He Was What My Dad Would Call a Heavy Hitter

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Written in response to prompt, "He Was What My Dad Would Call a Heavy Hitter" for monthly session of Temple Or Rishon's Writers' Group.

Submitted: October 30, 2018

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Submitted: October 30, 2018

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Rock, rock, creak….. rock, rock, creak…. Chirping birds provided background music for the rhythm of June’s steady movement as she lazily rocked to and fro on her front porch. She found herself slipping out of today and her thoughts turned back in time. Rock, rock, creak.

Another rocking chair crept into her thoughts. Her Pappy had held her in his lap so many years ago, and jostled her child’s pudgy form. This rock, rock, creak was accompanied with laughter. Pappy was such a jokester, and word play was his game. The corner of June’s mouth now slipped into a sly smile remembering how Pappy’s lips held his mirth in check as he delivered another of his perilous puns or his unexpected one-liners.

The earlier the memory, the happier, and June allowed her thoughts to settle into those pleasurable times. Mama was a backdrop, bustling in the kitchen, preparing dinner, folding laundry, and she and Pappy shared yet another silly moment.

She remembered running up to Pappy’s outstretched arms, and asking, “Pappy, what’s a heavy hitter?”

She had heard the term on a t.v. show and puzzled over its meaning. Pappy scooped her up and raised her high, eyes twinkling in thought.

“I’ll tell you a story, “he drawled as he bought time to come up with what would become their running joke.

“A long time ago, a mama kitten gave birth to 25 little kitties at one time. She almost died in kitten birth, but she prevailed, knowing that she had work ahead of her. Birthing these kittens was the most important job she had to do. One by one, the kittens entered the world and mama cat licked them, and cuddled them and loved them. That’s how mamas do with their young. When the last kitten was cleaned and nestled against her, she finally rested.

“That was one heavy litter!” sighed Mama Kitten, exhausted and joyous.

“No! No! No!” shrieked June in delight. Not a heavy LITTER… a heavy HITTER.

This became June’s and Pappy’s private joke. June would ask, “Pappy, what’s a heavy hitter?”… and Pappy would pause in thought, and come up with another answer, pretty much unrelated, but always including some underlying pleasant message.

“Pappy, what’s a heavy hitter?”

“Hmm… .. “ Pappy paused.  “You know that sweater Mama made for you last winter? Let me tell you a story. There was a poor handcrafter in Europe who took it upon himself to provide warm clothing for all the orphans in his village. He had yarn stacked to the ceiling of his work room. Instead of a radio, his children sang to the cadence of his clicking needles. He could barely feed his own family, but he always found time to do this extra work. As his children grew, he taught them this skill, and they joined him in providing for the poor. His reasoning was simple,


“We may not have much, but there are always people who have less, and it’s our job on earth to help them out.’

He was known in the community as….. yes, a heavy knitter.”

“Pappy!!! “screeched little June…. “Not a heavy knitter!! A heavy hitter!!!!”

It was a silly game and often hardly made sense. But it was their game, and June chose to summon up these memories. She recalled the tailor in Poland who clothed the needy…. Yes, the heavy fitter. And the nanny who loved children so much that she fed them, and herself cake, candy and ice cream…she became, of course … the heavy sitter. It went on and on.

Rock, rock, creak…rock, rock, creak…. June’s mood began to darken. As always, the less happy times elbowed their way into her thoughts. Pappy was a joker, but he had a dark side. He was happy until he became… not happy… morose, and bitter and angry.

In hindsight, she wished she had never asked the question. The fun and the laughter were worth remembering, but the other side of the two edged sword brought only pain. Aching recollections slipped into her consciousness.

In high school, she learned that “a heavy hitter” had many meanings. It originated in baseball - the one brought out to save the game. That player who could really hit the ball lent the term to a wider definition: that powerful person who makes a difference. It’s applied to politics, to business and to any situation where personal influence affects an outcome.

Pappy wasn’t a heavy hitter in that sense. He had a mediocre job and not many friends. He was viewed with suspicion, because it didn’t take long to realize that his joviality would more often than not turn to bitterness. His mood swings were unpredictable as to when they would occur. The only predictability was that they sooner or later, Pappy would sink into his internal quagmire.

Rock, rock, creak…. Rock, rock, creak…. June’s tempo picked up as she tried to push these threatening thoughts from her mind. She no longer wanted to remember the outbursts, the arguments between her parents, her covered ears as she had attempted to block out her father’s eruptions.

Rock, rock, BAM! She remembered her mother’s frightened face and recalled her last minute change of dress at June’s wedding. Her short sleeve peach ensemble would no longer do. Mama needed long-sleeves to cover that angry bruise as she and Pappy walked down the aisle with June to give the bride away. Heavy hitter had taken on a whole new meaning.

June arose from her rocker and sighed deeply. She knew from experience that she needed to reclaim her mood.  What is past is sealed in time. What is remembered is up for grabs.

She raised her eyes to the sky and took a deep breath.

“What a fragile thing memory is,” she reflected as she searched the recesses of recollection for laughter and warmth. She slowly sat back down in her chair on her porch…

Rock, rock, creak. Rock, rock, creak…..

 

Carol Catinari

December, 2017

 

 


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