In this specific case a Grandmother delivers a layperson’s simple explanation of God, destiny and reincarnation to her grandson. The young boy of 9 is caught up in his own existence that centers on baseball. The boy is actively playing out the prophecy of the grandmother regarding molds and destiny, though neither recognizes the fact. The story is written around my memory of a childhood love affair with baseball and my paternal Grandmother who was in fact named Boots. The remainder is imagination.
I stared intently at the magazine photo of Mickey Mantle. He had just hit another home run and was circling the bases in the photo, wearing his famous number 7 on his back. I wondered why he could hit the ball farther left handed than right handed. It concerned me a lot since I was a right handed hitter. I could always change to left but since I was already nine, I had considerable time invested in hitting righty.
Grandma Boots had her back to me. She was staring at the cookies in the oven. Her big blue apron was knotted at the back in a large bow that seemed larger than Yogi Berra’s rear end. Grandma Boots was skinny anyway, so it made the bow look bigger than it would have on somebody else’s fatter grandma.
The sun filtered through the screen door. A fat cat whose name I couldn’t remember was asleep on the hardwood floor in front of the door. Flies flew in and out of the rips in the screen as if they were outfitted with special ‘holes in the screen’ radar. I figured they went back out cause it was hot as hell in Boot’s kitchen. That’s what my mom called Grandmother Boots, just plain ol’ Boots. I think it was because she wore those odd black grandma boots and nobody really wore them anymore except for grandmas.
Mom left me there so she could go to the doctor to have my little sister. Grandma Boots seemed to like the arrangement better than me. My big brother Pete got to stay with my Uncle Johnny so I felt like a baby loser. She didn’t let me go to Johnny’s cause she said he drank too much beer to watch a little boy. They were probably playing baseball right now and laughing at my sorry butt baking cookies in Boot’s old hot kitchen filled with lazy cats.
The photo in the magazine also showed Tiger Stadium and a big giant arrow was drawn from home plate to the upper deck of right field to show how far Mick had hit the ball against the Tigers. At the point of the arrow was a big grinning bald man holding up the very baseball Mick had just whacked up there to him.
Boots laid a plate of cookies down on the other side of the photo. The rim of the plate partially obscured the happy bald man, but I could still see his grinning face as if he meant to tell me that baseball was far more important than the cookies.
Boots voice cut through my imagining. “Repeat, [which is what everyone called me cause they said I looked just like my older brother Pete] you are gonna turn into a baseball someday. I’m gonna go into your room in the morning to wake you and there aint gonna be nothing but a round baseball staring back up at me.”
That sounded kinda stupid to me so I just looked at her. “If I had a cookie mold that looked like a baseball I would have baked all cookie baseballs just for you, but all I have are molds of animals,” she went on. Sure enough on the plate in front of me were assortments of peanut butter cookies formed into bears, monkeys, elephants and a few things I didn’t exactly recognize right off.
“See having cookie molds makes me feel a little bit like the Lord,” Grandma Boots said. She plopped down in the chair beside me, her wrinkled lips held a cigarette that teetered up and down as she talked. If I squinted my eyes just right it looked a lot like a batter pounding home plate with his bat before a pitch. Anyway, that seemed like the second stupid thing she had said in just a minute and a half.
“I don’t get it Grandma, what’s animal cookies got to do with the Lord,” I asked her.
“Well, see Repeat, the Lord has a mold in mind for each of us. And the oven is like life itself. It bakes us into what we’re finally gonna be, but the Lord knew all along, just like I knew which cookies were gonna turn out to be elephants.” The cigarette danced around until she had to take it out, and that’s when I knew she was just getting warmed up, like a pitcher in the bullpen.
“See the Lord gives us all the ingredients to make good people out of ourselves and if we combine it all correctly and go through life, like being in an oven, we turn into cookies worth putting in the Lord’s cookie jar. But if we don’t use the ingredients right, then the cookies aren’t good. So the Lord has to throw them away.”
It seemed like now she had said three stupid things in a row and was working on a new record of some kind.
“And when the bad cookies get thrown away, then they go from the garbage to the dump and go back to nature so that the Lord can use the ingredients that come from them to make better cookies the next time, see?”
She lit her cigarette and set back grinning at me like she could teach Sunday School anytime she felt like it. I picked up a monkey cookie.
I wished my Mom would go on and have my little sister, or better yet I wished I was in the upper deck at Tiger Stadium and the Mick would hit me one. The bald man kept grinning up at me. The cat was circling around Boots legs and making cat sounds.
Grandma Boots took off her apron and set it on the top of the oven. She was humming something, but I don’t know what. I figured maybe the heat was getting to her.