Jeb stood looking out the large tinted window in his office. Traffic was inching its way from the city across to northern Virginia. Soon, he figured, they would be home, getting ready for the long Memorial Day weekend. He should be getting ready, too, though, right now, he wasn’t sure why. He had planned for several weeks to take his grandson, Winston, to the Nats and Braves game. It was a tradition in the Rosedale family. All the men took their sons or grandsons to their first baseball game. However, Winston would not be able to go.
“Why?” Jeb had asked over speakerphone.
“Because dad,” Jefferson said, sighing in his normal annoying way, “he’s, he just hasn’t been doing well in school. He’s been acting up and playing pranks.”
“That’s no reason—”
“Dad, he’s not going. It’s been decided. I’m sorry.”
So now Jeb watched the cars slowly trudge away from the city. He placed his forearm on the glass and stared down the cramped street. This all felt ridiculous to him. Why deny tradition over a pranks and gags? God, was I ever that hard on him?
“Excuse me, Mr. Rosedale, is there anything else you need from me?”
Jeb turned and shook his head at his assistant. “No, you can kick off.”
“Are you sure?”
“Well,” she said, smiling politely, “have a good one. Oh, and I think Porsche’s waiting for you.”
Jeb rolled his eyes. “Porsche,” he said. “How’s she doing?”
“Fine. I think she’s catching on nicely.”
Jeb nodded pensively. “Good,” he said. “You hear anyone say anything about Porsche? About her working here now?” He looked at his assistant. “You can tell me,” he assured her. “It’ll be our secret.”
She opened her mouth then looked behind her.
“The only one who has said something has been… Porsche.”
Jeb asked her to explain. What she told him was that Porsche had complained that the only reason she was working there was to appease him.
“Figures,” he said, rubbing the top of his thinning hair. “I can’t win for losing.”
He saw Porsche standing at the elevator. For a twenty-four year old, he thought, Porsche still seemed like a child. She wore large red headphones over her ears. Her foot tapped and her head bobbed to the muffled sounds emanating from those things. Porsche seemed completely unaware of the world, of the life Jeb was trying to give her and her brother. When I was her age, I had already traveled to Birmingham, Jackson, and Chicago. I had registered voters and performed sit-ins, had taken a fair share of beatings. He glared over at his daughter. Besides her dopey art, is she even involved in something?
Jeb pressed the down button. He gave Porsche another glance. She smiled but continued listening to her music. On the elevator, Jeb tightened his fist around his briefcase. He hoped the Nats would win tonight. It would be a good start. And if he could convince Jefferson to let Winston come to his house and spend some time with him, that would be even better. Porsche’s off-key singing interrupted Jeb’s thoughts.
In the car, he said, “Can’t you turn that off?”
“What?” Porsche said, pulling the headphones away from her ears. “You say something?”
“Yes,” he said. “Can’t you turn that down?”
“Sorry.” She appeared to adjust the volume.
“No, wait,” Jeb said, “I’m sorry.” She still had those innocent big eyes. “I want us to talk. How was your day?” He exited out of the parking space and headed toward northern Virginia.
“It was fine I guess,” Porsche said, shutting off the music. “I’m just trying to get this office thing down.”
“Hm, is that right?” Jeb said.
“Yeah,” she said, “But I still think painting is my passion.”
Jeb grimaced. He tried not to look at her, but when she resumed listening to that god-awful racket in her ears, he turned his head. She wasn’t a terrible artist; in fact in some ways Porsche was quite good. It was just that he never thought she could be famous. Her paintings were abstract and took too much time to figure out. He never understood her obsession with pink and yellow or her overreliance of geometrical shapes, floating aimlessly in the air. When he and Inga went to a showing at Busboys and Poets several months back, all of her friends were complementing her, telling Porsche that she was a real talent, but none bought a single damn painting. Inga forced him to buy the most expensive one, a wooden rectangular window with a pink and yellow runny eye staring out. It now hung in his home office, next to the one she did of him holding The Washington Post, smoking a pipe and wearing a pink and yellow trimmed robe. God, he hated coming down to the office and seeing those things there. His hope now was that if she started valuing real work and not just fantasy, she might make something out of herself.
Maybe sometime in the future she could pick up those paintbrushes and have a little more perspective instead of now using all her money on art supplies and music downloads. As Jeb sat in traffic, he shook his head at his daughter’s bohemian lifestyle.
“When are you going to grow up?” he said.
Porsche continued bobbing her head.
“I guess never,” he concluded.
Inga was in the kitchen when they came in. The front room smelled of garlic and onions. Jeb figured Inga was cooking spinach, potatoes and steak. Porsche went into the den, which was now her studio and began singing an unfamiliar song. Inga turned, saw him, and waved. He waved too, but then craned his neck to see what Porsche was doing. He couldn’t see her but her song grew louder.
“Can’t you pipe down?”
“I’m talking to Porsche, honey. She’s making a bunch of racket.” Jeb tossed his briefcase onto the brown leather sofa. He shook his head and walked into the kitchen, picking up mail off the island. “How was your day, darling?” he asked, then kissed her cheek. “Mine was awful.” He looked at Inga stirring a wok with a large wooden spoon. “What do you have there?”
“Oh, I thought I’d try some stir fry,” Inga said. “Sorry about your day. You and Porsche having a moment?”
“I had my heart set on steak, Inga.”
“Well, sometimes it’s good to switch things up. And if it’s any consolation, it’s steak stir-fry.”
Jeb grimaced. “That’s not the same.”
“Embrace the change, Jeb. This is what we’re having.”
Jeb kissed Inga’s cheek again and took the back stairs to their room. He undid his cufflinks and tie. He slipped off his shoes. He put the tie in the dry cleaners’ bag, he placed the cufflinks neatly on their stand, and he slid his shoes into a shoetree. He went to his side of the bed where the remote was on the nightstand. He turned on ESPN and watched the scroll. No updates about the game. He switched to MASN, but there was one of those commercials that took up the screen and didn’t reveal the scroll. He searched his phone, clicking on Bleacher Reports Game Center. The Nats were down 2 runs; score was 3-1 Braves. It was bottom of the fifth.
“Damnit! Damnit! Damnit,” he yelled.
“Jeb?” Inga called. “Is everything all right?”
“No,” he yelled. “The Nats are losing.”
“The Nats are losing, Inga. To the Braves.”
“We’ll get ‘em next time, sweetie.”
“Augh!” Jeb slammed the remote on their bed. He slumped down in the armchair and watched the game muted. He didn’t want to hear anything from the commentators. He had his own analysis of what was the matter with the Nationals.
“Hey dad?” Porsche called. “Are you eating with us?”
Jeb closed his eyes after Werth flailed at a curveball. He shook his head and said, “I’m not hungry.”
When he opened his eyes, LeRoche hit a double but outfielder muffed the ball and LeRoche was now making a play for third. Jeb stood up. “Slide, slide, slide!” LeRoche slid and was safe at third. Jeb clapped his hands. “Hot damn!”
He didn’t see Porsche standing inside his room.
“That was a nice play,” she said.
Jeb, startled, fell into his chair. “Don’t sneak up on me, girl.”
“I didn’t. I was checking to see—”
“Oh look at this, look at this…” Atlanta’s manager was questioning the ruling. Had the outfielder muffed the ball? There was going to be a review. “What the hell? Why review that?” Jeb asked, pointing both hands at the large HD television on the wall.
“It looked good to me,” Porsche said.
Jeb shot a quick look at her. He started to ask, Why are you still here, but he didn’t. She was right. It was a good play. Turned out that the umps believed so, too. However Zimmerman struck out, and Desmond was one strike away. Jeb sat frustrated, head leaning into palm. Desmond battled Minor, keeping the count at 0-2, fouling out to the first base side, third base side, and behind home plate. Jeb had a feeling that Desmond was going to chase something he shouldn’t, and he did, but the ball landed just over the shortstop’s reaching glove. LeRoche headed home. And Desmond beat the throw to first. Jeb jumped up with a fist-pump. He started to high-five Porsche, but she was fiddling with her phone.
“Jeb? Porsche? I’m waiting…”
“You better go down,” Jeb said, wiping his forehead.
“Just a minute, ma.”
Espinosa struck out.
The inning was over.
Jeb was in his chair, rolling off his socks.
“That was pretty exciting,” Porsche said, leaning on the oak armoire near him.
“Yeah,” Jeb said, “down only a run now.” He looked over at Porsche. “You like baseball?”
She frowned at him. “Yeah, Dad. I like a lot of sports.”
“You do? I guess I didn’t know that.”
The Nats lost 3-2. Jeb showered, having sweated through his dress-shirt and boxers. Refreshed, he dressed in his lucky silk blue pajamas, thinking, the Nats had a good showing. Maybe tomorrow’s game would be better.
Inga was in the family room, Porsche in her studio. The house had a quiet that Jeb liked. The food and the sauce-stained wooden spoon were still in the wok. Warm. The food was not bad either. He ate at the kitchen table, alone.
How am I going to get Winston to the game? He chewed his food, thinking of arguments and appeals he could use to convince Jefferson to allow him time with Winston. The boy is eleven, he would say, it’s a Rosedale tradition. Why would you want to break tradition? You never liked watching the game, he would remind Jefferson, so who will carry this on? Who will teach Winston about baseball the way my dad did for me? Who would explain its history and our place in it? Who will transfer all this history and culture and love to Winston?
Jeb went to the kegerator, got a beer glass, and pulled on the dispenser’s stainless-steel handle. He took a thoughtful sip. He looked out into his backyard. The deck lights were on, illuminating the covered pool and hot tub. Does Winston even know how to swim? he wondered. Maybe that’s how I can do it? He could say to Jefferson that he wants to teach Winston how to swim. If that worked, he would take his grandson to Nats Park and show him how to swim later.
“You look deep in thought, honey.”
“Oh, I’m just thinking maybe Winston should come over and learn to swim.”
Inga gave a familiar look. “Isn’t Winston being punished for acting up in school?”
“Aah, school,” Jeb said. “Where he is? The boy’s not being challenged. That’s why he’s acting out.”
“I’m not sure urinating in your teacher’s coffee is evidence of not being challenged.”
Jeb laughed. “He’s a practical joker. Hell, I pulled a lot of stunts when I was his age.”
“Well,” Inga said, patting his shoulder and kissing his cheek, “I’d rather let Jefferson discipline Winston the way he sees fit.”
Jeb considered Inga for a moment then returned to staring at their backyard. “I don’t think he realizes he’s being ineffective. You cannot take away things from kids. Plenty of research says that. Can’t just stop and snatch history away from children.”
“I know, I know. Winston has to learn. But I really want him to learn to swim.”
“Jeb,” Inga said from the back stairs, “you really want him to go to the game with you.”
He didn’t turn his head. He could feel those green eyes on him. “Good night, Inga.”
“I’ll be waiting for you sweetie,” she said. “Night.”
In the silent kitchen, Jeb continued staring out his window. He sipped his beer and thought about abandoning the idea. After all, Winston’s actions needed punishing. Jeb imagined having a client with a similar situation: student peeing in his coffee. What a case! Surely Jeb would force a settlement. No one wants to go to court with that hanging over a child’s head. Bullying, pranks, these days can land a person in prison these days.
He sipped his beer. What would he do if Jefferson weren’t his son, but a defendant? Oh, he’d give it to Jefferson. He’d have his legal team pull up all kinds of research on the dangers of drinking pee, on the psychological effects of being called a pee-drinker (because children would undoubtedly know the teacher was a pee-drinker), and on the stigma of having to leave the teaching profession, a profession the pee-drinker surely loved before being tricked into drinking pee. Jefferson would settle. Like Inga, he wasn’t confrontational. Maybe that’s why he didn’t like Wall Street. He didn’t have it in him. The fight.
Jeb sipped from his glass. Baseball teaches you to fight. To never give up. To play the game to the very end. He shook his head and finished another beer.
He loaded the dishwasher. He cleaned the wok, placing the remaining steak stir-fry in plastic containers. He hung the wok over the island and stored the plastic containers in the fridge. Jeb looked around the kitchen. The floor needed mopping but everything else was orderly. He switched off the light and yelled Goodnight to Porsche.
She didn’t respond.
Jeb walked over to her studio. The lights were dim and she did not seem to be there. He grunted and took a long look up the front stairs. He listened then he stepped out to see if there was any sign of movement upstairs. There wasn’t. He went inside the den. He picked up some of the sketches torn out of Porsche’s sketchpad. There was one of a flower, colored in with a purple pencil. The reeds and stem were black but the buds were purple. Another sketch was a self-portrait. The flimsiness of the paper and the fadedness of the pencil gave Jeb the impression of finding a relic. She looked so young in the drawing. He looked around more. Even though he had helped move her and her artwork in there and though he occasionally went to the door to call her for dinner, Jeb always had the feeling that there was something personal about Porsche’s studio and her work. He wanted to understand it, but there was this invisible wall between them. He knew it was there, and he imagined she knew it was there, too.
He also knew Inga would be angry with him: going through their daughter’s art was tantamount to going through her diary. However, some of these drawings were better than her paintings. In fact, all her sketches were light-years ahead of those pink and yellow geometric things. Even some of the sculptures looked thoughtful, creative, marketable. He’d loved to have one of these… Was this Medusa?
Jeb jumped around. “For Christ’s sake!”
“What are you doing?”
“I, I was, Jesus Porsche, you almost gave me a heart attack.”
Jeb hands shook. He made fists out of them to relax. “Couldn’t you have knocked?”
“Uh… you are in my space.”
“Forget it. Just forget it.” Jeb needed a deep breath. “I just came to say goodnight.” He brushed passed Porsche, patting her shoulder. He started to complement her drawings but thought better of it. Besides, he now needed some cold water. God, he thought, she could have really scared the death out of me.
The next morning, Jeb dressed in a Homestead Grays jersey and cap, blue jeans and white orthopedic sneakers. It was throwback Saturday at Nats Park, homage to the Negro League. Jeb took a junior-sized Strasburg jersey from its hanger. He wondered if Winston had a Nationals cap. If not, he could buy one at the stadium. Inga sat reading a magazine in her chair, her feet dangling over the ottoman.
“Jeb,” she called. “Why are you taking that?” She pointed with the magazine at the jersey he was folding.
“I’m going over to talk to Jefferson, Inga. I just think he’s being too hard on the boy.”
“Just like that,” she snapped. “You came up with that decision.”
“Inga.” Jeb sighed. “I’m the boy’s grandfather. Shouldn’t I have some say?”
“Well, I disagree.”
“Of course you would.”
Jeb started to say something nasty, but fighting before a game would bring bad luck. Besides, he knew Inga never liked baseball. Even when they drove to Camden Yards to see the Orioles, she preferred the Waterfront and dining at some bar. And boy, did she dine. And, jeez, did Jefferson whine and complain about wanting to go with Mommy. Augh!
“All I will say, Inga, is we had this scheduled. And taking his time away from me is taking my time away from him.”
Inga continued reading. “Jeb,” she said without looking at him, “I wouldn’t interfere if I were you. There will be plenty more games and aren’t something like 200?” She shook her head. “Just let it go.”
“You want me to let go of tradition?”
“No, honey, I don’t.” Her eyes met his. “I have an idea: why not take Porsche?”
Jeb guffawed. “Are you serious?”
“You never took her to a game. And she obviously wants to go.”
“That’s not how it works, Inga. Rosedale men take Rosedale boys to their first game. My father did that with me, my uncles did that with my cousins, and I tried to do that with Jefferson.”
“How’d that turn out?”
“You—” Jeb stormed down stairs. He decided he did not want to eat her food. He’d pick something up once he got Winston. Jeb threw the jersey down on the passenger’s seat. He slammed the door. He gripped the stirring wheel, heaving and tightening his lips. He didn’t like cursing, but damnit, Inga pissed him off. How’d that turn out? Oh, funny you should ask, he thought. Our son acted like a goddamn baby! Couldn’t make it out of the first damn inning, that’s how it turned out. He couldn’t even start for the Pilgrims like me. And boy, ol’ boy wasn’t that a goddamn hoot? Wasn’t that the highlight of my alumni meetings? Goddamnit!
Jeb grabbed his forehead.
No, no, no, he thought. Can’t leave like this. Positive thoughts: The Nats will beat the Braves. They’ll win the series. They’ll be a game or two up in the NL East.
He started the car. Positive thoughts.
He opened his garage. Positive thoughts.
He drove away. Positive thoughts.
Jefferson lived in a modest house in Bethesda. He remembered helping Jefferson and his wife, Morgan, find this place. It was a bungalow hidden by large pine trees and spruces. The front yard was large enough for twenty or thirty people; the backyard maybe could hold seventy. Morgan really liked the Spanish tile roofs, but Jefferson wanted a colonial like the one Jeb had. He explained to his son such a house would be out of his price range. Morgan agreed; she was practical. Jefferson begrudgingly relented, though Jeb always felt he held that against him. That he and Morgan had ganged up on him. There wasn’t much street parking in his neighborhood, so Jeb found turned into his son’s driveway. Normally, two cars crowded the small space. But there was only one car: the Jeep.
Hmm. Jeb had Siri call Porsche.
“Hi, Porsche, can you do me a favor?”
“We’re not talking,” she said sternly.
Jeb stammered. “W-what?”
“We’re not speaking. Not at this time, at least.”
“Long story short: I don’t like him. He’s a hypocrite.”
Jeb was silent for several seconds.
“I’m here,” he said. “Well, I, I guess you’re right. Never mind. Ciao.”
“Love you,” he heard her say.
Jeb clicked off the car’s phone system before replying.
He sighed and exited his car. He surveyed the front yard. It needed mowing and the windows of the house needed a power-wash. Jeb rang the doorbell. He heard scuffling feet then Morgan’s voice yell at the dog.
“Hey Jebediah,” Morgan said, hugging him around his neck. “I didn’t expect to see you. Come in.” She held the Rottweiler who sprang up on it back legs, wanting to play and lick Jeb’s face. “Down,” she said. “Get the fuck down.”
The dog yelped a bit.
Jeb bristled at the language.
“Is Jefferson in?” he said, slouching behind the slouching dog.
“No,” Morgan said. “He’s out golfing.”
There was a martini glass and a large silver shaker on the coffee table. Jeb saw the dog look back, as if to say, Yeah, things aren’t going well here either.
“Is Winston ready to go?” Jeb said.
“Go where?” Morgan lowered herself into the brown leather sofa.
“To the game,” he said. “He turned eleven this week, and, you know, it’s a Rosedale tradition to take—”
Morgan paused him with her upraised hand. She lifted her glass and drank the rest of her Martini. It was a little after 10. “Look, Jeb, I don’t know what you’re talking about. Jefferson and Winston went golfing.”
“That’s what he calls it.”
Jeb’s legs suddenly felt wobbly. “May I sit?”
“Sure. Wanna a Martini?”
Jeb sat in the love seat next to the sofa. He watched Morgan pour a greenish drink to the rim. She took loud sips and crossed her legs. He hadn’t noticed before, but Morgan was dressed as if she expected someone else at her door. Her slender tanned leg bounced over the other. The sequined nightgown with its thin black straps over her round firm-looking shoulders confirmed something he had thought the day Jefferson brought her to him and Inga: What a seductive creature. Getting his bearings, Jeb realized she was now watching him, sipping her drink loudly, leaning almost too casually on her hand.
“So,” she said. “What game were you going to take my son to?”
Jeb coughed and cleared his throat. “The Nats and the Braves… are playing… it’s a, um, a three game series. The, uh, Braves, um, they won last night.”
Morgan smiled. “Jefferson told me you’re a big baseball fan.”
“I, uh, I am.”
“My dad loved baseball, too.”
“Oh. I didn’t know that.”
“Well, Jeb,” Morgan said, inching forward, “we’ve never talked much about anything. If it wasn’t about your school, then it didn’t seem to matter.”
“I guess you’re right.” Jeb did not look beyond Morgan’s hazel eyes. He had the feeling she wanted him to. She wanted him to look beyond everything, her marriage, his marriage, his duty as a father and a man of tradition, principle, and family. My God, he thought, she is quite fetching. “How, um, is the, uh, board going… now that you mentioned it?”
Morgan slid back a little. “It’s fine. I take it you and Jefferson haven’t talked.”
“No,” Jeb said. He turned away from her when he saw the dog sleeked over to him. “We’ve had a bit of an argument.”
“Really,” Morgan said. “Over?”
She was pulling her hair into a ponytail, when she suddenly stared at him. He thought about reminding her that he was technically her boss. Then, he felt an odd sensation that she wouldn’t care and was sort of daring him to try to boss her around.
“Over the little prank Winston pulled at the school the other day.”
“What prank?” she asked laughingly.
Jeb smiled faintly. Maybe he shouldn’t tell. Obviously a mother scolding her son was much more serious than a father’s. “It was harmless,” Jeb said.
“Then what was it?”
“I don’t think it’s my place to interfere,” Jeb said. “Jefferson was handling it. He, uh, punished him, I guess.”
Morgan tossed her head in laughter. “Are you sure about that, Jebediah?”
The dog circled around its bed then plopped itself between the coffee table and dormant fireplace. Its eyes blinked at Jeb. And soon, there was a painful realization.
“Winston didn’t want to go to the game, did he?”
Morgan’s hand was on Jeb’s knee. “I’m sorry, Jeb. I don’t know why Jefferson couldn’t be honest.”
Jeb looked at Morgan. She smelled of apples and vermouth. “So Winston didn’t pee in his teacher’s cup of coffee?”
“No,” Morgan said, softly shaking her head. “Winston’s not that kind of kid.”
Jeb cleared his throat. “Well, I, uh, I guess, I, um, should be, uh… yeah.” He stood. Morgan and the dog stood, too. “Thanks,” he said. “I think I should leave.”
“Sure,” Morgan said. Her angular face was beautiful and just under his. There was a strong urge in Jeb to kiss her mouth and cry. “Again, I’m sorry, Jeb. Jefferson isn’t the most honest person,” she said.
“I guess. I guess he’s not.”
Jeb sat in his car for several minutes. Morgan stood on her front stoop, sipping more Martini. The Rottweiler played in the yard. Jeb reversed out of the driveway. He slowed to type Home in his navigational system. When he looked up, a car was whipping into the driveway. At first he thought it was Jefferson, but the car wasn’t his. And the man who got out was taller, darker, sturdier. He wore a brown uniform and seemed quite familiar with the dog. Jeb watched him kiss Morgan’s cheek and speak to her. She never stopped looking at Jeb in his car. And the smile she wore shook him so that he pulled off without thinking about where he wanted to go.
Somehow, he found himself sitting in front of his house. He didn’t bother entering through the garage. He walked in and smelled garlic and onions. Inga came from the kitchen wiping her hands on her apron.
“You’re home early.”
“Jefferson…” Jeb stopped to clear his throat. He shook his head. “He and, uh, Winston went, um, to play putt-putt, or golfing. I’m not sure.”
“So I guess he forgave Winston?”
“Oh,” Inga said, as if suddenly realizing the oven was still on, “but you wanted to take him out.” She sucked her teeth and hugged him. “Oh, Jeb, I’m sure he’ll go next time. A little father-son time is important, too.”
“Yeah,” Jeb said, smiling faintly. “Is Porsche still here?”
“She’s in there,” Inga said with her head, “probably painting another master piece.”
Jeb knocked on the door. There was no answer, so he turned the knob. Porsche was asleep on the floor. She had rearranged her studio from last night. The loose drawings leaked out of closed black sketchpads neatly stacked on an end table. The sculptures lined the fall wall near the window. There was now a large easel with a canvas mounted. On the canvas was pinned a photo of Jeb throwing a baseball. He looked away from the photo to the light pencil drawing of the same image. He looked down at his daughter, snoring comfortably on the floor. Jeb never made the majors, but the scholarship got him through Harvard, which got him to law school, which got him playing on a firm’s softball team, which got him popular, which got him farther than any other Rosedale before him.
Jeb stepped out of Porsche’s studio. He went into the kitchen.
“Not going to the game?”
“No,” Jeb said. “Not today’s game. Maybe tomorrow’s.” He picked up an onion. “Want me to peel this?”
“Wash your hands,” Inga said, “and sure. I was thinking a chicken stir-fry.”
She had a recipe book opened. “And if you can dice it, that’ll help. Lord, these things got me crying.”
“Yeah,” Jeb said, slowly cutting. “I know what you mean.”
Jeb got out his Homestead Grays jersey and cap. He showered off as much of the smells of today as he could. He turned on the Nationals. They were down seven-zip. He turned off the game. He decided to crawl into his bed. He wanted the day to be over. He would call Jefferson later. He’ll give him a piece of his mind then, but, that man… Morgan… Lord.
“Hey Dad,” Porsche called from the doorway. “I thought you were going to the game.”
“Did something happen?” She turned on the lights and sat beside him. She had a look as if she were seeing him off to the other world.
Jeb sat up. “No,” he said. “I’m mean,” he sighed. “I guess Jefferson wanted to spend time with Winston and, well, you know… He didn’t know how to tell me.”
“Humph. Sounds like him.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
Porsche shook her head and laughed. “Dad, do you even know what’s going on with Jefferson?”
“No, but I have an idea what’s going on with his wife.”
“Dad, dad, dad,” Porsche said, shaking her head. “Jefferson’s been having an affair with someone at the school. He got caught a while ago, but he just said, well, fuck it.”
“I guess he said—”
“No, I mean, I heard what you said. But, he’s having an affair?”
“They both are. That’s the hypocrisy of it.”
Jeb leaned his head on the brown cushioned headboard. “Why didn’t anyone tell me?”
Porsche held his hand. “Because they’re afraid, Dad. And scared people don’t talk.”
“Why are they afraid of me?”
“I dunno,” Porsche said, patting his hand. “But I think they’re afraid of losing their place in the world. I think Jefferson, especially. He likes being seen as someone polished and put together. He’s kind of like, well, like you, Dad.”
Jeb turned sharply at Porsche. “He’s nothing like me,” he said.
Porsche smiled. “If you say so.”
“I do say.” Jeb pulled his hand from hers and yanked the covers off. He threw his legs over then reached for Porsche’s hand. “I’m not a man who does things just for show. I don’t just keep a good face in spite of the realities of things. I know the hardships, the pains, and the frustrations of life. I’m not just some…” he didn’t know what to say next.
Porsche stood and rubbed his shoulder. Even Inga was now in their bedroom.
He turned from Inga to Porsche. “I’m a man of substance,” he said, finally. “I’ve never cheated on your mother. Never. I never kept any of you away from my family or your mother’s. Never. And I never lied to my father. Not as an adult. I never did that.”
“But what about Uncle…”
“I’m not talking about my brothers, Porsche. I’m talking about me.”
Jeb went to his chair and turned on the television. The Nats were only two runs down. It was the middle of fourth. “My God,” he said, “we’re coming back.”
Inga shook her head and went back down stairs. Porsche shrugged and started to follow.
“Wait,” Jeb said. “Please. Wait.”
“Can we, me and you, watch the game?”
“Sure,” Porsche said, smiling faintly.
“And tomorrow,” Jeb said, muting a commercial. “We’ll get up and make a day of it. Just you and me, okay? A little father-daughter time, how’s that?”
“Yeah, Dad. I’d like that.”
“I’ll teach you everything I know about baseball, Porsche. Everything. It’s really life’s game. And you’ll appreciate its art, its beauty. Just like boxing is the sweet science, well baseball is the sweet life of people. Perseverance. Determination. Hustling. Never-quitting on a play.”
He felt Porsche’s hand wipe his face.
“It’s such a great game,” he said, turning up the volume.
K. Jahi Adisa teaches college writing and journalism at Howard Community College. His fiction has appeared in The Mandala journal and his journalism in The Washington Post. “Nats versus Braves” is one of the stories from his creative dissertation, But They Mean to Do Right.