Down on the Farm Ch. 03byRabbitrunner91©
The 4th July fell on a Saturday, that year and their usual custom was to attend the church celebration. It was an all day event planned with children's games in the morning, a picnic lunch on the church lawn, followed by a softball game in the afternoon and fireworks in the evening. The girl's rotation fell to Trish that morning and Edith and Sam would milk in the afternoon. If Trish and I did some extra work in the morning, we would push the time for PM chores back an hour.
"Come on girl, get the sleep out of your eyes. We have a lot of work to do." I said as we walked from the house to the barn that day.
She yawned but didn't say anything. Together we worked as a team. Each of us knew what was expected, knew what the other was doing and had developed a routine. Only an occasional word was spoken, our minds were on the job before us. The radio was on and patriotic music was playing, the weather report said the day would be hot and humid with a slight chance of a late afternoon shower.
The last cow was milked and we worked with cleaning and sterilizing. Side by side we stood at the deep double vat sink, our hands in the soapy mixture washing and scrubbing. For some reason I was feeling ornery and using my hips, I playfully pushed her away from her work. She struggled back in place and pushed me away from the sink. I don't say anything and return to the work. For a minute or two, nothing more is said, then I pushed her away again. In a second we are in a pushing contest, with our hips pushing against each other. Slowly I manage to move her away from the sink. Trish, seeing that she had lost the contest, stepped back, placed her hands on her hips and said, "Looks like you'll be doing all the work now." As she grinned up at me.
Suddenly I leaned down and give her a quick kiss on the lips, and then I return to my normal position in front of the sink and resume washing.
Trish is still standing there with surprise on her face. "What was that for?" she asked.
"Pretty girls deserve to be kissed, so I kissed you."
She stood there with the funniest expression on her face, looking up at me.
"Come on." I encourage, let's get these done.
She returns to the task at hand, washing out the udder cups. With her hands deep in the water, she asks, "Mark, do you think I'm pretty?"
"I kissed you, didn't I?"
"I'm serious, Mark. Am I really pretty?"
I look at her and search her face. The question is real. "Yes, I think you are pretty. Very pretty."
"Then how come, guys don't ask me out?"
That brought me up short. In all the time I'd known her, she'd never been on a date. She needed re-assurance. "Trish, you are a very beautiful girl and if I were in high school again, I'd ask you out in a heart beat."
"Yup, I sure would."
That put a smile on her face and we settled down to our work. It was close to 20 after ten as we finished up. As we walked to the house, to get cleaned up, Trish voiced what was on her mind. "Could today … could … could today be like a date between us?" she finished the sentence very quickly and her words ran together.
"I thought the guy was supposed to ask the girl out; not the other way around."
"MARK." She stamped her foot. "Now-a-days some girls ask guys out." Then the question look was back in her eyes. "Could it be?"
She was a sweet kid, so I said, "Sure."
She put her hand in mine and we strolled to the house. We got cleaned up and I drove to the church. Most of the morning games were over and we arrived in time to help setup the tables for the lunch. Trish was never far from me except once, talking to her mom. When we walked together, she made certain her hand was in mine. Edith looked at us, but refrained from saying anything.
There was lots of food to select from and we went through the line where our plates were filled to heaping. We sat at a table with some of the others in the youth group. "What do you want to drink?" I asked Trish.
I went to the drinks table and returned with her drink and one for me. The talk among everyone was about the softball game that afternoon. Each year the competition was between the married and the unmarried. For the past 5 or 6 years, the married folks had been the victors and this stung the pride of everyone at the table. Positions were already allocated and extras would be stuffed into the outfield. I was new here and that is where they placed me, along with Trish. Now, I've played ball, in fact, I've played a lot of ball. But this was their competition and I just let it be.
After we finished eating the unmarried folks got the equipment out and began warming up, playing catch, and taking some swings. Pop flies were placed into the field to give everyone an opportunity to play. They had one fellow who was pitching and I could see that his skill was not very good. They asked me to do some practice batting, which I did. I can swing a bat, but I cannot hit worth beans, and it showed. A few groans were heard and their hopes were dashed. Some hoped I could be a long ball hitter. Teams played with both men and women in a friendly match.
Game time arrived and after a coin toss, the married folks got to bat first. The Pastor was the Umpire, standing behind the pitcher. The 'married' team, I observed, had the power hitters and by the time 3 outs had been reached, 6 runs were scored. Although they could hit, they were slow with fielding. Perhaps we could use this to our advantage. Sides were swapped and our team came to bat. Here the skills were reversed. Our team could field well, but our hitting was average. After the inning was over, we had garnered one run. From the comments heard, this was to be a repeat of the previous years. 'Not if I could help it.' I thought.
"Hey guys, over here." I requested of the captain. They gathered near me and wondered what was up.
"Come on, we can win this game. Give me the ball, let me pitch."
"You any good?" someone asked. Trish was listening at the edge of the team.
"Would two state championships in three years be a good indication?" I responded.
That produced some whistles from the group and I noticed Trish's eyes got big.
"Who's the best catcher?"
"Joe here. He's pretty good." The captain mentioned.
"You got a good glove?" I asked him. He showed it to me and I replied, "You will need some extra padding. Does someone have some cotton gloves?"
They were produced from the spectators and he inserted them into his glove. Everyone else took the field while I spoke to Joe. "Look, I'll take seven warm up pitches. They will have some pep. After that, every pitch will smoke. You know each batter and where the best place to pitch to them. Put your glove in that spot and don't move it, because that is where the ball will arrive. If you can catch what I pitch, no one will reach base."
With that I took the pitching circle. Turning to the Pastor, "Do I get seven warm ups?"
"Throw em kid. Let's see what you've got."
With that I unloaded seven straight pitches and drew some loud comments from the opposing team. "Where did you get this guy? He can pitch." Or, "He throws straight stuff, we can hit that."
The first batter was up to the plate. He stood about 6 foot and 210 lbs. and a lot of upper arm strength. If he ever connected, the ball would be gone. The problem was, I was not about to let him get near the ball. Joe put his glove waist high and on the inside. Okay here goes.
The first pitch was in Joe's glove before he even knew I had thrown the ball. "Strike one."
"Hey, I didn't even see that. Where's the ball?" the batter commented. Others on the team suddenly took notice of what was happening. All eyes were on me. I grinned inwardly, because this was a show.
The second pitch was right down the pike. "Strike two."
Then "Strike Three."
Joe called time and walked out to the mound. "Where can I get more padding?" he grinned. "This hand is gonna hurt tonight, but it's going to be worth it."
With that, we retired the next two batters. One took a swing but didn't come close.
Our side came up to bat and everyone was giving me the 'high five' or patting me on the back. "Look guys," I said, "Let me do the pitching, they won't get any more runs. But it will be up to you to get the scores to beat them. They're slow with fielding. If we can put the ball into play, we can advance any runners. Come on, let's go."
Trish came over and latched on to my arm. "Did you really win the state championship?"
"Yeah, two years straight." I smiled looking into her eyes of wonder.
"You could be a 'pro' ball player with an arm like that." Joe said from the other side of the fence.
"Na," I replied. "I blew my elbow. I can't throw overhand any more. But this straight arm underhand pitch, that's another thing."
Joe grinned. "Boy, do these guys have a surprise this year."
We scored two runs this inning and the score was 6 to 3. I took the mound and retired the next three batters. By now the other team was getting wise to what they were up against. "Where did you get this guy?" and, "Is he for real? Where's the rule book. There's gotta be something against him."
I took my turn at bat and hit a blooper to the shortstop. "At least he can't hit." was heard from the opposing team.
Walking back, I saw Edith sitting among the women. I stepped over and squatted down beside her. "You looked lonely sitting here." I commented.
She smiled in my direction. "They say the year of firsts is the hardest." She paused. "You never stop amazing me. Twice you did it today."
"Oh, how's that?"
"Your pitching, for one."
"And the other?"
"You and Trish." she said as we watched a close play at home plate.
"She told me about the kiss you stole and agreeing to call today a date."
I jerked my head to look at her. "She's already told you about all this, huh?"
"She tells me everything about you."
"She's a really nice kid."
"Careful Mark. She's ..." I heard her say before I left to take the mound.
Our side had gotten 2 additions runs. The score stood at 6 to 5. I retired the next three batters, as expected. But not before one had gotten a piece of a pitch. It was a foul, but that was all.
Trish came in from the field and we sat watching the game. "How's it going?" I asked.
"Okay." as she stuck her hand in mine. "Think we'll win today?"
"Maybe." One of our guys was on base, one out.
"Who's the next batter?" someone queried.
"Oh, that's me" as Trish got up.
"Hit 'em in." I encouraged.
"Yeah, right." she said back.
The first two pitches to her were called strikes while she watches them cross the plate. "Swing at it." I said.
The next ball was thrown and she weakly swung. She got a piece of it and it bobbled down the third base line. The third baseman moved forward for the easy out. As he stooped to pick it up, his foot kicked the ball and drove into the spectators. By the time it was retrieved, one run had scored and Trish was safe on first. Tie score.
"Way to girl." I encouraged. "Way to go."
Our next batter flied out to center. Then the next one drove the ball deep between two defenders. When the dust cleared, Trish was on third. I moved to the baseline, "You can score."
Her face flushed with excitement, and her attention was on the next batter. The fourth pitch got away from the catcher and rolled to the backstop. "Run" I quietly said and she took off. Their catcher was not paying attention and by the time he realized it, it was too late and Trish crossed the plate. We were up one run.
"Way to go, way to go." I said as I ran up beside her.
She was excited at the accomplishment and wrapped her arms around me and squeezed. "I did it. I really did it."
The next batter struck out and we took the field. The next two innings were pretty much the same. They did tighten up their defense but the damage was done and they didn't get on base. The final score was 6 to 8, the unmarried team was the winner. Joe walked over to me as we moved off the field; he was holding his hand out, palm up. "You weren't joking about 'smoking' it."
"Be careful with your hand, it likely will be bruised by morning."
Our team was excited at the victory and was asking me questions. The married men congratulated us. "Gotta get you married before next year." one of them said. "With you on our team, they wouldn't have a chance."
"Not likely to happen. Don't have a girlfriend." I added.
"What about Trish?" another asked. "She's available. We gotta get you on our side. There's the preacher, he can do the job."
I grinned at the joke, and then it dawned on me she and I were holding hands. Nothing more needed to be said but I opened my mouth anyway. "Not this year. That'd be too soon."
Trish squeezed my hand. 'Yikes' I thought.
It was time for the milking, so Edith called the other two girls. Becky whined, "Mom, let me come home with Mark. It's not my turn for chores."
"No," she insisted. "You come with me." Becky continued to protest, but to no avail. They left in a few minutes and Trish and I strolled around, looking at things and talking to folks.
Trish introduced me to the pastor's wife. "So you're the young man working at Bud and Edith's place. I've heard good things about you and after today's performance you'll be the talk of the town."
"I'm helping Edith out now that Bud is gone. They're a good family, and he is sorely missed."
"You staying for the fireworks? We'd love to have you join our group." She asked.
"Not certain we can. It will be late before we get home and there's the milking at 3am. Besides, we didn't bring anything for supper."
"Should you choose to stay, food will not be a problem. There's plenty left over from our lunch." She replied as I looked down at Trish.
She didn't say a word, but her eyes took on the 'Bambi' look. Guess I'm a sucker for the 'doe' eyes with a pleading request in them. "We'll stay." I said.
"Good. We can set another couple places. You should enjoy it."
With that, Trish and I walked into the shade of a nearby tree. "You're getting up with me in the morning, girl. If you wanna stay, then you gotta help."
She smiled her acceptance. We sat down and leaned back, watching the other folks. We were silent for a few minutes, when I noticed that familiar 'far away' stare on Trish's face. She sat there, oblivious to all surroundings, not moving. "Trish?" I whispered. No response. "Trish?" I say louder. Still she did not hear. I disengaged my hand from hers and rotated my arm, it was sore from the workout. Hadn't been used for several months and I'd failed to warm up properly.
Her attention returns to the present. "Here, let me rub your shoulder." I swiveled so that her hands could work the muscles of the joint. Oh, that felt good.
For 10 minutes she kneaded and massaged the muscles. It took that long for the tension to be worked out. "Mark?"
"Do you like me?"
"Sure, I like you." I said with out thinking.
"No, I mean do you like me as a girl? You know, like a girlfriend?"
My head slowly turns and looks her in the eye. She was dead serious and I was thinking fast. Could I extract myself without hurting her feelings? I didn't see how. If the wrong thing were said, or she took it the wrong way, her puppy love would lead her in the wrong direction. The way I considered her, she was a kid, the daughter of the family I worked for. The things I'd done and said earlier today probably lead up to this moment; plus comments by the other team may have added fuel. What could I possible tell her, and yet not offend her. She was waiting, and afraid of what I might say.
"Trish," I start out slowly. "I'm not looking for a girlfriend, right now. I'm not in a hurry for a relationship. You are a sweet and very wonderful girl. I like you; in fact I like you a lot. Do I like you as a girlfriend? Honestly, I don't know because I've never allowed myself to explore that possibility. When your dad passed away, your life changed and my life changed. I have taken on some responsibilities which kind of scare me. That is what keeps me busy."
"Could you like me as a girlfriend?" she emphasized the word 'could'.
If I said 'no', it would be lying. But if I said 'yes', it might get her hopes up. Her hands continue to work with my shoulder and our eyes meet, hers are searching mine, hoping beyond hope, hope I don't close the door to her. "Yeah, I could." I smile. "I could, easily." I added.
The look in her eyes became like a 'sigh', a sigh of a 'maybe'. The door hadn't been closed and just perhaps, perhaps she had come a step closer.
"I want to have fun today, Trish; fun just being here and fun with you."
Her smile brightened and she gave me a quick kiss on the cheek. The sun was still shining in her eyes.
To change the subject I asked, "Can you show me the church? I've only been here once."
"Sure. Come on." She grabbed my hand and pulled me to my feet. Together we walked to the back door, which was open and we stepped inside. My concept of a church was rather foggy, coming from my younger years. I figured it to be a 'holy' place with hushed voices, and as such.
We walked from room to room and I observed that no one place appeared more reverent than another. So I asked her.
"This church is only a building where we come together for worship of God." She started her explanation. "God is holy, not the place. Items in this church are used to help us learn about Him."
There was an alter at the front of the auditorium. As a child I kind of remember it being a special place where God was supposed to work or do his thing. But here, Trish explained, it was used to help focus worship. It was not an object to be worshiped. As we continued, I asked all kinds of questions and she tried to give a good answer, but with some she did not know. "You will have to ask the pastor about that."
"What do you believe, here?"
"Is that all? You don't have any other books?"
"No, just the Bible. Let me show you something." Pulling me through a large doorway she pointed to some words over the top.
"The Bible, the Whole Bible, and nothing but the Bible."
That was sure different from what I had remembered. There were other things that were considered important, although I could not recall what they were. I guess I had a lot to learn. "Can I ask you when I have a question?"
"You can ask me, sure. And if I don't know, ask mom, or ask the Pastor."
We continued the tour with me asking a 'ton' of things. Leaving the church, we found the Pastor and joined him for supper. He had been impressed with the pitching prowess I demonstrated earlier that day and I told of my high school sporting days. After a lengthy discussion on that topic, Trish interrupted and shared I had some questions about the church. We changed gears and he politely explained what the church believed and how it applied to the lives of people. I must say he was very thorough and very understanding of my ignorance. He invited me to attend any service to observe and learn. I guess I figured there would be pressure, but there wasn't. He offered an invitation to visit and left it up to me.
The evening progressed as the sun set and darkness descended. The fireworks display was scheduled for 10pm and a few minutes before, we moved to a better viewing spot and blankets were provided to sit, while watching. Trish made a point of holding my hand and I gave it a slight squeeze. The fireworks started and I was impressed. Lasting over 20 minutes the bursts of colors never seemed to stop. The flares overhead were the exceptionally awesome.
At the conclusion, Trish and I walked to the car, swinging our hands. "You have a good time today?" I asked.
"The best, cause it was with you."
"Don't forget tomorrow morning. It will come all too soon."