I’m watching the ballgame with a ghost this afternoon. Braves versus the Brewers. The ghost visits during important games like this.
He doesn’t drink beer or eat peanuts anymore—since he’s only a memory. Still, I put out a bowl of parched peanuts just the same.
He used to eat the heck out of peanuts. He’d crack them open and make a string of jokes that weren’t even funny. The ghost is notorious for ridiculous jokes.
But he’s not shelling peanuts tonight. And no jokes. He is sitting on the sofa beside me. Legs crossed. Hands folded behind his head.
He never ages. That’s one of the perks of being a ghost. He looks the same as when he died. Skinny. Lanky legs. He is loose built, and all freckles. He places his size-thirteen bare feet on my coffee table.
“Get your feet off that,” I say.
“Why?” he says. “I’m a ghost.”
That’s not the point, it’s the principle.
So we’re watching TV halfheartedly. We’ve got too much to talk about to focus exclusively on the game. It’s been a long time since I last saw him.
This is a good series. The ghost and I are pulling for the Braves. I’d rather lick a billy goat between the eyes than see the Bravos lose to the Brewers. But you can’t have everything.
The ghost wears an Atlanta ball cap.
Funny story about his hats. When he was alive he owned a million ball caps, but had never paid for a single one. This is because he was a steelworker who dangled from iron rafters, welding. Often, he worked on roller coasters.
People lose hats on roller coasters.
Once, he took me to an amusement park during business hours. He unlocked a chain link fence to a secure area beneath a roller coaster. When the roller-cars made their upside-down loops, it rained ball caps. Fifteen or twenty hats fell, every ride.
After a few weeks, he’d collected caps from every American League and National League team.
That is, except the Dodgers. We didn’t keep those hats. We disposed of those with an acetylene blow torch.
So the ghost is telling a story. It’s one I’ve heard before. But I still like it.
I close my eyes and remember his exact timbre. Usually, it only comes in dreams. And even those are getting fewer between. But tonight it’s real.
The ghost is a baseball fanatic. In fact, his love of it overshadows his interest in activities like hunting, fishing, camping, and yard work.
The ghost wanted to be a pitcher once, they say he was good. He tried out for semi-pro ball clubs, but didn’t make it.
The ghost claims he’s never been a winner.
“Ain’t never won a thing in my life,” he’d often say. “Never.”
And it was true. I never saw him win a single thing when he was alive. This genetic trait got passed to me. I’m no winner, either. Never have been. Winning makes me too uncomfortable. I’d rather place fifth. Or sixth. Or not at all.
The TV gets louder. The game is a nail-biter. Both teams are turning this matchup into a knife-fight. The ghost and I let conversation fade so we can pay attention. I turn my head to watch the ghost. He’s too engrossed in a boy’s game to notice me. God. He was beautiful.
The ghost never touched his peanuts.