“Kether,” says Osborne, the 12-year-old pitcher. “You’re falling asleep.”
Baseball is poetry. The chi between the bases, like the meridians between acupuncture points on the body, resonates a kind of holiness of the diamond self: the diamond body of the baseball diamond. The diamond sutra is a mantra of “Strike, you’re out, play ball, batter up.”
“Swing the bat effortlessly,” I tell them.
“The umpire hates us,” Osborne says, hitting me with his glove. I smell the leather as his glove covers my face. This is his first year in Little League, and he hates losing.
“Which incarnation is this for you?” I ask him.
“You said it was my first incarnation as a baseball player,” says Osborne. Some other boys are on the dugout bench, looking bored.
“And you said you used to be some guy named William Blake,” snorts Osborne. “You’re Blake the Flake!”
“I was,” I say. “I wrote flaked-out poetry, and made a crazy tarot deck about God and Adam.”
“Strike!,” yells the umpire from behind home plate as one of our players takes a bad swing.
“But now you have a baseball tarot deck,” says Osborne excitedly. His short black hair seems to want to leap off his head when there is mention of my Holy Baseball Tarot Deck.
I ask, “Made out of what?”
“Baseball cards,” says Osborne. “Will you throw them? Please!”
“Okay,” I say.
I pull out a wooden box from beneath the bench, where I have a first aid kit which is standard issue to all team managers in Thunderbird Little League.
“You know you’re up soon,” I say to Osborne.
“So hurry,” he says. “Kether’s gonna throw the cards!”
Most of the boys gather around my end of the bench to watch.
“Make enough room for everyone,” I say.
Then I unwrap the purple silk from around my collection of old baseball cards. I have drawn on some of the cards and pasted photographs over parts of others to create a fairly accurate 76-card deck that reflects the subtle truths of both baseball and Western esoteric traditions. The deck has four suits of minor arcana and a major arcana suit. I have grouped the great hitters into the suit of wands, since baseball bats are a type of wand. Great pitchers are in the suit of pentacles, since pentacles are round like baseballs and represent the element earth, like the pitcher’s mound. Speed means air, the suit of swords, and therefore the great base-stealers and runners such as Lou Brock are of that suit. And a baseball glove is a kind of cup, really, so the famous gloves of the game like Willie Mays are in the suit of cups. The major arcana starts with Yogi Berra as The Fool and ends with the 1969 Miracle Mets as The World. Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn are, of course, the Lovers.
“C’mon, Kether,” says Osborne.
I shuffle the cards three times, then cut them three times into three piles. I reshuffle them, then pull the top card.
“Aren’t you going to do the Celtic Cross?” comes a voice from the gathering of boys.
“Not enough time,” I say.
I turn the card over and it is Hank Aaron, King of Wands.
“Looks like you’re going to hit a long ball,” I say.
Osborne asks, “Think it’ll be a home run?”
“Might be,” I say. “Let’s see what comes after.”
I pull a second card. It is Justice, from a real Rider-Waite tarot deck I once owned. I have since drawn over the figure to make it look like an umpire. As I place my hand on the card, the psychometric sense I feel is sinister.
“If you hit a long one,” I say, “hold at third base, unless you hit the ball over the fence.”
“I’m gonna hit a long one,” says Osborne. His hormones haven’t kicked in yet, and he has a pure fascination about life very much like The Fool.
“Strike!,” calls the umpire.
Osborne’s best friend, Todd Alan, has just struck out. Osborne goes on deck, while the next batter comes to the plate.
Now, usually, you would not find a witch coaching a Little League baseball team, especially an unmarried witch with no kids. But I have wanted to try out this deck for years, in a real baseball setting. To get here I simply burned a yellow candle, with some High John The Conqueror oil on it. A few days later, I heard from a friend that Thunderbird Little League needed a coach. Here I am. I keep my pentagram tucked beneath my jersey, and the only thing that shows is that I don’t care if we win or lose. If people found out they’d call me a warlock, not knowing that name actually refers to those who turned in witches during the Burning Times. It has nothing to do with being a male witch. The rest is all a fantasy of Disney.
There is a sudden sound of wood slapping a ball. I look up to see that one of our boys has hit a single. He holds at first base, almost out of breath.
Osborne is now up to bat. His parents don’t come, usually. Most parents get in the way and annoy me with their talk of strategy and push, push, push of how to win the game. If I really wanted to win every game, it would be pretty easy with a few veves drawn out in chalk at night in the woods, or singing rune charms under my breath during the recorded national anthem. But why? Baseball is a poem, and poetry is not something to be made into a trophy sport. Unfortunately, Osborne’s parents don’t realize that he is a poem too. So they dump him off and play a little golf, or get a sweet fuck in before the game is over. Then they show up, open the door of their blue Dodge van, and tell him to hop in like their pet rabbit. And he does, because he doesn’t know yet that he is their pet rabbit. He actually thinks he is their son.
I watch Osborne go up to the plate. He gets very serious in the batter’s box. He stares at the pitcher, as if to read his mind. And maybe that’s what he is doing but he isn’t really aware of it. The pitcher winds up, and floats the ball toward home plate, like a huge scoop of vanilla ice cream dripping the words “long ball” through this holy baseball diamond body of existence. The bat seems to move of its own self, and Osborne is just dancing with it. There is contact. His feet turn. He is running. The ball has wings and, like a pigeon, does not fly a straight path. It curves over the shortstop’s head but stays in the air until it hits the fence in left center field.
Osborne is rounding first base as the ball rolls back on the field. The left fielder was too close to the fence and now has to run back to get the ball. He picks it up and drops it once.
Osborne is rounding second base. Then the left fielder must realize how much his parents want this game, his trophy, his future major league salary. And the poor little bastard finally picks up the ball while Osborne is rounding third base and about to catch up with the base runner in front of him, who is slow and winded.
The throw seems like it comes from heaven. It will probably give the boy arthritis later in life. It is one hell of a throw, a perfect arch right into the mitt of the catcher, who drops it. Our first player crosses home plate, and so does Osborne. But I see a black foot, a large, black foot, the foot of a man, of an umpire, of the figure of justice in this divine game, trip Osborne as he crosses the plate. It happens over and over in my mind, like that film of JFK getting his head blown off on a nice Texas day. It reruns in my head several times within a split second.
I grab the first aid kit and run onto the field. Osborne is bleeding in the palms of his hands, where he has some pebbles ingrained under his skin. But he gets up, smiling. He wipes the blood on his jersey and asks for some Band-Aids.
“Let’s put hydrogen peroxide on it,” I say.
“I did it,” he says. “You have to tell my dad so he knows it’s true.”
“I will,” I say, “but first let’s get this clean.”
As I bandage Osborne’s hand I see this fucking smirk on the umpire’s face. Everyone thinks it was the catcher, and the poor kid probably thinks he tripped Osborne too. But I saw it, a big, black foot. It was not the red shoe of a young boy.
“You’ll be okay. Right?” I ask.
“Yeah,” he says. “No pain, no gain.”
“You were already past home plate,” I say.
“Sometimes the pain comes after,” he says.
I go out on to the field and take over as first base coach. Randy, a fat little guy with asthma, runs back to the dugout. Some of Osborne’s blood is still on my hand, on my fingertips. I draw an image of the umpire in the ground with my finger. Then I write with my fingertip across his image, the rune charm for justice. I spit into my hand and mix my spit with Osborne’s blood to consecrate the image. All of this probably looks like a crazy series of signals I am sending to the next batter. I point one finger toward the sun, and dig the other into the soil. I stare at the umpire with rage. Mother Earth is alive, and my fingertip is inside of her.