The hours of folly are measur'd by the clock, but of wisdom: no clock can measure.
"I don't try out. Guy out front, he sent me in here to talk about a tryout. I told him he was nuts, but he said
to come in here anyway."
Crash looked up from a three-day backlog of insurance crap he'd been putting off and didn't say a word
for a long moment, letting his eyeballs make some kind of impression. It was the new kid, Schmidt.
Fastball pitcher, maybe, just assigned here and yeah, he wasn't really gonna try out, but hell, he'd just
jumped off the truck from, where was it? Iowa? Idaho? Either way, corn or potatoes, and probably in
dire need of getting some of the starch knocked out of him, and he didn't need to know he wasn't gonna
"Son," he said finally, "I think you're a little bit wet behind the ears for a statement like that."
The kid's eyes bugged, just a little, and Crash didn't chuckle, didn't let on he'd seen a hundred hotshots
who would probably make the Show, and this one might or might not be one, and didn't stop leafing
through pages of minutia regarding deductibles and conditions.
"Play ball, I guess, and first thing you got to do, if you play ball, is play ball."
The kid nodded as though Crash had said something profound, and he stifled a sigh. It hadn't been
profound; it had been miserably and painfully obvious. The only plus here was that at least this one was
apparently not as hard up in the thinking department as some he'd seen; at least he hadn't actually
vocalized the huh?
"So." Crash picked up a scuffed-up ball from the five hanging along the crack where his desk hit the wall,
and flipped it up. "Tell me."
"Uh. Tell you what?" Catching the ball wasn't a problem, but Crash wanted to see what he'd do with it,
now that he had it.
"Tell me about playin' ball."
Schmidt frowned, but turned the ball in his fingers, unconsciously gripping the seams for a fastball, a
curve, a forkball, back to a fastball. "I'm a pitcher."
"And I... play ball?"
"Will wonders never cease?"
Then Schmidt looked at the ball in his fingers. "This one went out of the park, didn't it?"
"What makes you say that?"
"It's unbalanced and grass-stained," the kid said. "And it just feels like one that made a break for it." He
shrugged, face splitting in a goofy grin, and blushed a little. "I dunno."
Crash thought he ought to take this one home to meet Annie. They had a couple of weeks before the
season, and she'd probably like to meet someone who thought any given baseball felt like one that made a
break for it. He grinned at the thought, mostly to himself.
"What? Oh. Right." Crash pointed vaguely toward the door. "Gooch'll set you up a locker, copy you the
schedule, alla that. You be ready in the morning, and we'll do that tryout. I'll catch."
"I know. I'm hands-on."
"Oh. Okay." Schmidt headed for the door, then turned back. "Coach?"
Crash looked up just in time to snag the ball the kid tossed back.
Yeah, Annie was going to like him.
Crash finished initialing exclusions and shoved the whole mess back in the folder, then stuffed the folder
into McElroy's inbox. He'd probably give it back tomorrow with half a dozen of those piddly little sign-
here post-it arrows where he'd missed entire pages of details, but paperwork wasn't Crash's strength, and
paperwork like that was just plain irritating. If he'd known quite how much of the shit there was,
he'd have thought twice about taking the reins when Joe retired, but he'd made it through the last two
years, and he'd make it through this year. Maybe the third time'd be the charm.
As he locked up and waved cursorily at Gooch, who was driving out just ahead of him, he wondered who
Annie'd quote at him when he bitched about it. Probably Thoreau. Or Adrienne Rich.
Think in the morning. Act in the noon. Eat in the evening. Sleep in the night.
"Think you'll like the new kid," Crash said as he caught the screen with his hand behind his ass on the
way in. "He knew right off the ball I tossed him had gone over the fence.
"That's what he said first thing?"
"Yeah. Well, just about first. Right after he couldn't tell me about playing ball. Said it just felt like it
"That's promising. He's comfortable with feelings."
"He also says he doesn't try out."
Annie laughed. "As I recall, that's a damn good way to take yourself out of the running. You send him
packing, let him fret about it overnight?"
"Nah. He's a pitcher. You know how they are. Long on fine motor, short on sense." He picked a green
apple out of the dish on the counter and leaned back against the same surface, one leg crossed over the
other, as he took a bite. "Got to give 'em lots of chances to figure things out."
"I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestioned ability of a man to elevate his life by
conscious endeavor," Annie said, taking the apple away. "I got supper on the stove, and that was--"
"Very good. I thought about saying Pride is a tricky, glorious, double-edged feeling, but that
didn't seem a very positive way to start the evening."
"Can I have my apple back?"
"May I have--"
"Yes, like I said. Can I have my apple back?"
"You'll spoil your supper."
"Annie, when, since that first time, have I ever not taken my fill of anything you had to give?"
She smiled and slapped the apple back into his open palm, juice splattering against his fingers. He
grinned and lifted it free with his other hand, holding her gaze as he licked his fingers clean.
"Crash, I do believe you're aiming to seduce me."
"Naw, if I aim, you'll know. Subtle, I ain't."
She shook her head and went back to check the potatoes, removing them from the stove as he munched on
the apple. "You see the paper?"
"Saw it. Didn't get around to reading much of it. Why?"
"Nuke didn't have a single strikeout last night. And he's throwing wild, more walks than hits."
"He get the win?"
"Well, yeah, but it's not like him."
"I suppose you think we need to go down to Atlanta so you can give him underwear?"
"Don't be silly." She spooned potatoes into a serving dish and brought them to the table. "I sent those off
"Ah." Crash sliced through his ham and speared a green bean. "Same pair, or you get him new ones?"
"I thought he was more of a blue type, these days. Not so much all fire and fury. Calmer now."
"Too calm, I think. Lost the fear and ...ignorance."
"I know. I just like to see you get worked up--the odds against Ebby Calvin LaLoosh losing the ignorance
stagger the mind."
"He did just fine, as you know. Even learned not to squirm while being read to."
"Sure, but that was back when he was young and malleable and a whole lot less calm."
"Fiery," she agreed.
They ate in silence for a few minutes, then Crash asked, "So. You buy yourself something too?"
"Absolutely. Wanna see?"
"I like to see you that kind of worked up even better."
"I know." She ate a few more bites, then stood and sashayed out of the room. Crash waited ten seconds,
finished his potatoes, and followed.
If the fool would persist in his folly he would become wise.
"What the hell happened?" Crash stared up at Gooch.
"You called for a first-pitch fastball. He threw one."
"Crash. You got to quit trying to outdo twenty-year-old pitchers with heat. You ain't even seen thirty in a
long damn time."
"My age isn't the mystery in this situation, Gooch. What the hell happened?"
"He threw the fastball. He missed. Real fast. Good thing you had the sense to wear the mask, if you had
to do this fool thing."
"...Guess that explains why my brains feel like scrambled eggs."
"How long's I out?"
"Couple minutes. Got your nap in early today, so I guess you'll have to work through lunch now."
"Fuck you. You call Annie?"
"Nah, thought you better. Now, can we just have Willard catch now?"
Crash pushed his way upright and looked around, then groaned. "Just a concussion. Nothing to see here."
No one moved, so he shouted. "Get back to work, ya lollygaggers!" Well, it'd worked for Joe, even if he
did sound about eighty.
Gooch snickered as twenty young men all scrambled to look busy as they kept slightly fearful eyes on
their coach, and Crash pressed a hand to his throbbing forehead once most everyone had stopped staring,
because shouting maybe hadn't been the best idea thirty seconds after regaining consciousness.
"Keep 'em on task, Gooch," he said, trying to figure out how to walk without moving. "Think I'm taking
the day off."
He didn't ask for help, but was glad when two of the kids each took an elbow as he made his way into the
clubhouse. "Wait, where'd Schmidt go?"
"He got kinda scared when you didn't get up," said the one on the left. "Think he hit the showers."
"After one pitch? Oh, hell no," Crash said. "Schmidt!" The shout echoed through the locker room over
the sound of running water, and Crash winced, but when there was no answer, he waved the two back out
onto the field and shouted again. "Schmidt!"
The water turned off, and Schmidt, dripping and carrying his towel, stepped out. "Coach? You okay?"
"Yeah. Why the hell are you showering?"
"Uh. Thought knocking out the--"
"Get back out there."
"You heard me. We don't retire for the day at--" he looked up at the wavering image of the clock "--at
whatever the hell time it is! We practice! We throw the ball! We--" He realized all at once he needed to
sit down before he fell down. "We don't hit the showers. Hey, dial Annie for me?"
"Annie's Annie. Just, 555-7437." He gestured to the phone, then beckoned once the kid was dialing.
"Now get your ass back out there."
"She'll come. You git out there. Hey, Annie? Yeah, had a little bit of a ...thing. You don't teach this
morning do you? Yeah, and bring aspirin."
He hung up. Schmidt hadn't made a move. "Look, you're still here when she gets here, I'll have her haul
you back out dressed just the way you are. She'd do it, too."
The kid scrambled to get dressed. Crash closed his eyes and imagined what fun it would be to watch
Annie shove him out the door. "Hey, kid?"
"Yeah?" The sounds of scrambling ceased.
"You got to respect the game. Sometimes, people get hurt in the game. Way it is. Plantar fasciitis,
sprains, strains, sometimes even Tommy John surgery. Happens. You play and you appreciate that you
get to, every day you can go. Even if your catcher gets beaned and goes down hard. You got that?"
"Uh, yeah. Yes, sir."
"Good. Don't forget your glove."
"Glove. One top of your locker, which, by the way, is a lousy place to leave it because it's too damn easy
to miss it when you look. Glove's your friend, on the field."
"Oh. Right. Uh, you sure--"
Crash waved him away and waited for Annie.
She was there sooner than he'd really expected. "Hey."
"Well, you look... lousy."
"I look like stone-ground shit, you mean."
"I wasn't going to say that. What happened?"
"Nothing. I was behind the plate. I got beaned. Hit the dirt, got my bell rung."
"Crash, you don't play any more."
"Yeah, but someone's got to catch the new kid--"
"Someone not you."
"I suppose you have a quote for me?"
Annie smiled. "How about this one? Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't
"What if I do mind?"
"Then you and Mister Twain are going to have to agree to disagree."
"Can we go home now?"
"Yeah, Crash. Come on, baby."
"I hate it when you call me that."
"I know, but when you insist on pretending you're still twenty--I'll save the lecture for Doc Wilkins.
The nakedness of woman is the work of God.
He woke up slowly, in a room scented with vanilla candles that would never not remind him of
the very long first night he'd spent here. He didn't open his eyes. "Hmmn?"
"Hey. Doc said to wake you every two hours."
"Feels like my head's been stuffed into a vise during an earthquake."
Annie laughed, low and near. "How poetic."
"Poetry is language at... hmm. At its most ...something."
"Rita Dove. Distilled and powerful."
"She's wrong, though. I could distill that a little more."
"And what would that be like?"
"Motherfucker, my head hurts."
Crash cautiously opened his eyes. "Annie, I'm beginning to think that oh my of yours doesn't
"It might not."
"And that you might just like it when I use such, hmm, coarse and undisciplined language."
She snuffed the candles, then lifted the cover and slid in beside him, her skin cool against his side as she
curled against him, arm laying across his belly, leg hitched up over his thigh. "And I might, but you are
by no means prepared to take that language anywhere."
"I'm fine. Just a headache."
"Involving a vise?"
"Yeah." He let his eyes drift closed. "Annie?"
"Sorry I'm not."
He felt her tilt her face up towards his in the dark. "Not what?"
"Prepared to take that language anywhere good." He paused. "Course, you do have to wake me again in
two hours, right? Maybe by then--"
"Crash, go to sleep. We'll see about exertion sometime after you stop seeing double."
"Who said I was seeing double?"
"You are, aren't you?"
"I didn't say that."
"My motto was always to keep swinging. Whether I was in a slump..." "
"or feeling badly or having trouble off the field, the only thing to do was keep swinging," she
picked up when he trailed off. "Hank Aaron."
"Mmhm. So I'll keep swinging my bat. When you wake me in two hours."
Annie chuckled and curled her fingers on his chest as he fell asleep.
The thankful receiver bears a plentiful harvest.
"Look, kid. It's a simple game. You throw the ball, you catch the ball--"
"Yeah, Gooch--uh, coach Gutcheson--gave me that speech already."
"What? You interrupted the coach, 's what. You stopped him in the middle of a perfectly good
set speech that, if tradition stands, you'll need to hear at least eight more times anyway."
"Sorry." Schmidt looked down at the rubber, not quite scuffing his toe but looking young enough.
"Right. So. You throw the ball, you catch--screw it. I'm just gonna have to get Annie down here to deal
with you." Crash stuffed the ball in his pocket and made as if to walk toward the clubhouse, stopping and
turning back when Schmidt spoke.
"Annie? She's who you had me call, before. She's...?"
"My--" Crash paused, then strolled back to the mound thinking again that it'd be a lot easier if one of two
things happened: she went ahead and married him and screw the symbolic bullshit, or he quit stumbling
over there not being a good word for 'person I'm permanently hitched to without legal intervention.' "My
wife, more or less."
"Ah. Domestic partner."
"I think if you call Annie a domestic anything, breathing through your eyelids is going to be the least of
"She takes players under her wing sometimes. Teaches them. She had LaLoosh wearing garters and
breathing through his eyes."
"Don't go all starry-eyed. Yeah, him, and his control problems were about like yours, was what she had
him workin' on."
"You don't think she'd make me wear garters, do you?"
"You sound like you doubt the effectiveness."
"Well, I never heard of anyone--"
"That's because you haven't met Annie." Crash took the ball back out of his pocket and tossed it over.
"Try to keep it where Kent doesn't have to sprain anything to get to it, wouldja? And for the love of God,
if you know what it feels like when one's gone over the wall, you should be able to work out what it feels
like to paint the inside corner. First game's tomorrow. It's time to bring it, Jack."
"Name's not Jack."
"Yeah, well, you don't have a good nickname. Do something that makes someone give you one."
The next pitch missed.
The one after that painted the corner. Crash adjusted his cap and headed back out into the outfield to
hassle Jones about the concept of patience in hitters.
The best wine is the oldest, the best water the newest.
"Yeah?" Crash picked up the phone just as he waved Schmidt forward into the office. "Oh, yeah? Just
come on in. Annie, I got to--yeah, say hi, then. Yeah, me too." He set down the handset. "Sorry. She
just wanted to let me know the underwear hadn't worked, so she's heading down to Atlanta for the
"For LaLoosh. He's been stinking up the place."
"So you sent him underwear?"
"No! She did. Blue, evidently."
"And now she's going to see him."
"Yep. Not what I called you in here for, though."
"Oh. Right. You wanted to see me, coach?"
"Yeah. I'm starting Willie tonight."
"I know, I know. But you haven't had an opportunity for pressure, and I like to win on opening day."
"I can handle it!"
"Can you? I was just thinking how bad Nuke got roped, that first game, before Annie got her hands on
him. And of course, now here he is into the season and he's stuck again."
"Coach! All due respect and all, but I'm not Ebby Calvin LaLoosh."
"I know. He's in the Show. You're in the Carolina League."
"But." Schmidt frowned. "But he was... I mean, when he was my age and all..." He trailed off,
doubtful all of a sudden.
"No, when he was your age, he got called up. His birthday's later. But either way, he's up, you're not, and
when he was here, he concussed the damn bull."
"I can do it, coach. Come on."
Crash leaned back in his chair, then adjusted his hat. "Well, I hate to change my mind twice in one day,
but if you're sure..."
"I can do it."
Crash nodded. "All right. Hey, send Willie in, would you? Then get out there."
As Schmidt turned to go, Crash grinned and hummed a few bars under his breath: Put me in, coach.
I'm ready to play, today...
"You wanted to see me?"
"Hi, Willie. Come on in. Shut the door."
Willie frowned, but shut the door.
As soon as it closed, Crash shook his head. "Just performing minor psychology on the rook, Willie. Have
a seat while we pretend to chat."
"'m I supposed to look happy?"
"Ah. I see." Willie pouted a little and Crash gestured some more, and then they both nodded and Willie
got up to go. "You think he's going to go, don't you?"
"I'm hoping. Though, not till September at least, if I have anything to say."
"Do you ever have anything to say?"
Crash sighed and shook his head. "Life of the itinerant coach, I tell you."
Willie agreed and went back out to take his expected place in the bullpen.
He who desires but acts not, breeds pestilence.
"And that, boys and girls, was an unqualified fuck-up." Crash folded his arms over his chest and paced
one end of the ugly mint-green visitors' clubhouse in Kinston.
""Naw, Crash," Gooch chimed in. "I'd say that was the best-qualified fuck-up I've seen in a long time."
Crash glared when a couple of the young guys tittered. "One way to put it. Eleven errors. Eleven.
Gooch, tell me something."
"Tell me, what's an error?"
"That'd be when a player fails to make a play he ought to have made."
"That's what I thought." Crash paced some more. "And how about 'walking in a run?' That would be..."
"Was I talking to you, Jack?"
"No, though I'm pretty sure after today my nickname is Lack," Schmidt said with a sigh.
"Sounds about right. A match would have been too hard for you to manage a strike with tonight.
And you." He turned, pointing at Jones. "The name of yours implies chipping away at something. For
that to work, you have to occasionally make contact." He looked at Gooch again. "What time's the bus in
"Perfect. Anyone not here at six can figure his own way to Danville. We got some running to do before
we go." He stopped, hands on his hips, and looked at the floor. "The price of success is hard work,
dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best
of ourselves to the task at hand. Do you know who said that?"
They shuffled their feet for a moment before Willie cleared his throat. "Think that was Lombardi."
"Right. Do any of you think that was our best? With the dropped fly in shallow fucking left and
four of you within five feet watching it fall? With the wild pitch that practically hit the damn ball
girl? With letting the ball drop three feet this side of the wall without making a dive? Was that our best?"
They all stared at their toes.
"Me, neither. Let me give you another one. Be bold. If you're going to make an error, make a doozy,
and don't be afraid to hit the ball. It's not that you lost. It's that you fucked up." He took off his cap,
scratched the crown of his head, and put it back on. "See you at six."
To create a little flower is the labor of ages
The light was on as Crash jogged up the steps. "Annie?"
"Hey, in here."
He went in the kitchen and hopped up on the counter. "Good trip?"
"Yeah. You watch?"
"Didn't know you were playin'."
"Funny. He struck out nine and walked one--intentional."
"You fixed him right up."
"Yeah, well, he just needed reminding, 's all."
Crash jumped down and stepped behind her at the stove, putting his arms around her waist and nuzzling
the back of her neck. "What if I need reminding?"
"Ah, but you're seasoned and wise, Crash. We remind each other."
"Yeah but I have a team that can't hit the ball, can't throw the ball, can't catch the ball. Not feeling very
wise right now."
She leaned back into him, head dropping onto his shoulder as she turned just slightly in toward his chin.
"You give 'em Lombardi?"
"Yeah, and King. And a good hard asscrack of dawn run. Didn't do jack, except for Schmidt, who maybe
got a clue somewhere in there. Not sure yet."
She stilled. "Which King?"
"Which King? Martin Luther? Faith is taking the first step? B.B.? Stephen?"
"Oh. Billie Jean."
"Ah. Well, maybe it'll just take time."
"That was in Kinston. Which was before Danville."
"Ah." She shifted her weight slightly, leaning her temple in just under his jaw, rocking them slightly.
"Maybe it'll just take more time. Or a change of circumstance."
"There's not enough more games that we have time. Only a month left. Also, I hate things that
"I know." She nuzzled against his throat. "Want help passing that time?"
"Been looking forward to it since the fifth inning, every minute I wasn't cussing at my team."
"Head in the game, coach."
He chuckled, low and quiet. "That would be a change of circumstance..."
Her back quivered against his chest as she giggled. "Crash Davis, you are a bad man."
"And you love me for it."
"That I do."
In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy.
Crash scowled at the mountain of mail he'd just pulled from his in-box, wondering how long he could put
it off. The only thing less fun that pre-season insurance paperwork was the end-of-season reporting of
damn near anything anyone could think of, but today was the first day of the off-season, and getting a
jump on things was probably the best choice. Damn it.
He sat down and started on the first one he came to. They all sucked, so really, it didn't matter if he
started with budget stuff or medical.
He didn't look up to see who it was, just answered. "Tell me you have a reason I don't need to start on any
more of this yet."
"Wouldn't know about that," Gooch said. "Just relaying a message. Annie says to tell you to get on home
on time today."
Crash frowned at looked at the clock. Just five. "What? Why didn't she just call me herself?"
Crash shook his head and plopped the remaining pile of paperwork back into the box. "Well, if it gets me
a pass on most of this shit, I'm all for it. I'll plead household emergency, if anyone asks."
"You do that," Gooch said. "Have fun."
It didn't occur to Crash to wonder what the hell that was supposed to mean until he well on his way back
to the house. He sped up a little and pulled into the driveway.
"We've talked about that."
She fidgeted, odd for her, and pulled a chicken out of the oven. "That'll just need to set a minute."
"Annie, what's going on?"
"Well. I just thought we ought to finish supper before we go." She took and envelope out of the pocket of
her apron, then hung up the apron and clutched the envelope.
"Go where? Oh, God. Please tell me Jimmy and Millie aren't having another couples thing."
"No. Least, not as far as I know. No, we just got to get to the airport."
She handed him an envelope and left the room, then popped her head back in. "Oh, and the kid was on
the radio from up in Richmond. Did okay. Post-game he told the guy you got to wait for it come to you.
Wonder where he learned that."
She winked and was gone again before Crash had the chance to laugh, but he chuckled anyway and
wondered whether the phrase Good Lord willing had appeared in the interview, though even up in
Richmond, post-game air time was damn limited. He opened the envelope in his hand and pulled up the
It was an airline ticket.
No, two airline tickets, and a note. The tickets were to Vegas. He frowned at them for a moment, then
read the note.
There is no road too long to the man who advances deliberately and without undue haste; there are no
honors too distant to the man who prepares himself for them with patience.
--Jean de la Bruyere
I wonder if maybe you'd like to help me pass the time.
He read it again, then looked up at the empty room. "Annie? Hey, Annie?"
She didn't answer and he went back toward the bedroom to find her digging through a packed suitcase.
"Annie? Is this what I think--"
"I just thought it was time, you know? You've been patient and I've been stubborn, and it's a good time,
end of the season, and--"
"What about the symbolic meaning of the ceremony?"
She lifted her chin. "What about the symbolic meaning of leaving you hanging forever?"
"But." Crash stopped short; there was no point in reminding her that was his argument. "Then
yes," he said. "Yes, I'd like to help you pass the time. Any amount of time." He checked the tickets in his
hand. "We don't need to leave for three hours yet."
"Time for supper, then, and time to go, after."
He shook his head and stepped closer. "Time for this, first." He leaned down to kiss her, then stopped. "I
can't believe you turned me down twenty times, and then decided for me and told my assistant
"One fool at least in every married couple," she answered. "That's Fielding. And we only have
three hours, Crash."
He smiled against her lips. "I notice we're staying in Vegas three days, though. This'll have to be the
Notes that I'd prefer not wait until after the reveal: The poem that Annie refers to when she says that "the
road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom" is William Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and
Hell. Section headers throughout this are also from that.
Jason Schmidt and Chipper Jones were both Durham Bulls for a time sometime in the early nineties. The
internet failed me as far as actual dates, so they may or may not have actually overlapped there. I do
know that Schmidt, at least, also spent some time in Richmond, but again, the details are a little sparse.
Clearly, their presence in this fic is utterly, well, fictional. For all I know they were both brilliant and
graceful rookies, and I'm pretty sure Schmidt never beaned Crash Davis.
Nuke, whose voice should have been easy for me, bailed from my head entirely, so I'm sorry for that. I
hope Crash and Annie made up for it.