Chapter 8

Copyright© 2015 by Bill Offutt

"Get low, Bud," the coach urged, "get that target down, no more than knee high. Hold it steady, one eye on the runner. Up on your toes. Be ready."

Bud nodded and spread his legs to crouch a bit lower, right hand behind his back and big glove centered behind the plate, trying to ignore the straps around his legs and the sweaty mask pressing his forehead and cheeks. Billy Morrison's fastball whistled in and clunked solidly in the mitt, making a small dust cloud as Bud quickly stood and fired the ball toward second, twisting his mask sideways with the effort. The runner beat him again and he lifted the mask to spit.

"Good throw," the coach said, "nothing wrong with that. He got an early start; wouldn't happen in a game. Hold that runner on, Billy," he yelled at the pitcher.

Bud crouched again, kept his glove a few inches off the dirt, took the pitch a bit inside and stepped toward the mound, firing hard. The pitcher ducked and the shortstop tagged out the runner.

"Yes sir!" the coach yelled. "Yes sir, you nailed his ass."

Bud exhaled and felt pride as he adjusted his mask and took his position to do it again.

In the dressing room after practice one of the seniors approached Bud as he dried between his toes. "You thought about it?" the young man asked, raising an eyebrow, his hairy groin and big prick right at Bud's eye level, towel held loosely at his hip.

Bud nodded. "Yeah, OK, what do I do now?"

"Saturday night, you come over the Bobby's house and meet the guys, you and some others. Then we vote."

"And then?" Bud asked, pulling on his white socks.

"Then, if you ain't blackballed, you're in, but there's some initiation stuff, mostly fun." He laughed and snapped his towel at Bud's knee. "Then we tap the keg."

As he walked home, after waving to the fellow who had given him a ride, Bud wondered if he ought to tell his folks about Chi Alpha, the fraternity he had been invited to join. He decided there was no need for them to know even though the dues were a dollar week. He got paid for working in the store and had some birthday money in his cigar box.

Two weeks later, very late on a Saturday night, Bud found himself blindfolded and sitting on the backseat of somebody's car while they drove about in a random fashion, making dire threats and describing vile neighborhoods. Finally the boys pushed Bud out near Pierce Mill and walked him right down to the creek.

"See ya Monday," one cried and then the car door slammed.

"If you get back home by then," yelled another as his buddies sped away. "Hope you can swim."

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