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The Good Fellows of Washington Take the Field

 

There was a man sitting on my favorite bench when I got to the park.

He sat there, looking studious in a tweed jacket and three-day growth, unaware that he was imposing. I'd always thought that men bought tweed coats to appear smart, not because they liked tweed, and I naturally assumed the same of this character.

The man was sitting on my bench, so I took one facing him.

He was flipping through a sheaf of paper about an inch thick with gold brads fastening the tops of the pages together. I watched his eyes dart from one corner of the page to the next – was he a speed-reader? He turned pages with abandon, one every ten seconds or so. The man muttered little things that I couldn't understand but seemed approving.

There was a squirrel sitting behind the man's bench – my bench – and so I picked up acorns from the grass at my feet and began throwing them to the squirrel. The first one scared the little animal away, but I kept tossing nuts, just for something to do. One bounced off of the opposite bench and thumped the man in the head.

He didn't look up, so I got the idea that I'd try again, and I did. I missed four or five times, then nailed him in the forehead. This time he looked up, kind of sized me up, and went back to his papers.

Well, this burned me up. Either he figured I wasn't anything to be afraid of, or he was ignoring me. Didn't matter which one – I was mad about the bench, not him ignoring me.

"You're sitting on my bench," I said to him, and he looked up from his papers and said, "Sorry," and kept reading.

I got up and walked over to the bench he stole from me and sat beside him, closer than he probably would have liked, except he just glanced up and went back to his papers.

"Did you hear me?" I asked.

He nodded absently and kept reading, so I yanked the papers out of his hand and said, "Man, you stole my bench."

The man rubbed his shadow of a beard. "I'm real sorry. Can I have my script back?"

"Your script?" I looked down at the papers and sure enough, it was a script. I flipped through the pages, seeing character names and weird, unintelligible phrases (ext. room, fade this, zoom that). "This is a script?"

"Yes."

"You an actor or something?"

"Yes."

I looked at the man again and kind of studied him. "You don't look like an actor," I said. "What have you been in?"

There was a shriek from a hundred yards away, some girl, but I ignored it. The man shrugged. "A television show and two movies."

I cocked my head. This was an interesting development. "What show?"

He shook his head and looked at his feet. "Nothing."

"No, what?"

"Can I have my script back?"

I handed it back. "Come on, what show?"

He hesitated. "I hate telling people."

"Is it bad?"

"Is what bad?"

"The show."

"Um-well, not really. I don't think so."

"So what show?"

I was getting annoyed.

"The Good Fellows of Washington," he said.

"I've never seen it."

"It's on PBS."

"The Good Fellows of Washington, huh? Sounds like crap, man."

"It's historical fiction," he said.

"What movies?"

"Huh?"

There were a few more screams, this time from the softball field. The actor looked that way, and I punched him in the shoulder. "What movies?"

"Nothing big."

"I'm going to hit you again."

He said, "The Angels of Pittsburgh and Terrible Mercy."

My eyebrows went up, I know they did. I had just seen The Angels of Pittsburgh a week ago.

"You're lying," I said.

"Nope."

"I just saw The Angels of Pittsburgh, and you weren't in it."

"You know the scene in the hospital?"

"Yeah."

"I was the doctor in the children's ward."

"Holy – hey, you were in The Angels of Pittsburgh!"

He nodded.

By then the screaming had gotten louder and four girls thundered to a stop in front of the bench-my bench. "Can we have your autograph?" they cried, holding out napkins and envelopes and ballpoint pens. One girl took the actor's script and ripped a page off and gave it to him. "Sign it to Heather," she insisted.

I watched the actor sign their papers, and they looked at me and said, "Are you famous?"

I said, "You know that TV show Late Night with David Letterman?"

They all nodded, eyes wide.

"I'm David Letterman."

Their wide eyes creased and they scrambled away, giggling and howling. The actor looked at me. "Letterman?"

I shrugged.

Out of nowhere, a kid in a green ball cap skidded up to us, out of breath. "Hey, you guys want to play?"

"N-" I started, but the actor said, "Play what?"

"Baseball. We're setting up at the field, and our catcher and left-fielder didn't show up."

The actor looked at me and said, "Yeah, we'll play."

"I get to be the outfielder," I said as we hoofed it to the field.

The actor shrugged out of his tweed jacket and ran alongside me. "No, I do."

"Nope. You're catching."

"Don't think so."

"Don't make me punch you again," I said, and we ran onto the field and played a little baseball.

  Jason Gurley

 

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