The Norfolk Bump in the Road (cont - 3)

Kevin could sense something was wrong. Sometimes it was difficult to read Jason’s emotions, but today he was wearing his sadness as he sat in front of his locker, naked except for his boxer briefs. It seemed to take forever for him to take off his clothes. He was always dressed in his uniform long before Kevin but tonight he seemed to have lost the excitement to get on the field. This was not good on a day he was supposed to pitch before a sellout crowd that adored him. Game time was just a couple hours away. It would be his first appearance for Norfolk. First impressions can mean a lot.

“You okay. You just look like you ate a whole box of pecan pralines and washed them down with beer.”

“Emily and I broke up,” Jason mumbled in Mandarin, refusing to look away from his phone frozen in the palm of his hand. He kept staring at the screen. It had a hypnotic trance on him.

“What do you mean you broke up?” Kevin was confused. He was buttoning up his jersey. “You’ve been in Norfolk for the last day and a half. How could the two of you break up?”

Jason returned to English. “She text me. She say ‘Since we will be twa-velling a lot we should fwee ourselves to see other people. Our puh-sonalities just too different.’ She think me play ball in Na-folk and her band tour just too hard for wee-lationship to continue.”

“That’s bull. I travel all the time and Shu and I are still together.” He grabbed Jason’s phone to look at the message.

“You ma-weed. That different.”

“We started our relationship with her in China and me in the United States. We weren’t married then. You work hard enough you can make anything work out. Anyone who ends a relationship via text isn’t worth moping about.” Kevin read the message. “That’s a two sentence breakup. Wipe it from your memory. Put it in the past. It’s not like you don’t have options. Half the women in Asia would marry you in a heartbeat. Two sentence breakups aren’t worth moping about.” He was hoping the last comment would make Jason smile. It didn’t. Kevin returned the phone to Jason.

“Bweak up not reason for sadness. Voices predicted that.”

“As much as you’ve been staying home I could have predicted your breakup.”

“No. You not undah-stand. I saw bweakup coming. I not see purge. Voices pah-dict purge when talking ‘bout bweakup.”

Kevin was confused by this statement which seemed to be thrown from right field. “What do you mean by purge?”

Jason responded in Mandarin. “A slaughter. An elimination of much of the human race. Only a few will survive. Those who have killed another in name of religion, those who have subjugated others, physically, emotionally or financially and those who have profited from their religion to the detriment of others will all be purged. The voices tell me that our breakup will not be so bad after the purge happens. This is what they have been planning.”

Jason was still staring at the monitor of his phone as he spoke his words. It was almost as if they had texted this epiphany to him. At some point he had to put his uniform on. “Hurry up and put that uniform on. We need to warm up. I’m sure the purge will wait until after you pitch. We can talk about it more tonight. The future may may see the world come crashing down around us but right now we have a game to play. Forget about everything outside the lines once you find yourself inside the lines. Okay?”

He looked at Jason for some response but his face was still absent of emotion. He did make some effort to put his uniform jersey on but it was a slow process. Kevin waited. And waited. Keven even grabbed Jason’s cleats and slid them closer to him to speed up the process. Now Kevin was a bit worried. This was the first time the voices had discussed anything violent. They would have to have a long talk tonight. Perhaps it was time for Jason to get some counseling.

There was some hope walking onto the baseball field would change the mood. It didn’t. The competitive juices stayed stagnant. They went to the bullpen area to warm up where the expected large crowd gathered along the fence to watch Jason throw. Shouts of “We love you Jason Woo” could be heard, mixed in with the soft “splat” of the ball striking the catcher’s mitt, dipping and darting away from where Kevin positioned his mitt. Kevin got a work out trying to catch his throws.

Jason failed to respond to the crowd, did not even acknowledge them as he went dryly through his motions with no thought as to why he was doing them. There was little effort in his delivery, his arms failing to rise above his head with no grunt in his voice after he threw the ball. Jason was lucky to be hitting 90 with his fastball.

Before they ran out to the field for the national anthem Kevin went over to the Norfolk manager, Wendell Parson, and told him he didn’t think Jason was in the best frame of mind. If he called him out to the mound after the first couple batters it was his signal to take him out. “I would recommend you have someone warming up in the bullpen just in case Jason doesn’t have it”.

“Is he injured?” Wendell had a concerned look on his face. The last thing he wanted was to throw out the biggest name in baseball and risk further injury. Wendell was a big man with a large face and a larger gut, with skinny legs struggling to hold his excess weight. He was one hundred pounds past his playing weight and preferred to move in short distances. Walking from the dugout to the mound was about the most he preferred to walk. “If he’s in any kind of pain I don’t want him going out there.”

“He’s only got emotional pain. He broke up with his girlfriend today.” Kevin left out the detail about the voices and the purge. He wondered if Wendell would survive any purge. He seemed like a nice guy.

“He can’t suck it up?”

“It was his first girl friend.”

Wendell rolled his eyes. “Jesus Christ. I didn’t sign up for this job to babysit college kids.” He hollered to his pitching coach “warm up Trevor. We may need him early.” Kevin winced, hoping Jason did not hear Wendell yell. The pitching coach looked at Wendell funny, but he did as he was told, walking over to the bullpen area to tell Trevor to warm up.

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