Outside the Foul Lines - Book V

by Rick Beck

Chapter 15

Home Sweet Home

Andy was dealing with people in Indianapolis, when he came to Louisville in his new Impala. He came to take me to see what he said was going to be our home. Now, I knew Andy, and I would have really liked seeing it before he committed us to live there for the next few years, and possibly for years to come, if we both stayed in ball.

He called, saying, "I'm on the way," and we were.

Mrs. Olsen cooked a roast beef for dinner the night before, wrapping us a half dozen sandwiches for the excursion. One for me and five for Andy, because he couldn't resist the roast beef that melted in your mouth.

We each kissed a cheek in appreciation for our second mom and we were off on a big adventure. I admit I was apprehensive. Andy was impulsive. The Impala would be his car and that wasn't a surprise. I'd need to have a car of my own, once the next baseball season started, and we went in different directions.

By all admission we were heading for 'the middle of nowhere,' and it sounded isolated. I'd always lived around people, but I understood we wanted to keep a low profile, after seeing the way Evan Lane drew people like flies.

Living out of the reach of most folks would be necessary, once Andy started attracting the kind of attention Lane attracted. Knowing what we needed to do didn't make it easy for me to do it.

"It's a bit rural, Do. It is almost halfway between Louisville and Indianapolis. It was what I asked to see. I figured it may as well have property, but up that way there is nothing but property. This was a small farm, and it's been on the market for about a year. I saw it yesterday and I really think you're going to like it," Andy said. "It has charm."

"Oh, I'm sure I will," I said, knowing we'd spend the off seasons there together.

Then we'd make arrangements to sleep there as often as we were both close enough at the same time to make it possible. Our schedules the following season would dictate that. Indianapolis played in Louisville 6 times a season and Louisville played in Indianapolis 6 times a season, and we'd be together on those nights regardless of where it was.

I was keeping the room at Mrs. Olsen's because I couldn't find a better place, although I'd have to pay for it myself. Mrs. Olsen would have been insulted if I hadn't stayed there during the regular season, but that was all decided before Andy found the place where he said he wanted to live. Knowing it was his career that would pay the bills, I wasn't going to give him a hard time.

"It's quiet, Do. No idiots yelling and chasing each other around my room."

"Just me chasing you," I observed.

"That's hardly the same."

"No, I hope not," I said, holding his hand and smiling as he sat, tall and handsome, behind the wheel of the silver Chevy.

It was good highway all the way to the spot that could qualify as the middle of nowhere. There wasn't a house or a business for miles before he exited the highway, only to drive more miles on the rural road that passed in front of our new home.

The gravel crunched under the tires as we turned into the driveway. It went for a half mile before we came to the house. There were huge Weeping Willow trees shading the car all the way.

The front porch went all the way across the front of the house. The white railing was freshly painted, but the house was no spring chicken, as houses go. There were two floors and the main bedroom looked over the front yard that stretched out until trees interrupted it a few hundred yards away.

The porch had some fresh wooden planks, obvious replacements for not so new boards. The rest of the porch was well aged but solid. A swing faced the expansive front yard. It was a two seater, hanging from the ceiling of the porch with several thick sections of chain.

The wooden floors in the house shined like they'd just been refinished and polished. We spoke of some rugs to protect the main walkways but had no desire to cover such beautiful wood, and we took our shoes off, deciding to keep slippers by the front door for us and any visitors who came.

The stone fireplace dominated the living room and looked well used. The ceilings were high and I wondered about the heating bills in a rural Indiana winter. The windows were also humungous affairs, with yet another nice view of the front yard.

The house looked to be fifty years old. It had been well constructed and the floors were solid, as were the stairs. The back of the house opened up onto another huge yard with more trees, some as big or bigger than the ones lining our driveway. There were two big windows in the kitchen and another smaller one over the sink. Light cascaded in and there was no need to turn on any lights.

The kitchen was filled with closets. One door led downstairs to where a washer and dryer once sat. The floor was concrete and the walls were unfinished. It was very cool in the basement for a relatively warm day. The furnace was old and had been converted from coal to oil at some point, and a huge oil tank sat just outside a door that led us into the backyard. It was nicely disguised with bushes and a trellis covered in growth. Nothing could hide $4.00 a gallon oil.

The backyard was beautiful. The people who had lived there were elderly and were too old to keep up the house. It was simply too much work, but they had made it into a picturesque space before then.

There were ten acres of fields behind the landscaping in the rear of the house. There was a tree line with a brook and manmade pond between the house and the field. It hadn't been farmed in years, but the furrows were still obvious in the earth.. The huge rocks and places to sit indicated the pond was a center of activity. The brook flowed in above the pond, and came out below it. It made a relaxing sound.

"We can swim in there," Andy said, smiling at me.

"Yeah," I said, "It looks inviting."

There was a lot of property and the house was a bit big for two, but I suspected a family with kids lived there for a long time before everyone had grown older and gave it up.

Andy didn't ask many questions, knowing the price was right, when the Indians said they'd co-sign. It was Andy's home until he sold it and then if there was money owed to the club, they had the property as collateral. If the club was confident it was a good buy I wasn't going to argue.

The entire deal went down without me needing to do anything. It was like walking into a dream with the man I loved at my side. It gave us the privacy we desired and closeness to the two ball clubs where our loyalties lie. It was a good balance for what we both needed. The house wasn't quite a two hour drive from Louisville's Slugger field.

I'd always root for Andy to win, except when he played Louisville, and then we'd pretend it was the game and our respective club we liked best. The house represented Andy was on his way and one day I'd leave ball to be with him full time.

We went around to the front of the house and sat on the swing, looking out at the front yard now bathed in bright sunlight. A soft breeze kept it from seeming too warm. It was unseasonably warm for that time of year.

I felt like a kid out on his own for the first time.

"We're moving pretty fast on this house deal," I said.

"You don't like it?"

"No, I love it. I figured I didn't want to appear too easy. You just showed up in Louisville, jobless, a couple of days ago, and now we're buying a house."

"Bought," Andy corrected. "The only thing that can stop it is you saying you hate it. Then we own a house where we won't live."

"I can't say that. I couldn't picture us having a place as nice as this," I said. "I don't suppose I've had a chance to get this far in my mind, and here we are."

"Work on it," he said, kissing me. "Welcome home, Do."

As we embraced for a proper house warming kiss, a beautiful Collie came up on the porch, walked over to the swing and lay down beside us as if he'd done it a million times.

"You didn't buy a dog already?" I asked, looking down at the Collie.

"No, not without you, love."

"You'll buy a house without me but not a dog?"

"The house was on the market and if I didn't say yes when they said yes, it might have gone to someone else. Even the club said it was a bargain. It was the right move at the time."

"You don't have to sell me on it. I love it. You did good. I want an azalea garden right there," I pointed at a place in front of the porch.

"I'll instruct the gardener, sir," he said in the voice of an English butler.

"I'll plant tulips in front of the porch and we'll put in some bushes that bloom in the spring along the driveway. I want to come home to flowers after we're away."

"You are in charge of the flower department. They all look alike to me," he said, more down to earth.

Andy had ordered a bed and a dresser and the people that showed him the farm showed him a thrift store in a nearby town that had almost anything you could want for next to nothing. We picked out an overstuffed couch, two easy chairs, some tables for the living room and night tables for the bedroom. He picked out two oval rugs that looked braided, befitting a rustic setting. The knotty pine dinning table and chairs was perfect for the kitchen, and I bought pots, pans, utensils, and dishes as well.

We carried the stuff we could fit in the back of the Impala and went back to the house, after having a nice lunch in a tiny diner next to the thrift store. The town was about ten miles from the exit to the house, far enough away for privacy and close enough for shopping.

The Collie ran along side the car once we drove into the driveway. He barked as if he was welcoming us back home. He stayed close as we carried stuff into the house, always stopping at the door and waiting on the porch for us.

After taking enough time to set up the nightstands so the delivery men would know where to put the bed, I went down to find Andy sitting in the front seat of the car feeding the dog one of our roast beef sandwiches.

It had to be love for Andy to give up his roast beef.

"He belongs here, Do," Andy said, patting his head as the dog chewed happily.

"A dog belongs anywhere someone will feed him roast beef, Andy."

"He seems like he knows this place. He's hungry."

"Of course he's hungry, love, you're feeding him roast beef. I'm hungry watching him."

"Can we keep him? I'll call him Lassie," Andy said with a smirk.

"He belongs to someone, Andy. He's brushed and he's clean as a whistle. Even if you could keep him, you can't call him Lassie. I think that name is taken."

"We can call him Chance," Andy decided with a big smile.

"Yeah, we could, but he's not our dog, my love. People out here kill over their dogs. It's worse than being a horse thief."

"I guess you're right. If he's still here when we come back tomorrow, can we keep him?" Andy smiled, petting the dog as he licked the roast beef juice off of Andy's hand.

"Andy, he belongs to someone."

"I know, but he likes me."

We were back in Louisville in time for dinner and Andy wanted to go to the Italian place Lane took us to and take Mrs. Olsen. She was always thrilled when we included her, but she was so sweet we didn't think of going out without her.

She insisted on know all about the house and she spent the evening after dinner fixing us the first meal Andy and I would eat in our new home.

I must confess I wasn't looking forward to burning something I saw my mother make a thousand times and only remembered half the recipe. I imagined I'd be sending Andy to the market every few minutes for one more item I didn't have. I figured I'd keep it simple for the first few meals and not get fancy until I figured out what I was doing.

Mrs. Olsen said that she'd teach me some tricks and the easy way to do some of the things I would want to do. She did everything by hand and from scratch, but she told me to buy a food processor and some gadgets to cut down on preparation. She had nothing but time and loved making meals for those of us who loved eating them.

The bed was to be delivered some time in the afternoon and the furniture from the thrift store would come shortly after noon, giving us plenty of time to get our rest and get up there.

It was another very warm day and we drove with the windows down once we turned off the Interstate. The air was fresh and being out of town was a nice change. We would have 5 months of nothing but privacy and the first life that actually belonged to us and there was no one to get in our way, except Chance, who seemed to understand we were moving in. He was lying on the porch next to the swing when we arrived.

"Told you he belongs here," Andy said.

"When we go shopping we'll pick up some dog food. He lives somewhere that they take care of him, so don't get too attached to him, Andy, and don't feed him our dinner."

"I won't," he said, stooping to pet the dog, who licked his hand even without the roast beef juice.

We went up to see if the bed had been delivered and were surprised it had. We rolled around on it to make sure it would hold up in the best of times. The dog barked and ran down the driveway as the thrift store furniture truck arrived. Maybe the dog was a good idea. Maybe we could buy it from whoever owned it?

"It belongs here. I told you. It's a watchdog," Andy bragged, putting on his shoes.

"It's a Collie," I said. "A German Shepard is a watchdog."

"You want to get one of those too? Lassie needs company," Andy said, seeing no obstacles to anything that came to mind.

"Chance, and he's not our dog."

"He belongs here."

We spent the next few hours arranging furniture. I didn't want the couch under the windows and we decided to set it facing the window with one of the round rugs in front of it, with a coffee table we could eat off of in front, and an easy chair on each side.

It only took two hours for us to finally decide on the arrangement we liked. The couch was heavy and even after opening the windows it was warm, and I was sweating. We ended up sitting on the couch, looking out the window, exhausted.

"We could go up and see how strong the springs on the bed are," Andy said, holding my hand.

"I smell. I forgot towels. I forgot soap. I forgot shampoo. We need toothbrushes."

"Come on. We'll go to the store. We've got all the deliveries for today," he said.

"Maybe that pond. I bet that would really cool us off and wash the stink off at the same time. I don't want to go to town smelling," I said.

"A plunge in the pond sounds good to me. We've got all that food Mrs. Olsen made for us in the fridge."

"Yes, we do. We need sheets, pillows, and pillow cases, and a quilt. We need a quilt. Why didn't I think of all tht stuff?"

"We got all the big stuff. We need a list," Andy said and I nodded.

"We don't have any paper or a pencil," I remembered.

We went through the backyard and down the path to the pond.

"We need bathing suits," Andy said, as he looked into the water.

"No we don't. No one wears a suit on a farm. We're going to rough it."

I pulled off my jeans and T-shirt and stripped out of my boxers, stepping into the pond near where the brook fed into it. The water was cool but the water coming into it was warmer, heated by the hot afternoon sun. Andy followed me and we were soon in an embrace, kissing up a storm.

"Oh, you must be the ball players," I heard a woman say.

"Shit" Andy said, shocked, as we casually broke the hold we had on each other.

"I'm Luz and this is Penny. We're from the farm next door. We do organic farming. We just got finished picking spinach to take to town tomorrow. We usually take a dip when it's this warm. Do you mind if we join you?"

"Ah, we don't…. We're not…." Andy stuttered.

Luz yanked off her top and kicked off her jeans, stepping naked into the water. Penny followed her in and for good measure they embraced as they got mostly submerged.

"Don't let us interrupt you," Luz said, smiling as the two women held onto one another. "This is such a lovely spot. Cooling off on a day like this is great."

Andy and I laughed and wondered what the odds were. We all got properly washed off and we invited them to the house.

"Hi, Tommy. I wondered where you got off to," Penny said, petting the Collie as we came up on the front porch.

"Told you," I said to Andy.

"He's yours?" Andy said, disappointed.

"No, the Lancasters couldn't take him. We told them we'd feed him and take care of him, but he keeps coming back home."

"Told you," Andy said to me. "He lived here?"

"He thinks he still does. He'll probably be over here a lot. The Lancasters had him for three or four years. They'd always had Collies for the kids. The whole Lassie thing from back in the 50s, you know."

"The Lancasters must have been old?"

"Yes, they'd raised all their kids and he farmed up until about ten years ago. We came six years ago. We bought the land next to this property. It was all his property at one time. They sold it off to have money to live on, once he stopped farming.

"They moved closer to their oldest son. He found them a nice retirement place in a country setting. They couldn't take Tommy. You don't mind him coming to visit, I hope."

"I love Collies. We were hoping he didn't belong to anyone," Andy said. "Weren't we, Do."

"Yes, we were," I agreed. "He's a pretty dog. Have you eaten? We have a very nice dinner we're ready to eat. You're welcome to join us," I said.

"Yeah, you'll be our first guests," Andy said. "Besides Tommy."

"Well yes. That's an invitation we can't turn down. Men who cook," Luz said admirably.

"No, my landlady fixed it up for us. She can cook."

"Do, we've got to go to town to get sheets and pillow cases, soap and toothbrushes," Andy reminded me.

"Queen size bed I bet?" Penny asked.

"Yeah," Andy said. "How'd you know?"

"Good guess. We have stuff we've never used. A couple of pillows, sheets, pillow cases, and Luz's mom brings a new quilt every time she visits. How'd you like a quilt? Brown? Green? Blue?"

"Just what the doctor ordered," I said. "We'll figure out how much you want for it."

"Posh," Luz said. "We're neighbors. You're about to feed us. You'll need us to look after things when you're gone and we'll need you to do the same for us. We don't stand on ceremony out here. We got to stick together and having folks like you next door is a dream come true. The Lancasters sort of looked down their noses at us. Don't worry, we won't just drop in without an invitation."

We had mashed potatoes, corn, peas, and fried chicken, with biscuits, which was all in aluminum containers wrapped in aluminum foil. It heated up without any trouble. We had just enough silverware and plates to go around. We didn't have glasses or coffee or cups, so Luz and Penny said they'd bring us over enough to get us through.

By the time we were ready to turn in we felt as if we'd made our first friends away from ball. Luz spoke of having barter arrangements with many of the merchants in town. They furnished fresh organic food and milk for the services and products the local merchants provided.

They asked us about the land behind the pond that Lancaster hadn't farmed in some years. He refused to let them have access to it, when they could have put it to work growing a few crops a year.

A deal was sealed for them to make use of it, because we couldn't. The food would save us a lot of money and the land would have just sat otherwise.

Tommy stayed on the front porch as Andy and I went up to spend our first night in our new house.

It took a while before we realized, we were finally home.

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