Once during a little league ball game, our third baseman Luke brought something illicit for the guys on the team. We huddled around old Luke the Duke to get a good look at what he had in his grubby little paws. It was a pouch of Red Man chewing tobacco.
“Back off fellas,” the Duke said as he flicked the pouch. “You boys ain’t ready for this stuff here. This is meant for real men,” he said it as if he were a decade older than the rest of us.
“I’m a real man,” I said, pushing the brim of my ball cap up. “I’ve had that stuff tons of times,” I lied.
Luke opened the pouch and let me pinch a hunk of the brown stinky leaf. I opened my mouth and tucked it in my cheek. It tasted like raisins and poop.
“You ain’t supposed to swaller it or it’ll make you sick,” he said.
“Aww, pipe down Duke,” I spit. “I know what I’m doing. I’m practically an adult.”
Twelve-year-olds are nothing if not confident.
A few moments later, it was my turn up to bat. I walked up to the plate, noticing that the world was spinning around me. I smiled at our umpire Mister Charlie with oozing brown teeth.
I managed a base hit. I dropped the bat and ran to first base in a lazy zig zag pattern. As I slid into first, gliding through the dirt, the unthinkable happened; I accidentally swallowed my cheekful of chew.
And now you know how I got the nickname Red Man.