A Little Dream

By
Updated: August 8, 2019

A Little Dream

“All days are nights to see till I see thee/And nights bright days when dreams do show me thee.”
–William Shakespeare, Sonnet 43, 13-14

He dropped the ice into the tumbler like so many bells, one after the other, and the bourbon lifted them well above four fingers in the evening glow of uptown Duluth on a Saturday evening.  A rainy swath of brake lights and streetlamps gained their glow in the coming darkness, and every now and then a branch of lightning spread over Lake Superior and bathed the city in an electric glower.

From his phone, Ricky McCoy scanned until he found what he needed—what he was searching for.  He played it—loudly—painfully—drowning out the air conditioner with that beautiful voice:

Stars shining bright above you

Night breezes seem to whisper “I love you”

Birds singing in the sycamore trees

Dream a little dream of me.

He opened his collar, loosing his green tie and sighing.  Lightning flashed again over the water—he pulled from the bourbon and watched the waves.  The swaths of rain picked up and bathed Ricky’s balcony windows in washes of expanding torrents.  His phone lit up—his eyebrows raised—and he saw two text messages on the lock-screen:

 

Tania: Review the draftees yet???  Board wants report.

 

Tania: …Yesterday.

 

Beneath him, on the glass surface of the coffee table, a spread of profiles in tan folders lay strewn in disorder, small photographs clipped to the outside.  In orderly, flowing handwriting, Ricky’s assistant, Tania, had scrawled the names of Duluth’s 2029 draftees:  Scotty Weeks.  Donald Bradford.  Pok-too Si.  A dozen others.

 

With an open palm, Ricky drew his hand across the stubble of his cheek—noting somewhere that another white patch seemed to pop up every other week.  His widow’s peak, too, seemed more arced than a year ago—and his bourbon budget had certainly expanded since he left the Army.  Not like it mattered—he lived cheap, despite his taste in bourbon.  It was a symbiotic cycle.

 

While I’m alone, blue as can be,
Dream a little dream of me.

Ricky shrugged and opened the first folder.

SCOTTY WEEKS

“Back, Scott!  Back, back, back!”

Scotty pedaled as fast as his eleven-year-old legs would take him, nearly swallowing the generous fistful of sunflower seeds he had indiscriminately piled into his mouth before taking his place in left field.

He hated the outfield.  He hated the smell of the outfield.  He hated the dandelions that littered right field—as if the grounds crew at Lions Park only bothered to spray left field.  He hated the embarrassment of being in right field—almost as much as he hated flyballs.

They were impossibly hard to judge.  He’d crouch low in his ready-stance, drag his Rawlings glove in the grass, and pray that the batter didn’t hit it to right.  He dreaded left-handed batters and spent the half-inning chanting “Not me” like a cloistered baseball monk.

“Back!  Back Scott!”

He wasn’t far enough.  Every outfielder knows the sinking despair of a ball sailing beyond your glove—the collective disappointment of your team—and even worse, the cheers of the opposite bench.  He cursed and spun around, frantically scraping the ball up from the dandelions and rocketing it—over the cutoff man—to be collected by the pitcher, who could only look at Scotty in disgust.  The yellow lights of the scoreboard flickered to award two more runs to the opposing team.

After the game, Scotty and his grandfather sat in the shade of a gnarled old willow tree next to the Dairy Queen.   Grandpa was very interested in his blizzard—the same one grandpa always ordered—the Heath Bar blizzard.  He smacked his lips and studied the thin red spoon like an archeologist, the glow of the setting sun caught in his gold-rimmed glasses.

“I suck,” Scotty said, fist against his chin, his own blizzard untouched on the red-meshed picnic table.  His grandfather looked studiously beyond his spoon at Scotty, smacking his lips again and digging for another scoop.

“You’re better than your dad was,” Grandpa said, laughing to himself.  He looked up—seeing Scotty’s lack of enthusiasm, and his smile faded.  “He would be proud to see you play, Scotty.”

“Scott,” the boy replied, frustrated.  His grandfather furrowed.  “I’m almost twelve, grandpa.  I don’t need a baby’s name.”

“You’ll always be Scotty to me,” Grandpa said with a soft smile. He sighed. “But fine.  Scott it is, pal.  Whatever you want.”

Scott looked down, pulling his cap low.  His cleats kicked under the table.

“I don’t think they’ll let me on the all-star team.”

His grandfather watched him, his head tilted.  Slowly, he wiped his face with a napkin and sighed.  “Scott, there’s nothing in the world that hurts so much as feeling you’re not good at baseball.”  He folded his hands together, leaning forward and pulling his grandson’s cap up.  “but you don’t suck at baseball.  You can hit that ball better than most of the boys in Cal Ripken. You just suck at right field.”

Scott, despite his tears, laughed along with his grandfather.

“What we need,” Grandpa said, a wry smile, digging into Scott’s blizzard, “is a new position.”

 

VICTOR WATSON

He sat on the edge of the pier, the august sun blazing across the deciduous wonder of the lakeside.  He leaned back, sighing, biting his cheek and looking over to his girlfriend, who sat cross-legged next to him.  She was beautiful, even now, a glass bead in her dark, braided hair, jeans and a halter-top, shaking her head at Victor.

“I’m going to Seattle.”

Victor’s breath paused.  He knew it was coming.  Like the tide coming in—like a storm over the mountains on a sunny day.

“I know, Chelsea.”

“Come with me,” she said, leaning closer to him, taking his hand.  “Sure, Seattle’s expensive—but you could find work, Vic.  And even if you can’t, my aunt’s in Ballard—it wouldn’t take much to get certified, and they say they need teachers there—”

Vic laughed, looking up to watch a pair of sparrows dart beyond the pier.  “I don’t want to be a teacher, Chels.”

She frowned, studying him, pulling away.

“What else will you do?  You said yourself, only an idiot would draft you after last year…and you can’t go back to UCONN, Vic. Your scholarship’s gone…think about this, baby.  You can’t play baseball forever.”

Yes I can,” Vic said, angrily—more angry than he wanted, and he tossed her hand away.  She recoiled, her mouth open.  He sighed, running his hand through his hair and looking back over the water.  Chelsea watched him, collecting herself.  She pushed her braid behind her ear, standing up and dusting off her jeans.

He listened to her footsteps grow quieter along the pier, until he was left alone to his thoughts.

But in your dreams whatever they be

Dream a little dream of me

 

NATE HORTON 

He rubbed his temples, turning up his headphones to drown out his mother’s sobs from the opposite room.  Quietly, he sat on his brother’s Statesmen comforter—even at 19, he refused to throw away this stupid comforter.  It made Nate chuckle.  The chuckle grew, like a terrible cough, until he stifled his own sobs and felt warm tears fall onto the blanket.  He balled his hands into fists.

Above, on the shelves above his brother’s dresser, were a series of photographs taped to the drywall.  Nate’s brother loved one thing more than baseball—photography.  The wall was plastered with well-framed memories:  His little league all-star team, their summer trip to Disney World in 2021, a giant hot dog at a Statesmen game, graduation, and his boot camp photo on the end.  Below, Joe’s glove sat on the dresser, like he had just tossed it there this morning.  A pair of dog tags dangled on the corner of the mirror.

“Shit, Joe,” Nate whispered, rising and running his fingers over the glove.  He exhaled.  “Shit, man.”

Did it hurt?  Was he scared?  Was he alone?

“You’re thinking too much,” Joe would always say, correcting Nate’s stance and pacing behind him.  “Don’t think, Nate, throw the damn ball.  It’s not geometry class, you fucking nerd.”

Joe was good at everything.  Good with girls, good at school, good at baseball.  Everything came naturally to him—and despite it all, he still spent his Friday nights teaching his little brother how to toss a slider.

“Every real pitcher has a slider,” Joe would always say, spitting Copenhagen into the grass.  “Only losers and bullpen weenies throw fastballs and changeups, Nate.  Are you a loser?”

“Nope!”

So Nate learned the slider.

He looked at himself in his brother’s mirror, dog tags clanking, and wiped his running nose with a shaking hand.

He picked up the glove, tears flowing, and threw it with all of his force, shattering the mirror completely.

 

——//——-

 

“I can’t do it!” Ricky yelled, swiping the papers with a powerful arc across the living room, papers scattering everywhere.  The hopes and dreams of a dozen young men rained down on Ricky’s living room floor.  “I can’t fucking do it.” The bottle of bourbon was empty, and Mama Cass still blared on in the background.

But in your dreams, whatever may be
You’ve gotta make me a promise, promise to
me

He leaned against the glass of his balcony window, forehead against his arm, watching the dull glow of Warrior Hall in the distance.  The stadium lights were still on.

Stars shining bright above you
Night breezes seem to whisper, “I love you,”

He hated it.  It was all bullshit.  It was all a dream—an angler fish in deep waters, and it lured you in with promises of stars and glory and highlight reels, and when it could no longer use you, it discarded you into a world that grew up without you.  But Jesus, how he loved it.

Tania: Reports?? MTG @ Warrior Hall in the AM.

Ricky resisted the urge to throw his phone off the balcony.  Dizzy, he balanced himself on the window as the world spun around him as he replied.  It was nearly three in the morning.

Ricky McCoy:  it’s a dream, tania

Tania: …

Tania: What is?

Ricky McCoy:  birds, sycamore trees—all dreams

Tania:  …gonna reschedule that 7am.

Ricky didn’t reply.  He turned up the volume on his phone, watching the bright lights of Doyle Buhl stadium along Lake Superior.  He put a palm up on the window, dreaming.