Postcards From the Ledge (and Other Extraordinary Folk): Slugger ~ Part B

Ken Painter By Ken Painter, 7th Dec 2014 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>General Fiction

Join me in a stroll through an eclectic collection of short stories filled with gay and straight characters in the mid-Michigan communities of Lansing and East Lansing and surrounding areas as they laugh, love, and find their lives intertwined in inexplicable ways. (Some of the stories - not all - contain softcore male/male sex scenes, and some of the material contained has been previously published on Wikinut by this author and have been modified from it's original form.)

Holding Their Breath: The Announcement

Wil’s agent, Kent Jamison had called in a favor immediately that Friday evening renting one of the meeting rooms in downtown Lansing’s Ingham Hotel. Fortunately, one that would meet their needs was still available on such short notice. He then began putting out the word to the national sports media of an impending announcement from his young athletic star the next afternoon at 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time, but he gave no hints as to the nature of what was being announced. Sorry folks, Kent thought, but if you’re going to bite, it’ll be a red-eye flight.

After the tough decision had been made the evening before Wil and Yale drove up to the elder Biggerstaff’s home to inform them of it where they were met with smiles, hugs, and the sound affirmation that the entire immediate family would be in attendance the next afternoon once Kent informed them of the time and place.

And so at 1:45 the next afternoon the Lewis Cass Room of the Ingham Hotel was filling nicely with various members of both the print and broadcast media representing the many and varied sports interests as well as a few of the interested pro baseball teams. Wil’s family, Mason, Helen, and all three of Wil’s siblings were sitting in the front row, all smiles but fidgety with their excess anticipation showing. Yale’s family hadn’t been able to make it down from Traverse City. Yale’s dad was under the weather, but they assured they’d be watching on TV.

At 2:01 p.m. Kent Jamison followed closely by Wil strode confidently into the room from a side door and onto the dais where a lectern stood in the center for their announcement. Yale stood out of sight in the hallway just beyond that same side door with it cracked ever so slightly so that he could view the proceedings while waiting for his entrance.

“Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen,” Kent began. “Thank you all for coming this afternoon on such short notice, and please let me begin by apologizing to all of you on behalf of Wil and myself for that. Wil’s been, shall we say considering this decision for quite some time now,” Kent actually felt agonizing over would have been a better term, but he didn’t want to tip their hand in the preamble, “and he only finally reached that final decision early last evening. With the pro baseball draft coming up next Friday, we felt the need to get this out there immediately which is why you’re all here today, and I thank you again for that.” Kent paused again for effect. He also hated to say what he was about to with all of them having made the overnight trek to mid-Michigan, but it was necessary. “What will happen here in the next few moments is that Wil is going to make an announcement, however, at it’s conclusion there will be no question and answer period.” An audible amount of grumbling went up from the media attendees. “I know, I know,” Kent plowed on motioning to the audience with both hands for a little indulgence and they quieted again. “We recognize the sacrifice many of you have made to be here this afternoon. You’re certainly free to scout around town afterward and snoop out associated stories with this, and Wil is going to agree to sit down for an in-depth interview with one journalist after the draft is completed. But we’ll decide all of that later. And by the way, there’ll be no fee for that either.” Kent gave a brief sigh as he looked down at his notes. “Almost four years ago Wilson Biggerstaff graduated from Grand Legion High School just a short drive to the north of here as an All-State shortstop before entering the university here at Michigan State and going on to a stellar College All-American career. Wil has compiled a .410 batting average with 42 home runs and 244 RBI’s during his three-year varsity tenure thus far. Of course, as you can imagine, that has brought a certain amount of attention from the pro scouts some of whom I see are here in attendance today.” Kent looked up from his notes and gave a sheepish grin as a few chuckles arose from the audience. “Through all of this Wil has also managed to maintain a 3.50 grade point average as a Phys. Ed. Major within the teacher education department and will graduate this June with a BA degree and a state of Michigan teaching credential.” There was a small round of applause from the audience here as Kent looked over at Wil and they both smiled. “Ladies and gentlemen, without further ado, I give you Wil Biggerstaff,” and Kent stepped away from the lectern clapping as the audience stood to give Wil a standing O.

Wil strode confidently up to the lectern and placed his hands firmly on it. The butterflies in his stomach were causing his clammy hands to shake ever so slightly, and he didn’t want to belie his nervousness to anyone in the crowd. Looking up into the eyes of the tigers, he began with a soft, genuine smile, “Thank you Kent, and again I’d like to echo what Kent said earlier thanking all of you for being so kind as to be here this afternoon on such short notice. Quite frankly, I’ve agonized about this announcement for many months now as I’m sure you’ll understand in a few moments.” Wil noticed a nervous shuffle from the audience with a more than a few members shifting in their seats. Perhaps he shouldn’t have used the word agonized, but he wanted to try to make them understand. “Over the past three or four months, I’ve talked this decision over at length with my family members, especially my mom and dad all of whom are in attendance today. Would all you guys stand up please and take a bow, Mom, Dad, Jack, Lexi, Abby?” And the entire family in the front row stood up and faced the audience waving to them before Wil went on.

“As I was saying, I’ve discussed this with all of them, with my agent Kent Jamison, with both of the pastors at my church, Woodlawn Congregational UCC, my high school principal at Grand Legion, Hank Petersen, and several other trusted friends. And pretty much across the board there has been a consensus, and we’ve all agreed on the same thing, out with it.” Wil paused for effect and to take a deep breath as he looked into the eyes of the tigers continuing to firmly grip the top edges of the lectern for dear life. “Ladies and gentlemen . . . I’m gay. I am a gay American baseball player!”

An audible gasp went up from the audience of attendees, and Wil heard a couple of hands clap in a sort of muted applause, but he noticed that they didn’t come from his family who just sat smiling in the front row all giving him the thumbs up sign. Wil began a brief nervous chuckle when he noticed their ten thumbs all pointing at the ceiling of the Lewis Cass Room. And then he noticed out of the corner of his eye a fist-pump from an unknown male arm stabbed into the air from the rear left corner of the room. There appeared to be at least some support amid the surprise. Go with it, he thought.

Wil put both his hands up in an effort to continue, “Please, let me say here and now that I’m not ashamed in the least of who I am, and I’ve done nothing to be ashamed of that I know of. It’s just that I know what a huge issue this is going to be. I never got up out of bed one morning and decided that I wanted to be the first openly gay professional baseball player. I really didn’t, and who knows? With this announcement,” Wil shrugged his shoulders, “I may be viewed as too high a risk by some teams, I really don’t know.” Wil went quiet for a second, reflective, and then he looked back up into the eyes of the tigers and swallowed the lump which was forming in his throat. “But I have a huge reason for not hiding in the shadows, and I’d like to introduce you all to him. Would you come out here, please, Yale?” And Wil looked over to the side door where a smiling Yale suddenly appeared walking briskly to the dais amid the cheering and applause from Wil’s family in the front row.

“Thank you Biggerstaff family,” Wil chuckled as Yale approached him at the lectern where the two embraced warmly and kissed softly but briefly, a quick peck as it were. Cameras clicked everywhere, but if they weren’t quick enough they didn’t catch the historic moment.

“Ladies and gentlemen, as you may have guessed from that, this is my boyfriend, Yale Harvard. We’ve been together just a little over two years now, and so this is no fling. Our relationship is kind of an open secret around these parts. For the record we met in church, our church, Woodlawn Congregational United Church of Christ where we are both members. Yale, do you have anything you’d like to add?”

Stepping to the lectern Yale cleared his throat briefly, “Not a lot, Wil,” and then he, too stared daringly into the eyes of the tigers and continued, “just that you all should know that I love this man tremendously with all of my being, and I’ve wanted to shout that from the mountaintops for some time now,” and a laugh went up from some in the audience, “and I guess you’ve just allowed me to do that since this is being televised somewhere at least.” Yale looked over at Wil who shot him a shit-eating grin that sent a message something to the effect of you goofball.

Yale continued looking back toward the audience, “I’m also a teacher education major like Wil, and I’ll graduate from MSU this June with a BA degree and a teaching credential. I plan to teach reading most likely at the elementary or junior high level. Thank you all, and I guess that’s about it.” And he walked back over to stand where he’d been.

Wil came back to the microphone to wrap things up. “To close this announcement, I’d like to say that we have no idea how this will impact my prospects in the pro draft which is coming up this Friday. I really want to play at the professional level, I really do, however, what ultimately led to this decision was that we just could not hide ourselves in the shadows or in the closet as it were. And in America we shouldn’t have to!” With that last remark Wil shot a challenging look right across through the eyes of the tigers as he paused for effect. “And so I’ll close with a question, what would you do if you were us? Good afternoon, and thanks again for coming.”

There let ‘em all chew on that for the morning editions he thought as he waved to the crowd and he and Yale left the dais for the hallway where the rest of the Biggerstaff’s and Kent joined them. What the two of them failed to see but were told by the family later at dinner was that at least half of the audience gave them a standing ovation and some measure of applause as they departed the room. Not really bad numbers all agreed.

Well, the bull was out of the pen, and now it was up to the universe to respond. Waiting would be a trip, but at least Wil and Yale didn’t have to do it alone.

First Responses

The chief reason that Wil and Yale had felt it necessary to make the announcement without a question and answer period at the end was that they wanted their surrogates to do their talking for them during the coming week. While they had no idea what kind of fallout to expect from the announcement there had already been a few precedents set in other pro sports, basketball, tennis, figure skating, swimming, and most recently even professional football. So now it would be baseball’s turn as another domino would fall, and they just felt a little more security in letting some of their friends and confidantes do the talking for them and then tie it all up as necessary with an in-depth interview with one respected journalist of their choosing at some point after the pro draft. At least it was a plan. No one can lasso the universe.

“Come here, Babe,” Yale yelled to Wil who was just getting out of the shower. “We’re all over the morning news programs today. They’re showing pictures of the kiss.” Yale laughed.

Wil trotted naked into the bedroom just in time to catch a glimpse of their on-dais greeting the afternoon prior. “Hey, we’re cute!” He jumped into Yale’s arms and planted a much longer kiss onto his willing partner’s full lips. “Have I told you yet this morning how much I truly love you?”

“Only something like a half dozen times, and Jesus Wil, You haven’t even dried off yet!” Yale started laughing at his soggy lover.

“Yeah, you love it and you know it,” Wil responded as he began a wrestling match that ended all too well making both of them soggy, drained, and covered in love juice.

“Guess we both need a shower now,” Yale said as he led Wil back into the bathroom.

When they returned later they found themselves and Wil in particular the main topic of discussion on one of the round-table panel shows that morning. The moderator was showing the group various newspaper headlines from around the country, and it was looking generally neutral to positive though there were always a couple of naysayers. Funny how those bigots tended more toward being a regional thing. The headlines of one Texas paper shouted “BURN IN HELL DUDES, and they had published a great photo of the kiss directly underneath. Inflammatory? Ya think? That one was probably the worst, but there were others. One Tennessee rag proclaimed, “BIGGERSTAFF COMES OUT ~ Another Hero Bites the Dust.” An Atlanta paper appeared more neutral with “BIGGERSTAFF GAY ~ Who Really Cares.” One of the New York papers announced, “BIGGERSTAFF JOINS THE THRONG OF OUT ATHETES.” And back home in East Lansing their very own campus newspaper proudly proclaimed, “CONGRATULATIONS WIL! OUT & PROUD, WE LUV U! And as the panel began discussing the fallout, Wil and Yale began to understand that the initial response was generally much more positive than negative.

At church service later that morning Wil and Yale were met with hugs by virtually all of the just over two hundred - fifty plus in attendance. Both pastors informed them that they’d been hounded by various news folks ever since the announcement, but it was all good. Thanks for the heads-up. In fact, Pastor Jayne, the associate pastor managed to point out to Wil a few of those newshounds who were attending church that morning. “Look out Wil,” she whispered in his ear. “After yesterday, you’re a celebrity now, but I guess you knew that was going to happen, right?”

“Right, and thanks Pastor Jayne, I appreciate your handling some of the incoming for us right now. We’ll take it back off your shoulders next week once the draft’s over.”

“Not a problem, Wil. I’m kind of enjoying my little fifteen minutes actually.” And Jayne gave him a polite little squeeze of the arm to say thanks.

Over a quiet Sunday dinner with the elder Biggerstaff’s they all pooled their relative conversations and experiences from their two different congregations that morning, and all agreed that the local response was overwhelmingly positive which was just great. Wil felt if he had the home crowd on his side then he could handle anything. It would just be a matter of waiting to see what the week brought, and he knew Kent would keep them all abreast of those developments.

The Neanderthals

Monday morning brought the worrisome news that the Neanderthal Baptist Church of Podunk, Kansas via their website had announced that they would be protesting on two fronts beginning on Thursday and lasting through the pro draft on Friday. Their posted plans included demonstrations on both the MSU campus and also one in New York City at the site of the pro draft with both beginning on Thursday at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time. They would both conclude when the pro draft ended sometime Friday evening.

Kent called Wil with the news, and while it wasn’t pleasant to discuss both agreed that in the back of their minds they’d realized something like this could happen.

“You know,” Kent intoned, “these Neanderthal folks are so unpopular with the public from all their previous shit, that this stunt could backfire right in their faces.”

“I know,” Wil responded. “Yale told me about a demonstration of theirs he countered over in Detroit last year at Fort Wayne. I couldn’t go because of baseball camp. I guess I missed a barn-burner! It was a military funeral, and these folks were raising a big stink and saying that all these wars were something about God’s judgment against America because of how we coddle gay people or something silly like that. He said that everybody there thought they were bat-shit crazy. Positively revolting! But nobody can do anything against them. They’ve got their legal rights! I can’t get married to the man that I love, but these idiots can interrupt a person’s funeral who just gave their life for our country, and shout obscenities in the name of God at the poor guy’s sobbing mother who just lost her son or daughter, and these revolting people are shouting at her that it’s our fault because we’re gay! Don’t get me started!” Wil’s hands were shaking now. “Sorry, Kent, it’s just that when Yale came back and told me about the counter-demonstration which is all anyone can do to these folks really, he was sobbing as he told it, and I can still see it all too vividly.”

“It’s all right, Wil. I feel exactly as you do. These Neanderthals are vile. But if it means anything, anything at all, I think they’re shooting themselves in the foot, I really do, if for no other reason than the general public feels just as appalled and thoroughly disgusted by the scenario you just described as we do.”

“I would hope so, because the question I can’t help asking myself when I think of the Neanderthals and their abusive behavior is, what’s God got to do with that?” Wil went quiet, and Kent just shook his head and shrugged his shoulders though Wil couldn’t see it.

(End of Part B of "Slugger." Next up: Part C of this story and it's conclusion!)

Link to Part C, the conclusion of "Slugger" . . . Here


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author avatar Ken Painter
Retired Chicago public school teacher. Singer, songwriter, musician, author, & opinionated old curmudgeon. Married to my husband & living in Colorado, USA. Also a father & grandfather.

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author avatar whatistheworld
8th Dec 2014 (#)

Human being live for desire. In fact, as long as the pursuits of their own desires do not harm others, all action should be reasonable, including drug taking, the sex trade and gay. Human society will eventually move in this direction.

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