Rust - Father's Day, 2016

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Description: The Rust family celebrates Father's Day.

Last month was the hottest on record for the entirety of planet Earth. Sunday, June 19th, 2016... was still getting a few jabs in against the soft underbelly of an ecosystem whose inhabitants may yet come to grips with what follows, out somewhere in the countryside of Oregon, territory of the United States.

Under the sun that seems to shine ever brighter, many toil, many thrive, many struggle... but the vast majority, under the strictest definition of the word, exist as they have been. A large grassy field, surrounded by dirt pathways in the shape of a diamond, plays host to two distinct factions of humanity separated largely by uniform colour.

Their witnesses are not many in number, unless the seats themselves have eyes. An uneven array of mismatched benches and folding chairs in various states of disrepair all but set the outer boundaries of the ongoing ceremonies, barring poorly-maintained walls. Only the chain-link fence behind the bottom of the diamond-shaped field boasts the luxury of recent maintenance, and even then perhaps under protest.

An aging man of strange hair, one foot having disappeared underneath layers upon layers of bandaging, rests said leg before an unoccupied bench seat. A very young girl rests upon his lap, though it would seem she would soon be too large to enjoy the luxury. To either side, a young Thai teenager whom holds a half-capacity water bottle, and a somewhat younger boy of descent more readily linked to the daughter-holding adult among them who is nursing a french fry like someone might smoke a cigarette.

%"Which team are we rooting for?" Asks the boy with the fry.

"Whichever you'd like!" Replies the adult of the equation.

"Father," asks the Thai teenager, whom shifts their weight uncomfortably as they pull part of their shorts over a small patch of rust, "couldn't we watch this at home on television?"

"Aw, why would you?" The father in question laughs. "I only watch one game of baseball a year! We got to watch it in person."

"Hold still!" The girl cries, as a bat-wielding member of the more brightly-coloured team finds themselves beaned in the hip by a small, white ball with red stitching.

The father cringes... and laughs. "Oh, that hurts, Natalie. Nobody'd stay still like that with."

"Maybe they do it on purpose," says the one with the fry, "it's not like they can hit back. Right?"

"Yyyy... yep." The father rubs the back of his head with his right hand. "They... they don't really mean to do that. You kids know that already! It's not your first game, eh?"

Like clockwork, one moves forward, another comes up. Names are spoken - none of which stick as anything memorable beyond three seconds of hearing those names spoken.

%"When will mother be here?" Asks the Thai teenager, whom sinks in his seat ever slightly when the ball rattles the cage that protects them from such intrusions of high-speed spherical objects against the country of gawkers, hangers-on, and very bored people.

"Things aren't great at work lately," the father says, with maybe a little too much good cheer, "she'll meet us at dinner after the gam--"

Suddenly, his eyes widen as he puts Natalie down gently. The other two kids hardly react as their father lifts up the bandaged foot and starts to hop chaotically across what charitably passes for stands.

There is a single-man chorus of 'sorry,' 'excuse me,' and all sorts of other polite niceties as the odd display of hopping crosses past, through, over, and (somehow, by means incapable of being conveyed by written word or even regular human logic itself) under some of the other spectators as their gaze turns ever skyward.

"Father!" The Thai boy stands. The boy opposite of him crosses an arm over the seated daughter on his shoulder.

"He does this every time."

With fierce determination - and the application of a hand gesture that while not rude, is nonetheless odd enough to note existence as a curiosity - there is a single, great, horizontal leap past four sets of seats and at least two surprised families as a flash of white lands within a gloved palm.

The seating just beyond surprised family #2, in turn, catches a souvenir in an overweight middle-aged man. Cheap fold-out seats buckle, clatter, scatter, and earn a few bewildered chuckles in the name of pure schadenfreude.

"Every time." The younger boy reassures. "Bottom of the third. Kind of like a program," he says as he removes the fry to get out some specks of pepper with a light touch of a finger, "or a cue card, or some deep-seated survival instinct."

It almost seems a disappointment that a man already clearly wounded helps himself up and ambles along back towards his children. The teenager doesn't seem that much more relieved.

"One for dad!" He calls out, grinning one of his dumber grins when he gets back within earshot of the three of them. It stands out more as it is probably the only grin among those who grace the seats this day over in his direction.

"Have another!" Yells Natalie, as if forcefully - a demand.

"Just one's all right," the father says as he comes to pick up the girl, sitting back down at his seat, "got lots from the last few years. One thing I never slack off on with Father's Day."

"Why do you do that, father?" Asks the teenaged boy. "You're already hurt from that woman and the one with the sword..."

"Ahh. I know what I'm doing, Jao," so says a man whose activities would have probably gotten him thrown right out of fancier venues right then and there as he holds the baseball up for the rest to view, "it's one for dad."

"Are we doing third person narration again?" Asks the younger of the two boys, pushing a mushy stub of a fry against the carton that holds the rest of them as he puts a fresh one in his mouth.

"It's for my dad, Trevor. Another one for dad!" So says the dad. "I told last year and the year before in."

Natalie takes the ball and starts to curl her fingernails into the stitching.

"He loves baseball," the dad in question continues as he gently tries to take the ball back. Natalie puts up quite the fight for someone who can't be older than five or six versus someone in their mid-forties.

"...Loved?" Asks Jao, solemnly.

"Nope! Loves." The father laughs. "He hasn't had the biscuit yet."

"He hasn't picked up the other balls either," Trevor says, "like some kind of empty chair memorial you got going."

"Did your father play baseball?" Jao says as he stares into his water bottle, as though in pre-emptive mourning. "Did he stop...?"

"Well... according to him," the father says as he continues to visibly struggle to hold the ball up and away for any number of emotive movements and gestures, as Natalie starts to give a sour face, "he only ever got to play two and a half innings in his life."

"Did... did something happen?" Jao taps against the bottle nervously. "Was he hurt? Did it get... taken away?"

"No, no! Nothing like that," continues to explain dear old dad as he at last appears to give up and allow Natalie hold of the ball and where it goes, with one hand resting upon it. This will probably not last. "Way he'd say it to me at, Jao, he had other things to do."

"Other things...?" Jao does not appear satisfied nor comforted by these answers.

"Sure loved watching baseball. He grew up down sout-- I mean, here. In the United States, that's their hockey," the father continues past the obvious question, "so we'd go with him every year to a game. Me, my mom, my dad, rest of us. He had five kids. You know what we did?

"Did you get banned from stadiums for running around the stands?" Trevor takes a wild educated guess as he softly exhales.

"You bet!" The father laughs, as though this were a fond memory. It may well be. "Every year, all five of us... bottom of the third. The first inning dad never got to play, as he'd tell us with."

Natalie starts to press the ball between her tiny child palms. Evidently this is a gesture worthy of dad turning his head briedly to whisper something.

"So between all of us, on Father's Day, we all go to a baseball game. Doesn't matter where," he continues as he looks back to the lot of them. Come to think of it, if he's been progressively barred from attending multiple venues over the years as-is, it does matter where, "bottom of the third... yep. We get him a ball he never got to play. Between all of us, never missed a year."

The little family history lesson is left to sink in among the lot of them as the game appears to continue on without further immediate incident beyond the inevitable question.

"I'd like to meet him," says Jao, "do you ever see him, father?"

"It's been years," says the father, saying these words with a curious absence of pause, void of despair, dripping with a certain optimism that defies what such a statement implies. "He used to take us to all sorts of baseball games. I don't mean the ones we're seeing right now. I mean..."

Jao grows uneasy.

"...Well, I'll show you guys another year!" The father laughs. "Once you see 'em, it'd be hard to go back to watch this--"

Natalie, at long last, rips the ball clean from her father's hands and hurls it with all the strength a girl her age can muster. It passes muster by a few standards not thought to be able to be set for one her age, maybe going by the trend of the most inconvenient path it can take - boucning across a few seats, rolling over a dugout, and then further down into the green it can disappear.

"Aw, Natalie! That's my dad's ball," his heart visibly sinks as he staggers to a pained stumble. It is now that he remembers his foot truly is an obstacle to matters of chasing things down distant, steep hills. "Ahh... I... I'd better call my brother, make sure he's got it in--"

The ball rolls out of earshot. Balls don't have ears, but for whatever sensory perception one might give to anthropmorphize it as it escapes into a world of untamed green, of remote colours of humble plant life that stand out among the grasses. It is in the company of other discards of a world that would subjugate its surroundings into rock, metal, and glass if given even a quarter of a chance.

Its path proves difficult to follow, as an otherwise insignificant man-made sphere decorated in white and red continues its path. As a rolling object, it is not defined by uncertainty nor carelessness - it simply is, it simply does, it simply happens.

In the third of these simple statements, it comes to a rest against an ankle that fails to cast a shadow. Even the human hand that follows exerts a certain stillness in its motion. A gentleness in its character, as wrinkled fingers clasp around the little ball that has strayed far from its game into something... greater? Lesser?

It is raised ever higher as if to be given a better view of its surroundings, arguably less confirmation on the part of whoever or whatever now holds it above towards a landscape that seems endless in its wonders for being familiar. Mundane. Ordinary. No value could ever be afforded to its single elements, but as a whole... a relationship and understanding seems to build between a baseball, the hand that holds it...

A corner of a mouth cut across deeply aged flesh takes a small upward turn. Another hand reaches up to adjust an unnatural - even abhorrent - shape upon what can be assumed to be a human head. The ball is lowered, and the eyes of the being that beholds it gazes upon the distant sight of a human body dressed in bright colours leaping up against a fence to halt a potential tiny spherical trespasser. They seem none the wiser to what lies beyond that fence, to the distant observer.

The holder of the stray ball murmurs - or is it stutters? - something inaudible, looks upward, and then turns away as their feet carries them forward to whatever field of what mysterious game they may yet be a part of, their souvenir of an event just beyond them having since disappeared inside a pocket.

Log created on 20:56:47 06/19/2016 by Rust, and last modified on 20:58:25 06/19/2016.