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Houdini at Bat

“I could do things like tap the dirt off my cleats with the bat and swing back and forth like they taught us. Twist the neck and squint, spit. Stepping up to the plate, though I’d look forward to where the ball was to come from, the pitcher, and all I’d see was an etching of the third base and the guys around it, and rainbow of sky that spread from them and up and arched over the infield, stroked across the top of my head and resting nicely in the stands to the right, where most of my fouls usually ended.

I’d turn and rest the darkness onto the first basemen, the pitcher now coming into view. They’d shout ‘look forward at the mound,’ my parents and others.

Their idea of rehabilitation was pretending nothing was wrong and just trying to do everything like everyone did it, the right way they’d say, looking ahead and hoping that when the clatter of the stands cooled and the catcher stopped fidgeting and the third baseman wasn’t calling for the ball if there were a man on base and running, which, ironically was like the best case scenario for me, that when the ball came flying in that I could at least, at the very least, swing within a microsecond of the ball passing me by. That I would hear it.

When they yelled swing earlier swing earlier I would think of myself as a magician that could tell when the bullet was coming long before it came and I would know when to bite and when the crowd gasped at the shot and the sight of me still standing I would turn to them.

I would bow.

Tense and glued they’d look with amazement as I spat the projectile from my mouth into my hands, holding it high to the crying women and beaming men. I was eight, nine. Summer before fourth grade, so ya, nine.

I’m not even sure if I heard the wind racing forward or that’s something I’ve now just pasted into the story and assumed happened after telling so many variants of it, what with the eye patch and all. Rode with it. I mean, I literally had a parrot on my shoulder for all of fifth grade.

I was right-handed, still am, and I was Houdini at the plate. You know Houdini was blind, right? No? Yea, like FDR in a wheelchair, except like how could anyone know, this guy was the greatest magician ever. Ya, his eyes are at Oxford or something.

Well so I was channeling the master, picking handcuff locks underwater, and I absolutely knew that I’d be hitting it over the fence. It was late in the 8th and we were down two, one man on base. I cocked and flexed and ripped the bat forward, cutting every bit of air into two. It must have been after the follow through, but everything after that moment has to be from what people told me.

I mean, what do you expect? The ball fucking pegged me dead in my right eye and I collapsed and everyone circled around as the lid flared and oozed and I probably screamed and by all accounts people could swear they could just hear my eye exploding. Sure I had a heyday with the patch after, I had worn one before trying to straighten out my left eye, ha, and it was like gel before at some point it became really necessary to see.

Maybe it wasn’t that long after. I mean, but fuck, that was my good eye.”

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