The Over 35 (a short story)

Softball sign-up sheets are up in offices and churches for the coming season. If you’ve ever played softball and felt like you’ve lost a step getting down the first base line, here’s a story of an important twilight game with play-off (and other) implications.


…The Over 35, geez. We used to joke about that, and make fun of those guys at tournaments. We’d bitch about it when they were on a better field or playing at a better time than us as if the good fields and the good playing times should be reserved for the real softball players. “Over 35,” we’d say. “Is that their age or their waist size?” Of course, my own waist size is now closer to 40 than I am, and my double-knits have crossed over that fine line between snug and tight, but the Over 35? A cold, bony finger starts picking at something deep inside me.

I play first base now; the outfield literally and figuratively behind me. The green grass of youth replaced by the dirt and rocks where I now stand, the turf uneven from the footprints of all who have come before me.

In the outfield the other team is always just a distant threat, almost impersonal. You don’t see their faces, you just watch the ball and run it down and throw it back in while they either circle the bases or turn and jog back to their bench. At first base they come close. I see their faces, the fire in their eyes, the flare of their nostrils. I can hear them, smell them as they stand at my back, kicking dirt, waiting for the next play. When the throw and my stretch beat them to the bag they don’t act discouraged. They snort as if it’s only a matter of time. “Next time,” they seem to say. “Next time, old man…”

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