An afternoon of blue skies with the wide, white eraser marks. I'd been expecting Spring and here it was, on a weekend too.
She'd washed her car and was contemplating the distinct, gravitational pleasure of the result. Then as we waited for young Kominski to come out with his baseball mitt, ball, bat and cap, we played with the new pup--a golden retriever, four months long, tall and happy.
Not the same dog week to week, by golden appearances.
I'd lifted my hood for the first time in months and checked the oil. I checked the oil because my hood was up. I wanted the hood up to impress someone that I might give a damn what was under there.
I never can believe this stupid dipstick. Can't be I'm still in operational range. Just can't. Put in some more oil then.
I told her, "This car fixes itself, you just have to wait it out. My left blinker was out for two months, suddenly it works again. And do you remember the floor mats got so dirty last winter I threw 'em in the trunk? Well, behold. Come look. Now they're like brand new."
"John," she said, "those are my floor mats. We were on a shopping binge, do you remember? They're brand new and I put them in your trunk. I forgot all about them."
"Hm! ---Oh, do you want them back?"
"No," she said, and then leaned back against her sparking gem-blue car and crossed her arms and laughed at me.
"That's like... magical thinking!"
"Pleasant anyway, " I said.
"Come ohyn, Kominski" she said to me and the dog and the sky, as the boy tarried inside still.
Then to me, "My roony is going to church youth group tonight. He volunteered!"
"What what what?!"
"He came to me last night and said he'd asked Alicia if she'd be there and she said yes."
We seemed to have plenty of time because when the boy came out and the dog greeted him it was time to play, not to drive anywhere.
I don't always know what's going on, I don't ask the schedule, I don't care what errands. Kominski left his bat in the grass and I picked it up.
When I was 8 I was washed out of the pee-wees. I was on the worst team ever---the jinxed Wildcats--- and they kept me in right or left field, whichever one that is, the ball doesn't reach in little league.
I remember being up to bat and the pitcher seemed to be nodding assurances to me. While his team-mates yelled repeatedly, "he can't hit it, he can't hit it".
I liked this pitcher. He looked right in my eyes and nodded yes I could, or so I thought. But I couldn't, I didn't. I always struck out.
Now I had Kominski pitch me my first ball in 41 years.
Not being in the least self-conscious today, I hit a line drive right into his mitt and lo ! I believe the boy was not only surprised but impressed. We all looked at one another in wide eyed, silent surprise and then moved to a better spot. To rule out the fluke.
Another pitch. Another line drive, but to his left and he missed it so the dog got it. Then a pop fly. Then I put some muscle into it and hit the ball to the tree line, about 40 yards away.
"Get my mom on the phone! I'm a natural after all!!"
"Jumping June Bugs, " his mother said, and crossed herself.
"You're not even holding the bat right," said the boy. "Nice hits, though." He is good natured and funny, despite the major teenage crisis of finding himself in a new town with divorced parents and without any established friendships, as yet.
Kominski is good looking, like a Kennedy. I want to call him Hyannis-Sport, but it's too early for me to give him nicknames. His homecoming was only two months ago and I haven't been here all that time of course.
"It's a great sound hitting the ball. Ok, you'll have to teach me how to hold the bat then, sometime. Maybe. "
"Coaching is good. Kominski doesn't just play ball he studies ball," his mother said.
He is training to be accepted on the high-school team next year when he enters 9th grade. One day his mother told me over the phone that he was getting bored, so she bought him a parachute he'd wanted. She said it was to run with, and I supposed this meant he was going to try and fly. I said, that's a good age , when you still have hopes of flying. I warned, though, no to let him up on top of the garage.
They still think that is very funny. Jackson, how could he fly?
Well, I said, maybe by running into the wind until the parachute is wide open, and then letting himself go and be dragged in the opposite direction. Maybe on a small hill he'd lift off for a second. Right?
"It's a training tool, honey. Kominski isn't as fast as he'd like. It's a way to run stronger, I guess. By the drag."
He also bought a special ball, which resembles that Willy Wonka ever-lasting gob-smacker, or some sort of model of an atomic particle, with four nubs. You throw it against the wall and never know which way it will go, see. But it usually goes into the dog's mouth and then the dog runs so it's predictable.
We ran the errands in her car.
They chat and laugh a lot, mother and kid. He has a nascent, worldly sense of humor already. He's good with the reparte and with wise cracks about public figures and general society. What we observe driving around this college town.
Like my brother, many years ago, street signs can be a source of mockery or querulousness. At 14, lots of things look stupid.
At the grocery, there's quite a crowd. I tag along and since I'm not shopping I actually look over all the glorious food choices I have. This is different than coming in with a shopping list in mind. I take cell phone pictures of beautiful boxes of branded TV cereal. The color just jumps at you.
Their updated mascots no longer trouble me like they used to. They've been drawing Captain Crunch differently for a decade I suppose. What happened to Jean La Feet? I was telling Kominski the other day about the pirate who helped Andrew Jackson--- my great great ever so great uncle--- save New Orleans. Was that Jean La Foot? Eh? Which was the joke? La Feat or La Foot?
We turn the corner and there is a gathering of five ladies talking. She makes as if to mow them down and then , unexpectedly, one notices her and in just that split second we've almost got an incident. An older lady jumped, the others turned away and made to press their bodies against the merchandise. Kominsky and I independently pirouette, ready to abandon her to an outraged public.
It's a close call. She rolls the cart between them all without apology, then turns around and brightly smiles at us.
Grocery, home for a fine dinner at the new kitchen table with the new swivel chairs. I like this, and the two of them. Listen with interest even as they do the carb-math for his diabetes, and figure out 'bolus' and 'basil' or whatever you call that information his pump needs, or that his pump reports. All his life, Kominski is used to this. Though the pump is a fairly new miracle.
A few weeks ago he had to be in the hospital because he was having a teen growth spurt and his hormones were at war with the insulin. He came out five days later two inches taller, I swear, and now his shoulders were broader than mine.
I'd been staying there taking care of the puppy and I wasn't sure who grew more. Well they both grew. That was a great homecoming. It's not routine to me so I got misty alone.
Now to make Saturday night deeply impressive, after youth group we go to see Iron Man.
I need to be shoved into this new century. Like from the 19th. I haven't seen an action flick on the big screen since Ghost Busters in 1985. So those were two hours of pure astonishment for me.
Kominski had to draw deep from the 'genius of generosity' to allow himself to be seen on a Saturday night with two grown ups, while the other 14 year olds all sat in their merging cliques. I could well understand. He is new to town but that's not generally known. He could be mistaken as a loser despite everything in his favor. The school he attends is very large compared to what he was used to.
He reasoned that if he was seen with his mother, the other kids might suppose that he was the child of divorce and this was a favor he was doing her. But to have me there, people might conclude he was spending the evening with both parents. And that just couldn't be explained away. Still, he let me come along. I think he regretted it, but as a favor to his mother he assented.
Happiness is for dogs, I do believe. What we want is calm contentment and laughs and things to do together after work and school. But even that is asking a lot. You get to be my age, you're lucky to have some imagination for what's over the horizon, the Kingdom that is also within us.
Everything eternal here on earth is also ephemeral and being forever renewed. I'm seeing two generations grow up already, and I'm only 47. You're also lucky to finally realize that it's the young people who are the real deal, so to speak. You learn, and it's too late, and you care but not in any interested, invested way, about the world. The world isn't as full of phonies as I used to think it was.
Magical thinking. That's good when approaching a time of spiritual hurdles.