MIGHT BE

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
Two young school reporters interview an aging former phenomenal athlete, a man who has been favored all his life, a man who wonders what decides who is favored in life and who---the other ninety-five percent of humanity---are dismally disfavored.
The kids may learn something.

Submitted: July 07, 2017

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Submitted: July 07, 2017

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 MIGHT BE

 A Short Story

 Nicholas Cochran

 

“There are so many theories rambling about that try to explain why some people enjoy most of the blessings of life while others, to one extent or another, do not.

“Why are some people so obviously favored, and most people so obviously not?

“Why are most people so obviously and severely disfavored?”

 

Today, in front of him were two reporters. One was Jimmy Daniels, age twelve, the other, Debby Jackson, age eleven. They were students at the local Junior High and were dispatched by their editor, Ray Perrine, to get some words of wisdom from the famous local resident. 

Naturally, Gary suspected that the Principal of the school had whispered a suggestion in Ray’s ear for a headline story to close out the baseball season.

“Well . . . Miss Jackson, Mr. Daniels,” he watched their eyes, the ‘windows to their souls’ and quickly wondered if kids that young really had souls yet; were not souls those things you had to search for after you became at least a teenager?

I wonder; I suppose their ministers or priests have already thrown the term around so often that they very well might have begun to address this ticklish subject and all its side effects.

Nevertheless, he definitely read a new respect filling their eyes as they realized that he was not your ordinary solipsistic athletic goon, and they both dropped the phony smiles and popped up sincere ones.

Whenever the topic of Gary’s accomplishments came up, he would first lower his eyes, then his head. He immediately reduced any speech to a low soft soothing sound and let his shoulders sag.

Hard to imagine, I m sure, for those of you who know Gary. Gary Trent we’re talking about here, the ballplayer. Yeah, the last triple crown player for years, maybe a generation or two.

However, here was Gary, at sixty-five, exhibiting his signature response to questions about his athletic prowess—and especially his skills and gifts as a baseball player—to a couple of kids.

Despite the youth of his interrogators and the banality of their questions, Gary produced The Trent Sag. He was sure that the expressions on their faces betrayed knowledge of his usual reactions to these same questions. However, this time, their queries roused a different part of his life experience.

October had barely slipped into its designated spot as being the first real month of autumn; and of course the background for the finals of the Fall Classic. However, here, today, he had been ambushed by Debby and Jimmy with great smiles on their faces and incipient nervous giggles bubbling in their throats. The great breadth of Gary Trent’s shoulders had collapsed, just as they had every time since that first time he was interviewed about his talents at age four and a half.

Gary’s wife, Geraldine, watched for a moment before moving away and making off in the direction of Whole Foods. She thought it not only amusing but also very touching: the continuing humility displayed by her husband about the innate talents—gifts, he had received at birth, and his very keen sense of knowing that these gifts had nothing to do with him; they were simply inexplicable.

*  *  *

Although the minimum age for playing Little League baseball is nine, Gary Trent, like the Great Gretzky and Bobby Orr, was a sensation almost from the first minute he picked up his ‘axe’. The general anticipation of his playing in Little League reached a ridiculous peak such that Alison Trent and her husband Hal moved the family to an adjoining city where they fought to immerse themselves, and particularly Gary, in anonymity for a while before the expected publication of their lives and futures to the entire sensate population of the world.

Gary did not disappoint. He easily became the Great Gretzky of baseball; the ‘Natural’ times ten; Mays, DiMaggio, and Ruth all wrapped up in only one part of him; all the other parts were pureTrent. From where and why they appeared, no one even tried to imagine.

Dad was throwing him hard curve balls with Mom as the catcher when he was five; scouts came snooping around four years before his first Little League Game. As a result of his phenomenal talent, his glorious gifts, he suffered the heartbreak of disqualification from the KK World Series.

Not surprisingly, the sponsors of the tournament, like the sponsors of all Little League regional tournaments involving Gary Trent before them, knew that allowing Gary Trent to complete would not only make a mockery of the word competition but also that his appearance and resulting accomplishments would humiliate every team Gary faced. Scores like 42-12 and 50-7 were not uncommon when Trent was in full bloom. And ninety percent of the runs were produced by the bat of G. Trent.

Let’s face it, the ‘sponsors’ (read ‘certain big guys making a fortune off little ones’) couldn’t afford the mockery that was sure to be made of the idea that there was any kind of ‘game’ in play. There would be routs of mega proportions. Sponsors would dry up. TV would find a way out of their contracts—or put the games on as a reality TV show on the life and times of Gary Trent. Thus, Gary missed the Little League World Series and went straight from high school to the Majors where he accumulated every batting record of every possible offensive statistic within ten years.

Gary had gone to visit Wayne Gretzky on several occasions while growing up and the ‘Great One’ gave him first-hand counsel as well as a lot of encouraging advice.

It's not ‘difficult’ to grow older with super talents if you just keep telling yourself they were a gift from somewhere, and leave it at that. And, never, ever begin to believe all the superlative comments they’re writing about you; setting you aside from everyone in the world; isolating you; cutting you off from life; from your life. Just don’t believe it, Gary. Enjoy the gift, and then hang it up.

Gary did just that. Before Spring Training of his eleventh year in the Majors, GaryTrent retired at the age of twenty-five. He ducked out of the limelight with almost as much speed and acumen as he displayed on the diamond.

For weeks, then months, no one was quite sure where he was, or at least where he was going because Gary and Geraldine correctly surmised that the best way—the only way—to evade the pursuing hordes, was to keep moving. They did. Children were born. Quiet neighborhoods were sought, found, and occupied.

Massachusetts provided a wide range of cover-houses for the family while Gary attended and graduated from MIT.

Next came California, where the family grew by two more children as Gary added a Masters degree from Stanford in String Theory to his Bachelors’ degree in particle physics from MIT.

After racking up his Masters, Gary dropped into Jolly Old where he earned a PhD from Oxford. His thesis was comprised of the mistakes made by Einstein about cosmology regarding the speed of light. The ‘speed’ of light was based on a construct and therefore there is no scientific limitation on how quickly we can get anywhere in the universe, surmised G. Trent.

Following his years of brilliant writing and research, Gary decided to return to California and teach at a high school nearDanville. There, he wrote his papers and studied his theories as well as those of his physics heroes while sitting on the wall of the lookout atop Mount Diablo.

Geraldine and their three children, Josh, Alexandra, and Emily, expected—hoped—to find a life without reporters, writers, and TV people; all the ‘gangs’ that surround the sport ‘Supremes’ in any country.

The necessity for knowledge about sports greats is wired into the DNA of every product of birth in every place on the Blue Marble: People have to express and mouth their regard, even their love, for their sports heroes. Of course, they never thought for a second that Gary Trent had wanted any of the attentions he received, attentions beginning before he was five years old.

Much to the pleasant surprise of Gary and Geraldine—and especially the three kids—no one did bother them in Danville. Maybe once a year, in October, someone might catch Gary and Geraldine before or just after they were in Europe. Most years, they managed to time their two or three month sojourns to some part of Europe during the post- season and usually, even while the last two heart-pounding weeks of the regular baseball season were unfolding. The other months when they were absent were February, March, and April while the new season was being hatched and beginning to totter about.

With the wonders of the net, video conferencing, and all the upgrades to communications equipment thought up by his past and present students, Gary was afforded the luxury of reclining in the sun of Seville discussing the theories of Feynman while Geraldine strolled about the Plaza Major and lined up a table for lunch that followed the windup of Gary’s presentation to his last class. 

The kids were often with them (all the time when they were young) and the two girls and their young brother patched together their education mostly in European venues, or at home with mom, or walking the slopes of Mount D. with dad.

*  *  *

“Now, let’s get something that you can print and help you try and understand Gary Trent. Somethng about the mysterious “it”.”

Both heads dropped to make sure the recording app of their iPhones was A-OK and ‘good to go’.

Gary blinked for a moment.

He suddenly felt as though his deepest concerns were being assembled by an unfamiliar sensation; that his thoughts were about to be fed to his mouth for publication to these two skinny tow-headed kids and the world; that his mouth was hijacked by these inner questions and about to unleash his soul upon the general populace.

“Both of you, as well as my family and I, have been born white.

“Why?

“Now think about how much that propels you toward the top of the list of fortunate ones.

“Then consider that you speak English; that you live in the United States of America; that you live in California; that you live in Northern California; that you live in Danville; that your parents also have all of these advantages; and are also very wealthy.

“Why?”

“Clean air, fresh water, not even a lot of flies—or mosquitoes. Everywhere you look, stunning beauty surrounds you. Peaceful solitude is at most five minutes away.

“Safety and health enfold you—me—us; all of us around here.

“Why?”

He stared keenly into their eyes, which were now substantially wider than they had been moments before.

“Because there is a thing; an “it”; an indescribable invisible “it”. And “it” either favors or disfavors every one of us.

“As a result of the blatant inequality and favoritism of the “it” by disfavoring such a disproportionate number of human beings—probably over ninety-five percent of the world’s population—people usually just don’t want to enter this particular territory for discussion.

“Many philosophers have called this state of total blessing, ‘luck’. Many religions call it predestination. Then there are all the other terms of one sort or another in between,” pausing,” I can tell by your eyes that you want examples, yes?”

They both nodded. Gary had not the faintest clue where he was going with all this; his mouth and his speaking apparatus were on automatic pilot.

For a moment, he felt like two persons; himself, and this talking person. He decided that this was just another astonishing surprise of life, so many of which he had been favored to receive.

 let’s hear what he has to say.

Whether it was a result of their ages—their recent arrival at the juvenile doors to perception—or something that Gary brought to the surface of their thoughts, a bundle of  new thoughts jumped into their minds for consideration at about the same time they dove into Gary’s. These were some ideas that Gary considered would be new to them, simply because they were new to him.

He continued without any mental map, without a plan, but with no fear of—or even any regard for—where his speaking would lead him; and the two kids.

 “There’s a movie called “Intacto”, a tale of four incredibly ‘lucky’ people who survived situations like a Nazi concentration camp or a plane crash where one person survives.

“Why is that?

“Why is one individual favored with life, while two hundred and forty-one of his or her fellow passengers die?

“All of us have had winning streaks but they all ended.

“Streaks of bad luck end as well—usually. Nevertheless, sometimes, as in the movie, some people’s good luck never ends, but if it should, they know they will not just return to being an average Joe; they will die.

“In real life, what is this peculiar thing, this entity, this spirit, this “it”, that affords what we call ‘good luck’ to certain people?

“For example, Hollywood Henderson, a famous football player, won the state lottery twice.

“There are many people who never seem to run out of what we have labeled ‘luck’. However, these are clearly not cases of ‘luck’b ecause ‘luck’ does run out.

‘Lucky’ has an opposite; unlucky; And so whatever “it” is, “it” clearly isn’t ‘luck’, because the streak of being favored by “it” never ends.

“This may sound like I’m a hundred years old; or that I have accumulated the wisdom that some people do by that age, but I’m just a sixty-five year old man who has been borne along in the boughs of, well, what I call, The Might.”

“First: What The Might is not: Fate; destiny; reincarnation; dark matter; ‘the gods’; God; Allah; Nature; ‘my invisible friend’; chance; luck.

“Simply put, The Might is everything. It is comprised of all things visible and invisible, in this universe and all other universes. There is nothing anywhere that is not a piece of The Might.”

Gary drew back as if he was pushed aside by the other Gary. Nevertheless, he smiled and listened. From out of somewhere, deep in his essence, Gary Trent, the phenomenal teacher, seasoned the speaker’s words.

Debby was squinting her eyes; Jimmy’s open jaw moved down a little.

“This is The Might, and we are all borne along in its boughs; or not.

“Some slip; some fall; some, like babies born with cancer, never find a bough.”

Gary stopped to look into the eyes of these two young, fresh-faced, eager, humanoids, securely resting in the boughs of The Might.

He did not have the faintest idea of what he thought he would or should see in those eyes, their windows, their nascent souls, their deepest fears, yearning to be free. However, while the moments held all three in a silent bond, each of them appeared to quiver for a few moments; but the bond held.

* **

Trying to explain the long blank period on their iPhones to their teacher as well as their family and friends was impossible for Debby and Jimmy. They both quickly said they couldn’t remember anything happening at all during that period and when questioned separately by some guy from Skeptic Magazine, neither remembered hearing a word. However, they did remember Gary Trent staring into their eyes while he told them something that they didn’t remember hearing and couldn’t recall.

Gary had the same problem when he was telling Geraldine about the two kids who wanted an interview. He could remember everything up until mentioning the word “it”. After that, a blank.

 

Every year until the end of his life, Gary Trent received birthday cards, Christmas cards, graduation notices, marriage announcements and invitations, birth announcements, naming ceremony announcements, and every other manner of life-sharing correspondence from Debby and Jimmy.

They did not marry each other, but, instead, extended the sense of being held to their spouses, and then their children, and then their grandchildren. 

However, they did keep in very close touch with each other. Nevertheless, they could never explain to themselves or each other, just what it was that compelled them to stay connected, bonded.

Over those many years, all three participants of that singular experience on that signature day, made every effort to remember—even one word of what Gary’s voice had failed to produced on the iPhones. They never did.

Occasionally, at some unlikely time of the day or night, when alone in some sublime situation or locale, or in the dead of night when only the silence and the stars were afoot, a quiver so quick, yet so light, brought a smile and a rush of ease to their lips, as though they were being favored, protected, and nourished while being held in a bough.


© Copyright 2017 Nicholas Cochran. All rights reserved.

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