Tuesday, July 26, 2011

End of the Wiffle Chronicles

(Been gone to ballgames, to the Redneck Riviera (beach), to the Neshoba County Fair. Was gone longer than I figured...Next week, Magic in the Mississippi Delta)

I was not cut out for prison.

The baggy clothes. The cold chow. Molestation. Murder. Shanks to the hamstring.
Life on the inside, I just can’t do.

So around the law, I get the jits. The Prison Jits. The 9-Bar Hilton Muscle Spasms. Around the “po po,” I’m compliant as clay.

So no one was more surprised than I was when a few summers ago, I got into a semi-argument, quiet and logical but an argument nonetheless, with a police officer about how he just might be wrong.

We were in a tense moment of front-yard wiffle ball, me and the Usual Suspects, four boys around age 13. It was late afternoon and Sahara hot when a cruiser stopped in the street, which we called “right-center field.”

In gym shorts, sweaty and barefooted, I brought the officer my driver’s license while the boys rested in shade. He told me it would be safer to play in a park or at a school so no balls would go zipping in front of cars. Though we usually kept a pretty good watch on the street, we had lost ourselves in the intensity of the game and one of our hitters had launched a wiffle on a line drive across the bow of the cruiser as he’d driven by.

I suggested the whole charm of playing was the ground rules: the sweet gum tree, Mr. Larry’s driveway, the cat watching from the monkey grass. We lived next to two officers and a state trooper, played regularly for years, and had never been in trouble with the law.

By now two other cruisers were on the scene, making it by far the most active day, police-wise, of our wiffle experience. A nice sergeant pulled out a Big Book, put it on his hood, and finally the officer who’d stopped first pointed at a page and said, “There!”

I had launched or thrown “a projectile into a thoroughfare.” What the…
Wait! My survival instincts kicked in. I pointed to the porch. The boys. Drinking Gatorade. Sweating. Looking innocent. “One of them did it,” I said. “I don’t even get to bat!”

I argued that the spirit of the law was aimed at something besides a wiffle ball. I think I begged. I think I pleaded. I know I signed the ticket, and wondered what the wiffle rules would be in the prison yard.

I could go on an on, but the bottom line is I had to go to city court, where a perplexed judge told me not to get in trouble for the next month and she’d let me go. It must have been an unusual case and caused some pre-trail murmurings; when he’d checked us in, the bailiff had whispered, “You the wiffle guy?”

I remember the look on the judge’s face as she studied the charge. She asked a couple of people in suits to look over her shoulder. She shook her head. I could barely hear her when she said, “Well, THIS is a new one…”

There would be but timid wiffle the rest of that year. Besides, the boys were older and…well, for all practical purposes, outside of the occasional Home Run Derby, that ended any regular wiffling. But we have the memories, including a shadow box of the black-sheep wiffle, the ticket, and the park’s layout, an encased reminder of, remarkably, the only wiffle ball argument we ever had.