I Have Graven Thee Upon My Elbow

They have a bucket of thirty baseballs, and they carry it, their home plate, two bats, and gloves to the park. The park has a backstop. His mother walks out paces to where a pitcher’s mound should be. He plays catch with her until their arms are warm. Then she pitches to him, ball after ball, from the bucket. He misses none. His mother does not have a good throwing motion—she looks like she is shot putting. The pitches are slow but better than just hitting off a tee. He rips line drive after line drive. Three of them go very long. He knows if they have reached 200 feet, they will have reached the fence of a Little League field. In a game, he will circle the bases before it can be thrown in—a home run.

“We have three to measure,” he says when they finish the bucket.

His mother paces from home plate to the farthest ball. “One hundred ninety-two! Eight feet away! Almost there!”

On pitch nine of the next bucket, he rips a line drive that hits his mother’s right shin with a loud smack!

“$&@!”

She paces around for several minutes. That will end today’s practice. The bruise has marks from the ball’s stitches. It turns blue, then purple, then yellow. A week later, all that bruising drains to her ankle and it swells. Still, they practice every day. He hits three buckets and pitches three buckets. She catches for him, and he throws so hard that he hurts her hand at least twice per bucket.

He is the league’s number one pick that year, and his team will win the championship. Eight years later, his mother will have surgery on her right arm. The surgeons will cut lesions away that bind her bicep to her forearm and keep her arm from straightening fully. They will also discover that her elbow has been broken and has healed on its own. By that time, he will now be a football player and no longer play baseball.

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