By John Affleck
It began when I was sitting alone at the Twins-Mets game. No minder, no driver. I’d sent them off to lunch.
He sat down next to me in the stands, and I mean right next to me. He recognizably walked up the stairs and down the row — did not shuffle, did not amble, did not look like a complete catastrophe on wheels. He smiled, seemed proud to be in a shirt that was untrampled. He dared to wear shorts. His thighs did not sag below his knees.
He looked down at the scorecard in his hands and then opened with his best line.
“I can drive at night.”
He nodded, confirming his own statement.
“But I bet you’d balk at giving me a lift home when the bars close.”
“You even slipped in ‘balk.’ Very nice move at a spring training game. Mets fan?”
“But you’re not in Tampa.”
“Lucky for you.”
He smirked. I had scored again, 2-0.
“How old are you, if you don’t mind me asking?”
“You just asked me how old I am. Of course I mind.”
“I’m just thinking, we might be the same age.”
“As in, ‘I — by which I mean you — am older than dirt. Maybe this crazy hot platinum blonde
— meaning me — might be, too?’”
“Something like that.”
“I am 87 years young.”
“Really? Is that true? We are exactly the same age. You know how unusual that is when everyone you knew is dead?”
“I do. But you’re not 87. Not even possibly.”
“OK. I’m 84. And you’re a cradle robber.”
“If you like,” I said. “What do you think of the Mets’ chances this year?”
“I think they need a sidearm pitcher coming out of the pen. It’s all fastball fastball fastball. They need a change of pace guy. Somebody who is mostly breaking stuff.”
“I’m not. If you have dinner with me, I’ll explain why.”
“You just explained. You mean you’ll explain more and louder?”
“Ouch. Is my nose bleeding?”
This time I laughed.
“OK, we’ll stop the fight. Listen, on dinner. I’m going to go get a hot dog,” I said. “When my driver and bodyguard get back, give them your name and an address where they can pick you up. Then leave.”
“Your what what?”
About a week later, we were at another Mets game. The Amazins’ tried out a kid from their Binghamton Double A club, number 98. A sidewinder. He didn’t last an inning, got completely shelled. I looked over my reading glasses at him.
“Next time,” I said, “you’re buying me dinner.”
John Affleck wrote an autobiography when he was 8 years old. Not much had happened, and the story wasn’t very good. He has since gotten better at writing, having won awards both as a journalist and as a journalism professor. He’s also tried his hand at commentary, memoir and short fiction. A collection of short stories, Winning and Losing, was published online by Great Jones Street, which went out of business, though Affleck is still going. He splits his time between State College, Pennsylvania, and upper Manhattan.