Nick had asked where I was during the visitation. Just another example of that tightly-knit small town, I suppose. I already knew I had an obligation to go to the funeral, but that sealed it.
One could guess a lot about Covington when they find out it is in central Indiana, right against the Indiana-Illinois state line. And those people would be right. About the only diversity in the town are the Catholics, which I can attest to growing up Catholic. Covington is also not a prosperous town. The biggest factory in town shut down almost twenty years ago, and nothing has ever replaced those jobs. I would wager over 70% of the townsfolk work out of town, which also explains why, in a town of 2300 people, we have somewhere around ten gas stations, and maybe more restaurants. About the only thing going for Covington is the Beef House, which sits comfortably on the outskirts of town, technically in a different ZIP code.
I don't go back to Covington much. Covington and I have always had a strained relationship. I never made many friends through my public schooldays, nor did I want to. I did not feel that most of the people around me were thinking on my level. Sure, a lot of them could memorize facts out of books and get good grades, but I had no faith to ask them to think critically and come up with these things on their own. I constantly found myself bored in school and usually reading to myself during classes, as I felt I got more out of my reading. The people around me didn't interest me any more than the classes did, so I just kept to myself and the handful of people in my circle. I suppose the rest of the town probably liked it better that way, too.
As anyone who has been to small town funerals can surely attest, I knew I was also going to frustrated by a lack of proper attire. Normally, one would expect to see lots of suits and other formal wear. At least a collared shirt, if all else fails. But, I knew before I'd even opened my closet, the funeral home would be overrun with people in t-shirts and jeans. I know this doesn't cheapen their emotions, I'm sure they were just as or more upset than I was. It was still frustrating to know there would be certain lack of respect for the terrible tragedy waiting inside. I knew it would probably make me stick out, but I was determined to show proper respect and get my suit together. I opened my closet and looked at my choices. Suits were a little limited. Blue jacket or black jacket. The blue seemed a little festive, so I went with black. The jacket fit fine, but the pants were a different story. I discovered that my waistline had grown with my personality. So I went and bought some new black pants to fit decorum for my rare homecoming.
I got to the funeral home and paused for a second before I entered. The new black pants matched the black of the jacket and tie just fine, that wasn't an issue. But, I was nervous. Like I said, I don't go home much. I have an idea of the people I'll meet, and I'm sure they've got ideas about me. Still, I wasn't going to let social anxiety get in the way of unpleasant obligations. I went inside and saw many people I hadn't thought of in years. Funny thing about funerals, how quickly they turn into a social gathering before things start. I went around and talked to people in Nick's family who I'd known for just about as long as I'd known Nick. It was really strange to talk with these people know and remember how they used to talk to me at little league and basketball games. I found myself having conversation after conversation where I sounded like my father. I answered all the questions about my family, caught up with how their kids were doing, received reassurance that the job market would treat me well. College degrees aren't as common as they should be in Covington, so I got a level of respect I wasn't sure I deserved. Wabash is also viewed in a light that it doesn't normally receive, so to hear people who share no blood with me tell me how proud they are of me to get through a place like Wabash is a bit embarrassing.
Social niceties are important, sharing a certain amount of grief is important. There are still some things that must be faced alone, though. Walking up to view the tiny casket and the waxy corpse inside, I felt numb. Luckily (I suppose), I quickly heard a voice call my name and I was able to put off worrying about my lack of an appropriate reaction to catch up with Nick.
Nick was smiling and trying his best to stay positive and cheerful. It was a fragile facade, though. I think everyone in the funeral home saw through it, but nobody could blame him. He, like myself, like most people there, was only plodding along the best way he could figure out. He was as ill-equipped as the rest of us, and strangely, seeing him being able to keep that stiff upper lip comforted me. Still, there were big problems. Katie was very late to show up to her own daughter's funeral. Worries spread that she might have injured herself or ran out of town. After a short conversation with Nick (he didn't know anymore about Katie's whereabouts than the rest of us), I took my seat. Nick paced up and down the rows of chairs, occasionally stopped for a conversation with newcomers. His eyes rarely left the doorway. Heads, including my own, would turn towards the clock and quickly, maybe out of guilt, turn away.
About ten minutes after the funeral was supposed to have begun, Katie walked in, boyfriend in tow. The room went silent; the navy cadet standing close to the casket looked poised to kill. The boyfriend (in his jeans and brightly-striped collared shirt) quickly walked up, said his condolences to the families, and almost sprinted out of the viewing room. He must have felt the daggers digging in from so many eyes. Rumors die hard in small towns.
After Katie received quick condolences from those seated close to her, the proceedings began. I listened to people mourn the death of this one who's time came far, far too soon. The preacher was also the baby's great-grandfather, who had a hard time getting through the small speech he had prepared. My mind wandered almost immediately. My defense mechanism, I guess. I did cry, but I don't think most people there realized the reason for my tears. I was sorry about what happened to this child, but I wasn't moved to tears until I started thinking in my own life, what would happened once my parents reached the grave, what would happen once friends started to die, what would happen when it was my turn to go. It probably made me one of the most selfish pricks in the room. I suppose it was my way of dealing with what was in front of me. I know how to deal with people who got a chance to experience life, so that moved me more than this thing in front of me I couldn't really comprehend.
At the end of the service, I moved through the line to take a final viewing of the coffin and give my condolences to the family. At the coffin, I again couldn't think of anything other than “Sorry, kid, you never got a shot.” I gave quick hugs to the mother's side of the family. Like I said, I didn't know them very well at all. I moved on to Nick. We hugged, and I invited him to a drink the next time he was in Crawfordsville. It's a shame it took a terribly untimely death to reconnect with somebody I'd grown up with. I hugged Nick's mother as well (she and Nick had reconciled), and I was surprised to hear her call me by name, though I had absolutely no reason. My surprise made me all the more ashamed of my disconnect with the town that raised me.
As I left the funeral home, I took a long look back at the scene. People were slowing going through the line, paying their last respects to the casket overflowing with stuffed animals. I wondered if I believed in God enough to believe Jessica had them with her. Between sympathies, I saw Nick whispering into Katie's ear and her smiling back. My worries about the afterlife were replaced with curiosity about the future of these two kids. It was a terrible thing that Jessica died, of course, but this cloud just might have that silver lining after all. I threw up a quick prayer to hedge my bets they'd find what was best for them, hopefully each other.
I came back to Crawfordsville confused and a little scared about just how fragile life is, and yet, feeling strangely fine. We're all just getting through the best we know how, and somehow, even with something so dark as an infant death, something better can be made out of the tears.
This is not a new death by any means. In fact, I was sure I had written about it before in this space. I'm still not convinced I haven't, but I sure can't find it anywhere if I have. Still, it popped into my head yesterday, as it has every so often since it happened.
The picture to the left here is of an English professor of mine, Tom Campbell. He was probably best known for his work with medieval literature, but I never took that with him. I did take linguistics with him, but that is not what I remember him for.* No, I think we remember each other best for his creative non-fiction course, otherwise known as the personal essay.
*Nor he I. If he remembered anything about me in linguistics, it was that it took for-freaking-ever for my textbook, which I had to order from Amazon, to come in. In fact, both books I had to order through Amazon took way too long to come in. I no longer order anything from Amazon if it's on a deadline.
The personal essay is a popular genre nowadays, and it seemed to really be coming into vogue right about the time I first took this class. I gather (mostly from Wabash's articles on Dr. Campbell) that when he first started teaching this class, this was a little known art form, but one he had reveled in throughout his academic career.* When I first took it, it was a half-semester course, and I absolutely loved it. It may well have been my favorite class I had taken at Wabash to that point. To that point in my life, I had never really even conceived non-fiction as being creative. My writing had always been pretty firmly in the realm of fiction, as part of my other creative writing classes, or descriptive non-fiction, as with every other paper I had ever written in my academic career. Or articles I'd had written for the newspaper. It had never occurred to me to blend the two, even when I signed up for the class.
*It should also be noted, as it is in the linked article, that Dr. Campbell was supposed to be another kind of doctor. He referenced many times in class that he was supposed to be a medical student, but he dropped out of that and kind of fell into literature. He also talked about being a shoe salesman and how awful that was, but that seems much less relevant here.
Truth be told, I had no idea what I was signing up for. I hadn't heard anything about the class, I hadn't had Dr. Campbell before. I just needed a half credit, and this happened to fit into my schedule and my minor. I went in hopeful, because it was a writing class and I loved writing classes.* Even so, that class wildly surpassed my every expectation. One thing that was different about that class was how Dr. Campbell put himself out there for all of us. He read us essays he had written to give us examples of the sort of thing he was looking for with the different assignments. That was something new, and I appreciated it. His essays were good, but they never felt like they were above anything we could achieve. And don't misunderstand me, that is not a knock on his work. It was the most encouraging thing he could have done for us. I'm sure by the time I got to his class, he had carefully chosen what example essays worked best. But hearing what he had written gave me, at least, a definite sense of, "Okay, I may not have been doing this writing. But I can do this writing, and I can do it well." And, I feel, I did do it well.
*Except poetry. I mostly learned from that class that I know very little about poetry and I truly don't care to learn.
That half semester went by quickly, as all things in college do. I took my other classes, got to senior year, and got geared up to graduate. For my final semester, Dr. Campbell gave me one of the greatest gifts he could have.* The essay course was being changed to a full semester course, which changed the numbering on the course. Which meant I could take it again for full credit, just like it was a brand new course. I could not possibly have signed up fast enough. And I am so glad I did. The full semester gave that course the room it really needed to breathe and to let us all develop as writers in a genre that not many had access to before this class. I maybe got to see this more than most as I got to see how the class developed in both set ups.
*Though I sincerely doubt it was for my benefit.
I don't remember all the topics in that class, but I know things ended up getting heavy with practically all of us by the end. It turned into a lot of hard, brutal reading by our final essay. And I say that in the best possible way. I think we all learned just how powerful a tool this could be to work through our own baggage, and we all jumped at the chance. There were a lot of talented writers in that class, too. I can very distinctly remember after finishing the last round of reading all these essays Dr. Campbell taking a big, deep breath and letting it all just fall out of him, summing up the experience for the whole class. To paraphrase the mound meeting scene in Bull Durham, we were dealing with a lot of shit. So cathartic for all of us, but it was noticeably heavy. In fact, those essays were not supposed to be our last, but Dr. Campbell decided it was best if we canceled the remaining essay and just had us all focus on turning our latest submissions into razors. A sage choice by a sage man.*
*For what it's worth, my particular essay dealt with the very recent, at that time, death of an infant. More on that later.
While changing the course number of the essay class might not have been for my benefit, he did do at least one thing during my academic career that was solely for my benefit. In his position as head of the English department during my senior year, he inserted himself into my oral comps board. I don't remember who the English representative was supposed to be, but it was going to be a woman, which would have made my board entirely women. I don't believe I would have thought anything of it, but Dr. Campbell thought that could be unnecessarily intimidating. I was somewhat relieved because whoever my English person was supposed to be, it wasn't somebody I had a real rapport with. Most of my writing classes had been with either Dr. Joy Castro, who had left Wabash after my junior year, or Dr. Campbell. So I was happy to have a friendly face, no matter what the gender.* I wish I could remember more about how that actual conversation went. Most of what I remember was me trying to link the narrative forming skills I had learned in creative writing to my history writing, and at one point I started to talk myself into a loop, but I managed to get out of it. In any case, I took note of what Dr. Campbell did for me, and it certainly endeared him to me for life.
*My history person was Dr. Michelle Rhodes. I had a lot of classes with her and I felt like we got along well. But she was definitely the most intimidating figure in the history department. She was who scared me while I sat in her office waiting for the other professors to arrive. It also made me downright giddy when I checked back with her and she told me I did very well. If she was telling me that, I knew it was the truth.
College days became the past, and I moved uncertainly into the real world. I went through some tough times, but I found inspiration from an unlikely source in Dr. Campbell. I first came back to visit him to get a copy of that last essay I wrote for him. I remembered it being pretty good and I had thoughts of publishing it.* I had, unfortunately, lost my copy of it, digital or otherwise. He thankfully still had a copy, but that ended up being the secondary concern. He was wondering how I was doing as a person, and it wasn't all good news. I was struggling to find my niche in the world, I worried for my future. I frankly didn't know what I was ever going to do or how I was really going to make a real living in the world. Which is probably why I turned back to writing. I needed to know I was still good at something, even if it did nothing to secure my future.
*The version he had, sadly, was my first draft rather than my final product. I just read that essay again for the first time in years, it is still generally a good essay. The middle section needs a decent bit work, which I remember from the workshop at the time. The first section is fine, but it needs tightening. The last section is still quite possibly the best writing I have ever done. I don't think I would change a word other than a couple small typos. Maybe I will edit it (and change some names) and post it here. I don't know, though. It's still intensely personal.
Dr. Campbell had nothing but encouragement for me. He reminded me of his own struggles transitioning away from med school and about how he had lucked into Wabash. He told me about the book that helped him through his struggles, What Color is Your Parachute? And as comforting as hearing the stories about establishing himself in the world were, he above all offered belief in me and my abilities as a writer. He told me that I had a strong voice in my writing, a descriptive and clear method that would carry me far in whatever field I might find myself in. He encouraged me to keep writing for myself, too. He thought it would be a real shame to let that talent wither away. They were awfully kind words at a time I needed them most. After a somewhat lengthy conversation, he had to get to a meeting, but he made sure to email a copy of my essay to me. I have held on to that email ever since.
It became a bit of a ritual for me to visit him every time I was on campus until he retired. I remember that last meeting, which turned out to be the last time I ever saw him. Things were slightly better for me, though I was still not settled by any means. That wasn't the conversation that day, though. He was more reflective on his career, which he should have been and I gladly absorbed it. "35 years," he told me. "In some ways, it feels like it was a lifetime. In so many others, it was a blink of the eye."
Then he was gone. He succumbed to cancer two years later. I was shocked, I didn't know he had been sick. I had so many times thought about reaching out to him, but it was one of those things I just never got around to. And now I never would. Even his Wabash memorial happened when I was out of town. I felt (and feel) like I totally missed out on getting closure. Which is completely selfish of me, I know. I was just another student to him, no doubt. I am sure he was the sort of teacher that would have taken the time out for any of his students and provided the encouragement he provided me. But it's true. I have thought about Dr. Campbell quite a bit since he passed away, and it gets frustrating to me. I just want so badly to let him know, "I'm okay now. I did it. I'm married. I'm in a job I like with a school I like and people I like. I have a wonderful daughter. I've written books. I did it. Thank you for believing in me."
It won't go anywhere, though. All I have left is that solitary, brief email from him. And I'll be damned if it's going anywhere.
With apologies to Mr. Vonnegut, this is probably an example of writing going up its own asshole. It happens sometimes.
I try not to write these things too often. I know of a few writers* who seem to do nothing but post about all the different struggles and "writerly" thoughts they have and soliciting advice for their work that seems to have more to do with "Hey, look, I'm a writer!" than getting any sort of real advice. And God damn does that get annoying. So while I may do some more navel-gazing in this resurrected blog, I am going to try to avoid doing this very often.
*One in particular, but that person shall go nameless here. It's not really the point.
I find that whole enterprise kind of distasteful, which is maybe why I'm not a financially successful author. It seems that posting non-stop about just how much of a writer you are is like a couple on Facebook constantly posting about how much in love they are and how great their spouses are and all that. It's fine if it's every now and then. When it becomes a daily thing, you can pretty well assume that relationship is thoroughly on the rocks. It's the same thing with writing. The more you shout from the rooftops that you are a writer, the more dreadful your prose is more than likely. I understand that self-promotion is part of the game. But at some point you're just looking for people to recognize that you are a great and powerful writer.
And guess what? There are only a very select few people who you should ever be in awe of as a writer. And that very select few is going to vary so wildly from person to person. But if the best place you have to talk about your writerly ways is your Facebook profile, you probably don't qualify for anybody's handful. And that's fine. Writing, in and of itself, is nothing special. Anybody can be a writer. We all have the ability to tell stories, and that's all writing fiction really is. Just writing your story down. It just takes time and dedication. Everything else is just noise. Let's not make it into some holy enterprise.* Just because you can jot down some prose does not make you particularly special.
*Unless you are writing a Bible or something, I guess, but you probably aren't adding anything new at that point.
From what I can gather from other writers,* the best writing doesn't come from searching for attention anyway. The best art comes from reaching an audience of one. Whether that audience is somebody external or for yourself, focusing in on one individual and writing for that person makes the work more personal, more relatable, and just overall stronger.
*And much more successful writers, I might add.
So, yes, it is annoying to see all this. But I get it. I was a new writer once, too. I hopefully was never that bad, but I get the impulse. It's intoxicating at first when you realize what you can do. But then you eventually come to realize that you don't need the whole world urging you on. The stories will just come from you, and it gets to the point where it just doesn't matter if another living soul ever sees them. You just have to get them out.
I think I've reached that point. I try pretty hard not to post much about my own writing. I share my blog posts, mostly so anybody who is interested knows one has been written. I post my wordcounts in November mostly to keep myself accountable, but I think I'm done with that, too.* Beyond that, I usually post once about a book being done, and that's about it. I don't push it more than that. It's about half-and-half crippling self-doubt and wanting to avoid annoying people. Maybe I'm just annoyed that others apparently don't have the same hang-ups I do.
*As a side note, I might be done with NaNoWriMo as a whole. Not because I don't believe in the program any more. Not at all. Still a huge fan. But I don't feel like I need the crutch any more. Maybe I'll learn I do, I don't know. But I think I would take more pleasure in trying to mentor a new writer through it at this point than doing it myself.
So that covers the things around writing, but what about writing itself? Well, here's what I've discovered about myself. I am a good writer. Maybe even a very good writer. I have ideas for days and I can churn out text. That's no issue. Right now, I've got ideas for two different fantasy books* and a story similar to The Big Chill.** That part is fine. The problem is I'm not a very good editor. It's not that I would necessarily even call myself a bad editor. Just an disinterested one. It's like pulling teeth to me. Why go over all the stuff I'd already written when I have to many new, cool ideas I could be writing?
*Which would likely both turn into series.
**I've never watched The Big Chill. I only know three things, and learned them in this order: 1. It has a killer soundtrack (thanks to my parents for having that tape growing up). 2. It's about a suicide bringing friends back together. 3. The dead guy is Kevin Costner. That's it, and that's all I want to know until after I get around to writing that book.
It's important, and I know that. I need to do some editing so I can get the sci-fi series I just wrote into a hardcover anthology edition. But it's just not my thing. I'd rather be creating. Because that's where the rush comes, from building something new. The same way it is in any art, I would assume. But I will tell you this, when I do get this anthology released, I promise you I won't inundate you with it here or on social media. I'll let you know, but there's no reason to beat you over the head with it.
Besides, it's like 700 pages worth of full-size pages. That would hurt!
The other night, I had a pretty vivid dream that I was back playing high school baseball. In the dream, things apparently worked a little differently than in real life.* We were in the for-sure final game of the season, but it wasn't a championship game or anything. Just like if you won your last game and didn't go to the playoffs, which isn't how things work. In Indiana, at least.
*You're so surprised, I'm sure.
I digress. In the dream, I was playing second base, and I was a senior. I also managed to badly bungle two easy pop-ups and got pulled from the game. My errors caused us to fall way behind, but the rest of the team managed to come back and eventually pull out the win. Everybody was ecstatic. Except for me. I was busy sulking on the bench with a thousand-yard stare. Towards the end of the game when it was becoming pretty clear we were going to pull this thing out after all, the coach* came over to gently berate me for not celebrating in the team's success. I didn't accept it. "Yeah, they're all happy, and I get it. But it doesn't matter for me. It's all over for me. And maybe this team gets to go out as a winner, but I don't. I get to spend the rest of my life knowing that my baseball career is going to end on those awful plays." And the whole thing ended up with everybody in tears.
*And, yes, it was the same coach from real life. Some things carried over.
So not that different from how high school baseball went for me in real life, right? Sort of. Senior year was hard for me. I didn't play nearly as much as I thought I should have, and I did take it pretty hard. Harder than I should have, but hey, I was a teenager. This is back when I was young, skinny, and a little bit attractive. The actual end I remember pretty clearly.
It was sectionals at Riverton Parke. The game story is actually still on the web. It even specifically indicates that it ended my career, for some reason.* In any case, that game started out close and then got away from us, which is probably why I got to go play second to finish the game. That part I don't remember quite as clearly. But I do remember the very end. I was playing second base, two outs, bottom of the sixth. We were unlikely to come back from eight runs as it was, but it was especially unlikely with the way we had been hitting. I wasn't due up anytime soon. I took a moment before the next batter to really look around the field, off into the stands, off into the woods behind the left field fence. I had flirted with trying to play in college, but my disastrous senior year pretty well put an end to that.** No, this would be it.
*It also included my classmates Matt and Ryan, to be fair. But it still seemed a little odd to call us out by name.
**That said, when I was at Wabash, I was fixing a computer for Coach Stevens (who was an assistant when I was a prospective student) remembered my name and said I really should have come out for the team. I'm happy with how my college career went without baseball, I wouldn't necessarily change anything about that if I had the chance. But that was nice to hear.
I got down into a fielding stance, and sure enough, the hitter popped the ball up into very shallow right field. I drifted back and put my arms straight out, parallel to the ground. That was my only action to indicate I had the ball, it was hit almost right to me. I didn't feel like I needed to verbally call for it. I'm not entirely sure I could have properly called for it anyway. As I held my arms out and waited for the ball to come down, the thought crossed my mind again. "This is the last competitive thing you will ever do on a baseball diamond. Soak it up." I put my glove up, together with my bare hand. If this was the last thing I was going to do, I was going to do it text book. The ball fell softly into my glove, and I safely squeezed it into the leather, keeping the seal tight with my bare hand.
"So that's it," I thought as I jogged back to the dugout. "It's over." Three outs later, of which I was in the dugout as predicted, it was. My baseball career was done, and so was my high school career. The academic part had been over for a bit, the baseball season ran longer than school. A couple weeks later, I'd find myself in the bumper factory sanding parts and hanging them up to be painted for a summer job. I cried after the first night, and I really couldn't articulate why. I still don't know if I could. I guess I was just sad that I wasn't a kid any more.
The summer passed. I had to stop working at the factories to get my foot operated on. I had a bone spur removed, I didn't get myself hurt or anything. Then the summer ended, and I got to start life as a college kid.
Things get better.