The Harpooners in the dugout—Arsch, Loondorf, Jensen, and on down the line—lowered their eyes as he came down the steps. It was eerie, the calm he exuded. The fans had fallen silent. The players on the field stood frozen, dumbfounded, staring into the dugout. The umpires stared too. Coach Cox’s jaw worked at his wad of gum. No one knew what to do. It wasn’t clear that they could continue without him; it wasn’t clear what the other options were.
Henry stopped in front of Izzy, laid a hand on the freshperson’s shoulder, waited for Izzy to look up and meet his eyes. “Get loose,” he said. “You’re going in.”
Izzy looked at Coach Cox. Coach Cox, remembering himself, yanked his lineup card from the back pocket of his uniform pants. “Avila!” he barked. “Hustle up, goddamnit!”
Izzy grabbed his glove and trotted up onto the field, blinking at the sunlight.
Henry walked to the far end of the bench, sat down beside Owen. Owen closed his book and laid it in his lap, but he couldn’t find anything to say. Henry pried off his left cleat and then his right, knotted the laces lightly together, looped them around the strap of his bag. He slid his plastic sandals on over his sanitary socks.
Coach Cox conferred with the umpires while Izzy bounced around, windmilling his arms, trying to get loose. The way he shimmied his shoulders; the erect, almost princely carriage of his head and shoulders—it was uncanny. It seemed like some kind of tribute. Rick tossed him a warm-up grounder that he gobbled up with lazy grace.
Henry unbuttoned his jersey and folded it neatly into quarters, so that the Harpooner on the left breast faced upward. As always, he was wearing his faded-to-pink Cardinals T-shirt underneath. He laid the jersey in his bag, placed his glove gingerly on top, zipped the bag, and pushed it underneath the bench between his feet. He sat back, hands on his thighs, and looked out at the field. The game resumed.