Memorial Day at HCC
Part of Cal’s backstory was Overheard at the Mixed Grill “last Memorial Day.”
Memorial Day Celebration at the Club
“Well, well, so the rumors are true,” Harry said as Pinks and Cal approached his bar. The place was deserted since all the hoopla was happening over by the pool.
Cal grimaced at Harry’s words and then leveled a disgruntled glare at Pinks. “I thought you told me you had a lid on this,” he ground out through his teeth. “I swear to God, if this gets out I will never set foot in this town again, Scarlett’s album be damned. I’ve never once shown up here without finding my way into some kind of trouble.”
“First of all,” Pinks defended, throwing a thumb at the bartender, “this is Harry. And if he knows what happened then it’s through his ooky-spooky powers and nothin’ else. I told you I’d contain the situation and I have.”
Cal shook his head with a growl, tossed one leg over the bar stool in front of him, and plopped down, shooting beady eyes at Harry. “Ooky-spooky powers my ass. What do you know?”
“Not a thing.” Harry glanced curiously between the two men. “Just heard you were in town. But since I didn’t see you at Miss Langford’s graduation party Friday night, or at Miss DuVal’s graduation party last night, I figured I’d heard wrong.”
“Oh, you heard right.” Pinks tipped his head as he sat on the stool next to Cal. “He’s just been sticking to the shadows while nursing his bruised major league ego.”
“Zip it, Mighty Pinks. My major league ego is not above kicking some ass right about now.”
Pinks pointed at his own chest. “Double black belt, asshole. Coach doesn’t want you messing with the likes of me.”
“And he sure as hell doesn’t want it getting out that a girl was able to hit one of my pitches.”
“Whoops,” Pinks said, looking to his right and left to see if anyone overheard.
Harry lifted a brow. “A girl?”
“Ah, hell.” Cal dropped his head into his hands.
“Not just any girl,” Pinks whispered at Harry. “It was Nat-a-lie.”
“Natalie? As in your, Natalie?” Harry asked Cal wide-eyed. “Natalie Houser? Nate the Great’s daughter?”
“The very same,” Cal grumbled. “The woman used to drool over my one-hundred-one mile-an-hour fast ball. Now, how the hell am I supposed to impress her if she can actually hit the thing?”
“It wasn’t your fast ball,” Pinks maintained.
Cal glared in Pinks’s direction.
“Well, it wasn’t,” he defended.
“Tell me what happened,” Harry insisted as he twisted the top off a Natty Boh and set it before Cal.
“Uugggh,” Cal moaned as he scraped his hands over his face. “It was a bet.” He picked up his bottle and drank before going on. “You know Scarlett. Always wanting me to do this or that to promote Henderson and her own freaking agenda. And, yeah, she’s Nat’s bestie so I’m not gonna say no—although I truly like giving her a hard time just to make it seem like I’ve got a pair.”
Pinks let out a “pftt.”
Cal swatted Pinks on the arm. “Dude, are we in this together or what?”
“Whatever. Go on. Finish the story.”
Cal turned back to Harry and then shook his head. “I’d had enough. I mean, I know it’s Scarlett’s graduation party and all, but you can’t believe the shit I had to maneuver to be here this weekend. So, I told Scarlett that I wasn’t interested in singing at her party, or posing for her Hunks of Henderson calendar. I simply wanted time with Nat … and Pinks here … and with Scarlett too, but not so she could prance me around like a show pony.”
To Harry’s credit, he didn’t even smirk.
“But of course, Scarlett lays into me as soon as I arrive Friday. I mean, I didn’t even have a chance to give Nat a proper hello. I haven’t seen my girl since April because she’s busy and I’m, you know, a ball player on the road for God’s sake, so yeah, what I really wanted was some time with Nat. And Scarlett refused to give it to me.”
“She gave you twenty minutes,” Pinks raised his hands, palms up.
Cal sat up straight and spread his arms out like What the hell? “Are you kidding me? Twenty friggin’ minutes? Would you like to see the color of my balls?” He pointed at his crotch with both hands. “They’ve been blue since April.”
“Keep your discolored balls where they are. And for the record, I did try to tell her you’d want more time.”
“You have lost complete control of your woman.”
Pinks chuckled. “No man. You don’t understand. I’ve never had control over Red.”
“Then you need to grow a pair.”
“Got ’em and they’re not blue. So, ya know, I’m good.”
“Ahhh, so back to what happened with Natalie and the pitch,” Harry directed.
“Oh, yeah.” Cal rubbed his hands along his thighs. “So you know, Scarlett and I were trading insults like we do, because she’s got a gaggle of her high school cronies coming over for some girly-girl tea where she wants me to stand like some prize-winning heifer with a ring of daisies around my neck. In an effort to dilute the escalating tension, Natalie pipes in and suggests Scarlett’s friends might like to see me pitch. Well, I think that’s a damn fine idea. Much better than standing around some estrogen-drenched soiree holding my dick. So yeah, I agree to pitch. But that’s not good enough for Scarlett. Oh, no. Scarlett tosses out a challenge. Insisting if any of her girly-girls can hit one of my MLB pitches, I sing, I pose, and I prance all weekend long, just like she wants me to.”
“So, I assume, you weren’t worried about a girl actually hitting your pitch,” Harry stated.
“Correct. Silly me was truly worried about finding a catcher who could handle my pitches.”
“I believe they call that hubris,” Pinks offered.
“Yep,” Cal said into his beer.
“You call Brooks?” Harry asked.
“I did and he came running. Met us at the ball field, and played catcher just like he did during my pitching demo back in March. So it was Brooks and me, Scarlett, Nat, and six of Scarlett’s friends at the ball field. Thank God Pinks arrived before the nightmare ensued.”
“What do you mean?”
“After a brief warm up, I threw some pitches. You know, like real pitches. For show. Then, we had each of Scarlett’s friends take a turn at bat, standing over home plate in their dresses and their heels. Not a damn one of them knew how to hold the thing. So once Brooks sorted them out, I lobbed pitches across the plate trying to get one of them to connect. But no luck. Until Natalie takes her turn. Of course, being Nate the Great’s daughter, she knows how to handle a bat. And, being that she is Nate the Great’s daughter, she’s not interested in me powder-puffing one across the plate like she can’t handle the real thing.”
Pinks began to chuckle.
“I see the writing on the wall,” Harry says.
“Do you? Because I sure as hell didn’t. Natalie’s standing there in her cute little skirt—the kind with the shorts underneath?—and in her bare feet, because—yeah—who the hell can hit a baseball in heels? So she starts taking swings, warming up in the batter’s box, looking like she was born to be there. And I’m speechless on the mound, staring at her legs. Because in her batter’s stance, Nat’s thigh muscles are shown off to perfection, along with the crazy-hot shape of her calves. So yeah, I’m staring at her legs because they’re awesome and I’m mesmerized by them because of the aforementioned case of blue balls.”
“So you didn’t exactly have your game face on.”
“Ah, no. Plus, I’m not about to fire any of my regular pitches while she’s in the batter’s box. Nate the Great would have my head if I did. She had a batting helmet on, but regardless, a wild pitch could kill someone and in the state I was in, a wild pitch was not out of the realm of possibility.”
“So you powered-puffed it.”
“I did. Which pissed off Miss Great to no end.”
Harry laughed. “She was mad?”
“She’s a Division 1 tennis player. She’s Nate the Great’s daughter. Saying Nat was mad is an understatement. She wanted me to really pitch one in there. No way was I gonna do it.”
“You should have shut her up with a kiss,” Pinks said. “Works on Scarlett about ninety percent of the time.”
“My girl talks trash on par with the worst offenders in the league. After a raft of it tossed my way, I wasn’t interested in kissing that mouth.”
“So she got to you,” Harry said.
“No. In truth, her trash talking just made me laugh. Which made her all the more irritated that I wasn’t taking her seriously. So she stomps out to the mound like she’s my freaking coach and I’ve just unintentionally walked back-to-back batters.”
“And that’s when it happened,” Pinks told Harry.
“That’s when what happened?” Harry asked.
Cal threw his hands up and his head down. “She propositioned me.”
Cal looked up at Harry sheepishly. “ She whispered in my ear. Told me I could have what she’s been holding out giving to me if I threw her one of my pitches. One of my real pitches. And she warned me that she could tell the difference because after all—”
“She’s Nate the Great’s daughter.”
“So between that sweet, sweet promise, and the state of my balls, I succumbed to the pressure and threw her a damn curve ball. She got a hold of it with the end of her bat, sent it soaring over my head and way the hell out in centerfield. I mean, the girl nailed it. Base hit in any major league ballpark for sure. I’m telling you, news of this gets out, I’m a laughingstock.”
“But she’s Nate the Great’s daughter,” Harry exclaimed. “An athlete by all accounts.”
“Which will only make it worse,” Cal insisted. “Her notoriety will shoot to the moon. She’ll be interviewed. The press will hound everyone who was present for a video. Hell, there’ll probably be a team out there looking for publicity by giving Natalie an actual tryout, or maybe even a place on a minor league team. I mean, if she can hit off me—”
“It was a one-off.” Pinks insisted. “Not gonna happen again.”
“Did you collect?” Harry asked, grinning like the devil was sitting on his shoulder.
“Whatever she promised you? While you were on the mound.”
Cal sat back in his chair, his lips pressed tight together. After a beat he slapped his hand on the bar before shaking a finger at Harry. His mouth opened and then it closed.
Apparently he didn’t have words.
He turned his full body toward the door of the Mixed Grill, hopped off his stool, and strode right out of it.
Pinks and Harry watched him go. Then Harry reached for the sacred bottle underneath the counter and poured two shots. Harry held his high. “All’s well that ends well.”
The two clinked glasses and drank.