"Curveball City" by Charles Joseph
When I was twelve, I had a hard time keeping my eye on the ball and every time I stepped up to the plate—I struck out. So one Sunday afternoon after a game my father said, "Give me your bat and glove." So I did, and while we were walking to the old Pontiac Catalina he dropped my bat and glove in a dark green garbage can filled with Gobstoppers, Fireballs, and Big League Chew, lit a Viceroy with a match and blew it out with a draft of smoke. And with that, I thought he was mad at me and disappointed with my performance so I started to cry, and he said, "What the fuck you crying about? Do you even like baseball?" "No, not so much anymore," I said. "But...but...I really wanted to hit one for you today, Pop. I'm so sorry—" "Hey, enough now!" he said. "Just get in the fuckin' car, and let's go, before Herman’s closes." "Herman's?" I said. "Why we going there?" "Cause I'm gonna buy you a hockey stick that's why. You're gonna love hockey, Charlie boy. Great sport. A fuckin' man's sport." "Ok, wow, alright," I said, and I wiped my face with my sleeve and smiled.
A few minutes later, Pop fired up the old Pontiac Catalina and it belched an oil soaked cloud of carbon monoxide behind us as we rode off into the yonder. And there was joy in Curveball City that day, because nine innings and three strikeouts yielded me a red and white Koho 207 hockey stick, a few pucks, and a new sport. Can you guess what he gave me when I failed math?
(indigent press, 2017)