“Why is that funny? I played Little League ball once,” said Brian, looking up from the newspaper he always read at breakfast. From his right, sunlight slid past the window shade, slanting across the table to the edge of his coffee cup.
“Once,” repeated Joni, her voice flat. With the tips of her fingers, she dropped two pieces of hot toast on a plate. She flapped her fingers, then blew on them. “You just played once?” she said, smirking.
“Of course I didn’t play just once,” said Brian. “It’s an expression. You know what I meant. I played in Little League for two years.”
“And that qualifies you to be a coach?”
“For eight-year-olds? Yeah.”
“I didn’t know they played baseball in Alaska,” she said, sliding the plate with the toast onto the table. “What did they use, snow balls?”
“Don’t be silly. Baseball isn’t played in winter. We played at Abbott-O-Rabbit,” he said, folding the newspaper into fourths and setting it down with half the sports page in view. He reached for a piece of toast, then the raspberry preserves.
“Abbott-O-Rabbit. That’s the ball field in South Anchorage where I grew up. I learned a lot there. They were great coaches.”
With one hand, Joni pulled her light blue robe across her chest. With the other, she raised a coffee cup to her lips, then held it there before drinking. “If you want to coach so bad, why don’t you play with Danny here at home? You don’t even play catch with him. He has to go in the backyard by himself and throw against the side of the garage. I watch him…”
“What’s the big deal?” he said, snatching up the paper, ready to move on. “I just want to coach my son’s Little League team. Why’s that a problem?”
She drank, watching him over the rim of the cup.
“It’s not a problem. It’s just curious. You, all of a sudden feeling so generous with your time, when you’ve never had ten minutes to give him before. You trying out for sainthood or something?”
“Sainthood? I’ll tell you what qualifies me for sainthood. Watching the damn Pirates lose for 20 straight years. That’s what.”
“Pirates? What pirates are you talking about?”
“The Pittsburgh Pirates. You know, the… Aw, forget it,” he said. “If you don’t know who the Pirates are…”
She scowled at him.
He rose, tossing down the newspaper.
“Can I have cereal?” said a small voice from the doorway.
“Danny,” she said, turning. “I thought you were sleeping late this morning.”
“I’m hungry,” said Danny. He was wearing white pajamas with a baseball-and-bat pattern. His brown hair was tousled, his feet bare.
“Sit down,” she said, motioning toward a chair. “Rice Krispies coming up.”
“Hi, Sport,” said Brian. “The Little League draft’s this afternoon. You excited?”
Danny shrugged. “I want to play mini-golf with Bobby,” he said.
“Mini-golf? But they’re picking Little League teams this afternoon. You want to play baseball, right?”
“I don’t want to.”
“You said you wanted to play this year,” said Brian. “I’m not taking you to play mini-golf.”
Joni stood with her back to them pouring milk into the cereal bowl. “Did Bobby’s parents ask you?”
“But I’m going to coach,” said Brian, sitting back down and staring directly at Danny as she put the cereal in front of him.
“I’ll call Janet to find out when they’re going,” said Joni, giving Danny a smile. “Maybe I’ll go too.”
Brian shook his head. “Janet’s not going, she’s…”
Joni turned to look at him.
“She said she was… that she was going to help with the team.”
“Janet?” said Joni. “Why would she…”
“Bobby said his dad was taking us to get ice cream too,” said Danny, lifting a spoon dripping with milk and cereal.
“And Janet?” said Joni, moving over to stand in front of the window. She stared at Brian. “What’s Janet going to do in Little League?”
“Well,” said Brian, getting to his feet and heading toward the door. “She’s a big help.”
“They teach you about that in Abbott-O-Rabbit too?” she said.
Bob Kallkreuter is living hislife backwards. After spending 30 years as a banker, he decided to quit and do something useful. Forty of his stories have been accepted by magazines such as Underground Voices, Bartleby Snopes, Edgepiece, Writes For All, The Stone Hobo, Eunoia Review, Alfie Dog, Solecisms, The Rusty Nail, and eFiction. Two of his stories have been nominated for Pushcart Prizes. One story was awarded the Herman Swafford Prize from Potpourri Magazine. Kallkreuter has two sons and currently lives in northeast Georgia with three freeloading cats.