The Statue

Nicholas Hanna

The game begins in the spring, when everything begins anon, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings. And then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone.
-A. Bartlett Giamatti

Books keep me occupied most of the time now. When I was young I only read Choose Your Own Adventure books. They were always about mountain survival or a daring underwater rescue mission or some international crisis that only I could solve. They seemed alive somehow. Other books were just dead paper. Now, I'll read just about anything I can find, like the book I'm reading now, a book I gave to my father one Christmas entitled The Cleveland Indians Family 1914-1989.

I keep getting stuck on this one passage in the book. It's about a person that I've heard about all my life from my father. The author writes, "Tragedy struck in 1957 when Herb Score was felled by a line drive off the bat of the Giants' Gil McDougald." I want to know more specifics and details about that day and Herb Score's life in general, but four more lines about him is all the author writes. He seems more concerned with statistics and the names of owners and ancient stadiums and I often find myself slipping away from it, looking out the window at the statue, a massive piece of granite, and my parents in the backyard. To my father, late May means that the school year is over and he has time to work on things like his deck. To my mother, it is the time for planting her annuals in the bricked in flowerbed that runs along the side of the house.

It's one of my mother's greatest joys, planting her flowers and vegetables each spring and then watching her work come to fruition in the summer. In the evenings, she sits outside in a lawn chair and listens to country music from a small radio as the sun sets into the mountains. My mother likes things to stay the same. She likes things to happen the way they are supposed to. When the statue arrived, she couldn't understand why my father had bought it. She kept asking him, "Who is Herb Score? Who is Herb Score that we need a statue of him in our backyard?"

Herbert Jude Score was the most promising young prospect the Indians had seen since Bob Feller, the book says. It says that his fastball was "unhittable" and his curve was "devastating." In 1955 he was the American League's Rookie of the Year. In 1956 Herb Score won 20 games with a 2.53 ERA. The batted ball that hit him in the face shattered all the bones around his eye socket. Herb Score came back and pitched 6 more years with the Indians and then with the White Sox, but "never to the brilliance he once achieved." I suppose that afterwards it was only his eyesight that prevented him from becoming great. Not many people cared about or even remembered Herb Score after he retired. He just slipped away into the oblivion of forgotten ball players until one day someone wrote a book about the Cleveland Indians and summed up his life in five lines.

Of anyone around today, I'm sure my father is Herb Score's all-time number one fan. The story goes that on my father's 10th birthday, his family took a trip to Cleveland from Oklahoma to see an Indians game. After the game my father and grandfather waited outside the west exit of Municipal stadium for autographs. Unfortunately, most players used the exit on the east side to leave the stadium. The exception that day was Herb Score. Two hours after the game had ended and long after everyone else had gone home, a weary and street-clothed Herb Score met my teary-eyed father and changed his life. He signed a ball for my father, gave him an autographed picture and showed him how to grip a curve ball.

Ten years later Herb Score's career was over, but my father's was just beginning. He pitched on scholarship for three years at Oklahoma State and played two years of single- and double-A ball in the Philadelphia organization before he realized that he would never make it to the major leagues. He returned to Stillwater, got a teaching certificate and married my mother. A year before I was born they moved to a mountain town in Colorado where he's been the Algebra I teacher and head baseball coach at Canyon High School ever since.

On the day I told my father I was going to play baseball at the University of Oklahoma he nearly cried he was laughing so hard. "All right, you're gonna be a Sooner," he kept saying. That August, the three of us, my mother, my father and me, loaded all my things into the back of my father's pickup and drove to Norman, Oklahoma. My father kept slapping me on the back and saying, "Barbara, can you believe our boy's gonna be a Sooner and not a Cowboy? What are we going to tell our friends?"

Before they left Norman, my mother hugged me. "You're making us so proud," she whispered.

I'd been back home for about four months when the statue arrived last September. A few days earlier my father had dug out a circular portion of grass and dirt from the backyard and filled it with concrete. This provided a solid base for the statue under the old oak, the lone landmark other than my mother's flowerbed on an otherwise dull square of crab grass.

From my room, I have a perfect view of the statue. It's an armless, legless bust of Herb Score rendered in headstone-colored, speckled granite. It's a real work of art, finely sculpted, down to the smallest details, like the raised lettering on its jersey and the faint, almost unnoticeable wrinkles formed around the corners of a toothy smile. It's very large too, nearly six feet tall, counting the Ionian-style column that it sits atop. It took four men and my father to carry the statue from the moving truck to its location in the backyard.

I watched from my bedroom and listened to my father's voice as they positioned it. "Someone get the gate. Tilt your end. There you go," my father said, his voice soft like the breeze that played against my curtains. Somehow, that day, he seemed to be much older than he had been before. Perhaps it was only the sunlight, shadowing deep vertical lines on his hollow cheeks. His face, red as he emerged from shadows and strained under the unwieldy mass, was thinner and bonier than I had remembered.

The face of the statue is what has always intrigued me the most. It's been elegantly sculpted into a youthful image, though it somehow gives one the impression of foolish confidence, I've always thought. The grin on his face seems to mock him somehow. He's wearing an Indian's jersey and short-billed cap that's angled on his head, but right away it was his face that I couldn't stop looking at.

I spent most of my time during those first months after it arrived looking at the statue from my desk. I'd sit for hours watching the November rains fall; large drops splitting off the head and splashing into muddy pools in the grass. A thin layer of glass was all that separated us. I kept feeling like there was someone really out there, someone who had been a real person once and was now tortured, caught somewhere between flesh and everlasting stone. I imagined him staring back at me through eyes that never closed. His thoughts would be frantic and terrified at first, as he realized his new predicament. Then he'd wish for arms and legs to run away with, or tears to cry with, or lungs to fill with air and yell until they burned. But there was nothing.

I imagined that he never slept, but just existed in a half-awake stupor at nights. Perhaps he could find solace during the day in the things around him: the flowerbed along the side of the house, or the neighbor's dog, or the few spindly branches of the old oak that hang over his head like the skeleton of an umbrella. He might catch glimpses of cars driving by and sometimes even people walking along the sidewalk past the house, but at night there was nothing. Nothing but the humming orange streetlight.

He'd see me watching him from my bedroom, a voyeur to his anguish. He'd want to rip the foolish grin from his face and throw it through my window, but he has no arms; he has no hands.

I know it crushed my parents when they found out what happened. I never played an inning of baseball at Oklahoma. When it came time for the fall tryouts a few weeks after my parents had dropped me off in Norman, I froze up. What had happened was, when I'd gone in to talk to the coaches about scholarships, I'd forgotten to knock and one of the coaches, an old man with a sun-withered face and gray wisps of hair coming out of his cap, started yelling at me. After that I was so nervous I couldn't hit the ball. The old man was throwing pitches and I kept missing, swinging right through them. Out of twenty pitches, I only made contact with three. The old man stood, stooped on the mound like a dried up corn stalk as he gripped the ball and spat tobacco. The sun and beads of sweat kept getting into my eyes. "Come on now," he hissed, "you're wasting my time out here."

Afterwards, I kept having dreams about that day. Flashes of light, images of sun-scorched, dusty flatlands, that old withered coach, and giant baseballs, like unmanifested ghosts, passing right through my bat. Often my dreams would be slow and grainy, with no action, just the sinking feeling of swinging through a vacuum where a ball had just been. I just felt so exhausted after that. When I should have been at one of my classes, like Art Appreciation 100, I'd be in my dorm room taking a nap. I'd wake up with the afternoon sun beating down on my face.

Now, in retrospect, it seems like it would have been easy for me to go back. The fall tryout wasn't really a tryout, but more a sort of exhibition, a gauge for the coaches to look at freshman prospects that they'd heard of, but hadn't recruited. I could have gone back the next day and said I'd been ill, or just gone to the regular tryouts later that fall, but I didn't. I don't know why.

I remember my father saying once that choices are all you really have in life, all that's real and can't be taken away from you. I was very young when he said that. It was after an incident where I'd shattered a lamp by swinging my bat in the living room. My father brought me into his office when he'd found out what I'd done. I kept staring at the Indians pennant on the wall above his desk. "The Tribe" was written in bold letters in the middle and "This is my team!" below that in cursive. "Look at me," he said. His face was red in splotches and there was a vein in his neck that looked like it might burst at any second. "From now on, you can follow the rules or you can choose not to, either way it's your choice." He spanked me four times before the anger left his face. He was calm after that though, like it had never happened. He sat down at his desk and talked about choices. He said that in the end, it's only choices that make us who we are.

He was always saying things like that when I was young, even when I wasn't in trouble. I guess I expected something else though, something tangible; a cartoon bubble materializing out of nowhere and hovering in thin air when it's time to make a choice, like a Choose Your Own Adventure book. If you choose A, turn to page 84; if you choose B, turn to page 119. I always found it comforting to know that I could go back and choose again. Sometimes I'd even go back and choose the wrong answer just to see what would have happened.

No one knew when or why my father had bought the statue. He didn't tell anyone, including my mother, until it just showed up one day last September. Apparently after Municipal Stadium was torn down, there had been an auction to sell off all the memorabilia that wasn't going into the new Jacob's Field and somehow my father had bought it then. If I was surprised that a statue of Herb Score existed anywhere in the universe, it didn't surprise me that my father knew about it. Still, to buy it--it must have cost a fortune--seemed beyond even my father.

But then, I've never been able to account for my father's ways. It's like the weather here in Colorado. It can rain in November, snow in May, or be 80 degrees in February and you never know what's coming next. Sometimes, if you look to the horizon in the west, along the line where the peaks of the Sangre de Cristos meet the sky, you can spot a front before it comes in. But often, the air currents curl around from the east, smashing into the wet mountains and causing all kinds of strange weather in our town. One time, during a game against a rival high school, it rained, hailed, snowed, and then was sunny and warm again by the end of the game.

That was during my senior year. Every day after the team's regular practice my father would throw batting practice to me until it was dark. "I pitch, you hit." That was his favorite saying. He'd been saying that since I was six and he was still saying it during my senior year, except then prefacing it with "God-damn it." "God-damn it, I pitch, you hit. Now let's go; don't drop your shoulder." Then he'd throw a pitch. When his arm grew tired and sore, he'd wheel out a pitching machine, dropping balls one after another into it automatically, "Come on!" he'd say. It was almost comical after awhile. I'd tell my friends he looked like an old woman working the slots in Vegas.

Then a few months later in July, on the day I told him I'd decided on the University of Oklahoma, he suddenly transformed. His whole face seemed to change shape; it was like a mask that he'd been wearing just evaporated and ascended away. All of a sudden he wanted to quit batting practices early so he could start a barbecue and have a beer with me. We'd sit outside on the grass holding our silver beer cans, watching the sun go down with my mother.

My mother used to say that I must have been born with a bat in my hands. Though my father was a pitcher during his playing days, I had always played third base and hitting was my strength. I never went anywhere without my bat. I had to have it near me when I read or studied; I even held it while I watched TV. In my room, I'd hold my bat and look at myself in the mirror, imagining huge crowds chanting my name while I hit slow motion homeruns. When I held a bat, my hands and arms felt light and swift, maneuverable and powerful.

Sometime around February the lightness would turn to adrenaline. I would feel the pulse in my wrists and hands begin to beat, thumping like the beat of a drum moving faster and louder, building to a moment when it seemed my heart would explode. And then it shifted and elevated to another plane with force, changed directions, like a fastball bouncing off a bat when you know it's gone. Moving and accelerating in still air, on a line with a destination somewhere beyond the fence in my mind. I'd wait anxiously for a warm front to come and melt the snow.

On those days when it did and again in the summer when Canyon's season was over, my father would take me out to the field at Canyon High School and throw batting practice. It was a yearly tradition that had started when I was six. My father would walk out of the old brick high school, through the parking lot and along the cattle path to the field with a bucket of baseballs in one hand and a glove on the other. "I pitch, you hit. Ready? Get your stance. That's it. Nice. Keep the weight on the balls of your feet. O.K. Here we go." The balls would thud heavily off the dead grass and roll up into the banks of snow that had been plowed against the outfield fence. A few times, when I was older, I hit balls over the fence into the school's east parking lot where mounds of dirty snow had been piled up and refused to melt.

Before every pitch, my father would ask me hypothetical questions. "Score is tied in the 9th inning, nobody out, runner on first. What do you do? Yep, move him over anyway you can." Often, he would try to sneak educational lessons in. "What's wrong with taking your hat off before you get to the dugout? That's right, it shows disrespect. It's very important to show respect, not just to your coaches and your parents, but to yourself." Sometimes I'd ask my father why I had to answer questions before every pitch. "Because that's what it takes to be a good player," he'd say, "It's as simple as that." Then he'd reach into the bucket and grab another ball. "If it's 90 feet between all the bases, how far is it from first to third?" I'd say I didn't know and I wanted him to throw me another fastball, but he wouldn't until I'd satisfied him. "Come on son, simple mathematics; you've got to figure it out." When I finally solved the problem, he'd laugh, "All right. I pitch, you hit," and rear back with another pitch. That was how my father always was during batting practices. It wasn't until I was in high school that he stopped asking the questions. Then, every second of daylight was valuable hitting time, I guess. When we came home, my mother would have dinner ready and she'd smile and say, "Well, how many homeruns did you hit today?" It seemed like that was the way things were meant to be.

At the end of the June following my senior year, three weeks before I told my father I was going to Oklahoma, he threw a fastball at my head. By then, the things he did had stopped seeming normal. They'd even stopped seeming comical; everything he did was just exacting and self-ambitious. One day I told him I needed a day off. I wanted to go to the Dunes with my friends. "Fine," he said, "Go right ahead, don't let me stop you."

When I got to the field the next day, my father was already there. It was muggy, clouds were rolling in from the west and it looked like a thunderstorm was about to burst. My father was on the mound, throwing pitches to no one. Each pitch hit the dry earth a few feet in front of the backstop and ricocheted against the steel fence. When he saw me, he stopped.

"Oh, you're here today. Well, let's go. I want to work on breaking balls."

The first pitch was a fastball. I swung too late, fouling the ball against the backstop. "I thought you were going to throw curves," I said.

"No. No, the pitcher doesn't tell you what he's going throw, does he?" The next pitch was a curve and I pulled it just foul down the left field line. My father shook his head up at the clouds and smiled.

"What the hell was that?" he asked. "Jesus, don't try to pull a god-damned curve ball." I shrugged my shoulders and adjusted the grip on my bat. Again another curve, this time I fouled it down the right field line.

"Will you get your mind on what your doing? Come on now, let's go. I pitch, you hit." The next pitch was a curve again. This time I hit it solid and watched it fly high over the fence in centerfield.

"How was that one?" I said, staring at my father. "What'd I do wrong that time?"

"You dropped your shoulder."

"Jesus." I mumbled under my breath and I knew it was a mistake when I said the word.

"What was that?" my father said, squinting at me from the pitcher's mound.

"Nothing." I stepped back into the batter's box and took my stance.

"No, no. I heard you say something, what was it?" My father had stepped off the mound.

"Nothing. Just throw the pitch." I said again, louder this time, and my father stepped back on the mound. He pitched high and inside, no rotation. I heard the fastball whistle over my head and smash into the backstop as I fell to the ground. The pitch must have missed the top of my head by only a few inches. As I stood back up, I heard my father saying, "You've got to be ready son, the pitcher doesn't tell you what he's going to throw."

But in the game of baseball, my father always knew what pitch was coming next. I guess that comes from being a coach and former pitcher. One time when we were watching a Cubs game on TV, he called every single pitch for both teams for three straight innings. "High fastball here... Slider, low and away... Breaking ball, slow curve probably."

I was about eight then. It was a hot day in July and I was sitting next to my father. The curtains were drawn shut and he had his arm stretched out along the back of the couch. On TV, I could hear jets roaring as they passed over the ballpark. I could have almost been there eating a hot dog with my father in the stands. After the third inning, he stopped calling pitches and we watched the game in silence.

Two and one, the count.

You know they say it's a great movie, Steve, but I don't know; I have to say I think Harvey Keitel would have played it better.

Yeah, I know what you mean, but Marlon Brando was great wasn't he?

Three and one.

Well, I don't know.

"Why don't you two get outside and do something, it's so nice out," my mother said, suddenly appearing with a plate of oatmeal cookies, "Brenton, why don't you go over to the pool with your friends?"

"We've got to watch the game," my father said. "And after that, the boy's got to do his chores and then we're going to work on ground balls."

"You know, Will, someday Brenton's going to be the one on TV, hitting homeruns and scoring points and then you'll have no one to watch TV with or do your precious drills with." My father smiled and rubbed the top of my head.

"There are no points in baseball, dear; they're called runs and that's exactly why we have to do our drills, so I can sit here alone and watch him on TV."

"Yeah Mom," I said, gripping the bat in my hands.

"Oh, you two." Mother smiled as she set the plate down and left the room. My father dropped his arm around me.

And he pops it up.

Boy, we just can't catch a break today, can we?

You know, Steve, this kid's got some of the best stuff for a rookie since, I don't know, Bob Feller when he came up with the Indians.

"What about Herb Score, Harry?" my father said.

I'm afraid that was a little before my time.

"You see what happens? Nobody remembers," my father said.

Two out, nobody on.

I didn't tell my parents about the tryout at Oklahoma. As far as they knew, I was on the team. In the back of my mind I kept hoping that they would just forget about me and I'd never have to see them again. Most of the time, I just couldn't seem to get out of bed. The people in my dorm would ask me if I wanted to go out, but I'd always say I had a big test coming up. Then I'd stare absently at a textbook until they left.

After the semester was over, I moved out of the dorms and into a house where nobody cared whether I wanted to go out. I just laid around the house, hoping that the phone wouldn't ring. When my father called, he'd always ask how the team was shaping up and whether or not I thought I had a chance to start. That was easy. "Well, I guess you can't expect to start as a freshman," he'd say. The difficult part came when he asked specifics. "Hmm. I was sure old Cade Johnson was playing second. Hmm, I guess he must have been a senior last year, then. Well, I better get going, your mother's carrying on about something over here. We'll be looking for your name in the paper. You know, they're actually printing box scores in the Gazette now."

The town where my parents live is small and it's hard for anything to happen without everyone knowing. It's a place where putting a six foot statue of an obscure baseball player in the middle of your backyard won't escape gossip. It was like the time when I was ten, keeping score in the dugout, and my father stopped a game in the fourth inning. He told the umpire that Canyon would take a forfeit because he didn't like the attitude his players were showing. I saw my mother shrinking into her purse in the stands and everyone else turning to one another like, "What the hell does he think he's doing?"

When the statue arrived everyone had to stop by and see it. Some of the people were strangers, people I'd never seen before in my life. A few people were friends of my mother's and a couple were even old high school teammates of mine, still calling my father "sir" as they ran their hands, almost reverently, over the statue's gray stone body. However, most of the people that came by I recognized as my father's friends.

"Jesus, that's quite a sight, Will," said one man, opening a beer and gawking at the statue a few weeks after it had arrived. My father barely took notice. He was pounding stakes into the ground for the deck he would start building in May.

"So this is the great Herb Score, huh?"

"That's right," my father said.

"What happened? He got hit by a line drive or something, didn't he?"

"That's right," my father said. "1957."

The man moved closer to the statue, feeling the granite cap with his fingers. "What a face. It's too bad things have to happen like that, you know?"

"No," my father said, "No, it's not too bad." I could see the vein bulging in his neck from my room. He stood up, still holding a handful of stakes.

"What do you mean?" the man said sheepishly.

"He was a stupid fuck," my father spat. "He should of gotten out of the way."

"Ahh, c'mon, Will," the man chuckled, "How in the hell can you get out of the way of a line drive when you're sixty feet away?"

"How do you get out of the way?" my father snapped. "For starters, you don't throw a fucking fastball to someone who only hits line drives and not expect one to come back up the middle every now and then. And if it does, you move out of the way. You throw your goddamn glove in front of your face. You duck, you fuckin' dodge it." My father threw one of the stakes at the statue. It popped and splintered off the statue's head and ricocheted over the fence into the neighbor's yard.

"Shit, Will, I was just saying," but the man didn't finish his sentence, he just left. My father knelt back down and sat for a moment before going back to pounding the stakes into the ground. I watched him from my room, working until the sun was gone, each swing of the hammer carrying more force than the last.

The deck is about half done now. I don't know exactly what it will look like when it's finished, but I'm sure it will be a nice place for my parents to sit in the evenings. The neighbor's Akita, Malachite, keeps patrolling the fence line. Occasionally Malachite stops and presses his black nose against the chain link fence, eyeing all the activity. My father is busy measuring and hammering things. He keeps spare nails between his lips and he's wearing a faded blue Indians T-shirt and a Canyon High baseball cap pulled down low to keep the sun out of his eyes. My mother is hunting for weeds near her flowerbed.

It was about midnight, the day after classes had ended, when I called home to tell my parents everything. I'd been sitting in the deserted student center all day because I didn't want to be around my roommates as they all moved out. I kept trying to think of what I would say to my parents.

I'd been home over spring break and failed to tell them then. My mother had picked me up from the airport and we'd gone straight to the high school field where Canyon was playing. I was watching my father coach from behind the huge chain link backstop, as I thought of ways to phrase what I knew had to be said. I thought I had it all planned out too, but when he got home shortly after my mother and I, the first thing he said was, "What happened? Why are you home? Oh no, you must have gotten injured," and after that I suddenly developed a limp.

I spent the rest of the break staying out late with a few of my old friends who were back at the same time I was. I kept up the limp for them as well. One night we were drinking in the living room of my old girlfriend's house and I told them that I'd been the starting third baseman until an OSU player spiked me in an attempt to steal the base.

"Well, at least you've got next year to look forward to," my old girlfriend said.

"Shit, I'd have kicked his ass if I were you," someone said.

"Wow, that's great that you were starting. Hey, how bout letting me be your agent when you get to the big leagues?" someone else said.

I smiled and nodded gallantly at all of this.

There was a decorative, silver and amethyst studded goblet in the middle of the coffee table and I kept trying to bounce a quarter into it. "I owe it all to my father, really. Sure, he was a hard ass, but you know, I wouldn't be a starter at OU if it weren't for him." I went on talking like that. I could see the whole room in the silver bands of the goblet. Then I told them about how my father had thrown a fastball at my head in high school. Except in my version, the pitch had hit me in the temple and inspired me to work even harder and be more intense. I had already had five or six beers that night.

On my way home I'd been walking lightly and enjoying the warm breeze. The sky reminded me of that painting, Starry Night. Van Gogh was one of only a few names I remembered from my art appreciation class; one of the few things I remembered from any of my classes. I hardly ever went.

As I came around the side of the house, Malachite came flying out of the darkness. He slammed into the fence. His teeth were snarled and he was barking like he was rabid. The wind was gusting and careening through all the neighbor's wind chimes. Malachite kept on barking louder and louder. I have always loved dogs and was used to barking, but it was different that night with Malachite. There was so much rage and ignorant hatred in the way he looked at me through his reflective eyes. I suddenly wanted to kill him. I wanted to climb the fence and bludgeon him to death with my bare hands, but I didn't. I didn't even tell him to shut up. I just stared back at him silently until he'd worn himself out and then I went inside.

I was thinking about all of this, twisting a straw around my fingers, as I sat in the student center the day I called home. Finally, at about eight, I zipped up my back pack and rode my bike noiselessly home. The sky was a warm gray and the sun was setting, bleeding red and orange into the clouds as it fell below the horizon. As I pulled into the driveway, I saw that my roommates had all left, but my neighbors were having a party. There was music and laughter and people in shorts drinking beer. I went into my room and looked out the window. I could only see the twisted, gnarly limbs of an old elm tree against a dark gray backdrop as I lay on my bed. It was the middle of May, but still no leaves. I looked up again, now it was completely black. I could see a light across the yard. It was another house-old people probably, I thought. They would be reading, warm and secure in their little house, oblivious to the party next door. Then I thought of myself. Disjointed and alone. I put on my jacket as I packed my things and looked at myself in the mirror. I was a stranger, a robot to be controlled remotely.

After I was done packing and cleaning the rest of the house, I sat back down and tried to listen to the party. It had ended though, and when I got back up, all I could hear was the wood floor creaking under my boots. That's when I called my mother. Eight hours later, my father was there.

I woke up on the couch and my father was already in the house. He was sitting in an armchair next to a pile of boxes, staring at me like I was an algebra problem to be solved. He seemed to be nodding or rocking slightly, but he said nothing. I looked away as I rose from the couch.

"I've got everything packed," I said. "I'll go load it into the truck now." My father watched me with his chin on his hand. I was lanky and awkward in his presence. My arms felt thin and inadequate at my sides. I checked my watch. He checked his. I moved closer to the stack of boxes. His eyes followed me as I lifted a box from the top.

"Is this it?" he asked, glancing at the stack.

"Yeah," I answered.

We drove the narrow gray back highways through the pan handle instead of taking the interstate through Amarillo and up through New Mexico. We passed through the barren flatlands in total silence with the sun beating down directly above us. Tiny villages and ghost towns passed by like ships on an endless desert sea. My father never said a word. He kept the radio off until Trinidad and then switched it on only to hear the weather forecast before switching it off again. I'd look over and see his bony knuckles bent around the steering wheel. He was looking straight ahead.

The shadows from the late afternoon sun grow long. They form distinct lines from the objects of my room: the mirror, my dresser with old baseball trophies on top of it, that book about the Cleveland Indians on my desk. I move to the window and press my head against the screen. Somewhere in the distance, a jet is passing by. My father is outside, hammering away on his deck. He's got a baseball game on the radio.

I kept waiting for him to do something or say something, but he never did. After he threw the pitch at me in high school, I never saw my father angry again until he threw that stake at the statue last fall. Then, for a long time after that, he didn't say anything to anyone, even my mother, it seemed.

My mother is pulling weeds near the statue now. I still don't think she knows who Herb Score is. When I came home, she was convinced that I'd aquired a chemical imbalance while I was at college. The doctors gave me five months worth of Xanax, but it didn't change anything. I just had less energy than before.

I became my parents' invisible son, a ghost from the past, still with them but not really there. I'd drift out of bed and see my parents quietly sitting alone in the living room, like some painting by Edward Hopper, December sunlight filling the room as my father graded papers on the couch. Then I'd lumber back to my room and look out the window at the statue. Recently my mother has been hinting that I should go back to school or get a job. My father tells her to give me time and I'll do it on my own. I never have been able to account for my father's ways.

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©Copyright Nicholas Hanna