Batting Practice

Back before we had Apple, we had pears. Lots and lots of pears.

Catch the pear tree on a good year and you could find dozens of pears scattered beneath its limbs, pushed off the branch to make room for new ones. Nini and Granddaddy liked pears, but too many meant a queasy stomach and no matter how many they ate, stored away in jars, or gave away to visitors, they simply couldn’t keep up with the generosity of that pear tree in the corner of the yard.

“I’m bored, Granddaddy.”

I usually used that phrase around 2:00 in the afternoon. It was far enough after dinner that Nini’s soap operas were on – I wasn’t allowed in the room while they were playing – but far enough away from supper that the meat Nini had set out hadn’t yet had time to thaw for our 5:30 dinner bell. Granddaddy would usually busy himself outside, a master of the art of piddling – while watching the mailbox intently, like a dog watches a human eat at the table. He needed to get his hands on the newspaper that, according to him, never told any news at all.

“I’m bored” was my tactic to get him to play with me. I wasn’t really bored, but making Granddaddy think I was would mean instant gratification. Being bored, like the soap opera that came blaring through the screen in the front door, was off limits at their house.

Granddaddy walked over to their gray New Yorker – an ironic name for a car that would never come within a 3 days drive of the far-off metropolis of New York – and grabbed a short baseball bat out of the boot.

“What’s that for, Granddaddy?”

“I’m ’bout to show ya,” he answered, strutting over to the fallen pears on the ground. I recognized the bat – it was kept in the car at all times for snakes, thieves, and every other danger they might encounter while on a journey eight miles East towards the busy streets of Butler, Georgia. It’d been rolling around in the boot for years, but I’d never actually seen either of them touch it.

He picked up a resting pear, tossed it with ease a few feet into the air, and swiftly swung the bat, causing the pear to explode into a fine mist of tiny pear parts. I got so excited that I immediately got the hiccups.

The rest of that summer and into fall, we hit pears until every blade of grass in that front yard glistened with the sticky residue that rained down from that half-rotten fruit that otherwise would have gone untouched. For the first half hour or so, our German Sheperd would retrieve the larger pieces for us, but eventually, he’d give up and rest in the shade of the oak tree nearby. Sometimes I’d chase the airborne pieces and try to catch them, letting the juice from the pears rain down around me.

“You’re plum sticky,” Nini would remark, as she’d get me ready for my bath. As we settled down for the night, Granddaddy would chuckle and bring a hand up to his shoulder.

“Makes my arm sore, gal.”

______

I look out my window now, years later, and see a ground littered with pears. I never developed a taste for them, but I always consider going outside for a little bit of batting practice, Butler style. I think I’ll power down my Apple and do just that.

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