By Laurie Boris
Two and a half hours to Boise. Margie and Wes had already gone over the calls from their last game, the weather forecast for today’s matchup, and the story of how three of Wes’s sisters had met their husbands. He said she could take a nap if she wanted, and he’d enjoy the scenery, but she was too wound up from coffee and nerves to sleep. The last time they’d umpired in that stadium, she never stopped hearing it from the home-team dugout—the insults, the catcalls, the words she couldn’t say in front of her mother. “Baseball guys cuss,” Mom might say. “What the frig did you expect?”
“We could practice your interview skills,” Wes said.
“I told you.” Margie tightened her grip on the thermos of coffee between her knees. I’m done giving interviews.”
Wes drummed the fingers of his left hand against the steering wheel. “That’s it? One negative experience with a bad reporter and you’re giving up. If you’d thought like that in the academy, you wouldn’t have lasted through the first day.”
She knew exactly what he was doing. With those tapping fingers. With those soft, challenging words. He was goading her into having what he called a learning opportunity. And damn it, it was working. “Fine,” she said. “Let’s go.”
Margie capped the thermos and held it out to him like a microphone. “Wes Osterhaus, what’s it like to work with one of the first women crazy enough to put up with this crap?”
A faint blush rose into his freckled cheeks. “I don’t think she’s crazy. And I really like working with her. She loves baseball. She hustles on every play, and she’s always looking for opportunities to learn and grow.”
She grinned. “Because you keep shoving them in my face.”
“No. Because we’re a team. We’re supposed to challenge each other, but in a good way. To make each other better umpires. Now I get to ask you a question.”
Margie handed him the thermos. “Shoot.”
But he kept both hands on the wheel and focused intently on the road ahead. The mountains. The tall pine forests. Finally, he spoke. “As an umpire, especially in the minors when you’re being monitored and judged so frequently, looking strong and confident is very important. You have to project an image of being completely in charge. But how do you do that…when you feel so different? When you feel isolated. Like everyone else is speaking a different language, when they’re even talking to you at all?”
Margie couldn’t find her voice for a moment. And in that moment she wondered if he was referring to her or to himself. In the academy, she’d seen how the other guys treated him. They made fun of him behind his back. Called him names. All because he was smart, and had a lot of questions, and wanted to know the answers to everything. Because instead of going to dollar beer night, he was outside with his telescope, looking at the stars. So what if he was a little different? He was a damn good umpire, and he’d been the only guy in the academy who’d gone out of his way to be nice to her. She could have been partnered up with anyone that spring, and she knew how lucky she was to have ended up with him.
“You just…do it,” she said. “You ignore the jerks. You do the best job you know how. You keep looking for those learning opportunities. And you keep telling yourself that you are strong. That you’re confident as hell. And one day…maybe your insides will figure out that they matched your outsides all along.”
Margie caught him just beginning to smile, and she leaned back in the seat. “Or at least that’s what people keep telling me.”
Laurie Boris is a freelance copyeditor. She’s also been writing fiction for almost thirty years and is the author of seven novels, two novellas, and a collection of flash fiction. She’s the recipient of several awards including two indieBRAG medallions. When she’s not playing with the fictional people in her head, Laurie enjoys baseball, cooking, and avoiding housework. This post was based on two characters from The Call, Laurie’s most recent novel.
Book Description of The Call by Laurie Boris:
As one of the first female umpires in the minors, Margie puts up with insults and worse from people who think women don’t belong in baseball. Forget making history—Margie just wants to do her job and be part of the game she loves.
She’s ready for the rude comments. The lousy pay. The endless traveling. But when she suspects a big-name slugger of cheating, she has to choose: let the dirty player get away with it, or blow the whistle and risk her career…and maybe her twin brother’s major-league prospects, too.
Now it’s up to Margie to make the call.