[ revisit Part 1 ]

Mrs. Dombrowski had resolved to tell the police that she had been assaulted. It was a truth. Every time such a thud emanated from her wall, she thought: this is the time it comes for me. So she had fear often. And in one's own home, isn't this an assault? Yes it is, it truly is. She was comfortable with the idea of speaking these words if it would keep the police from hanging up. To this they would have to listen. It was a truth.

Telephone in hand, eyeglasses freshly perched, she squinted in search of 9. Then she paused. She had never been able to forget the tone with which they'd told her to stop calling. The phone went back in its cradle. The kettle grew hot again. She found herself knocking, for the first time, on her neighbor's door.

It was late, and it felt like weeks since she had watched any Dan Rather, and the noise that slid under the door would have sent her right back down the hall, had she not been prepared for it.


What the fuck. “Leave me alone,” bellowed Jim from his couch. He hadn't been trying to fall asleep, exactly, but he'd been succeeding. His head throbbed anew and he lurched forward to lower it into his hands. His hand still hurt, too. Worse. Dammit. The knocker rapped insistently. “What the fuck.” The noise needed to fucking stop. He placed another cold can in his injured hand and wobbled to the door.

”Listen, lady,” said Jim, “Now is a bad time.”

It occurred to him that she was standing firm. A little too firm. What was that in her hand, a teakettle? He flinched slightly, enough that if his bar buddies had been around they'd never have let him hear the end of it — and enough that Mrs. Dombrowski, set on edge, ready for the worst, began her windup. Jim flinched again just as she was catching herself.

”Young man,” said Mrs. Dombrowski with nerves audibly electrified, and stopped because she had meant to sound firm. The teakettle still swinging back and forth, she swallowed and started again. “Mister, I live next door. You are making an awful racket.”

”I said this is a bad time.” Jim shut the door.

Indignant but taken aback by this unexpected turn, Mrs. Dombrowski gathered herself and walked back down the hall, started double-locking the door, remembered to set down the teakettle, finished locking the door, poured herself some tea, inserted a tape of the early news, sat on the sofa, and tried to watch. Her mind was elsewhere, more so than usual. She was going to have to try talking to this brute again and she wasn't sure how she'd manage. Her husband would have known how to handle him, that's for sure.


Jim had always been tall and a little thick. He looked like a decathlete, or at least a power forward, until you saw him run. But you don't have to run much to pitch, and by junior year of high school he was the ace of a rotation that took the team deep in the state playoffs. When Stanford came knocking with a full ride, he decided he might as well go to college and to California. His parents were skeptical of both, but when he told them going pro would mean scraping by in the minors and just as likely never getting called up, they grudgingly agreed.

It quickly started looking like a smart move. Classes were real tough, but he got help, and he knew he needed time to develop physically and work on his mechanics. They barely played Jim at all his first year, just a few innings of mop-up duty here and there. The next year, when they moved him to middle relief, he saw a bit more action. By his junior year he was every bit the specimen they'd hoped for and he finally took a starting spot. Now all he had to do was pitch like he knew how. At a program like Stanford, the scouts would find him.

It ended just as quickly. In the top of the third against Oregon State, he made a routine pick-off throw to first and fell to the ground. His knee was a shambles. Without meaning to, he took rehab more seriously than he took classes. His grades dropped; his velocity never returned. Stanford offered to keep him on for another year if he got his grades up. This time, he turned them down. Rehab had been a goddamn waste. He wasn't going to make the same mistake twice.

His parents welcomed him home, happy to see more of him and half-happy to be able to do once more what they knew best. Problem was, he wasn't even disconsolate. He was going to be a pitcher and now he wasn't going to be anything. He didn't want sympathy and he certainly didn't want to hear about how at least he'd given it the old college try. Not everyone makes it to the bigs. I'm just someone that didn't make it. Just gotta get used to that. It didn't work out, that's all.

Within a few years he'd found his way to a job as a pitching coach at his high school. It pained him every day, but maybe he could help some kid make it. Long shot, but still. What else could he do? That's all he knew and he knew it.


Mrs. Dombrowski resolved to try again the following evening. Should she bring the kettle again or no? Now that he knew about it, it might work against her, but she couldn't very well go over there defenseless. It could be a matter of life and death. She would watch Mr. Rather in the morning and he would help her decide.