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Mar 142012
 

by Lowell Jaeger

 

taught me a game

called “scrub.” Sort of baseball

for two kids with few friends.

One on the pitcher’s mound, the other at home plate.

In an empty lot at the edge of town,

he’d call strikes and fouls, no matter which of us

stood to swing. Only he could tell

for sure which grounders singled,

which his phantom shortstop scooped for double plays.

Bottom of the ninth, he’d claim I’d popped out

to his invisible right fielder.

 

He was my big brother,

and we laughed about it years later

when finally I challenged his advantage.

We’d both struck out in college,

couple times each. Both divorced, stuck

in routines smaller than we’d dreamed.

 

He claimed I’d beat him once. I couldn’t recall

charity more than a string of wild pitches he’d overlooked

after I’d walked him a dozen runs,

and he didn’t want his game done too soon.

Those were good times, a few hours

between brotherly jabs and insults,

between the cruel pleasure

of knuckling each other in the shoulder

or deep in the gut.