Choreographed struggle on the field. Real struggle all around it.
“Hey man, are you all right?” he said through my shattered car window. It was then I noticed that the floorboards were full of glass—granular pebbles that scraped and crutched under my feet. I never saw the car that ran the red light until it hit me broadside, spinning both our vehicles like toys across the highway. When my senses returned, our cars rested at odd angles across from one another, trails of debris marking our paths after collision. The LSU baseball stadium was overhead, and a group of players stood at the edge of the road. They were headed to practice when they saw the crash. I remember how strange it was that the person checking on me was LSU’s star pitcher. The Tigers were defending national champions that year, and he had thrown the final strike to win the College World Series. I had seen him play only the week before, and here he was, framed by the broken window of my car door. He asked again, “Are you all right?”
One night my uncle was watching the Boston Red Sox and the Cleveland Indians on television when someone fired a gun at him through the glass of his back door. After the first gunshot my uncle ran to the kitchen and turned out the lights. Then he made it to his bedroom and got my aunt to the floor. One bullet passed through two walls, another through a bookcase, just missing him. My uncle—one of the most endearing people I’ve ever known—said he felt the first shot in his hair. After firing four times, the person disappeared. Boston won that night and would go on to win the World Series, sweeping the Colorado Rockies in four straight games. The police never found the shooter.
Tonight my four-year-old is not interested in watching baseball with me. He says, “This is not for kids, I think,” and returns to his Legos on the living room floor. What he can’t see is all the violence and chaos just out of sight, framing the game’s order and grace where everything is labelled and lit up: the arc of each throw, the loping strides, the choreographed struggle and art of anticipation, all of it wonderfully legible. Long after the game ends, I sit in a quiet house with everyone else asleep, and it’s the darkness outside the diamond I think about. They said on the news that the woman had not been identified; that the child’s injuries were being investigated; that the victim was airlifted to a local hospital; that no arrests had been made and there were no leads. Years ago, when my uncle was asked about the shooting and why it happened, he said, “It is a mystery to me.”
Robert Erle Barham is Associate Professor of English at Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, GA.