A Good Year for Rookies

The phone rang while Natalie was rummaging under the kitchen sink. "Where's the plunger?" she yelled.

"On the back porch, where you left it," said Jeremy, coming in to get the cordless phone from the top of the fridge. "You said it was evil and you were banishing its wicked presence from our home." He clicked the phone on. "Goodwin-Hurley residence," he said, then, "Isaac! How are you?"

"Isaac?" said Natalie, sitting up suddenly. "Ow! Demonic U-tube." She glared at the offending pipe, rubbing the back of her head.

Jeremy absently waved her to silence. "How's retirement treating you?" He paused. "No, I was watching BC and Wake Forest. Matt Ryan's thrown for five touchdowns. Why, is it a good game?" He walked back towards the den. "Really? Wait, I'm putting it on now."

Jeremy raised his voice and called, "Natalie, come look at this!" and then jumped, because Natalie had already given up her quest for the plunger and followed him in. Jeremy fumbled with the remote and then changed the channel. "Red Sox/O's," he said.

Natalie peered at the TV. "8-0 at the top of the seventh. Okay, so it's an embarrassing score for Baltimore, what's new?"

Jeremy waved the phone at her. "That pitcher, the rookie. It's a no-hitter so far."

Natalie raised an eyebrow. "A rookie?" She shrugged. "It's only the seventh."

"Don't be so pessimistic," said Jeremy, and Natalie could hear Isaac's tinny voice through the phone. Jeremy turned his attention back to the handset. "Buchholz? I think he's the petty thief." Isaac's voice sounded through the handset again. "He'd been arrested, so he was really low in the supplemental draft and the Sox got him cheap."

"I remember him," said Natalie. "Cute little thug, looks like he's twelve, right? The one who stole all those iPods from his high school?"

"Laptops, actually," said Jeremy, and the tinny voice from the phone said something that sounded like "laptops".

"Can't you put that thing on speakerphone?" asked Natalie.

"We don't have a speakerphone," said Jeremy patiently. "But you can listen on another extension."

"Fine," said Natalie, and turned away, just as Jeremy yelled out "Oh my God!"

"What?" she said, and spun around.

"Wait for the replay," Jeremy said, and as the announcers burbled in excitement, the replay came on. Jeremy leaned forward, tense, as the second baseman dove, flopped, and miraculously shot up and spun, hurling the ball to first.

"Jesus," said Natalie, as her cell phone rang. She glanced away from the television just long enough to see who was calling, then flipped it open. "Tell me you're watching this game, Dana," she said.

"Who is that kid?" asked Dana.

"Pedroia," said Natalie as the replay flashed on multiple angles, catcher-cam, slo-mo, closeup.

"I know Pedroia, Natalie," said Dana. "The pitcher. This Buchholz kid. Jesus, he looks like he's twelve."

"That's what I said," said Natalie.

"Where'd he come from?" asked Dana.

"Jail," said Natalie. "Then Portland."

Jeremy broke off whatever he was saying to Isaac and looked up. "He was in Pawtucket for a little while," he said, and then paused while Isaac said something. "Isaac says he was seven and two with the Sea Dogs."

"Isaac says he was seven and two with the Sea Dogs," Natalie dutifully repeated.

"Isaac is there?" Dana asked. "I thought he was in Maine."

"He is in Maine," said Natalie. "At least, I think he is. Jeremy, is Isaac in Maine?"

"Are you in Maine?" Jeremy asked. He listened for a long moment, and then longer. Finally, Jeremy looked up and said, "He says of course he's in Maine, where else would he be, why else did he buy the damn house on the lake if he didn't want to retire to Maine, was it because he wanted to sink all of his money into a dilapidated --"

Natalie held up a hand, cutting him off. "Whatever," she said. "He's in Maine, Dana."

"You aren't having a party that you didn't tell me about?"

"Of course, Dana," said Natalie. "We are having a big kegger, and we invited the entire gang round to our place to watch baseball and get drunk without you, because we knew you would insist on girly drinks." The game cut to an ad for oversized SUVs. Natalie brushed her hand against Jeremy's back.

"Well, sure," said Jeremy into the phone, looking up and smiling at Natalie as he spoke. She smiled back and went into the kitchen for a soda. "Of course it was a good hit, it was Tejada. That was just fabulous defensive play."

"Now I know you're lying," said Dana. "Because Casey would insist on girly drinks as well."

"Of course I'm lying. We old-timers need to look out for each other," said Natalie. "Can't let the rookies have all the fun."

"Damn straight," said Dana. "And if they try to take my girly drink I'll hit them with my cane."

"Hit them with your Emmy, instead," advised Natalie. "It's shinier."