The Book of the Three


Thus it started. We brought him out to meet Coach. Coach said, Who in God Almighty is this? We said this is Junior. He is our Ringer. Watch him throw. Coach screwed up his mouth like he does. He waved his arms like he does. We can’t have this, said he. Sign up date’s long gone and who knows where this little fellow came from. He’s Junie Temple, we said. Don’t lie to me, men, said Coach. This child ain’t no Temple. Just watch him throw, we said. Before he could say no we gave Junie a ball and pushed him at the mound. One of us kneeled down behind the plate. Junie took the hill. Hum-now, hum-now, Junie-baby, sling that pill, Junior Boy! He slung it. A-one and a-two and a-three. With feeling. That was left-handed. Coach scratched his head. Then Junie did it right-handed, just the same. Wizz-smack. Wizz-smack. Wizz-smack. Temple, you say? said Coach. I’ll see what I can do. Do you want to know the best thing? The commissioner said Junie could play, but there was more. We got new dugouts. We got a concession stand with hotdogs and name candies and syrupy cokes. The suntanned older sisters manned it. They wore bras under their pink t-shirts and lip gloss on their happy mouths and they smelled like something sweet and clean. We got a big American flag out past centerfield too. There was a machine with plenty of white powder to make the foul lines for every game. The commissioner grinned and grinned. He waved to the people. It was just like the state fair. This is the way it was with Junie. You got more than you ever expected to get. That summer, he threw curves. He threw sliders. Coach taught him a knuckle-change. But mainly it was gas on the black. Here it is: hit it. But you could not hit it. It got to where the other team would start to cry when they got on deck. Babies in line for a flu shot. It will not hurt. It will not hurt. You will not even feel it. All of it lies. It stung like hell. Even Gary Lester got a quiver in his lip. We missed the playoffs by a single game. We had dug ourselves too deep a hole before Junie came. It did not matter. Our whole world had changed. The future was open to us. There was no going back.