|Full Count (standard:other, 11488 words)|
|Author: Donnie Holland||Added: Jan 05 2004||Views/Reads: 1980/1846||Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)|
|A professional athlete comes to terms with his declining skills and the demons from his abusive childhood but not before snapping from the weight of the pressure he puts on himself and the final confrontation with his coach.|
"Butch is looking for you Karl." No response. "Wake up man, Butch wants you now!" The second attempt was a mixture of exasperation and anger. Karl straddled the bench parallel to the lockers, his head turned away from the center of the room and toward the faceless mixture of green metal and wood which lined the clubhouse walls. In honor of baseball's eternal tenuous relationships, Karl often jokingly referred to the row of lockers as the firing line. He slowly scanned the names affixed to the top shelf of each and stopped at one belonging to Karl Fensome. Lately his analogy hit too close to home. He heard someone yelling his name and his irritation flared instantly from the sudden intrusion into his self pity. He threw a look over his left shoulder he knew the offender would understand. Just to be on the safe side, his mouth decided to assist. "What's your fucking problem!" Karl saw who it was and instantly wished his mouth hadn't been so quick to offer help. "I don't have a fucking problem." Mark spoke slow and clear through clenched teeth as he stared deep into Karl's eyes. "Butch wants to talk to you." Mark was on the verge of saying more, but instead, turned away slowly and swallowed hard on the bitter taste in his mouth. Teammate or not, Mark's patience had worn thin. Karl returned to his view of the lockers with regret as a new addition to his stew of emotions. Mark deserves it too Karl thought as he slammed his fists against his knees. He quickly berated himself for letting his head affect his heart and offered a silent apology to his friend. Mark was a rare mix of talent and kindness. He worked hard and checked his ego, not his pride, at the door. Mark had been a big star in AAA two years before and compared by some to a young George Brett. In spite of all the optimism, Karl had seen enough faces come and go over the years to know being a minor league star was about as meaningful as home run king in t-ball. When you made it to the show, the past didn't mean jack shit. Sometimes even the present. Even though Karl's attitude told a different story, he still wished him the best. Mark was a good person and a good teammate. His oyster was just beginning to open. Being around young guys like Mark always made Karl reminisce his first year in the majors. Like most rookies, Karl thought once he carved out his star he'd have the whole world in his hands. It didn't take him long to find out he needed more than his own two hands to carry the load. In the beginning, there was always either a coach, reporter, or just an asshole with an opinion who made him turn red with gushy accolades and predictions. He soon realized the words weren't always kind or sincere and instead of turning him a humbled red, their words simply made him turn. Karl's first taste of the majors wasn't as sweet as he'd imagined it. He struggled both on and off the field but the greatest battles were those in his own mind. He tried so hard to prove to everyone he belonged, he nearly succeeded convincing himself he didn't. Whenever he stood at the plate or chased down a fly ball, he was sure he could hear someone, somewhere, offering an opinion: The boy doesn't have any heart; He lacks mental toughness; He'll never adjust. Karl gave their observations so much respect, they became loudest when he was alone. Agan and again the criticisms echoed in his mind. And if not for his grandfather's words he would have believed them all. One of the reasons he had loved his grandfather so much was his ability to make Karl laugh. When Karl lived with his parents even smiling was an alien expression. He rarely spoke to his father, except to plead uselessly for the beatings to stop and was rarely able to speak to his mother, who was usually either pleasantly pissed or passed out. Karl often thought he would never make it to adulthood and wasn't sure he wanted to. As the beatings and binges increased, so did his grandfather's love and concern. When Karl visited him, they often went fishing, cut wood together, went for long walks or just sat in the shade of a big oak and enjoyed the silence. Finally, at age eleven he left (with his father's blasphemous blessings) to live with his grandfather for good. Karl walked out the door of his parents home without saying a word and was more relieved than surprised when no one came to get him. He never set foot in their house again. The seventy-five miles between his hell and heaven may as well have been seventy-five million. After Karl moved in with his grandfather, he often referred to him as Popeye. He couldn't help but see similarities; a soft, stretched out grin, old wooden pipe, wrinkled leathery face and stovepipe arms from years of being someone's mule. His grandfather enjoyed the nickname and often swung his arm and fist like a windmill, in mock of his namesake. It always made Karl laugh until his sides hurt. Sometimes even his heart. As years passed, Karl learned to show openly the love his parents had retarded. They grew so close, entire moods, feelings, ideas, thoughts and paragraphs of unspoken conversation could be communicated with something as subtle as a wink and a smile. God, how he'd welcomed the peace. With his ears Click here to read the rest of this story (876 more lines)
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