“And I can imagine how he led you into to it, how with almost unnoticeable indiscretion he gestured to you from the side of the green and manicured ballfield where you sat not without interest watching him play the game skillfully and with grace, watched him move with that lusty muscularity and spry agility, that ancestral gift, with which he between the two white bases bent skillfully over, that veined forearm marked by curled black hairs mechanically reaching out to pluck the bald white balls from the neatly trimmed grass and he made you wonder, did he not, looking over to you watching from the stands, not with lust at that moment, no, but with a comforting and almost fraternal glance which from his dark sockets and into your eyes full of virtuous curiosity was as yet a sweet mystery and yet also not uninviting, was it not, Miss Caldwell?”

June Caldwell sat in the hot dry airless trailer office of the high school’s assistant baseball coach, wordlessly listening to his questions. So that she had something to sit upon and so as not to soil further the bottom of her white linen dress the coach had laid out newspaper on the seat of the chair across from his desk.

“And so in his coming to talk to you after last night’s practice he offered to you what was then the conception of the plan in which you and he would go off together the next afternoon, which being next afternoon yesterday then was today, offered to take you in his car to that dark grove in the woods where he and some of the other ballplayers have padded down with the almost hoovelike tramping of their cleated feet a flat clearing amongst the pine needles to drink bottles of beer after games and practices and it was promised to you, was it not, that it would be only fun and you were not disinterested?

“And so you followed him and you were taken today to that clearing in the wood for the execution of the plan which plan had been misdescribed to you as innocence itself and it was revealed to you quickly and with remorseless fury how different your conception of that plan had been from its true execution when they grabbed your arm to pull you with unrelenting force out of the car door because there were more of them already there than you had expected, were there not, already five figures lanky and grinning in their white practice uniforms emerging almost as if they had spawned there in the pool of shadows behind the pine trunks and dragged you toward the heat of that fire already burning in the center of the clearing, that fire somehow prearranged in stark and unreal brightness because it burned there in middle of the day?

“Was it then that truth began to dawn on you, that overwhelming truth being the true implication of that seemingly unnecessary number of baseball bats which had been brought in the backseat of the car to that clearing in the woods?”

She cried without words no that’s not how it happened sitting on the newspaper in the chair across from him the blood is not caused by others and he went on with the interrogation uninterrupted.

“Miss Caldwell, there are certain extracurricular groups who take as their mission the swift execution of social justice and I am asking you now if these events I have just described, events whose apotheosis was the cause of your blood and your pain, if what I have imagined is how it happened, and without your words to deny what I have just described to you as truth, I have no choice but to believe the dark implication I have drawn, no other choice but to take your recalcitrant tears as affirmation and set turning the wheels of justice and I imagine now that after these certain measures have been taken we will be left with no choice after what you have described to me here today but that we will have to cancel next week’s game…”

5 Comments

  1. Bud Smith

    Well this is really dark story and I can’t quite make out exactly what is happening and I guess I don’t want to and I guess you don’t mean for us to know all the way either. With all difficult stories, it takes a brave author to do the telling justice. It feels like the man (assistant coach) who is talking to June Caldwell is painting a certain kind of picture but she is in denial but then again I can’t tell if there is some kind of political satire happening here (like a Crucible with baseball players), something about the phrase, “there are certain extracurricular groups who take as their mission the swift execution of social justice”. I’m at a loss really. Has this woman been sexually assaulted by a baseball team around a bonfire in the middle of the afternoon and the only punishment they are going to get is that their baseball practice is going to be canceled? My instincts tell me that this story will be an incredibly painful one for many people to read who have suffered and the pain it will cause to read this willl not be worth it unless they can see how deadly serious the subject matter was treated and I don’t know if that is all the way there yet. I can see Brock Turner in this story. I can see the kinds of police officers who have tortured and murdered their prisoners and been put on paid leave afterwards. People get away with so much in life. In a story where a person is fantastically assaulted, I wonder what we could do to fantastically have them right what is wronged against them.

    • Jack O'Connell

      Thank you for the thoughtful response. I think I had run out of ideas with this one and just sort of defaulted to sex, violence and pastiche. Probably wrote a few too many checks when there was no money in the bank. I will keep trying to use good and evil more thoughtfully.

  2. Ben Saff

    Ugh, I love all the strange stream of conscious phrasings of the coach. It’s hilarious and my favorite part. The Sherlock Holmes or whodunit interrogation vibe via the assistant baseball coach, so good. The final act that the interrogation is building towards is left somewhat vague. But I’m not sure I really care because the ending punch line, the ultimate result is that the game has to be postponed, which should not be brought up at all, delivers.

    I felt some underplayed parallels to real life as well, the cruelty, the (sexual) violence that men are capable of inflicting upon women. Absurd bureaucracy that misses the point.

    “She cried without words no that’s not how it happened sitting on the newspaper in the chair across from him the blood is not caused by others and he went on with the interrogation uninterrupted.’ – i didn’t get this line though. specifically “the blood is not caused by others”.

    Justice could be dealt but that doesn’t feel real to me. It feels more real that the net result of this incident is a cancelled baseball game. That hurts.

    • Ben Saff

      Also agree with Bud. I’m much too distanced to reality hinted at here and it might need to be dealt more carefully.

  3. Saxon Baird

    I was struck by the juxtaposition of the legal, cold and factual language of the person behind the desk and the trauma of whatever the event was behind the woman. I think that’s space that could use more exploration, but perhaps with some different details and storyline.

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