I went to a softball tournament in Frankfort. It was an all-day affair featuring 8-year-old young ladies missing pop flies, running from base-to-base with joyous abandon regardless of their safe/out status, bearing bats bigger than themselves, and chirping sassy, abusive cheers at the opposing team (which I suspect had been cleansed a bit by their parents and coaches).
Janie and I loved it.
Cynics may suggest our delight may have been heartily enhanced by the fact that one our favorite nieces was the best player on our, alas, winless team.
Meh…haters will hate.
It was a beautiful day; sunny, temperature perfect. I’m at a ball game, listening to the opposing fans parent-splaining shrilly about keeping your hands up, keeping your eye on the ball, and wait’ll I get you home. There were hot dogs…not good hot dogs, mind you…but there are no bad hot dogs at a ball game. Yellow mustard covers a multitude of undercooked sins.
How good can life be?
Between games, I recalled the last time I was at these particular playing fields.
I would’ve been 23 or 24 at the time. I was managing two Shoppers Village Liquor stores and living in Frankfort. I liked living in Kentucky’s capitol city. I lived a couple of blocks away from the Capitol Building and the Governor’s Mansion. It was a lovely neighborhood. I was cycling a good bit then and thoroughly enjoyed the impeccable asphalt in my neighborhood……it’s good to live near the state capitol.
But not all was hunky-dory.
One of the bête-noirs of retail is bad checks. This is a problem that is rapidly fading as we sail into a cashless world, but in the early 70’s this was a serious impediment to a successful retail endeavor. As such, it fell to the store manager to collect these abominations.
I hated this duty and felt unsuited for it. I possessed neither the Sam Spade wardrobe, nor the Raymond Chandler metaphors required.
But as an actor choosing to live in Central Kentucky, a locale that paid zip/zero/goose-egg to its actors, the sponsorship of my employment was paramount. If collecting bad checks was the rent for living in the impeccably-blacktopped Eden of my choice…so be it.
This duty led to some interesting adventures and interesting neighborhoods.
One of those adventures had its denouement at the very diamonds of my happy softball weekend.
It was a $20+ promise on a now worthless check. But in the early 70’s, $20 was a week’s rent, or a month of gasoline for the car, or several days’ meals. This was not something to be abandoned without a fight.
I first called the offender; no cell phones, only land lines…no answer. (Rotary dials too…look it up…it’s quaint and makes a cool sound.)
I then drove to the offender’s home (not as many guns back then). I parked in front of the address and rang the doorbell. No answer……BUT there was a twitch of the window curtain. Young and invulnerable and Sherlockian that I was, I decided further investigation was called for.
I drove around the block to the alley (alley…not as many guns back then) and waited. Sure enough, the offender emerged from his house in a bathrobe, smoking a cigarette (no, his name was not Lebowski). He spotted me and darted back into the house. I darted around to his front door. He was waiting for me on the porch. I received a verbal promise of payment within the week.
Another promise unfulfilled.
I discovered my offender played in a softball league on Tuesdays (aren’t smaller towns great?).
The next Tuesday, I was on the aluminum bleachers at the fields (Yes! The same ones my butt occupied today!). There was my offender, warming up with his team. I sauntered over (“sauntered”…le mot juste…).
“Crestfallen” has always been another favorite word of mine and I believe I witnessed its living definition at that moment.
“I’ll get that money to you this week, I promise.” Was volunteered.
“Fine”, I replied.
I continued; “I love ballgames, ya know. I especially like ‘em when I know some of the players. And tonight I see a bunch of my customers here.”
I continued in a rising Gilbert Gottfried imitation; “If we’re not settled up by next Tuesday, I’ll be back and it won’t be to see the game, as thrilling as the contest might be. It’ll be to let everyone know……”
By Wednesday afternoon, I had received full payment for the check, plus the interest contributed of a choice selection of loud, vulgar abuse……rest easy, there was no vocabulary proffered I had not heard before.
Beratement from light-hitting, deadbeat right-fielder…
I wasn’t feeling that good about myself anyway.
We should pay our actors if we want’em to stick around.