A Long Highway
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by Michael Embry
Description: Micah Stewart is in the throes of a mid-life crisis. He's bored with his job as a sports writer. While he maintains a good relationship with his ex-wife and children, he feels unfulfilled in many areas of his life. A random act of violence in the workplace forces Micah to hit the road in search of meaning to his life. Will he find enlightenment? Can he find happiness again? Can he find contentment at the end of the long highway?
eBook Publisher: Wings ePress, Inc., 2009 2009
eBookwise Release Date: January 2010
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [358 KB]
Reading time: 232-325 min.
A soft, warm breeze filled the pressbox behind home plate at Riverfront Stadium,
giving some relief from the humidity that was typical of Cincinnati during muggy July evenings. The Ohio River slowly flowed by several hundred yards away while the lights across the river in Covington flickered in the heavy air. A sparse crowd sat throughout the ballpark, drinking beer or sodas to beat the heat. Except for an occasional shout at players or umpires from a few of the diehard fans, most of those in the stands appeared to be sitting in their seats in a dull stupor instead of being involved with what was happening on the field.
"This is the worst time of the year to watch baseball," Micah Stewart, sports columnist for the Cincinnati Register, said while peeking out over the pressbox railing. "The team is already out of contention and you've got to sit here and watch them go through the motions. They're bored. The fans are bored. I'm bored. We're all bored."
"Don't complain to me, buddy," said Frank Smith, the newspaper's beat writer. "I've got to be out here every game. At least you can pick and choose what you want to write about. I'm stuck with them through the end of the season."
Micah laughed lightly and took a swallow from a cola. He wiped off perspiration on his neck and leaned back in his chair.
"You've got a point," Micah said. "At least we're past the All-Star game. It's all downhill now."
"Hell, it's been all downhill from the first week of the season," Frank said while recording a groundout in his scorebook. "They haven't been in contention since losing their first eight games. It's been pitiful. Oh well, maybe next season they'll be better."
"That's right. There's always next season. That's why people keep coming back. There's always that hope that things will be different. Hmm, I believe I've got a column idea," Micah said with a chuckle.
"Haven't you written about that already?"
"I'm sure I have, several times if you wanted to be technical about it. I just regurgitate words and try to put a different spin on it. At least you have a different game to write about each time. The results may be the same most of the time but it's still a different game."
"But you know it's drudgery to have to go to the clubhouse and talk to the players," Frank said with a frown. "They're not in any mood to talk about the game. Especially the veterans. They've been through this before."
"You'd think if they didn't like it that they'd try to do something about it," Micah said. "Like win a few more games."
"Hey, you're being too hard on the boys," Frank said. "They can't help it if they're not very good. Blame management."
"You're right," Micah said. "It's the front office that assembled this group of players."
The Dodgers were leading, 8-3, in the top of the eighth. The Reds would need to stage a big rally to pull out a victory but that was unlikely since they had shown little capability of coming back in games because of the lack of power hitters.
"What are you doing after the game?" Frank asked. "Care to go over to the Dugout for a few beers?"
"I don't think so. I've got to attend my son's game tomorrow morning. I promised him I'd be there."
"Then you'd better be there," Frank said. "You don't get many makeups on games when your children are growing up. Before you know it, they're grown and out the door. Cherish these opportunities."
"Hey, I know what you mean. I've already missed quite a few games in the past couple of years. It didn't seem that important at the time but now I know that it was."
"Don't get a guilt trip over it. Some things can't be helped. We're not the only people who miss activities while kids are growing up. It happens to everyone. You just try to make the events that you can. Kids understand more than you think."
"Yeah, but it still doesn't make things easy. I missed enough activities that it helped bust up my marriage."
"That was probably just part of it, pal."
"I know but it still doesn't justify everything that happened," Micah said. "Sometimes I wish I had never got into this profession."
"It was glamour, friend. Going to the big game, being in the middle of everything that was going on."
"It seemed like a big deal coming out of college," Micah said. "I guess that's why they call journalism a young person's game. That's when you've got the enthusiasm and energy for it."
"Hey, you're getting me depressed," Frank said with a laugh. "I've got this terrible ballclub to watch every day, and now you have to throw this heavy stuff on me."
"Sorry, pal," Micah said, raising his eyebrows in amusement. "Just felt like unloading on someone."
"Thanks," Frank said, rolling his eyes.
The Reds rallied in the bottom of the ninth, scoring three runs, but still fell 8-6. Micah and Frank and the other sportswriters and sportscasters rushed to the respective clubhouses for quick interviews and returned to the pressbox to file their stories and beat evening deadlines. About the only sounds were the pecking on the keys of laptops and the ruffling of paper as reporters flipped through notebooks finding the right quotes for their stories.
Micah finished his column before Frank wrote the game story and waited for him in the rear of the pressbox after packing up his gear.
"This is a helluva life," Micah said as they walked out to the media parking lot. "While most people are at home, here we are just finishing work."
"Boy, you're really down about something," Frank said, shaking his head slowly. "What's bugging you? You going through some burnout or something?"
"Oh, I don't know. I guess I'm just a little tired right now. I could use a vacation and get away from all of this for a week or so. Need to get the batteries recharged."
"You sure there's not more to it than being tired?"
"I'm sure there's more. I know I'm restless. I'll give you a report in a day or so." Micah said with a laugh.
"Sure you don't want to talk about it over a couple beers right now?"
"Thanks, Frank, but I really need to be getting home if I'm going to make it to Ben's ball game."
"Oops! I forgot about that. Well, give me a call if you want to talk about anything."
"Will do," Micah said. "I'll see you later."
Micah got into his Ford Explorer and sped out of the parking lot and onto the deserted streets. The street lights cast an eerie glow in the heavy air as he headed home to Mount Adams. He had lived in a two-bedroom townhouse since splitting with his wife, Alice, more than two years ago. It was an amicable divorce and they still remained friends while raising their children, twelve-year-old Ben and ten-year-old Annie.
The red answering-machine light was blinking as he walked into the living room. He laid down his laptop computer satchel on the couch and touched the replay button.
"Dad, this is Ben. Don't forget my ball game in the morning. The game starts at nine at Treadwheel Park. I'll see you. Bye."
Ben's high-pitched voice brought a smile to Micah's face. He wished the marriage had worked out with Alice because he dearly missed his children. Even though he wasn't around them as often as he wanted to be, it was always comforting to go home and have them in his company. He kept framed photos of them on the top shelf of the walnut book case in the living room.
Micah glanced around the living room, picked up three magazines and stacked them neatly on the coffee table. He took the pillows on the couch and put them on each corner. He smiled to himself. Everything appeared nice and tidy. He always put his dirty clothes in a hamper and tried to keep the bathroom clean. While the apartment didn't have any expensive or eye-catching furnishings, he tried to keep it orderly for when his children visited or friends dropped by unexpectedly.
Micah turned on the television, flipping on ESPN to catch the latest sports news. He could never sleep after getting home from covering an event and usually spent about an hour watching TV or reading the newspaper. He watched the last twenty minutes of SportsCenter and then used the remote to click on CNN for any late-breaking news.
Micah glanced at the clock on the bookcase and saw it was three a.m. He turned off the TV and went to bed, knowing he wouldn't be getting much sleep before going to the park to see Ben's game.