Baseball Chatter

(by Smokehut, 25 December 2001)


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BULLPEN CHATTER 
By Smokehut 


Jamie Pembroke trotted into the bullpen shed after making a few warmup 
throws. It was the second round of the state high-school baseball playoffs. 
The Bandimere High pitching coach, Bob Pendergast, had ordered Pembroke to 
warm up when a Hillsdale batter had doubled to lead off the third inning. A 
strikeout and two grounders had quelled the rally, though, and the inning 
ended with the leadoff batter at third base. Pendergast trotted in to coach 
first base for the top of the fourth, leaving a handful of his pitchers 
alone in the shed. 

Pembroke sat next to his best friend, Josh Tettleton, who was scheduled to 
pitch game two of the best-of-three series between Bandimere and Hillsdale. 

"I'd kill for a dip of Skoal," Pembroke said as he sat down. 

"I been sitting here thinking about that," said Tettleton. 

At one time, it had been common for high-school baseball players to chew 
tobacco. No more. The High School League had banned tobacco use during 
games. 

Pembroke stared at his friend. 

"The thing about chewing or dipping," said Tettleton, "is it's too damn 
hard to hide." 

"That's true," agreed Pembroke. 

"Be a whole lot easier to sneak a smoke." 

"You're kidding, right?" 

"Ain't no coaches out here. Who's to stop us?" 

"What about the smell." 

Tettleton grinned. "I expect that fan over there works," he said, motioning 
to the wall unit nearby. The games were being played at a neutral site, the 
stadium of a small college. Josh walked over to the fan and flipped the 
switch. It whirred to life. Then he cut it back off. 

"Yep," he said. "Blows the smoke right out." 

"You're serious about this," Jamie said. 

"Yep." 

"I take that to mean you've got a pack." 

"Marlboro Lights ? in the little zip-up pocket in my bag." 

"Matches?" 

"Lighter. Oh, yeah, and some chewing gum." 

"I dunno, man. They'd kick us off the team." 

"We didn't get here by not taking chances." 

Bandimere had a rally going. There were already two men on base and none 
away. 

"What about the others?" asked Jamie. 

"Fuck 'em," said Josh. "They ain't got the balls. They'd know they're dead 
if they say a goddamn word." 

"Reckon you oughtta inform 'em of that?" 

"Nah," said Josh. "No need ? really." 

A run was in. Still no outs. No one was paying attention to the bullpen. 
The only person who could see inside it was the Hillsdale left fielder. 

Tettleton pulled the cigarettes out of his bag, which was beneath the 
bench. 

"You go ahead," Jamie said. "I'll shield you." He sat on an ice chest in 
front of Tettleton. 

Tettleton flicked the Bic and brought the cigarette to life. He took a 
second draw and exhaled a cloud of smoke toward the ceiling. That got the 
other three kids' attention, even though they were sitting at the other end 
of the bench. The look on their faces said, "I'm telling!" 

"Don't even think about it, fuckwads," Josh growled, the a trace of smoke 
escaping with the words. 

One out. Two runs in. End of rally nowhere in sight. 

"Take a hit," Josh said. "You know you want one." 

Jamie took the cigarette and cupped it in his hands. He took a couple of 
quick hits and passed it back. 

"Hits the spot, don't it?" 

"Fuck, yeah." 

Tettleton ground out the cigarette in the concrete floor, flipped on the 
fan, walked back to his seat and pulled out a couple sticks of gum. Nobody 
said shit, and when Pendergast returned to the bullpen, flushed with the 
hitters' success, he didn't suspect a thing. 

When Pendergast trotted back toward the infield at the end of the next half 
inning - Bandimere led 5-0 - Pembroke and Tettleton allowed themselves an 
all-knowing smirk. 

"So, I guess now, you're gonna smoke every inning?" 

"Nah," said Josh. "Can't pull shit like that all the time. You gotta use 
the element of surprise." 

"I see." 

"Besides, I couldn't smoke if I was pitching today." 

"No?" 

"I'd probably have a hard-on when I walked out to the mound. It kinda gets 
me off, man." 

"Yeah?" 

"It kind of turns me on." 

"Yeah?" 

"I could probably jack off right now." 

"Fuck, man," Pembroke said, laughing and spitting up Gatorade. "Too much 
information." 

"Naw, I mean, I think it's cool when girls smoke," Jamie said. "I think, 
when a girl smokes, she's giving you, like, a message that she wants to 
fuck." 

"How you figure that?" 

"I think she's kinda saying she's a little bit bad, you know. That she can 
be had if you want it bad enough. First time I ever smoked, like, out in 
the open, it was with a gal, man." 

"No shit." 

"Naw, it was like, at the beach last summer,"Josh recalled. "My family was 
down there, but I walked to the boardwalk by myself. There was this girl, 
man, and she was beautiful. She pulled out a pack of Camel Filters, and, 
man, I liked to died." 

"So you had one?" 

"Yeah, you know, I knew how. I'd sneaked one of Mom's before, late at 
night, watching MTV on Friday nights. But that was when I really wanted to 
smoke one or two every day. I went back to the condo with a pack of Lights 
that night." 

Bandimere won the game easily. When Hillsdale was batting, Pendergast 
watched from the bullpen with Pembroke and Tettleton, talking about how to 
pitch against its lineup. Tettleton nodded and asked a few questions here 
and there. When Pendergast went back out to coach first, the two pitchers 
turned their attention elsewhere. 

"So, how'd you get Becky to start smoking?" Jamie asked. 

"How you know she smokes?" 

"Just a hunch." 

Josh laughed. "See, the thing is, first thing you do is, you ask a girl if 
she wants to get high. And, if she does, you go parking, and you pull out a 
joint and split it with her. It's kind of wasteful, 'cause there's all that 
coughing and shit. But, then, if she gets the hang of it, and gets a nice 
buzz, you make out, and then maybe you wait a few minutes, I mean, if you 
don't end up fuckin.' And then you just say, casually, you know, 'Hey, you 
want a cigarette?' And if she gives you that look, you know, like, 'no,' 
then you say, well, it'll bring the buzz back a little bit, baby. And if 
she's done smoked pot with you, well, she ain't gonna mind smokin' a 
cigarette." 

"You got it down, don't you?" 

"Mom lets me smoke around the house if the old man ain't around." 

"Really." 

"Really, man, it was kind of an accident. One night this winter, I came 
home really late, you know, and I was pretty fucked up. They were up late, 
waiting for me, Mom and Dad both." 

"Fuck. I hate it when that happens," Jamie said. 

"Well, anyway, they gave me this typical fucking lecture about how if I 
want to drink, I should do it at home, which is one of the biggest fuckin' 
lies, at least coming from my father, that could possibly be said.' 

"So I was in, like, this eat-shit-and-die mood, so I just reached in my 
jacket, pulled out a pack of Marlboro Reds, lit one up, just inhaled the 
shit out of it, let out a stream, and said, 'Well, I decided I'd start 
smoking.'" 

"What'd your dad do?" Jamie asked. 

"He said 'goddamn' real loud and stomped off to bed, and my mom followed 
him after about thirty seconds of silence," Josh said. 

"Well, that don't sound so hot." 

"That's the way I took it, too, at the time," Josh said, "but then, the 
next day I came home from bagging groceries at the Kroger, and when I went 
to my room, there was a carton - a carton, now - of Marlboro Lights 
underneath the pillow on my bed, with a note that said something like, 
'Between us,' signed, 'Your mother.' Something like that. 

"So, now, when my dad ain't around, it's pretty much cool for me to smoke 
around the house." 

"That's cool," Jamie said. 

"Pretty much. I think she kinda takes the attitude, 'Well, they're only 
Lights.' What she don't know is most times I've got a pack of Reds hid in 
my car. And a lot of chewing gum. And a small bottle of mouthwash." 

"You think it hurts your pitching?" 

"Maybe a little," Josh said, "but I work out, man. And, like, I don't smoke 
but four or five a day. ? Well, maybe seven or eight on weekends." 

Jamie came in and pitched the seventh inning. Bandimere won game one, 11-3. 
After the game, Jamie and Josh helped Coach Pendergast load up the 
equipment in duffel bags and then carried it to one of the team vans for 
the ride home. 

"Go fuckin' Bandits, man," Josh said. "All the way to the state." 


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