Outside the Foul Lines - Book VI

by Rick Beck

Chapter 7


Andy sat at the table, watching me move around the kitchen to take care of him. His eyes were brighter after only five days since the chemo ended. The last two weeks of treatments had been the hardest on him yet. They weren't very easy on me and all I did was watch.

On the morning of the sixth day, his color was improving. He looked as though he felt better. He was downstairs with me and that was unusual. It had me feeling better. We were getting back to normal.

I'd spent a lot of time upstairs with Andy. I hoped better days were ahead. I didn't go overboard. I didn't know how it was supposed to go. I only knew Andy had taken a beating and I didn't like it much, but I wasn't sick, if you didn't count being sick at heart.

He knew there was no more chemo for a month. Then there would be two weeks of chemo after Thanksgiving in early December. If Andy had no complaints, there was to be a follow up in February to make sure everything was all right. At that time he'd get a go ahead to intensify his rehabilitation. The worst part of being sick was behind us if there were no complications.

Seeing him come downstairs in the morning with an appetite made me smile. I felt good too. I liked looking at him. I liked seeing him. I wanted his life repaired.

"One more," he said.

"Coffee, toast, or egg?"

"One egg, one toast, hell, let's go for the whole nine yards. More coffee, Do. I may as well see if it's all going to come up or not, and if it doesn't come back up, we're going out for lunch. I'm taking you to the Pine. No KFC for us. We're going to waltz all over that smorgasbord. Better take the Tums just in case."

"It's a deal," I sang, slipping the pan back on the stove and dropping a slice of rye bread into the toaster.

I collected his cup, poured the cream into his coffee, and stirred it for him. I knew his color now, and it was easy stirring the right amount of 'white stuff' into his cup.

He leaned back in his chair and watched me cooking and cleaning as I went along. We had a beautiful kitchen and I hated leaving dirty dishes or pots and pans. They discouraged me from cooking when I let them pile up.

I wasn't much of a cook, but I could keep us alive. There were always cans and frozen dinners to fortify the things I could cook. I was learning and when I retired, I'd take cooking lessons to learn how to feed my man right.

"You ever go sailing?" Andy asked, after a long silence, while I finished the last of the dishes

He covered his cup when I offered him more coffee. I poured the rest of it in my cup and washed the coffee maker.

"No. My father knew a guy that sailed. He went out with him a few times. I was young. I remember him talking about it but not what he said. There's no water suitable for sailing in Statesville."

"Not where I was raised either. Only what came out of the pipes on Tuesdays and Fridays."

"You only had water on Tuesdays and Fridays? You never told me that before."

"How could anyone live without water every day? I just thought it up as part of my life's story. Sounds like I came from nothing to become the man you see before you now. Maybe a log cabin. Did they still have log cabins twenty-six years ago, when I was born?"

"Twenty-seven," I reminded him. "Soon to be twenty-eight."

"Hell, if I'm going to lie about the water, do you really think I'm going to tell people how old I am, once I'm old?"

"No one will want to know once you're old," I said.

"You just can't let me have my own story. It sounds good. From humble beginnings came a towering figure in baseball sluggery. It's a good story. I could be the Lincoln of baseball. I chop wood and everything."

"Did Lincoln chop wood?" I asked.

"He split rails. That's chopping wood any way you cut it."

"Yeah, but your life story should be true. The real story is more believable and it was plenty humble."

"I think of it as Spartan. I don't want people to think I was poor."

"You were poor, Andy."

"I told you I didn't want people thinking I was poor. I was there. I know we were poor. I like to think of it as economically challenged."

"It's your story, Have it your way," I said, mopping up the counters for the final time.

"There were no designer sneakers when I was a boy," Andy declared his true hardship.

"Yes, there were," I said.

"Not where I lived there weren't. I had used sneakers until I was fourteen. A coach bought me my first new pair."

"Used? Like used tires?"

"We did our best shopping at the thrift store. I bought a pair of sneakers for five bucks. Those suckers were hardly broke in. Those were the good old days, Do. I could trot over to Goodwill and pick me up a pair of sneakers any time I had five bucks."

["Sailing? You wanted to talk about sailing?"

"Can I have a sailboat?" Andy asked.

"You can do any damn thing you want. You've only got five million dollars in the bank. Buy two sailboats."

"No, I don't trust banks," Andy said. "I've never kept money in the bank."

"It's in our mattress?" I asked.

"I don't trust mattresses. Money makes them lumpy.

Most of it is in stock in my ball club. Do you know how much ball clubs are worth these days?"

"A lot, but I didn't think they let ordinary folks buy into a pro team?"

"It's not that they don't let them. They don't offer the stock."

"How'd you get it then?"

"My tax accountant is Pittsburgh's accountant. The team officials suggested him after I got the big bonus to sign with Pittsburgh, while staying at Indy until they wanted me. You don't think they got off cheap for that little holdup. I needed an agent and an investment attorney to get what I was worth."

"Whatever you are invested in, I'm sure you can afford a sailboat. I just don't know where you'll sail one."

"I don't really own the stock. The investment company holds the rights to it. If anything happens to me or I leave the team, the stock is sold back to the firm at market value. Then I have cash. It's written on the papers up in the safe."

"We can afford a sailboat?" I asked, not usually talking to Andy about his money.

He gave me the house but my little tiny salary didn't pay the bills and it was our house no matter what name he put on it. It was his way of making certain I was secure.

"We've got two million and some in liquid assets and the value of the stock was a tick over nine million dollars if we sold it last July. It's up a few ticks since that time. I haven't been in Pittsburgh and I haven't talked to George."

"Nice ticks," I said. "Is a sailboat bigger than a tick?"

"Doesn't include any of my bonus money last season. I was team MVP and the league's top home run hitter. We didn't get that money until mid-season, after I was injured. It's just more cash sitting around. George will tell me when I call him about the sailboat. I haven't talked to him since July."

"George should know," I said, lost in the money he was making and I didn't know George.

"We'll be okay, babe," he assured me. "We'll be okay and one of our coaches was a navy guy. He sails. Talks about it all the time in the clubhouse. I like the sound of it. He can sail his boat by himself. He usually didn't, but he could. He made it sound relaxing. I think I need to relax."

"And the sharks?" I asked.

"Yes, there are sharks, but the sharks have to stay in the water. It's not just a good idea, it's the law."

"That's good to know. I do worry about sharks," I said.

"Hardly any sharks at all in Indiana," Andy said. "I think you're safe."

"But we won't be sailing a boat in Indiana."

"Good point," he said.

"I like the water. I don't think I'd mind a boat. I've never been on many boats and then only for short periods. Sailing could be fun," I said.

"We could just go and stay as long as we want. Just you and me, Do. No one around but us."

"I'd like the company," I said, not needing to be convinced.

"You'd have to cook. There aren't any restaurants out where we'd go sailing."

"You'd drive though," I reminded him.

"You'd know how. You can't sail and not know how to do it. We can have an engine in case of emergencies but you need to know about the sails, the winds, and how to keep the boat from getting into trouble. It's common sense."

"Yes, we'd want to do that. I think I'd enjoy learning if I liked the teacher. He'd have to be cute. I like tall men. Maybe six-one or so, broad shoulders, big hands. I like a man with big hands. I think I like bald guys. He'd need to be bald. You'd make a good teacher. I'd like to learn from you."

"Oh, if I didn't have my big hands around this cup of coffee, I'd teach you what bald men can do."

"You could drink it and then show me."

"The teacher I have in mind for you sounds just like that. He also happens to love you, but that's got nothing to do with sailing. That's another kind of lesson."

"Do you have a boat in mind, Andy?"

"Well, I can call Bobo, the coach, and see what he has to say. He always knows where a boat is, when a guy asks him. I'll call George Kelly. He's our tax account and investment manager. He'll free up enough money to buy a boat, but not so much that our money isn't making money. Not a good time to be foolish," Andy said. "A boat has a purpose and the health issue comes into play. It would reduce my stress. I want to have something besides ball on my mind. Sailing is physical work."

"We might be able to buy a boat near where we are going to learn how to sail it. It's the kind of thing I had in mind for a vacation. You me and a lot of sunshine and water. This sounds like that."

"We may not be able to close a deal on what we want this month. We'll see about going out on the boat after the first of the year. We'll take a month and I'll be able to get exercise. It'll be as good at this point as rehabbing with the Colt's people. I'll be ready to do that by the time you're ready to go to spring training."

"You won't play this year, Andy?"

"I'll be lucky if I can swing a bat after a year. That's July. I want to be as strong as I've ever been before taking my first real big league swing. I never want to be injured like that again. Don't know if I could ever take another swing if I break it again. When I go back, I'll be starting over, Do.

"It'll be like starting my career a second time. I don't know if Pittsburgh is going to wait until I'm ready to play. They've got a part-time guy in my place but once I'm out a year they'll be looking to replace me."

"A power hitter like you doesn't come along every year, Andy. A club can't hope to find another hitter as good as you are. Can't see them giving up on you, until you give up on yourself. They'll wait."

"I'll get as strong as I can. Make sure the arm is able to take the force of hitting big league pitching. I'll take my time. We'll start off sailing and swimming. My diet is important. We might need to hire a dietician to make sure I'm getting the right nourishment under the circumstances."

"We'll do whatever you think you want. We'll try anything you want to try. That's what I think."

"July or August maybe," he said. "I want to be ready to start training for ball by July or August if nothing goes wrong. Then it will probably be the following year when I start my career again. I'll be a new Andy Green."

"Not too new, Andy. I was pretty fond of the old Andy Green. Let's keep as much of him around as possible."

It was the first time Andy told me he had a plan. It was a good plan. It was a plan that went one step at a time. That sounded good to me.

I loved hearing the hope in his voice. I loved hearing him tell me about the future. I'd never doubted he would do what he said he would do. That's just the way it was. There was nothing else. Andy had come from hard times and he was a fighter. He'd always known he wanted to play ball.

Our lives were about baseball and that wasn't going to change until…, until it did.

November was cold. Not too cold but cold enough to keep a fire burning all the time. Andy began moving around like he was doing more than just clinging to life. I caught him doing sit-ups and trying to chin himself with just his good right arm.

It was only a matter of time when the inert left hand would be called on to take the bar to hold a tiny bit of the weight. His soft cast had gone into the drawer a few weeks before. He hadn't gone back to using it. He worked out in his tee-shirt, meaning he wasn't cold all the time any longer.

We ate out several times a week and we ate more vegetables and fruits. What we couldn't get in Seymour we picked up in Indianapolis at the green grocer. We tried exotic fruits and I learned how to cook what we couldn't get away with eating raw.

We made love for the first time in over a month at the end of the first week in November. Andy had been saving up and it was worth the wait. We'd spent the next week making love every time we looked at each other. We had the time and the privacy to have sex all over the house. We had to make sure we knew Harold's schedule, but once he saw Andy getting back to his old self, Harold didn't come home all that often. He took school seriously.

There were too many girls and too little time. Andy and I drove the two hours to take him to dinner twice a week, which satisfied his need to see that we were okay. He'd not only been allowed to be in the operating room with Dr. Joy, but he was holding retractors and handing the surgeon instruments as he grew more familiar with the operating room formalities.

"I had my hands in this guy's chest. I felt his heart beating. The human body is a marvelous piece of work," Harold told us, between bites of his hamburger.

"You need to have a salad," Andy said.

"Salad? I don't eat that stuff," Harold said.

"That's why you should have a salad. You need vegetables along with the meat."

"I get those later," Harold said. "Are potatoes a vegetable? Onions must be."

After two hamburgers, fries, and onion rings, there was no room for a salad. He told us he'd get one next time. I doubt he'd ever had properly prepared vegetables, except when he lived next door, and then he refused to eat them.

Harold had a mind of his own and he was going to do it his way. We knew better than to try to make him do it our way. We'd had far better success letting him have his own way, as long as it wasn't doing him any apparent harm.

We didn't try to force him into living the way we thought would be best for him. One day he'd have a wife and that would be her job. Maybe she'd have better luck getting Harold to do what was good for him.

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