I need to get out of the city, and I could use a day or two to clear my head. Fishing and fresh air might help. Someplace without honking cars and Wi-Fi and constant reminders of the way things were before everything came crashing down sounds about perfect right now.
The business card is sandwiched between a couple of quarters and I reach for it, bringing it close for inspection.
Aidy Kincaid, Professional Makeup Artist and Owner of Glam2Go
Chuffing, I set it aside. Sounds like the name of an American Girl doll. Why some kid would be walking around with something like that is beyond me. Pretty sure he grabbed that card from his mom’s purse.
With the card still in my hand, I make my way to the living room, plopping down in my oversized leather chair and switching the TV on. Flicking the card between my fingers, I think about the kid.
His messy brown mop reminded me of when I was about his age, and the smattering of freckles across his nose reminded me of how freckled my brothers and I used to get playing ball all summer long as kids. The boy spoke really fast and sort of bounced around in place, like he couldn’t sit still, and his face was lit like a firecracker as he tried to give me his pen.
I flip the card back and forth, mint side to white side.
For the rest of his life, that kid’s going to remember walking up to me and leaving feeling like a pile of shit, and I don’t know if I can have that on my conscience. Grown men? Yeah. Especially the entitled assholes, which most of them seem to be these days. They walk up to you and demand an autograph. Or a selfie. Those are the ones that really get me. I don’t take fucking selfies, and I sure as fuck don’t take them with other grown ass men.
A commercial plays across the TV, and I realize I’m not even sure what I’m watching. I’m just sitting here, phased out, mind wandering and lost in space. Groaning, I rise from the chair and make my way back to the kitchen to grab another beer.
My right shoulder aches when I pull the handle of the fridge door. It’s been over a year since a car accident broke it in five places. The doctors were able to rebuild it, but the pain has never really gone away and my range of motion has failed to return despite months upon months of intensely excruciating physical therapy. Sometimes I wonder if the pain isn’t there at all. Like it’s phantom and I’m imagining it. Because the real pain? That’s what I feel when I think about the career I lost at thirty-two.
And the mistakes I made.
A pitcher needs a good strong pitching arm.
One that can hurl fastballs and curveballs with accuracy and precision.
And you can’t do that if your pitching shoulder is permanently fucked.
I uncap my beer and stare ahead at the side of the fridge where a magnetic memo pad rests naked as the day it was hung there by a woman who’ll never set foot in my place again.
Reaching for a pen from a nearby tin cup, I tear off a sheet of memo paper and press the tip against it. When I’m finished a mere second later, the name “Ace” is scrawled across this small, rectangular sheet of paper. I garnered that nickname back in the day, when I first started in the pros. As a rookie, some of the older guys though it was funny to tease me and call me “Alice” instead of Alessio, so I lied and told them I went by “Ace” since I’d been a starting pitcher pretty much my entire life. Lucky for me, it didn’t take long to earn their respect. Striking all their asses out during our first practice was one of the highlights of my career.
I was only ever “Ace” after that. To my team. To my coach. To the media and the rest of the world.
Grabbing my phone, I sit Aidy’s business card flat on the kitchen island and enter her number before firing off a text.
Me: SORRY ABOUT EARLIER. I’D LIKE TO SEND THE KID AN AUTOGRAPH. WHAT’S YOUR ADDRESS?
A few seconds pass, and I notice a little bubble pop up, like she’s responding. And then it goes away. It comes back again a minute later, lingering, bouncing, taunting. And then it goes away completely.
I take a swig of my beer before realizing I have no reason to sit here and wait for some random woman to respond to my rare and generous offer. If she doesn’t want it, it’s on her.
Making my way back to my chair, I rest my phone on the coffee table and kick back.
Two minutes go by, rendering my phone silent.
And then it buzzes.
Glancing at the screen, I see that Ms. Aidy Kincaid has finally responded.
Aidy: FUCK OFF, ASSHOLE.
I crumple the autograph and toss it aside.
“Look. Look at this.” I shove my phone at my sister the moment she finishes tucking Enzo into bed. The kid was so upset earlier, he shoved his face full of pizza and got so full he almost passed out from exhausted gluttony in the cab on the ride home.
Pulling the door closed, she takes my phone and squints at the bright screen in the dark hallway.
“What am I looking at?” she asks.
“That asshole baseball guy,” I say. “He must’ve gotten my number from the back of that business card I gave Enzo. Can you believe he wants to mail him an autograph now?”
“That’s . . . actually kind of nice of him.” One side of her mouth pulls up, and she folds her arms, peering at my phone screen again. “And look at that. You told him to fuck off.”
Pressing my phone against my chest, I frown. “No, he’s not nice, Wren. He’s a jerk.”
“Maybe he was having a bad day? People are allowed to have those, you know.”