Chapter 20

I’ve been thinking lately, sometimes, during those famous late-night solitude sessions with an empty glass and blank stare out at starless skies, that my full time involvement in sports was the last best part of me.  The last time I was really clean.

That’s the thing about sports, and the reason you have to play fair and sportsmanlike;  it’s a closed system.  You catch the ball before it hits the ground, she’s out; if you don’t, the bitch gets on base. End of story.  Two people line up and run to a white line on the ground. One of them gets their first.  If it’s not you, that’s one in your loss column.  End of story.

I like sports with definite results.  Figure skating or gymnastics or something would drive me nutty.  Some committee decides if you won.  Ridiculous.  I think decisions in boxing are ridiculous.  If somebody can’t get up or can’t answer the bell, they lose.  End of story.

And in a way, it doesn’t even really make a difference who wins.  I mean in the total purity of it.  I’ve played just as hard in pick-up games down on the Venice courts as in collegiate finals.  That’s what sports is.

That’s why I never argue with umps or refs.  Again, what’s the point?  They’re The Rules.  It would be like whining because if the line had been painted three inches to the left you wouldn’t have lost the ball and the lead.  That’s the real reason I was always so cool on the field when I’m such a hothead in “real” life.  Which, it might not surprise you to hear, I don’t consider nearly as real as what happens on the court.  If you’re not going to play by the rules, why bother?  Just go do jumping jacks for two hours.

I remember my Senior year in high school I got a bad call.  My body was blocking the view, but there is absolutely no question in my mind that she was out by a couple of inches.  No two ways about it.  But the ump called her safe so that was a really big run that we couldn’t really afford.  Especially with one out and two on.  I turned around and the next batter was standing there and the ump tugged his mask down and motioned me back to back behind the plate.  I was staring at him, and just sort of kept on staring.  I was trying to figure out how he’d missed that tag.  What was wrong with this guy?  He stared right back, motioned the other girl out of the box and said, “You got something to say, Hunnicutt?”

And I said, “No sir.  But you do.”

He said, “And what would that be?”

I came up to him, but turned around and squatted down and said, “That would be, ‘Play ball’.”

At the end of the season, when I was getting a top ride from a top school and left a stack of brass knick-knacks in trophy cases at three schools, he ran into me at a banquet and remembered that game to me, said he told the story all the time.  I shrugged and said, “We won, anyway.” and he started laughing.

Then he leaned down and said, “Tell me something, was she really out?”

I said, “If you say so,” and he started laughing again.

He said, “Anyway, you all won.”

I just spread my hands in a “safe” motion and he really started laughing, invited me to sit by him while they made all the speeches.  This was a guy who hit clean-up for Ol’ Miss in his day, and was an all-conference forward.  You learn so much from men like that if you let them talk.

 

But I guess I’m not really talking about sports seasons here.  I’m talking about everything else that isn’t all lined out with a rule book and a shower and beer with the team afterwards.  It’s like I walked out of the locker room clean, then started blowing it. If that’s what happened.  I don’t really know any more.

You ask anybody I know and they’ll tell you.  Brave little Cammy, will step up to anybody.  Never makes excuses, never whines, never cheats.  Clean player. Rough, but clean.  A woman who never apologizes for doing what I see fit to do.  Never embarrassed at making a living letting strange guys fondle her fancies, never looks down on any other girls in the trade, kind of proud of working men, turning predators into donors.

I’ve walked in on the arms of some pretty major players and smooth articles in several countries, dressed to the nines and knocking the bleachers out.  Not exactly the toast of Europe, but worth a footnote in some glitzy circles,  white Goddess inTokyo.  And nobody ever, anywhere disapproved or found me common or debased.  I have actual medals for good sportsmanship.  Squeaky fucking clean, that’s Miss Camelia May.

But where am I now?  I’m technically a criminal.  Literally a whore.  Gradually somebody who might just be selling myself out in the process of not doing anybody else any good by it.

I think things started going south for my immaculate self-conception when money and pride got involved.  And I don’t mean that as excuse, either:  there are plenty of other ways I could have played it.  And I certainly don’t mean it as some lame post-mod, retro-leftish dig on the corruption of capital.  It’s hard to explain, but let’s say there was a pro softball league, and I could be there playing with Geena Davis and Madonna batting behind me.  And it came down to doing something dicey or the whole team would miss the playoffs and it would cost us a couple of grand in bonuses that most of us needed?  Or if I’d been a foot taller and in the WNBA, same deal. I don’t think I’d ever shave points, but who knows what motivation or threat might change that?  Or even, what if Bethany had needed money and some booster was offering me side money, maybe to change programs?  It’s there, is what I’m saying.  I see money corrupting innocence in amateur sports all the time.  Like schools in Idaho or Utah joining Eastern conferences to get better TV demographics for their games, just for one example

But it’s hard to see money corrupting my sweet little ingénue self in the area of runways and “gentlemen’s clubs” and hotel suites.  That’s just a straight out deal, and I honor deals.  I always figure I get the best part of the deal, but so do they: that’s why people do deals.  So why am I starting to think I’m not going to walk out of this clean?

I’m not going to be at this much longer.  I figure thirty is stretching it, and it’s coming up soon enough.  I’ll be able to retire.  I was always hard-headed about money and I’ve gotten a lot of tips and resources over the years. You know, here and there.  And some more solid help a few times.  I own a four unit apartment house, have the whole CD, 401 K nonsense trumped.  So I’ll walk out of all this and do something else.  That’s one thing even male athletes figure out sooner or later: your body is a ticket that’ll only ride you so far, then you have to get by being somebody else.  Getting out of thongs and negligees and satin sheets will be the second time I hit the age when you have to walk out and go home.

Trouble is…  I’ve done every career move I ever made by calculation.  Planned things out, weighed things up.   And I never felt I was violating my person.  I’m not some intimate, love-bug type of person.  Sexual kicks have never been my big payoff.  I never minded letting some guy pet my ass at work.  I can sleep with a guy, get dressed, and walk out without a second thought.  I can be friends with men, too, and I’m a pretty staunch friend.  So why is it starting to kind of haunt me now?  Why am I drinking so much?  Why don’t I much care about planning what comes next?

Maybe I lucked out again and will become a career writer and that will fulfill me and all that.  Looks good, actually.  But a lot of times I just sort of blank out.  Just can’t put two words together when I look at a story I’m supposed to be finishing.  It’s happened twice with “Tree Tops”, which I always saw a sweet, innocent story that spoke to me like I was way back in grade school, reading beat-up old Golden Books.  I’m hoping I haven’t abused my inner child or violated some unknown inner parameter.  Okay, I hope I haven’t sinned against the world and myself and wallow in need of redemption.

If I found some genie bottle on the beach and got one wish, I know what it would be.  I’d close my eyes and wake up in a locker room, strapping on my pads and leggings, thumping my fist in my mitt, heading out into bright sunlight on a green field with sharp white lines, and a cheering crowd and a big white fence with a scoreboard saying zero-zero, and the season just started, and it would never end.