21 November 2011

Syracuse University

"I swear..."
"...he's been spending more time..."
"...with that video game than with me."
The lean young woman finished up her round in the softball batting cage.  She dropped the bat and wiped her brow.  The behemoth brick student gym beside the batting cage blocked the setting sun, but the air was still warm.
"And I don't understand.  It's not like I don't put out."
She took a swig from her water bottle, letting a small splash disappear into her sports zip-top.
"Trevor, I appreciate you taking time out of your visit to drive me to the cage.  It's nice to finally see some courtesy."
Trevor van Ness, he of the wispy moustache and old polo shirt, and aspiring priest, began to get uncomfortable.  He had no problem being a sounding board for other people's issues, but when the subject became personal friends, he was unsure how to handle it.
"Salena, I'm sure Ish is not purposely ignoring you.  Has he invited you to participate with him?"
"Sure, tons of times.  But why do I want to be staring at a screen, cutting virtual fruit with The Fruity Ninja or whatever it's called."
"It can be a decent workout, good for reflexes and reaction time too.  And it's Citrus Samurai."
"Citrus Samurai, great.  I don't mind that he has an interest different from me - "
Trevor thought she did.
" - but only that it has no practical value.  That game is useless."
A voice spoke up from outside the cage.
"Useless?  I just won fifty dollars with my Citrus Samurai skills!"
Ish, he of the mini-fro and anime print shirt, and aspiring...aspirer, waved his reward in the air in triumph.
"Ish!  How did you get here?"  Salena zipped up her sport top an inch.
"Teammate dropped me off."
Trevor said, "Ish!  Fifty bucks?  Congratulations!"
Salena grabbed the prize.  "What's this, a gift card?"
"Yeah, to GameStop."
"GameStop?  Hoo-RAY."
Ish asked, "You two have fun?"
Trevor said, "Salena is a good hitter.  And she plays second base, just like I did!"
"You play second base?" asked Ish.
Trevor and Salena answered, "Yes."
"Oh I know Trevor did.  I though you were outfield."
"That was last season."  Salena punctuated her jab with a whip of her ponytail.
Trevor clapped his hands together.  "Okay!  How about some smoothies on me?  I've been staring at inflatable giant fruit in the window for a while."  He pointed up to Otto's Smoothie Cafe on the second floor of the student gym.
Ish said, "You're the giant fruit."
Salena ignored the immature remark.  "Sure, I'd like a smoothie.  But lots of times they run out of bananas, and I can't have anything else there.  Allergies."
Trevor said, "May I ask what is your allergy?"
"Citric Acid.  It's on citrus - "
"Citric Acid!  You've got to be kidding me!  You're the first person I've met that has the same allergy!"
"You have it too?"
Trevor said, "I've got it bad.  I can't even so much as touch a lemon or my face melts."
"Same here!  Maybe not the face-melting.  But hey, that's at least two things in common."
Ish interrupted.  "Smoothies it is, then!  Here Salena, let me get your bag."
Ish flung it out of the cage.
"Whoa, what's this brick doing here?  Dangerous."  Ish kicked the cinder block outside the gate.  The gate clicked shut.
"Ish, that door locks!"
"I see now.  Where's the key?"
"In my bag, which is now outside of the cage.  Thanks."
Trevor said, "Well, hold on.  I think we can reach the bag and drag it over.  Ish, toss me the bat."
Ish picked up the aluminum bat.
"Wow, this is lighter than I would have thought."
As Ish twirled the bat around, a crash came from above.  All three of them jumped.  Shards of glass tinked off the cage crossbars.
Salena and Trevor ducked down.
Salena shrieked, "Hey!  What is going on up there?"
A wooden crate lay on its side, halfway out the window.  A student worker in a black t-shirt and visor leaned out, grasping the crate.  He had an 'I'm fired, aren't I' look on his face.
A small lime dropped out of the crate.  It fell onto the batting cage netting.  Trevor, Ish, Salena, and the smoothie worker watched it slowly roll through a frayed hole in the netting and drop into the basket of the still-running pitching machine.  It rolled past the regulating latch, which was designed to time the softballs every few seconds.
Ish wrapped both hands around the bat handle.
He instinctively faced his shoulders to the machine, leaned low, arms and bat dangling loose between his knees.
The lime stopped.  It was stuck in the feeder basket, which was not made for lumpy fruit.
Trevor and Salena exhaled.
Salena said, "Let's turn off the pitching machine, please."
Ish turned back to agree, "Good idea."
Trevor yelped, "Ish, get out of the way!"
The vibration of the machine had freed the lime.  It dropped in between the two spinning wheels and shot out at an unfruitly high speed.
In one smooth motion, and with a wild HUUUU-AH!, Ish swung the bat to his right, up, then down, slamming the lime out of the air and into the dirt.
Ish sniffed at the cloud of red dust.
The smoothie worker up above gasped, losing his grip on the crate lid.  Ish saw the contents: dozens more limes, lemons, oranges.  Citrus fruit.
Trevor scrambled to his feet.  "I'm gonna click this thing off now."
Ish thundered, "STAY BACK."
Trevor froze.
Ish returned to his ready position.  His eyes narrowed.  His nostrils flared.
"Get back and cover up.  There will be pulp."
The fruits tumbled out of the crate, filling up the netting, sagging under the weight.  One by one, they crowded into the feeder basket.
With a thwip thwip thwip thwip thwip, fruits came at Ish at 50 mph.
Trevor and Salena covered up as best they could, shielding their faces.  They heard only squish after thud after squish after thud until it became a single squddd.
Ish was still in first-place form.  Ten fruits became twenty became thirty.  Each one met Ish's aluminum solidly and cleanly.  After each fruit missile, Ish inched toward the machine.  He had to increase his reaction speed to keep up as he got closer, but seemed to have no problem picking up the pace.
The crate finally emptied.  The smoothie worker pulled it back inside.
Ish kneeled down and pulled the plug on the machine.  It whined to a stop.
His shirt sprayed with pulp, he picked up a battered orange.  He squeezed it.  Juice ran down his arm.  He wiped his hand across his cheeks like edible warpaint.
Ish cleaned off the bat and flipped it back to Salena.
"Get your keys."
Ish yelled up to the second floor.
"You just couldn't have dropped a box full of bananas, could you?"
"Sorry, we're out of bananas."

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