Signs for Diamonds
Tim Johnsons first act of thievery.
Tim squinted off into the distance where Jose was standing. That couldn’t be right. Tim thought he must not be seeing things clearly and made a mental note to get his eyes checked the next time he was in the doctor’s office. It looked like Jose was throwing him a sign, a few shuffles of the hand and some twisting machinations of the fingers before sliding his right hand down his leg. Was Jose trying to say Tim should try to take it? The group had lots of signs and each man took the time to memorize each one, but this was something Tim never expected. Tim wasn’t the stealing kind.
Tim was honest to a fault and he had never stolen anything in his life. He didn’t see himself as the kind of man who would take something without asking or paying. At 6'4" and a bulging 233lbs, he looked like the kind of man who took whatever he pleased, but Tim was civil. He was a bruiser, no doubt, but an honorable bruiser. That’s why they guys brought him in. He had straps of muscle on top of muscle flexing every time he moved his body, and he had forearms that could wrench a smaller man in half. The guys chose Tim for how his brute strength intimidated other men, but even more so for his ability to follow up on his foreboding promise of violence with the natural ability to unleash chaos with a swing. You put a chunk of metal or wood in Tim’s hands and he was a demigod, Hercules in pinstripes. Jose nicknamed him ‘El Fin.’ Tim was at his best under pressure. If things got tight and it was your best man against Tim, then roll the credits and turn on the lights. Tim crushed the dreams of many a man.
This was why Tim was confused. If Jose pointed him in a direction and told him to smash something, then sure. That’s his wheelhouse, but there was nothing about the burly 22-ear-old that said smooth, agile, or quick. He was a blunt object, efficient for blunt object things, but making a move and stealing something before anyone could catch on? This was a move from someone else’s bag of tricks.
Still, they had discussed strategy for today in minute detail and everyone agreed Jose was the brains behind it all. Jose had seen enough in his time to read a situation within seconds and he had a keen understanding of how to use the guys on his team. He understood strengths and weaknesses and he’d set up this particular plan with each man’s talents in mind. So why was he telling big, lumbering Tim Johnson to make the grab?
Tim looked around, worried someone was watching. He looked down at his shoes for a moment and then back to Jose. He subtly shook his head and then pretended to adjust his shirt and brush off his shoulder.
When he looked back at Jose, he could see anger flashing in the older man’s eyes. Jose didn’t ask. Jose didn’t make suggestions. Jose tells you what to do. There it was again, the hand gesture. Jose was saying ‘Take it.’ He wanted El Fin to make a go at it in broad daylight. His hands were insisting on it as impolitely as hands can insist.
Tim took a breath and quieted his mind. He gave another casual look around. No one seemed to suspect him. Tim bolted for third base with the galloping form of a drunk elephant. The pitcher hadn’t even given him a look since Tim had stolen zero bases in three years with the Marlins. The catcher was so surprised to see Tim running, he mishandled the pitch, dropping it into the dirt and allowing it roll behind his foot. He frantically fished for it as Tim approached third. The big man broke into a headfirst slide, eating a face full of dirt for the first time since high school as his 233lbs went sliding into the base.
The catcher found the ball and rocketed it toward third, the ball outpacing the big Marlin outfielder, arriving just before him. The third baseman cradled the ball in his glove, swinging it down at the incoming tsunami of infield dirt and musclebound slugger. His glove caught Tim on the shoulder as Tim’s fingers crashed into the base.
The stadium held its breath as the play flashed up on the jumbotron in high definition. The umpire swung out his arms and screamed ‘safe!’
Tim made it. He had his first MLB steal. It was a shock and grab strategy. Jose knew they’d never see it coming and by the time they did, the ball arrived just a tick too late.
Apologies for being late to the writing prompt. This is what eight days drunk on a beach gets you. Thanks to P.G. Barnett for including me along with this rogues’ gallery: Rasheed Hooda, Timothy Key, Denise Shelton, Holly Jahangiri, Joe Luca, Paul Myers MBA, kurt gasbarra, Whitefeather --, Kristi Keller, Robin Klammer. Fun to return to civilization with a prompt. (this is civilization, isn’t it?)