by Terry Rainey
Monday, September 3, 1944, New York, hot, muggy (91 degrees in the shade!). Yankee Stadium, the Bronx, war bonds signs, the dazzling scoreboard, the large green expanse of the playing field. Green, a deeper green than any place she’d seen in Nova Scotia. An electric green, with a hint of dark power to it, a sensual, dazzling overload.
Her life had been Canada, poor but putting a good face on, her father‘s passing in 1934 hardening the family, relegating them to vocations given over to suffering and sacrifice. But she had been the lucky one, the reader, the smiler, the perpetual optimist, despite life’s daily crushing reminders of cold, of small deprivations, more Lent than Christmas.
But, amidst daily prayers for a brighter life, she had caught the eye of an American soldier, stationed, in of all places, Halifax. A chance meeting at a bus stop, he looking sharp in his uniform, she modest but still a bit of flirt in her friendly. Just less than a year of courtship, what with the war going on and then marriage, and her sudden dance to the United States, and the honeymoon in New York.
And here she was, Yankee Stadium. There’d been no baseball in her life; her only frame of reference was hockey. The hockey rink, its coziness, focused light and heat, animated her, warmed her. This large field felt like America, wide open spaces, rolling lawns, expansive estates. Her Canada spirit felt constricted, limited, as she witnessed the garishness of New York, the loudness, the cursing just too audible, the low murmur of the crowd a bit unsettling.
The game itself, versus the Indians, was a complete mystery. There seemed no rhyme or reason to why the two teams switched sides every so often. She’d expected that the Yankees would be American through and through and that the Indians somehow represented the tribes. It didn’t seem so from their appearance, as far away as they were. The stadium and the game itself, to her eyes, seemed so American, with its bellowing, its raucousness, its enormity.
Her musings on America gave way to a bit of a headache. She mentioned it to him a few times, to no discernible effect. He explained the nuances of the game, forgetting that she didn’t have even an idea of the whole spectacle. The heat seemed to worsen as the crowd pulsed to the rhythm of the game, and stifled her initial thrill. Her clothes clung wetly to her body, a body she was just now discovering.
Thoughts drifting back to the hotel room in Midtown, she asked a few questions, trying to avoid the ones he would think stupid. She figured out innings. Nine. Outs. Three per half inning. 27 outs per team. 27 she could count. 27, the end of heat, a release back to the streets of the city, the lights of Broadway, and the dresses in the windows.
Her spirits rose after the Indians’ 27th out, as the crowd rose and stretched in congratulations and good cheer in the aisles. But he remained, rooted in the seat, his eyes on the emptying field. She pulled playfully on his arm, “Time to go!”
He calmly and looked up at her. “Sweetie… It’s a doubleheader.”
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Terry Rainey had lived his entire life in the Washington, DC, area, until 2016, when he moved to Clinton, New York. In D.C., he worked in the U.S. Senate for five years and then had a 25-year career in trade association management. For the past ten years, he taught high school English and Creative Writing in Alexandria, Virginia. His literary influences are many and include Raymond Carver, Herbert Warren Wind, Mary Oliver, Billy Collins, Sharon Olds, and David Sedaris. Terry had a monthly column in Alexandria, Sunny Side Up. He now writes a weekly humor piece for the Waterville Times. He loves upstate New York, especially his writer friends in the Whitesboro Writers Group.