Father Casey, wearing black pants and a white shirt with rolled-up sleeves and a Roman collar, scanned the big west lawn of the courthouse. That's how it would have looked to him—a big lawn. He couldn't see the baseball diamond so clearly imagined by us kids. He said, "Okay, I'll go over there by the steps and then hit 'em this way so we miss the trees. "
"Yes, Father," I said.
As he lumbered away, he said, over his shoulder, "How's your mom?"
I watched him as he slowly strolled through the courthouse lawn's green grass until he was right up to the building itself, right under the window of the county surveyor. I watched him go, on his sore leg, sort of slumped like the ancient guy he was. This would never work. Golf and baseball aren't the same. If you didn't know that already, you could tell by the way he handled bat and ball as he walked. I looked around for the approach of my friends from their dinners. Nobody was coming. Okay.
I guessed trying to hit a baseball to some kid was the sort of thing that would make Father feel better. Step across the street and hit some balls, try out the mending leg in something besides walking around the courthouse two hundred times. He put his black breviary on one of the courthouse steps and pushed up his already rolled sleeves. He looked down the long lawn my way like he was scoping out a tee shot, took a couple of practice swings, very golfish. This would never work. Then he took the ball and laid it out in front of himself on the evening air, and quickly brought his hand back to the bat handle so both hands were on it . . .
. . . and smacked the mightiest fly ball almost straight up that I had ever seen hit by priest, man, or real baseball player, straight up damned near out of sight . . .
. . . and yelled to me as it went up, "HaHA! Catch that one, Danny boy!"
Philip F. Deaver
Philip F. Deaver is the thirteenth winner of the Flannery O'Connor Award. He has held fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts... read more