Fiction Friday: Curve Ball, Chapter 11

Grant’s injury was decided after many conversations with medical and sports medicine friends and physical therapists. I needed something that would be career threatening, but not career ending.


Chapter Eleven

Cami held her breath and stared at the motionless man on the field. “Let him be okay. Let him be okay.” She didn’t realize she’d said the words out loud until Peg gripped her hand and whispered, “Yes, Lord.”

After a long minute, Grant slowly sat up. Then stood as players and coaches jogged out. The crowd cheered while two coaches conferred with him. A trainer joined them and the group headed to the dugout while another player trotted out. The team began to whip the ball around the infield, warming up the new shortstop.

A substitution announcement came over the loudspeaker. Grant disappeared into the nether regions of the stadium.

Peg dug around in her purse and set her cell phone on her knee. “He’ll call when he can. He knows we’ll be concerned.”

The game continued but Cami couldn’t maintain her interest.

During the fourth inning, Mr. Andrews spoke up. “Sounds like it might be a torn rotator cuff.”

“How do you know?” his wife asked.

“The radio. The announcers are talking about it. I guess we better get down to the locker room.”

Cami didn’t know if the “we” included her, but she intended to follow. The three of them gathered their belongings and Mr. Andrews headed to a “No Admittance Beyond This Point” sign.

No one stopped them. Cami surmised the security people probably knew the Andrews family. They stopped in a corridor where a security guard stood behind a portable podium and spoke into his radio. He finished the conversation and turned to the trio.

“Can I help you?”

“We’re with Grant Andrews, we want to see him,” his dad said.

“One moment.” The guard talked into the receiver again, then listened to the reply. “Mr. Andrews is getting dressed. He asked if you would please wait here and he’ll be with you soon.”

Cami and Peg leaned against the wall while Cap paced up and down the hallway. As he passed in front of the women, Peg asked what a rotator cuff injury entailed.

“It’s tough. You can’t throw at all. It may or may not heal. It may or may not require surgery. It’s a long recovery time. A year, maybe more. It could be the end-,” he stopped abruptly when Grant came out, his right arm in a sling.

“I need to go to the hospital for tests. I can’t throw or resist pressure with my arm, so it looks like I tore the rotator cuff in my shoulder. But they have to take X-rays to rule out other stuff.”

“We’ll go with you,” Peg said.

“No, Mom. I’ll be fine. You should stay for the game then go to my place. I’ll catch up with you.”

“But I want to be with you,” she said.

After a few minutes of good-natured bickering and bartering, it was decided his parents would go to his home to wait. Grant was headed to the hospital. He looked at Cami.

“What would you like to do?”

“I want to go with you.” During the discussion, she’d wondered if she’d be able to say that aloud, in front of his parents. Asking her to go with him instead of his parents, took their relationship to a new level, beyond casual dating. But the words slipped out of her mouth in an automatic reply. She did want to be able to comfort and support him.

“I could use a reassuring face,” he admitted. “The trainer and doc are scaring the bejeebers out of me.”

“Can I drive you?”

“No, I have to ride in the ambulance. Insurance rules, can you believe it? I’m going to Anaheim Hills Medical Center. If you go to the emergency room, there should be someone who can tell you where to find me.”

“Are you in pain?”

“Fair to moderate, yeah.”

“That’s Grant-speak for excruciating.” His mother spoke up.

He set his jaw. “Mom, please. I’m not fifteen anymore.”

“I know, but you’re still my little boy.” She winked at Cami.

“Dad.” His voice asked for support.

“Come on, Peg. We’ll see you later, son.”

Mr. and Mrs. Andrews turned toward the exit and were soon out of sight.

“Do you need anything?” Cami asked.

“I’ll be okay. I gotta go.”

He went back through the door. Cami stood still a moment. She’d thought the worry would be over once she talked to Grant and knew he was okay. Only now she fretted about not just his shoulder, but his whole career. She’d never realized how tenuous an athlete’s job was. One moment in the wrong place and it could be over. She prayed as she hurried to her car.

It was after midnight when Cami finally pulled into Grant’s driveway with him in the passenger seat. She had spent hours in a nicely furnished waiting room, frequently asking for information or a room number to find Grant. Hospital personnel refused to tell her anything. She wasn’t a relative, she could have been a groupie fan or a stalker off the street. They were implacable.

She had been about to phone Grant’s home to ask his parents to call the hospital for information when he’d appeared, pale and tired and ready to go. And not interested in conversation. The whole way to Newport, she’d divided her attention between the road and sidelong glances at him.

His parents met them at the door. “Well?” Peg asked.

“The X-rays and other tests are all negative, so it’s pretty sure to be the rotator cuff,” Grant said as he sank into the easy chair. “Hey, did you look at my office?”

“I peeked,” Peg confessed. “It’s beautiful. You do good work, Cami.”

Cami glanced at Grant. Just home from the hospital and he wanted to talk about decorating his office? She shrugged. “Thank you.”

“How do you get the leather look?” Peg asked.

“It’s a process.” She paused, not sure if they would really rather hear about painting fake leather on walls than talk about Grant’s injury. The trio of attentive faces answered her. “I lay the base on. After it dries, I press on crinkled tissue paper. I keep random wrinkles in it, and then I layer on the color. As the paint dries over the tissue, it looks like character lines in leather.”

“Tissue paper?” Peg asked. “For wrapping a gift?”

“I use generic from the dollar store. It’s cheap.”

“I’ve got to see this.” Peg walked down the hallway, disappearing into the office. Light snapped on and spilled into the hallway.

Grant leaned back in the chair, closed his eyes, and sighed.

“Do you want me to go?” Cami asked, after a long minute.

His eyes snapped open. “No.”

Peg rejoined them. “It’s amazing, Cami. It really looks like leather.”

“So, what’s next?” Cap asked. “Surgery?”

Relieved to be talking about the elephant in the room instead of ignoring it, Cami perched on the couch, hands beside her, fingers splayed across the rough textured upholstery and listened for the answer.

“Ice it for now,” Grant said. “Go back tomorrow for an MRI. Decide if we wait and see or if I want to go the surgical route.”

“What are you thinking?” The military man cut to the heart of the issue.

“I want to sleep on it, then talk to the doc. It’s not the kind of injury that will get worse if I delay surgery a day or two. Or even a couple of weeks. Some people live with this their entire lives without a problem.”

“But they don’t throw baseballs for a living,” Peg said.

“The boy’s right to sleep on it before making a decision. We’ll call you in the morning, son.” His dad patted his shoulder awkwardly as Peg gently hugged him good-bye. Grant didn’t rise to see them out, so Cami walked them to the front door.

Peg hugged her, too. “Thank you for staying with him at the hospital.”

“You’re welcome. Do you think he’s all right?”

“No.” Peg shook her head and spoke softly. “Not if he can’t play anymore, he won’t be. But we’ll think good thoughts and pray for him, and round that base when we get to it.”

Cami closed the door behind them and stood still, her hand on the knob. Yes, prayer and good thoughts are important, but hearing such platitudes would only push Grant away. She straightened her shoulders and returned to him in the great room. “Can I get you anything?”


“Ice? Or a pain pill and water? The television remote?” She paused by his chair.

“I said ‘no’!”

She stepped back, his intensity pushing her away. Grant had never spoken anything but kind words to her. “Do you want me to go?” Say no, say no, say no. Please say no. The thoughts ran on a continuous loop.

He shook his head. “I’m sorry.”

“I want to do something. I hate to see you in pain.” She sat again on the couch, at the end angled near his easy chair.

“Thanks. But I really don’t need anything. Except some way to turn back time, so I’d still be on the field with a whole body.”

“But-” she paused, not sure her tongue could form the words of her heart. “But I need to do something. For you.”


She shrugged. “You’ve been wonderful to me the last few weeks and now you need some help.”

“I don’t need anything. Except some peace and quiet.”

She stood. “I guess I’ll go.”

He slumped even lower in the chair. “Please don’t. I’m sorry. Let’s talk about something else.”

“Can I pray for you?” The words popped out before she could think about them. What an idiot. Hadn’t she dismissed Peg’s suggestion of prayers and good thoughts?

“I don’t think it’ll work, but if you want to, I guess it’s okay.”

“Why won’t it work? Prayer is just talking to God, you can’t do it wrong.”

He grimaced.

“What?” she asked. “Do you need a pain pill?”

“No. I can’t get excited about asking God to undo something that’s done.”

“But…” She was stumped. “He can heal you. Even if the doctors can’t. He’s in control.”

“Are you saying God caused that runner to take me out?”

“Not necessarily.” This conversation took an odd turn. “I mean He can draw on the bad things in our lives, and use them for good.”

“I don’t see any good in this.”

“It’s too soon. But later, you might. Maybe-” She paused to gather her thoughts. “Maybe in the future, a young player might be injured in the same way, and because of what you’ve gone through, you’ll be able to encourage and comfort him.”

“I’ll skip the injury myself and go straight to the encouragement gig.”

“Or perhaps during rehab you’ll decide you don’t want to play anymore, and go on to coach or some other work.”

He stared. “Not play? Are you serious?”

“I’m tossing out possibilities. You started this conversation. I believe the truth of Romans 8:28. ‘And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.’” She leaned forward, wanting to look into his eyes but he stared into the black television screen. “If that’s true, there must be some reason this is happening to you, and some way it can be used for good.”

“If you’re going to use the Bible against me, what about the verse that says, ‘Therefore, the Lord has kept the calamity in store and brought it on us,’” Grant shot back. “That means He saved this trouble up and then dumped it on me.”

“No.” How did she get into a theology debate with him? “I don’t think that verse means God saves up problems.”

“You used the Bible to make your point, but I can’t?” She’d never heard that tone of voice from him.

“That’s not what I’m saying.” She closed her mouth. How could she tell him Romans 8:28 wasn’t simply a verse to be memorized and trotted out when bad things happened, but something to cling to? “I have to believe God knows what He’s doing, even when I don’t.”

“How do you reconcile what happened to you with God working good?”

She stilled. “It’s not the same thing at all.”

“Of course it is. What happened to you was devastating. You can say it was no big deal, but it was.” He finally turned and looked at her. “I can tell because you’re scared, Cami. Scared of a life out of your control.”

“How dare you?!” Outrage throbbed in her head and she stood. ­Say something to shut him up and get out of here. “I am not!”

“Then why won’t you let me in?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” The denial came too quickly.

“I feel you pull away when I touch you.”

“I have to go.” She looked around for her purse.

“You think being raped ruined your life,” he said. “But you can still work and have friends and a career.”

She looked down at him in the chair. “I was hurt by an evil person. No one deliberately went after you to ruin your career.” Didn’t he see the difference?

“It feels like someone is aiming right at me and everything I love and ripping it out.”

“God is stripping away what you hold dear and reminding you that it’s all a gift from Him.”

“That’s awfully trite.”

They looked at each other in silence. Cami gazed out the window at the golf course below. She closed her eyes and drew a breath. “What do you need before I go?”

“I’m going to sit here for a while, then head to bed. I appreciate you going to the hospital with me.”

“You’re welcome.” She turned from the view to face him. She spoke slowly, deciding on each word as it reached her tongue. “I don’t think we should have this conversation right now. You’re in pain.” And he needed to work through his anger, though she didn’t voice that thought.

He rose stiffly from the chair and walked her to the door. “We’ll talk tomorrow. But call me when you get home and inside safely, okay?”

“I will.”

In her car, Cami leaned back in the seat and closed her eyes. “God, what is going on?” she said out loud. “How can we remind him that you love him when he’s looking at maybe never playing ball again?” She lingered a moment before opening her eyes and putting her key in the ignition.

Inside, Grant returned to his chair and flipped through the television channels before settling on ESPN. He was in time to see a replay of the runner sliding into second, the tangled legs and his own resulting fall.

The lacquer-haired announcer showed the clip twice. “Coming back to professional sports after an injury of this type is very difficult. Grant Andrews’s days in a Coyote uniform are probably over. Tough break for a tough player. Our thoughts are with you, Grant.”

Anger surged and he clenched his left hand around the remote. He caught himself just as he was about to hurl it into the television. He forced himself to sit still and inhale deeply as he watched the next story about last year’s Series’ winners struggle in their first games of the new season. By the time the announcers were through bantering and segued into the commercial break, he could breathe normally. The news continued but he didn’t hear it. He kept seeing the runner drop into his slide, the ball coming. The fall. Then nothing except the pain.

He jumped when the phone rang, then reached for it. “Hello.”

“I’m home and inside and everything is fine.” Cami.

“Good. See you soon?”

Did he imagine a pause before she answered?

“Sure. Goodnight, Grant.” She hung up.

Grant remained in his chair while the television danced shadows around the room.

After an hour the movie in his brain switched to an audiotape and he kept hearing Cami tell him that God had a plan for good. A plan for good. A plan for good.

He gave up and went to bed to stare at the ceiling.

No comments:

Post a Comment