Outside the Foul Lines - Book IV

by Rick Beck

Chapter 7

Andy's Love

Never put the Burger King bun or the lettuce, onion, and tomato in the microwave with the burger. The ideal way to reheat a Whopper, put the meat on a paper towel, heat it, and then put it back between the healthy part of the meal. Andy wasn't that patient and so his lettuce wilted, his tomato ran, and the bun toughened up.

He told me they just ate them cold in Lincoln. Having gotten change for cold cola was the best idea. I really didn't notice the taste of the Whopper reheated. I was way too busy watching Andy. I marveled at how he'd physically matured. I got lost in the feel of his body especially when it was next to mine. I kept it next to mine a lot.

With only a couple more days of practice, I laid out of class rather than risk Andy getting away. I was ahead in my reading and none of it was very challenging. Missing a few classes wasn't going to impact my grades. It wasn't the smart thing to do, but after being away from Andy for so long, I couldn't pull myself out of his arms.

We stayed in bed until noon and went to get some pizza before practice. We took care of all our business and still had time to spare. We showed up at practice together and no one was surprised. Jeff kept smiling at me like he knew a secret and it tickled him. I didn't smile back and I didn't practice. This was it. There was no intensity. We had no more games until March and it was time to store all the equipment and wrap things up. We set up the indoor exercise schedules.

Before the pitching machine was put away, Andy, Tom, and Kevin worked out their bats. While Andy and Tom were mature hitters, Kevin still struggled. He moved around in the batter's box and wasn't comfortable with his swing. Both Andy and Tom encouraged him but didn't offer any new instructions. They'd shared what they knew would help and it was up to Kevin to find his comfort zone.

We had the motel room until just before Christmas. Andy was going home with me to spend the holidays. When it was time for me to return to school, he'd go home, until it was time for him to report for spring training. Being in the starting lineup made him confident. This would be his breakout year. He'd put up the numbers, hit for a nice average, and catch the eyes of the big boys.

He understood the most direct way to the majors was with his bat. He'd need a good number of homers and a lot of runs-batted-in. The bigger the homers the more attention the scouts would pay to him. It was only a matter of time if he stayed on schedule.

"This bozo you were in love with before me, you still see him?"

"Every once in a while at home. Statesville isn't that big a place and we live a few houses away from each other."

"Well, if I see him, I'm going to punch him in the nose," Andy swore to me.

"You will not. He doesn't even know I'm alive. It's been since junior high school. Besides, I'd never have taken up baseball if it wasn't for him. We'd never have met."

"Okay, I'll thank him first. Then, I'll punch him in the nose."

"You will not."

"I can't stand he hurt you. What's his fucking problem? He treated you like you were a piece of meat," Andy complained. "He needs a good talking to."

"You've only heard my side of it," I said.

"You think I want to hear anything he has to say? I'll be jealous. That's a good reason to hit him."

"Andy, I don't want you touching him."

"I won't touch him. I'll hit him. I don't want you touching him."

"There are better ways for us to spend our time," I reminded him.

"Yes, I know that, but we can't stay in bed all the time."

"We can't? I was hoping we could. My life is so much better when I'm in bed with you."

"Well, maybe we can. We've done a good job so far. It's great not having to go into the dorm and make nice with all the clowns on our floor," Andy said.

"We had a good floor. Kane was the only real asshole," I remembered.

"Where'd he go?" Andy asked.


"Chance was burning up his league with his bat. He'll go up next year."

"You think so?" I asked.

"He'll start the season where he is but before September, he'll be in the Bigs. Damn his talented ass. He's the full package and there aren't that many out there who can do everything well at every level."

"Nice Guy. I miss him," I said. "Jeff's good but I won't be around to see him become anywhere close to being as good as Chance."

"I'll hit him when I see him too. You aren't allowed to miss anyone but me," he said, turning to look at my face.

"Damn, I love you, Andy. You're my entire life."

"Baseball?" he quizzed.

"I don't care anymore. I can't hit. I'm going to be on the bench by mid-season. I can't play and not contribute something to the team," I informed him sadly.

"You've got the best glove in the league. You'll find your bat."

"I know exactly where my bat is. It's on my shoulder and I can't get the fucking thing around," I explained.

"You will, babe. I know you and I know you'll beat it in the end. You're too smart to let fear rule you. You've got to step up there and focus on hitting the next pitch, and then you hit it."

"You sound like Coach Martin."

"You know where Coach Bell went?" Andy asked.

"Nothing. He might have to sit out a season to get the controversy behind him. He's a damn good coach. I thought I'd hear from him. We were close. I thought we were," I said.

"I'll hit him too," Andy said, sounding silly.

"You aren't going to hit anyone," I informed him.

"Yes, sir. Whatever you say, my love. How in the hell can two guys fall in love with each other? I never thought a lot about girls, but I thought even less about guys. Now I'm in love with one. It's not how I saw my life going."

"As long as it's me, I don't care how it works."

"It is you, Do. I can't imagine ever feeling this way about anyone else. I've never felt this way before."

"Good, I won't have to hit you then," I said, smiling as he touched my arm and looked into my eyes as we walked around the exercise track out beyond the left field stands.

Making love after not making love is about the best thing there is. Having a man like Andy in my bed meant instant reaction. Even when he slept, if I was awake and horny, all I need to do was reach around and get a grip on him, and it was instant erection. At times he wouldn't be awake when he turned in the bed to give me any access I wanted.

There was nothing bashful about him and he excited me in a way that made me as happy as I'd ever been. This was where I belonged. He was who I wanted to be with, and I saw no sign he saw it any different from me. As uncertain as our lives were at the moment, I was certain about that.

On the final day of practice we were wrapping things up and Andy was taking his final swings of the year. I was done with my business and I stopped to admire my man as the pitching machine belched up a pitch. Andy was waiting for it and he nailed it, getting the fat part of the bat on the ball. It made an unmistakable sound as the ball leaped off his bat.

Andy leaned on the bat and watched the ball sail out over the scoreboard in straightaway centerfield. It cleared the scoreboard at 380 feet and was still rising.

Crosby came over to shake Andy's hand. They chatted about the awesome hit. When I sent a runner out to retrieve the ball, he came back empty handed. Andy and Tom came over to see where the ball landed.

"I don't know where it went. It might be out in the parking lot under one of those cars," he thought.

"That's five hundred feet away," Tom bragged. "Man oh man, that's a big league hit."

"It was only a pitching machine pitch," Andy explained.

"Five hundred feet is five hundred feet no matter where the pitch came from."

It was a great hit. Andy was a hit at State. He was bigger, stronger, more confident and self-assured. He seemed like he belonged there with us, although he'd only been gone a few months. Most of the guys on the first team didn't know him all that well, but they liked him.

The months he'd been gone only seemed like next to forever to me, because I missed him so much while he was gone. It's odd how much slower time moves when you are separated from the one you want to be with.

Now that we were back together time moved swiftly, too fast for my taste. I had so much to say to him I couldn't wait to be back in the privacy of the motel room. I wondered who might notice how we looked at each other, walked together, and sat as close as possible. Did people pay attention to how other people related to one another in public?

I was glad when baseball was suddenly a secondary consideration. We were on our own to keep in shape, and that included times during the week when we could meet with other members of the team to exercise, but this would be optional until after the holidays, when a mandatory exercise schedule would be posted.

With Andy came my exercise. It was my sleep that suffered. It wasn't that I couldn't sleep. It was more fun not sleeping so I could make sure I wasn't just dreaming Andy and I were together. Even after being together for most of a week, the first thing I did whenever I woke up was to reach to make sure he was really there in bed with me.

Having the motel room was like setting up house keeping. I could even cook up Mac & Cheese, add burger onion, and items that bulked it up in the microwave. Burger King was our favorite and the Whopper came with veggies, but neither of us wanted to eat a half a pound or more of hamburger every day.

There was a soup and salad restaurant across the street, but Andy wasn't wild about soup and there wasn't enough salad to quell his appetite, which meant Doritos, Cheese Puffs, Twinkies, Ruffles, and anything that comes in a bag and can be eaten while you walk to and from restaurants.

I wasn't a cook and thus I began to see that one of us was going to need to learn. We couldn't afford junk food all the time, and even if we could, we couldn't afford the medical bills that would come of it later. I reminded myself to get some tips from my mother. Thanksgiving was coming and she'd spend about half her time cooking for us.

Andy needed to consider his diet in keeping with his profession. He burned food faster than he could eat it at twenty-two, but as he grew older the quality of what he ate would be important in keeping in shape and keeping at a healthy playing weight.

These were the things you thought about when your future was in baseball. I thought about it as part of Andy's quest in baseball. He knew what he needed and he was doing better than he'd ever done, but he needed to be more conscientious about diet and exercise.

School was a pain in the ass for the first time in my college years. I felt guilty for laying out of class while knowing I could pass without going. This went against my belief that you got out of something what you put into it. What I put into Andy was the real deal but I began to break away from my lover in time to catch at least part of my first class of the day. Luckily I hadn't scheduled anything before nine in the morning, so if I worked it right, we'd get a round or two in before I jumped in the shower and raced up the hill to make it to class.

By mid-November everything was worked into a routine that had us spending the maximum amount of time together. I couldn't wait until Thanksgiving, when I'd be home in my own bed and eating my mother's cooking. Andy talked about it all the time and it was obvious that next to making love, eating was right up there with baseball.

The weather had turned brisk and the usual warmish November days became cold. By the time my parents picked us up for the five days over Thanksgiving, I had almost all my clothes in the motel room. My mother smiled when I spent time loading up the trunk. Dad and Andy talked baseball as they waited for me to finish.

I was fortunate to have the family I had. They wanted me to be happy and there was nothing they wouldn't do to make certain I was. Andy was the second son they never had but wanted.

This made my life that much more important to them. We weren't affluent or strategically placed in our community. What we were was happy and I was at the center of their lives, and by proxy, Andy was there as well. He had become an important member of the family. At times I wondered if dad knew which one of us was his natural son.

On that first afternoon we spent the entire time in the living room, eating my mother's specialty delights as we talked, joked, and nibbled. I'd forgotten how much I loved being home. I'd had a wonderful life and had wonderful parents. My wonderful lover made the picture perfect.

Dad joked that there were three small appliances on the back porch, waiting for me. The neighbors sensing it was time for me to appear would ask dad to ask me to see what I could do. It was what made me envision having a small appliance repair business. I could work out of the garage until Andy and I could set up housekeeping near where he played ball, and if at times it wasn't feasible living near him, I'd come home to live, work, and save money.

Besides the appliances there was already an offer from Bartlett Roofing for me to take a supervisory position for the next summer. At the mention of Barlett's name my nose filled with the acrid smell of roofing material and my lower legs burned in memory of all the tar that had cooked itself into my flesh last summer.

I laughed and told my dad that there was no way I'd go through that kind of misery again. I was about to become a college graduate and doing that kind of labor was no longer in my game plan. I was quite adamant and left no doubt in dad's mind how serious I was, until he told me what the job paid. It left me speechless as there was no job I was going to get as a recent college graduate that would pay me anything close to that amount.

Mr. Bartlett was a huge baseball fan who followed us all once we left Statesville. He'd hired Bobby Henry his first summer in college for about three hours one day. Bobby had protested that he wasn't submitting his well toned body to such abuse. I wasn't nearly as good as Bobby and so roofing was something I could do, when I thought I needed to pay for my room and board.

My life never seemed to run smoothly for long. Being with Andy made everything else irrelevant but having too much to decide once school was done was bad for me. I knew I'd need to compare notes with Andy before making any decision but he wanted me to do what I wanted to do, as long as I did it with him whenever possible.

As I stared down my final few months of school, my life was about to change more than it had ever changed before. I had been going to school for what seemed like forever and I was about to finish, whatever that meant. My life would need to be directed to make the most of it.

I wasn't a great believer in education ending if you had any serious consciousness. We were constantly learning, processing, and developing strategies to keep life healthy and non-toxic. If you simply went with the flow you weren't maximizing your potential. That was a sure recipe for an unfulfilled life.

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