Night Game

For the first three innings
he called the game

The outside balls he called
strikes, the upper letters too
he called good,

and the parents heckled
from the aluminum seats.

At the end of the third
he trudged to the backstop,
swigged his water bottle
and mumbled

+++“They gotta learn to swing
+++at the hittable balls —
+++or else this game could go
+++all night.”

In the bottom of the fourth
he blew a call at first.
Amid howls of protest,
he trudged to the backstop,
leaned back, silently stared
at his plastic pitch counter

+++while I contemplated
+++the outfield
+++beyond the lights where,
+++in the dark beyond the fence,
+++some bearded stranger,
+++road a tractor mower,
+++lazily finishing his
+++day job.

The rest of the game
he called
a strike a strike,
and a ball a ball,

and after the final call,
and the lights shut down,
I passed him on the way,
tapped him on his
chest protector
and said, “Good game,

Don Cadwallader

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