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Scott Parson, dabbler in typestries and fabulations

Candace didn’t enjoy playing catch with Doug like she thought she would. She was terrible at it and felt bad that she couldn’t get a decent rhythm going with him. She always missed the ball as it sailed just over her head, or she moved too slowly to snag the grounders rolling to her left and right.

She was thinking this again as she turned to chase after another throw that had skimmed past her glove, just above her leaping grab, landing in the grass beyond her. She picked up the ball and jogged in a dozen steps or so back toward Doug just to reach him with her own throw. Then she hustled way out where Doug could get some decent distance when he threw it to her, exercising his arm.

They’d bumped into each other a few times in the pantry at Sirklin, McVittie, and Sweetmore, where they worked, taking turns with the Keurig and talking exotic coffees. Doug was a key player for the Sirklin team, calling themselves At Long Last Glove, which may have sounded better, thought Candace, shouted out over beers after a game.

Doug was cute, curly-haired, and shorter than Candace, which was okay with her. And confident. He joked about having her reach the coffee pods in the pantry cabinet for him. It was easy for her to let herself be caught up in his passion for the summer softball games played at Heckscher fields in Central Park.

Candace hadn’t handled a softball since high school, but playing catch with Doug had seemed a good way for them to spend time together and give her a chance to see if there might be something happening between them.

Winded, Candace gave Doug a timeout signal and jogged over to the water fountain, taking a long, long pull at the stream. She straightened up and flinched backward at a homeless guy standing right in front of her. It was like he’d materialized at the water fountain, transported from the benches across the path where she’d seen him watching their game.

His eyes shifting, he leaned toward her, causing her to backpedal.

“He’s doing that on purpose, you know,” said the homeless guy.

Right, thought Candace. “Ain’t it the truth,” she said. Mind controllers, the Man, corporate evil, black helicopters, whatever. Then she shrugged and said, “But what can you do?” She turned to trot out onto the field.

“You. Chasing the ball. So he can use his phone.”

Candace turned and looked at the homeless guy.

Through dirty cheek scruff, amber-colored teeth, and a breath of stale alcohol, he smiled, did a stubby little throw to his left, then turned to his right, hunkered down, and put a finger phone to his ear. He looked at Candace and smiled again, a cocked grin that said hate-to-tell-you.

Candace looked around at Doug in the field, pretty good looking for a short guy. Then she looked at the homeless guy, who was mouth down on the water spigot, sucking on it. He raised back up, ran a dirty handkerchief over the spigot, wiped his mouth, and returned to the benches, not giving her another look.

Candace jogged out to her spot, faced Doug, and crouched, shifting her hips back and forth. She slapped her glove with her fist, determined not to let anything get by her this time. Doug stretched back and lofted the ball at her, sending it just inches over her head as she leapt, missing it.

She turned around to go after it but stopped and ducked her head slightly to look back at Doug. He had his phone out against his ear, plunging it back into the large pocket of his cargo shorts when he caught her looking at him.

Candace gave the homeless guy the glove and ten bucks as she left the park.

Image: by Nicole Wilson on Unsplash