Outside the Foul Lines - Book V

by Rick Beck

Chapter 16

Living the Love

Over the following week, we only went out to shop, preferring the comfort of staying at home together. We got all the little things that make a house a home and some pads and pencils to write things down as they came to mind. We had all the time in the world.

We ate twice at the small diner next to the Thrift Store the following week, where we were greeted with smiles. The food made the experience worthwhile. While it could never be confused with the love and care Mrs. Olsen put into her meals, it was good country cooking.

I knew I had to learn to cook better because it wasn't anything that interested Andy whatsoever. So after our second trip to the diner that week,, I steered Andy back next door to buy 5 cookbooks I picked out. The one for soups, stews, and casseroles seemed the most logical. It told you what to use and you tossed it all into a pot and let 'er rip.

I bought a slow cooker for five ninety-five on my next trip into town, figuring I'd be lucky if it worked, but it worked fine. Our first home cooked meal was a stew with lots of carrots and loads of beef, because it was beef stew. The different veggies mostly came from Luz, who brought a bussel basket full for me to pick from.

Andy's usual response to when I asked him, "Do you like this?" was a non-committal shrug. He preferred store brought bread with my first stew, instead of the lumpy cornbread I needed to work on. He went back for seconds on the stew, but that's all there was.

Andy took off with Tommy and went to the local lumber yard and bought a gate for the driveway. He wanted it to be known that no one came up without making arrangements to visit. He was serious about our privacy and Luz and Penny agreed to only visit on assigned days at assigned times. They weren't in the least bit insulted by this request.

They invited us to drop in as we liked, but Andy immediately objected, saying he didn't believe in just dropping in on someone. We could be friends, have a dinner night together each week, meet at the pond when the weather warmed up again and the pond became more inviting. We weren't going to withdraw from the civilized world in the off season. We have control over our house and our time.

We drove to Indianapolis to repeat Andy's signing ceremony with his new Indiana home. I was his friend, Do. There was no mention of me playing ball and I stood in the background and listened to Andy's interview by one of the local sports jocks. It was all very relaxed and cordial. Andy was officially an Indian.

"How's the arm?"

"The wrist is fine."

"You hit 29 home runs last season. Will you hit more at Indy?"

"I only played three full months and part of that time I was rehabbing my wrist. I don't see any reason why I won't hit close to 50 homers next season."

"Good Golly Miss Molly! 50! You're predicting you'll hit 50 homers for the Indians?"

"No, I don't predict. I'm capable of hitting 50. I'll do my best to stay healthy, and there's no reason I can't have my best season ever. Ask me this time next year and I'll tell you how exactly how many I can hit."

"You've been playing AA ball, Andy. You really think you'll adjust that easily to triple A?"

"Yes!" Andy said without hesitating.

"You're confident, Andy. I've seen you play. I've watched you swing. You bring to mind Evan Lane and Wayne Swanson. Both of them were called up at the end of last season. What do you think?"

"I think I bring myself to mind. I play my game the best way I know how. While Evan is probably the best hitter to come out of triple A ball in some years, I don't fancy myself to be the kind of ballplayer he is. I've got to focus on playing for Indy and not worry about what the other power around baseball is doing."

"You sound like you know him," the interviewer interjected.

"Yeah, we know each other. I've watched him play. He's good. He's got a wonderful career ahead of him, and he's worked hard to get there."

"You have a wonderful career ahead of you, Andy?"

"We'll just have to wait and see how it goes, won't we? I'll see you at the ballpark. Time to rock and roll," Andy said, standing.

He left the microphone they'd clipped to his collar on the desk in front of the sports jock, who seemed somewhat shocked at Andy calling the interview complete.

I headed out toward the car so he didn't need to look for me. In a few minutes he appeared, unbuttoning his shirt and yanking it off, revealing a sparkling clean white T-shirt I'd washed and hung out the day before. I found myself admiring his strong arms and powerful chest pressing against the white fabric. Andy spent even more time in the weight room after injuring his wrist and meeting up with Evan Lane.

In the months since, my lover had matured remarkably. I was looking at a fully grown man and not the boy I fell in love with back at State. He was beautiful and he was mine

He gave me a big self-assured smile and he seemed satisfied no one following him out of the television studio. The word from the ball club was, after the signing they'd see him again at spring training in March. Andy had become his own man without me around to see him finish growing into the role of heavy hitting outfielder, who would be welcomed by half the major league clubs.

Outfielders were plentiful and even the biggest home run hitters had to wait for a space to open up. Changing personnel just to be changing it disrupted a team. Most clubs didn't do it unless it was necessary or unless you had a guy like Evan Lane knocking down the fences and knocking on the door. That's where Andy was heading, but he still needed to do some seasoning.

Evan had one more year left on the contract that held him in place, but the Reds weren't taking any chances on losing him, while they snoozed. They called him up from Louisville to pinch hit. It took him until the final week for him to get untracked, pinch-hitting five times the final week and hit three homers. The Reds were salivating, and their starting left fielder was looking for another club where he'd be able to play.

Andy didn't create the rave around him Lane could. Andy was sexy and he looked good as hell in my mind. With Lane you got movie star handsome, cockiness, and he exuded confidence. Evan Lane had something Andy would never have, but I got the impression Andy was happy the way he was. I sure was.

Andy was always pushing harder, wanting to be better. Lane was already better and all he had to do was walk up to the plate and he was in the zone. If he wasn't in the zone he was inside the pitcher's head, which was just as good. I saw Andy noticing this and he wasn't sure he'd ever have that kind of killer instinct, but he still respected it.

Andy drove us back toward the house. I bragged about how good he looked and how good he sounded. He blushed a little, held my hand and smiled. We stole polite kisses as we drove, when we figured we weren't likely to cause a multi-car pileup up on Interstate 65.

Neither of us were much on performing in public or flaunting who it was we were. Of course our careers could be ruined by the wrong person seeing the wrong thing at the wrong time. We were cautious without restricting our affection for one another for too long.

The front gate was another level of privacy. When I jumped out to unlock and open it, Tommy came barking his welcome home greeting, when he heard us. Andy opened the backdoor so he could ride the rest of the way to the house with us.

He licked the side of Andy's face, making him laugh. I patted his head and gave him a quick hug. Tommy, not Andy, I'd do a lot more than hug him later.

As quick as the car was parked, Andy was out on the lawn, rolling around with the happy Collie. He was built like a man with the heart of a boy who loved his dog. It was nice to be home.

I went in to check on the slow cooker. We were having chili with big chunks of ground chuck. I figured adding more beef meant Andy wasn't as finicky about the flavor.. My goal was to gain some control over the flavor I couldn't yet capture, as I went along. More meat meant less room for criticism. I'd work on it.

In the last few minutes before we left that morning, I used two cans of Bush's Chili beans, two cans of tomatoes, two pounds of ground chuck, and two packets of chili seasoning, medium. I cut up an onion, chopped two cloves of garlic, and threw it all into the slow cooker as we went out the door.

The smell was fine and I went about getting a pan ready for another stab at cornbread, after bringing in the sun tea from the back porch. These were all things Andy liked without me having the skill to make them something he wanted me to fix. I had a closet full of beef stew if the chili flopped.

Tommy came running in, wanting fresh water. Andy followed him in and wanted the same thing. I gave Tommy a bowl and Andy got a glass. He drained it two time before he got around to kissing me. I put out some ice and the sugar bowl, pouring us both tea over ice.

"Cornbread," he asked, checking the pan I just filled with batter.

"Uh huh. I beat the batter better this time," I assured him.

"Oh, it was fine," Andy lied badly.

"You ate bread," I said.

"Yeah, I like bread."

"I cheated and bought the small boxes of Jiffy Cornbread Mix. Just add an egg and milk, beat the batter, and put it in the overn."

"Sounds delicious," he said, lifting the lid off the chili and sniffing.

It was a positive sign.

Tommy went to his bed beside the backdoor, lying down to watch us, happy we were home. Happy to have Andy run him a little. I was surprised at how easily he'd settled in with us. He was happy to be home and was at home with us. I'd never been big on pets until Tommy. Andy seemed like he'd been waiting for such a dog.

Luz called the following day to invite us over to dinner. We accepted. It saved me from testing my culinary skills for one evening. We were expecting a quiet dining experience.

Were we ever surprised.

Luz and Penny had six children. Two belonged to each of them and two were foster kids. The dinner table was a little like it must have been in the Coliseum in Rome. The kids were of varying ages and there was Penny's sister to boot, who was divorcing her husband and had come to live with Luz and Penny, until she could recover.

She didn't have kids of her own but took care of the kids to allow Luz and Penny to spend as much time in the fields as was required. After dinner, needing some peace and quiet, Luz took us on a tour of the barns and the dairy cows. She offered us all the milk we could drink, along with the vegetables she left at the gate for us when they went out in the morning. They had chickens, so we got the freshest eggs known to man. Our diet proved to be quite varied and healthy, thanks to our neighbors.

For all this we gave Luz and Penny the back ten acres to plant whatever they pleased. It wasn't a piece of land we had plans for. It was just attached to what Andy bought. The agreement would go from year to year, but Andy thought we were getting the best of the deal. We didn't do a damn bit of work and reaped the benefit of the organic farmers in our midst.

When we invited Luz and Penny to our place to dinner the following week, we explained we were the biggest beneficiaries of their generosity. They were to think of dinner nights outs as a break from child rearing and farming. They were not to feel obligated to invite us to their place for dinner in return. They had enough mouths to feed without us adding to the chaos. We didn't tell them that we weren't having children for a reason, but by the twinkle in Luz's eye, she understood the entire message without feeling insulted.

The following day we took them with us to the Thrift Store, where I was looking for more cooking gear necessary to try other tasty recipes I found in my cookbooks. We stopped at the diner and treated them to lunch. We all settled on the meatloaf special at three dollars a pop. Drink and dessert were included for one more buck a piece.

Luz and Penny laughed and said they'd only eaten there once and the help looked at them like they had two heads. This time everyone was polite and smiley and couldn't' do enough to make our stay in their diner as comfortable as could be.

"They think we're dating," Luz whispered. "They clocked Penny and me as a couple of dykes from the get go. You've done wonders for our reputation in rural Indiana."

"Don't you deliver to them?" I asked. "They've got to use a ton of fresh stuff."

"No, they acted like we were from Venus. I didn't waste my time talking business with them."

"Do you want them as a customer?" I asked.

"The more the merrier in the world of organic farmers. We give away a lot of produce in Indianapolis in the poor part of the city. We have so much left over and there is no point not planting the fields. We keep thinking we'll find more clients. Some crops are gone before they're grown, but the veggies usually exceed any outlet we have at present."

"Is the owner here, per chance?" I asked, as the waitress left the bill.

"Yes, sir, I'm the owner. What can I do for you?" a short balding middle-aged man asked.

"We're farming out at the old Lancaster place. We're selling produce in town to different merchants and at restaurants along the Interstate. We can deliver to you and give you a good price if you're interested in locally grown produce, milk, and eggs?"

"I've seen the ladies bring things in their truck. You gentlemen are associates?"

"Yes, we've established a partnership to supply prime produce to establishments in the area. It would be a shame to come into town and not serve you. I generally let the ladies do customer service. We're busy on the farm, while they're out delivering," I said, making it up as I went along.

Mr. Buckner asked them to bring their truck by the next time they delivered in town and he'd see if they had some things he needed at a good price. I thanked him for his business as if it was my business. Luz and Penny could hardly contain their amusement.

When asked about how easily I handled Mr. Buckner, I explained my business in Statesville was dealing with rednecks. You approached them with the idea of keeping their minds on the business at hand and only the business at hand, and off peripheral issues that for some reason attained major significance to them, while having nothing to do with them. All I did was keep him focused.

"While I've known men like Buckner forever, don't think I'm not aware of the hard work it takes to do what you two do. I couldn't do it. I wouldn't know where to start. Giver me a readneck, and I can draw you a map," I explained.

We laughed and sang on the way back and we dropped them at their door, heading back home early enough for me to consider what I might want to prepare for our supper with the new gadgets we now owned.

It was a fine day and Andy found a riding lawnmower in an out buildings. He had it out and running in no time. A straw hat on his head, he mowed the backyard with Tommy running back and forth, barking as the machine roared and the grass flew.

By dark, after a so so tuna casserole, we got a fire going in the fireplace. Tommy lay in front of it on one of the small round rugs. Andy and i turned our easy chairs to face it. I read and Andy made popcorn.

The nights were beginning to get more chilly, and a fire in the fireplace had the upstairs warm as toast when we went to bed. As the fire burned down the upstairs cooled, and sleeping was wonderful.

We went into Indianapolis and got a down comforter, feather pillows the size of all out doors, and an electric blanket to make certain the night didn't become too cool. We got an electric space heater for the bedroom for the deep winter nights.

I found some heavy drapes at the Thrift Store. They blocked out all light in the early morning, for when we stayed up late and wanted to sleep in. If we closed the bedroom door it let in no light at all, until the curtains were opened.

We settled into the wonderful little house and if there is such a thing as total peace and harmony, that's what my life was then. Andy seemed as happy as could be and nothing bothered him that first year. We were content to leave ball behind us and save that passion for when the new season started.

We didn't change how we loved each other. We were able to do it more often and with reckless abandon. At night we found ourselves in each other's arms.

This would be the most difficult thing to give up once the time came. Being held by Andy, holding him, was the best thing of all. Waking with his smell in my nose, him in my arms, my lips on his warm smooth skin, was as good as life got, and life was very good.

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