With my stick as a weapon I was fierce.
Cattle rustlers hiding behind bushes met my six-shooter justice.
British Red Coat stragglers hiding in the grass for two centuries
fell before my musket.
Nazi snipers were flushed from willow trees by my M1 rifle.
My shotgun got Apache warriors waiting in ambush,
and my Tommy gun flushed out Chicago mobsters hiding behind rocks.
Even Caesar's legions were decimated when my stick became a sword
and a garbage can lid my shield.
Each day I'd find a new stick among fallen branches,
then strip the leaves until I had my armament for that day.
But then one day bulldozers ripped up all the hiding places,
and the great battlefield was reduced to a featureless plain,
around which a fence rose faster than any weed.
Two weeks later, my wild arena of small boy fantasies
was shaped into to a perfect diamond design
The departing workmen said I was old enough
and rightly should be the first to join
to fall in line before the game and sing the Star Spangled Banner
instead of battling all of America's enemies hand to hand,
to run the straight and narrow ninety feet at a time,
to measure my time in the field by innings,
to obey rules, umpires, managers, and team captains,
and worst of all,
to never again imagine a stick as an arsenal of all ages,
for I had come of age,
and to wield a bat as if I were a mighty warrior
would be to strike out.
William Bendix, Babe Ruth, and Dad
"He did it, dad, to help a child dying in a hospital.
I saw it on TV. Made the kid promise to get better if he hit a homer.
During the game he pointed where he was going to hit the ball.
He was pointing for the kid."
We passed exit 6. I was six
I was riding in front next to dad.
No seatbelts then.
Dad's right hand left the wheel and patted my head.
As we passed exit 6, my one-armed driver laughed and said,
"...actor...William Bendix...not for dying child...
I was there that day...they called the Babe fatso...
He pointed to the bleachers...it was a dare...it was defiance...
but not for any dying child."
No dying child,
but a very quiet one in the front seat
riding close to the windshield without a belt.
I studied the rearview mirror
as exit 7, 8, and 9 passed.
Our exit, exit 10, was next.
Somehow the distances between exits grew shorter
each time I drove with dad.
Dad was quiet after he laughed.
In the mirror, I kept watching the road recede.
I didn't look ahead.
I knew where we'd get off.
No one needed to point the way.
©2000 by Richard Fein