Third base, defense: Fielding your position at third is tricky—that's why third base is called "the hot corner." You have to be aware that anything can happen at any time. The hot corner is a world of deadly line drives and crazy "bad hops," sacrifice bunts and long, difficult throws; it's a place where a lot of action happens that can make or break your team—and it's all just part of the game!
I love baseball. I mean, I really love baseball.
Sorry, let me be more clear: Baseball is the most important thing in my life. I'm totally addicted; it's the one thing I've always been able to count on. Hey, I'm not exactly alone: If you Google the word "baseball," you get 135,000,000 hits in .07 of a second—that's one hundred thirty-five million. Some people get strung out on meth or heroin, some on porno or Krispy Kremes, some on music, jogging, lifting weights, or on one of the "lesser" sports like hoops or football—but that ain't me. Nope, for me it's baseball above all, baseball or nothing. I'm Scott Latimer, eighteen years old, starting third baseman on Thompson High School's varsity baseball team.
So why is it that when things go wrong, in baseball and in life, they sometimes go so hugely wrong? Why can't bad stuff come one thing at a time, so that you can handle that thing, get over it, and just get strong and ready to play a little ball? Why do bad things always seem to happen right when some good thing is out there ready for you to grab? Some great thing that you've worked for and dreamed about, right there, but when you reach for it, all your dreams just die.
It may not be fair to say, but it's my best friend Travis Adams's fault that right now I'm at the Spokane County Public Health building, sitting in an ugly orange vinyl chair. On a small white ticket in my hand is the number 23. What are the odds that when I pulled out a number from the stupid waiting-turn machine, I'd get my uniform number, 23, my "lucky" number? Maybe that's a good sign . . . but I doubt it.
The last number they called was 16, so it looks like I'm going to be here for a while. I've decided to get an AIDS test. I'm not gay; I'm not an IV drug user, either. I'm a third baseman. I shouldn't have to be worried about this stuff, and I know that it's borderline idiotic, or maybe over the borderline, that I'm even here. The chances that I have AIDS are probably low; but still, I need to find out.
This week, of all weeks, I should just be playing baseball. It's almost the end of my senior year—graduation is only a month away—and therefore it's also the end of my high school baseball career. The Spokane All-City High School Tournament starts later today. If we play well enough, and get a little lucky, we'll be in the championship game on Saturday. We've won a record-setting fourteen games in a row, unheard-of at the high school level—so really, this should be a great, amazing time. If I'm ever going to get noticed by a pro scout and get a chance to be drafted by a pro baseball team, it'll happen this week; I've gotta focus on baseball and nothing else—but instead I'm sitting in this uncomfortable chair, waiting to find out whether or not I'm a dead man.
I don't mean to sound melodramatic, but that is the situation. I have to be sure that I don't have AIDS so that I can put it out of my mind and just concentrate on playing ball. I can't talk about this with my parents and I won't discuss it with Travis—who doesn't want to talk to me right now either. This is just something I have to do, and something I'd rather do by myself.
I walked in here half an hour ago. It's a stupid-looking building, a nasty brown brick place. When I first came in, I glanced around and found a directory of different programs on the wall. I saw listings for Unwed Mothers, Aid to Dependent Children, Substance Abuse. Great list, huh? Obviously you come here only if you have problems—big ones! And then I spotted it: HIV Testing—Room 105.
As I went in the direction of room 105, walking like a condemned man on his way to the electric chair, my mouth felt dry. I could feel my heart pounding inside of me. I hate needles, and all in all this is not a good place to be—I don't want people thinking I'm gay and who the hell wants to find out that you might be sick and never get to play baseball again? As I walked, I also started to feel dizzy. Finally I leaned against the wall for support. My stomach flip-flopped around, sweat broke out on my forehead, and I couldn't seem to catch my breath.
"Are you all right?" I heard a woman's voice behind me.
I looked up to see a middle-aged lady. "Dorothy" said a name tag on her white nurse's uniform. Her expression was kind.
I pulled myself together as well as I could. "I'm fine. I'm just here to have that burger-flipping thing done."
What had I just said?
"Excuse me?" She smiled.
I muttered, "You know, the thing you do to work in restaurants, the health card and the shot thing for handling food." In Spokane, if you want to work in food service, you have to get a shot. I'd planned out the "burger-flipping" excuse to cover my tracks for being in this building in case I ran into anyone I knew.
"Hepatitis B," Dorothy said. "Follow me."
She began to walk toward room 105.7 Days at the Hot Corner. Copyright © by Terry Trueman. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Excerpted from 7 Days at the Hot Corner by Terry Trueman
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