THE APRIL AIR was warmish and smelled of peat moss, wood smoke and faintly of the neighbor's fresh Chem Lawn application. My woman had a yardstick to the earth with plumb lines of kite string laying out the garden. She stood, ripped off my flannel shirt she was wearing and got down to a halter. She was putting in the early cold and hardy stuff, radishes, Romaine, Swiss chard from seed and onions from starter sets, the bulbs sprouting green stems.

I had topped and pruned the fruit trees last fall on our half acre lot about a mile outside the murder capital. Now I was burning the deadfall as blossoms were in profusion: apple, pear, and peach on the living limbs. Our brood of 3 kids was climbing the trees, dancing around the fire and just running about with the 5 puppies our bitch beagle had popped out.

We had a boom box blasting on the cracked concrete patio, the Ramones, the new one. Just nonstop primal fuzz for the new nuclear family. The tune Somebody Put Something in My Drink struck me subliminal. I was ready to crack my first cold one of the day.

Then a childless married couple dropped by, passing through my border 'burb on the way home from the boat club. I was thinking the guy Rick was checking on a property on the next block he just inherited from his dead father. But no, the wife Roz was on a mission of sorts and put a damper on our frolics.

I heard about the dead pup. Shouldn't you call the vet?

The kids buried it in the forsythia.

But the others?

It's all good. Look at them nipping the kids with their milk teeth. They're eating Puppy Chow now and getting all fat and sassy. Just like the kids. You oughta see the grocery bill.

Rick, give Mark 50 dollars for a vet.

Rick walked off in his Docksiders looking ready to split.

Mark's right Roz.

Ours boys had oversized plastic ball bats like Flintstone clubs with a pail of assorted balls. The toys caught Roz's eye and she moved toward them.

Pitch to me Rick.

I can't my feet hurt.

I said pitch to me.

Rick had a dramatic wind-up and delivery but tossed them up to her weakly. Roz had a good swing, level and compact. She hammered line shots straight at him with power. Roz came close on 5 or 6 hits then Rick took one to the nose drawing blood.

OK Roz, that's enough.

Keep pitching Rick you throw like a girl.

Some neighbor kids hopped the fence to join my tribe for the show, retrieving balls to keep the pail full. Roz was relentless and had a consistent swing. She was connecting and demanding to continue. I thought about stopping it and moved forward. Then my woman came up from behind me, wrapped her arms around my chest. I was shirtless & needed a shower.

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About Mark James Andrews

Mark James Andrews is finding optimism in uncertainty. He has work forthcoming in Chiron Review, Third Wednesday and a couple other hot spots.
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