No Runs, No Hits, No Errors

By Jane Greensmith
www.janegs.com

Copyright © 2004.
 All rights reserved.

Chapter 19

 

The next day Kathleen found herself scrambling to recover from two days of heaven in the mountains with Harry.  Thursday was the last game of the season for the K-B-K Trojans, who had enjoyed a pretty good run once Harry put Kathleen out in left field where she belonged.  She was happy to chase down the long balls and get them to Rob Haskins in centerfield, who in turn got them into the in-field and often to home plate.  Colleen had called Kathleen on Wednesday night to reassure her that she and Jack were hosting the season wrap party and that Kathleen didn’t have to worry about it one little bit, which was a good thing because it had never entered Kathleen’s head to do any such thing.  All of her energy was now focused on doing the final prep for the benefit auction that was scheduled for Harry’s house the following Saturday night. 

Of course, the benefit auction had been child’s play to Kathleen.  She and Dorie had nailed the details early in the summer.  They had drawn up a guest list, selected a caterer, orchestrated food and drink, lined up a band, and reeled in the auctionables. Kathleen had talked Harry into letting her skip work on Friday so that she could decorate his house and get it ready for Saturday night’s main event.  She had talked Connie Martinez into letting her take a dozen or so of the center’s kids out of day camp to help her, since the auction was for their benefit.  Connie had insisted that she and Harry come along as well, to supervise the kids and to help them help her.  The wrinkle in the plan came when Connie called Kathleen Thursday morning to tell her that she couldn’t go and suggested that Maggie take her place. 

“Maggie?” Kathleen could feel her brain racing to come up with a plausible explanation as to why she didn’t want Maggie up at Harry’s house helping them gussie it up for the party.  “She has to work doesn’t she?” she squeaked lamely.

“No, she has Fridays off from the gym,” Connie replied brightly. 

When Kathleen didn’t counter this, Connie went on quietly, “Kathleen, Harry’s a good man.  Don’t go looking for trouble, sweetheart, it’ll find you if it wants you.  You see, some people, like Harry, have a genius for friendship.  You can’t change that and you can’t police his relationships, and you shouldn’t try.  If you love him, and I think you do although you’ve just started realizing it, then you must love him as he is.  If you live with him, then know that he will be forever bringing home strays and attracting starlets and organizing teams and finding problems that need solving and making friends with people like Maggie, who make you feel less than adequate.  But remember, Harry Kinsley fell in love with you, not her.   Don’t try to break up a beautiful friendship, my dear.  Love the man and let him love you, with no strings attached.”

Kathleen wiped her eyes and thanked Connie for the pep talk.  Connie was right, Kathleen knew.  Harry did attract strays and starlets and problems.  She wasn’t sure which category Maggie fit into but she knew that she, Kathleen, wasn’t one of the above so Harry’s feelings for her must be outside the realm of rescue and recovery.  

And so it was settled that Maggie would join her and Harry and the boys and girls from the Riverdale center up at Harry’s house.  Kathleen was eager to get on with the party, eager to be blissfully beautiful on Harry’s arm, eager to bask in the praise of Juniper Hills’ high brow, but first, she remembered with a sigh, she had to get through the final game of the season.

The trouble started at lunch.  As was his usual mode, Harry dropped off the lineup card to Bob Martin on his way out the door.  Somehow he always managed to be running late for a meeting when he handed off the card so that his team could finish grousing before he returned to the office.  This time there was no grousing.  Kathleen was amazed to watch her colleagues blandly handing round the card and shrugging to see what position their boss had assigned to them.  Finally Elliot handed the lineup to Kathleen, whose eyes popped as she scanned down the page.

“Lettie’s at second and Joanna’s pitching!” she shrieked, throwing up her hands and the card in disgust.

“Well, yeah,” Rob Haskins nodded complacently, completely missing Kathleen’s dismay.  “Lettie’s solid at second.  Nothing gets past her that’s not over her head.”

Kathleen felt that the entire lineup was over the head of her office mates.  “Lettie doesn’t work here anymore.  She quit.  Remember?” she said, her voice dripping with sarcasm.

“She didn’t quit the team,” Bob mumbled between bites of his sandwich.

“She wouldn’t,” Rob agreed.

“She wants that trophy as much as the rest of us,” Gail added, twirling her engagement ring.

“And Joanna?”  Kathleen went on, “Don’t you remember her stomping in here and yelling at me?  You think she’ll show up to pitch for us?”

Bob snorted a laugh, then grunted that “Joanna wouldn’t pass up any opportunity to hurtle speed balls at Marsha Dixon’s head.”

“What about Phil?” Kathleen asked. “Matthew fired him.  Surely he won’t be playing for the Eagles tonight?”

Elliot rubbed his jaw, thinking.  “That’s a tough one to call, Kathleen.  You have a point.  He was fired…

“Whereas Lettie merely flaked off and Joanna just got her knickers in a twist,” Gail interrupted with a smirk. 

Elliot finished the analysis, “I doubt he’ll play.  But our roster’s solid.  There’s not a man on it who would let personal crap get in the way of the game.”

Kathleen reminded Elliot that Lettie and Joanna weren’t men.

He shrugged as if to say that a middle-aged female engineer in the full throes of a midlife crisis and a swimsuit model vixen were as manly as he was when it came to playing ball.

Later, when Harry picked up Kathleen on his way to the ball field, he complimented her on looking particularly pretty that night in her purple and gold Trojans jersey.  She said that she had wanted to look nice for her last game.

“Last game of the season,” Harry corrected her. 

Kathleen let the comment go without arguing, but mentally she deleted the phrase back out.  It was her last game.  What that meant to the long-term viability of her relationship with Harry, she didn’t know, but the conversation she had had with her colleagues over the lineup card had been sobering.  Despite her conversation with Connie, Kathleen couldn’t helping wondering whether Harry really loved her or simply wanted a girlfriend who was one of the guys.  She did know, however, that if it was she who had quit a company or had gone nuclear with a team member, she wouldn’t continue playing on the team.

Lettie did play.  As did Joanna, who didn’t throw any beanballs, to Kathleen’s infinite relief.  She also didn’t speak to Kathleen, by which Kathleen concluded that Joanna must still have some residual female hormones cruising through her perfect-10 body after all. 

Phil didn’t play, although Kathleen did catch a glimpse of him waiting for Joanna in the parking lot after the game.  She wondered whether the long slow kiss he gave her in front of God and everybody was a reward for striking out the Legal Eagles in the bottom of the ninth to win the game or simply a way to show Juniper Hills that Joanna Bridges was, contrary to rumor, very happy to be paired up with him.  Incredibly, Joanna, with Phil in tow, showed up at Colleen and Jack’s for the post-game party and beer brouhaha.

When they first appeared around the back of the house, she sporting her freshly showered body and he looking more buttoned down and lawyerly than ever, Kathleen experienced a mini-panic attack.  She didn’t relish another confrontation with Joanna, and she hadn’t actually talked to Phil since he had dumped their story in her lap last Sunday night at his condo.  He, at least, had the grace to look abashed when their eyes met.  He smiled a little half-smile, and as soon as he had procured a glass of wine for his lady, left her, at Colleen’s request, to man the barbeque with Maggie, and made his way over to Kathleen.

“Good game, Kathleen,” Phil said, by way of an ice-breaker.

“Thanks.  It’s nice to end on a high note…” she replied sweetly, only to be interrupted by Harry, brushing by.

“You mean, to end the season on a high note…”

She smiled serenely at Harry, not yet ready to burst his bubble about her future on the slow pitch circuit, and turned back to Phil.

“I didn’t see you in the stands,” she murmured, trying to catch a casual tone with Phil.

“No, I figured watching from the parking lot might be more comfortable for all concerned.”

“I’m sorry about you getting the sack from Matthew.  I think Joanna blames me…”

He shrugged.  A lovely, languid shrug.  Kathleen marveled at how well suited Phil was to Joanna.  Why she hadn’t mentally paired them up before was a mystery.

“I’ll land on my feet.  I always do,” he said gallantly.

“And Joanna?”

“We’ll do fine.  We’re looking forward to the benefit auction tomorrow up at Harry’s.”

“You’re coming?”  Kathleen was amazed at how deeply ran the gall in Phil’s and Joanna’s veins.  All of Juniper Hills’s movers and shakers would be there.  Kathleen knew that if she had just suffered as profound a setback as Phil had, she would have hid under her bed for at least a week if not longer.

“Back in the saddle, Kathleen, that’s how you play the game.  You’re never really down unless you can’t find someway to get back in the saddle.”

“I just knew there had to be a sports analogy in here somewhere,” Kathleen muttered.

“Huh?”

Before Kathleen could explain to Phil that apparently all of life could be reduced to or at least understood in a sporting context, Harry motioned to her to join him on the deck. 

“Time for the trophies,” he said.

“I thought we got the trophy at the ballfield?”

“Nah, we’ve got our own, Kath.  You’ll see.  Now, gather the troops for me, please.”

In short order, Kathleen found herself being handed up the makeshift podium of step ladders that Jack had assembled on his deck, where she graciously accepted the “Trojan Award for Best Sport Despite an Appalling Lack of ___.” 

Her teammates bantered for awhile about what thing Kathleen lacked more than anything else and finally settled on sweat.  She laughed and tossed her hair, and asked who previous winners of the trophy were.  Lettie told her that Bob Martin won last year with an appalling lack of tact, and the year before Maggie had won with an appalling lack of fat.  Elliot boasted that he had won it three years ago “with an appalling lack of muscle.”  Kathleen mentally noted that much hadn’t changed in three years.

Harry awarded Rob Haskins the “Trojan Thunderbolt Award” for the second year in a row for hitting the longest homerun of the season, and Gail won the “Trojan Award for Sacrificing Personal Well-Being for the Good of the Team.” She had played the last two games of the season without her engagement ring, at the insistence of the umpire.  She giggled into Elliot’s shoulder after she accepted the trophy, and twirled her ring at regular intervals during the remainder of the party just to reassure everyone present that it was right where it belonged.

Maggie Oberdorfer won the last award.  Harry admitted that he had dreamed it up the night before.  Then he called her up to the podium and gave her a package, announcing that it was the “Trojan Award for Recognizing When to Leave the Nest.”  Maggie wrinkled her freckled nose at him, as if embarrassed by the attention, and then unwrapped a black-and-white striped umpire’s jersey.  She grinned as she held it up to herself and then slipped it on while Harry announced that Maggie had finally been accepted into a top-flight umpire school in Florida , thanks to Bob Martin’s expert training and her own skills, dedication, and drive.

The team went nuts, cheering for Maggie, and Kathleen felt a happy little afterglow as she cradled her own trophy, and watched her teammates relish the fun of being part of a winning team.  Some were friends, some were colleagues, and some were even sometime adversaries, but they were all part of the same team and had built something together that was worth sharing.

#  

The next day, Friday, Kathleen, Harry, and Maggie convoyed out of Juniper Hills, transporting a select group of kids from the Riverdale Boys and Girls Club up to Harry’s house for the afternoon and evening. Ostensibly, they were going to decorate Harry’s house and grounds for the benefit auction the following night. In reality, all concerned felt this was a perfect opportunity for the kids to temporarily escape the concrete jungle they called home and finally deploy the thousand origami cranes that they had been folding all summer in their quest for a grassy playground.

The three vehicles were overflowing with boxes and bags of the folded paper cranes. According to plan, the kids would make streamers, fill glass jars, construct crane trees and create whatever other fantastical structures out of the cranes that their minds and hands could manage. Kathleen had cranked up the music in her car and happily sang along with the kids she was driving. Life was good, she thought, very good. Not only did Harry adore her, but he also made her pulse race and her stomach flutter.  She was the chief operating officer of a benefit auction that was organized to the nth degree, and she felt comfortably smug about being such a do-gooder.

There was no doubt about it, Kathleen thought as she sang along with the kids in her car, life had been very good to her. Had she known how to play cards she would have recognized that she had been dealt a royal flush and had somehow managed not to squander all her luck.

They wound their way along the St. Dupre River until they reached the end of the road at Kenwood Falls at the foot of Ruby Mountain .  Kathleen pulled into Harry's dirt lot and parked next to Maggie, who was parked next to Harry. She bounced out of the car with the kids on her heels.

"Gawd, Luis, will you look at that river," exclaimed Manuel, one of the boys from Kathleen's car. "Hey Kathleen, ya think Coach will let us go fishing?"

Kathleen grinned at Manuel, "I guarantee that Harry will not let anyone who wants to fish leave here today without tying one on. Now help me with these boxes so that we can get the work part of today done and move into the play part."

Manuel as well as Luis, Carly, and Shondra--the rest of Kathleen's carful--helped her unload, all the while exclaiming over the wonders of Harry's mountain home. The trees were taller and straighter, not to mention thicker, than anything they had ever seen. Flowers were everywhere. And though they didn't know their names, they exclaimed over the columbine, Indian paintbrush, and penstemon that edged the river and blanketed the meadows that flowed out of the forest. The whirring raz of cicadas in the trees and brush joined the chatter of the river birds and the muted roar of the river itself, now almost at its yearly low, to welcome the city kids and invite them to shout and yell for as long and loud as they needed to.

Maggie and her kids unloaded boxes of pizza and a couple of cases of soda, while Harry's carful grappled with baling wire and styrofoam balls that the kids would use in their crane creations. Everyone assembled on Harry's back deck, made short work of the pizzas, and split up into work crews. Kathleen chose to stay simple, helping her kids make streamers and mobiles. Maggie, a self-professed non-artisan, enlisted a few like-minded kids who were up for heavy lifting and commenced tidying up Harry's yard. They needed to move random stacks of scrap wood and firewood to reduce tripping hazards and make room for party tents under the trees. Then they needed to clean up and display Harry's collection of antique tractors and miscellaneous farming memorabilia that Kathleen thought hideous but which Harry and Maggie deemed far too interesting to hide in the barn.

Harry and his crew decided to go for the gusto and began work on a giant wire flying bird that they planned to cover with origami. The kids clamored for Harry to let them suspend it from his vaulted ceiling, but he firmly informed them that it would work much better suspended over the deck. Kathleen was skeptical that they could finish it in a single afternoon, but Harry was so adorably boy-scoutish and earnest about the project that she held her tongue and let him go for it.

By evening, the house was ablaze with the brazen colors of construction paper, the grounds were ready to accommodate Juniper Hills's country club set, and Harry had just finished constructing the block-and-tackle from which he would suspend the giant origami-festooned bird. Maggie, Kathleen, and Harry grinned at each other as they watched the city kids playing their umpteenth game of freeze tag in the meadow while Belle, Harry's dog, ran gleefully from one child to the next, overwhelmed with the incredible playdate her master had arranged for her. Shondra, one of Kathleen's girls, had earlier asked whether they would see any deer--Kathleen gently broke it to the little girl that any deer who would venture within a mile of Harry's house would have to be stone deaf.

Although the wildlife kept their distance from Kenwood that day, good humor crowded and abounded round Harry's log home. A full afternoon and evening in Maggie's company finally convinced Kathleen that while Harry and Maggie may admire each other a great deal, nay even find in each other a kindred spirit when it came to the pursuit of athletic prowess, physical admiration did not extend to physical attraction. They almost seemed like brothers, Kathleen mused. Harry treated Maggie as he did Jack, the way he talked to her, the way he interacted with her--joking but never teasing, locker-room towel snapping friendliness but not that terrifyingly sweet tentativeness that he saved for Kathleen.

Kathleen had never been jealous of Harry's relationship with his brother, just as it would never occur to her that anyone could or would object to her relationship with Colleen. Brotherly and sisterly ties were akin to breathing as far as Kathleen was concerned. Yet, in all her wonderings about love and marriage, monogamy and "for as long as we both shall live," she had never actually thought about her future mate as three-dimensional. Now, looking as objectively as possible at Harry, Kathleen realized that she and Harry were each like the center of a wheel, revolving together, working together, connected and ineffectual when disconnected, but singular in their entirety and dependent on their many spokes for their inherent structure. Maggie was one of Harry's spokes.  Connie had been right.  It would be wrong for Kathleen to try to move Harry’s center and change the way he was constructed.

As they watched the kids playing, Harry and Maggie chatted about their climbing trip. On Sunday, Harry and Kathleen would clean up his house and grounds while Maggie packed their supplies and checked their gear. On Monday, Harry would drive down and pick up Maggie in Juniper Hills and they would head south to the Crestones, a cluster of mountains seven hours southwest of Juniper Hills in Colorado 's spectacular San Juan range. Kathleen would stay at Kenwood to look after Belle and try to figure out whether she should snuggle up next to Harry every night or put the snuggling on hold and go to Albuquerque as planned and get her masters.  She had a week to make her decision.

 

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