© Copyright 2001 by Michael CrifasiWhen I think of this story, it generally registers as
nothing more than an unusual occurrence that I
once happened to experience. But on further thought (usually late at night, starring out of darkened
windows) I think that perhaps this simple story
signifies something more. It may not be of the
highest moral fiber, but sometimes I believe, a true
lust for life cannot be quenched within the
boundaries of the law.
one is young.
We got the beer from somewhere, where exactly, I cannot recall. Having no empty house (read: devoid of parents), nor any particular outdoor location allotted to the night's activities, we elected to go to the local park, and drink on top of the concrete dugouts.
The park in our town, which houses all the local baseball fields and tennis courts, closes like any park at ten o'clock. We, like any teenagers, did not begin our drinking until approximately that time. It seemed a perfect match.
As we sat on the dugouts, the ten of us, drinking our cheap beer and liquor, casual conversation was made. Sitting far to the end of the structure, I elected to drink in solitary fashion, while adding only a few comments when required. The others allowed me to, as they drank their own passions, and passed the time relieving old memories.
I was looking at the highway that borders the park on one side, its lanes riding a bridge that stood above an intersecting highway border, thinking about a girl I had brought up to the dugout some months before. Looking into the strange orange glow of the lights in the late spring sky, I mulled over that event, and its rather unsatisfactory endings. I listened to the chatter to my side, and also thought about how I was rapidly getting older, and feeling it.
It was the shrill yell of the one female in attendance that tore me from my pensive state. Cops! she yelled, and in moments, we were all in motion.
We all jumped down from the dugout as fast as we could. I remember laughing a little when I heard one of our heavier friends struggling to get down. We began to scatter in the opposite direction of the approaching squad car, which had come through the entrance we had assumed closed and locked for the night. My friends tore off to the left, heading along one side of the fence towards the highway. I, remembering some chase through this very park years ago, jumped the interior fence and headed off across the diamond itself. Unfortunately, while my mind registered this as a quicker route than the one my friends had elected to take, I had forgotten to take into account the presence of a nine foot outfield fence that must have gone up some time whence I was not aware. Realizing the error, I jumped onto the fence, knowing I could easily scale it, even though I knew it would slow my escape.
However, just as I hit the fence, and begin to quickly climb up its side, a light hit the area and illuminated the fence. It stung my eyes with its insistent glare. Acting on instinct, I dropped from the fence immediately and dashed back towards the opposite end of the field from where I had originally fled. To my dismay, a powerful light immediately shone from the direction I intended to flee to. Two lights, two cops, and me more or less, fenced in.
I dropped into the tall grass of the outfield, burying my face into the thick spring grass. I tucked my forearms beneath my chest, and did my best to become a motionless hole in the night. Instantly I began to assess my situation, as the spotlights swept the area all around my peripheral vision. How much had I had to drink? Enough to put my underage self in some degree of trouble. Could I still make a run for it? No, I could never make a run for it and climb the fences before they met me on the other side. I was too deep into the middle of the outfield. Was there anywhere that the fence was lower? No dammit, the nine foot wall encircled all sides. There was no escape.
As I slowed my breathing, making the few unstoppable body motions even smaller, my thoughts changed course. What would happen when they caught me? The lights were still raking the fields, and it was only a matter of time before they found the boy trying to blend into the night and grass. I would be arrested, near the end of my high school tenure. My parents would be furious. There would be repercussions at school, things I would be dismissed from. I sighed mentally, knowing that getting caught had to happen eventually, though I had hoped, not until my term in compulsory school had wrapped up. I had gotten so close to getting away, just to be dragged out of a baseball diamond and down to the local station. I knew I was caught, but I remained motionless all the same, perhaps in some foolish act of hope, perhaps in arrogance.
Just as I was sure I would here a stern voices telling me to rise, and a sharp light illuminating my position, the light from the other side of the outfield fence went out. I remained motionless, listening. The other light, from the area of the dugout continued to sweep, but only in areas far to my right, where my friends had run to. I heard the sound of footsteps on gravel behind me, then the slamming of a car door. Then to my triumph, I heard a car pulling away from the highway entrance behind the outfield.
Still not moving, I watched from the corner of my eye as the other light moved further and further away. When it finally moved from searching the field to the areas outside the diamond, I raised my head cautiously. I watched as the officer, whose location and outline could just be made out in the glare from his light, began to investigate inside the dugout, and then behind. Once the light disappeared behind the cinder blocked dugout, I jumped to my feet and dashed to the same fence I had originally intended to scale in order to escape from the outfield. I hit the fence in a leap, and after a few quick movements, flipped myself over the top and hit the ground running.
I had no idea if the remaining officer heard the rattle as I found my way over the fence. If he shouted for me to stop, I never heard it. If his light found me running towards the four lane highway, I didn't care to notice. I just dashed across the highway (which was thankfully barren for that exact moment) and disappeared into the thick wood beyond.
When I finally broke into the thin clearing of a trail through the woods, I slowed to a walk, and began to attempt to breathe normally again. I collected my thoughts and peered into the woods to my left, looking for any sign of lights still searching the park across the highway. Knowing I was safe, I collected my thoughts further, still trying to grasp the incredibility of my escape.
How had the searchlights not found me? I was wearing dark clothing, and I had dark hair, but..............had that been enough? Had my tucked arms and buried face really made me invisible in the wild grass of the outfield? I had to assume they had. I had run from the police before, many times in fact, and had never been caught. Once or twice I had hit the ground and lain still as they passed, just as I had just done in the outfield, but never had they been so close before. Their lights had even raked the areas in which I concealed myself before, but then I had hid in much better shelter, and had worn much more appropriate garments. Never had the light been so close, as when it had just found me scaling the fence. Never. Yet I had escaped. Despite my questions about the escape, I felt invigorated, alive, and undeniably young. I kept my composure however, and walked at a measured pace down the path that I knew would lead me home.
When I came out of the path, and into my neighborhood, I headed for home, keeping to the backyards just as a precaution. I marveled at the fact that I had escaped alone, and thought that my friends must surely have been caught. My thoughts moved to what to do next. I needed to get out of sight for the evening, needed to lay low, as eventually it had to be figured that I had been with the group of my friends that had been caught. As I moved to the backyards of the houses on my very street, I moved in the trees, and through the gardens and hedges, still a part of the darkness. I thought about what would give me the best chance to stay out of custody.
I remembered that my car was parked in the streets adjacent to the park, but I knew as long as I stayed away from it for the time being, that I was fine. I had friends who lived on some of those streets, and could easily explain the appearance of my car there overnight. Still, I needed to get out of the area for the night, just in case someone inquisitive or uniformed showed up at the house. I knew my friends, even if truly caught, would not implicate me, so I just needed to form some other alibi, in case another observer of the group connected me to the scene. I decided that I would take another of the cars at the house, and drive some thirty miles away to visit an old friend for the night, just for safety's sake.
When I came to the backyard of the house just opposite my own, I crouched in the shadows and surveyed the scene. Assuring myself there was no danger, I crossed the street and headed up to my own house, marveling at my status as lone survivor of the encounter. As I did, someone from the shadows of the side yard called my name. I responded to it, and was amazed as one by one, my friends moved from out of the darkness and began to question me on the night's events. I told them to get inside before I answered too many questions.
Once in my basement, tending small wounds and assessing damage to better than average garments, we related our stories, and reveled in the amazement and excitement of the scene. We congratulated ourselves, and discussed just how awesome the situation had been, now that we knew that everyone had got away clean.
After all was said, we formulated a plan for laying low for the rest of the night, then had rides pick us up and take us to a friends who said we could spend the rest of the eve. Finally, we headed off into the night, where we would tell our stories, and begin to celebrate our youth once more.
Three weeks later,
we graduated, and in my opening speech, I alluded to the fact that as a
class, we had always managed to get away. I smiled at the few stares amongst
the capped and gowned numbers who understood my words. We celebrated that
night (and throughout the summer) never once forgetting how close we had
come, and how narrowly we had escaped. For my own part, whenever the story
is related, I stay as silent as am allowed, and think about the mysteries
of the outfield.
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