Time frame: 1999
Setting: Baltimore, MD
Obligatory disclaimer: Not now, nor will ever be, my own. 'Nuff said!
(I want to say thank you to Kim who beta'd for me, been a nice help amongst the madness!)
She ceremoniously lowered herself down to the water’s edge and draped her legs over the side. Squinting up at her companion she shielded her eyes from the warm sun and asked, “Sitting down?”
“I don’t know,” he shrugged. “It doesn’t look wonderfully clean.”
“There’s nowhere else really.”
He looked around him. “There used to be more seats than this, I’m sure there were.”
She smiled. “There were but they went and put that big boat there. Don’t you remember Jamie said he was coming up to see it arrive last month?”
Amanda nodded her head across the water to where the wooden ship, Constellation, was now harboured. After months of repair and renovation work, the old wooden ship had sailed up the Chesapeake and was now moored to a jetty that jutted into Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.
“Yeah, I remember.” He looked down at her. “You’ll get a crick in your neck if you keep looking up at me like that.”
“Then sit down.” She patted the ground encouragingly.
“Oh, all right.” he said, reluctantly taking a seat on the concrete beside her.
“Gee, no need to be so enthusiastic about it,” she grinned.
He looked around him again. “Is it always this busy when we come through here?”
“You’re getting old, Lee. Your memory must be going. Yes, it is always this busy, especially in summer, especially at lunch, and especially when the Orioles are at home to the Yankees.”
“Remind me why we haven’t got the tickets for that game, again?”
Amanda laughed. “Because Phillip decided to get back together with his girlfriend and take her, and Billy decided to give us this assignment as well.”
“Which was a complete wash-out,” Lee muttered.
“What, just because our contact at the Federal Building got the flu, in the middle of summer? These things can’t be helped.” She swung her legs and kicked her heels against the harbour wall. “It does give us the rest of the afternoon though.”
“And no game tickets.”
“And don’t you go blaming Leatherneck for not being able to swing any either.”
“He had some too.”
“I know he did, but who’d have thought that Francine was into baseball?”
She said it sarcastically. Since Leatherneck had graduated with a degree
in International Affairs and risen up the ranks, Francine had been willing
to spend more time with him. That willingness had led Francine into going
to more than one baseball game, even though she had confided to Amanda
she ‘couldn’t see the point in it.’
Lee nodded and they were silent for a while. Around them business people and tourists mingled. The restaurants in the building behind them thrived, and the clink of glass and silverware could be heard faintly above the general noise. The water taxi was moored yet chugged continuously as one of the hawkers for it called out the destinations of Fells Point and Canton. Seagulls flew overhead and children yelled as they headed towards the Baltimore Aquarium, which was hidden from view behind the tall ship.
“So what do you want to do?” Lee asked. “I can’t really sit here all day.”
Amanda laughed. “You never could sit still, could you? I suspect that, if and when you finally retire, you are going to be a thorough nuisance.”
“Hey, I got a good ten years ahead of me.”
“Provided you take a desk job.”
“Maybe when Billy retires.” Although Billy had a desk job Lee had predicted it would only be another few years before Jeannie started gently pressuring him to retire. “So what would you like to do? We have the whole afternoon and we don’t have to meet Phil and his girlfriend, what’s her name, until after the game.”
“It’s Maree,” she replied. “And I’d like to go to the bookstore, I think. Maybe take the water taxi to Fells Point?”
Lee nodded. “The bookstore sounds good to begin with. I know you can lose yourself there.”
“I love it. And I love that whole building as well.”
“Okay, then,” Lee stood up and held out his hand to his wife. “Barnes and Noble it is.”
They began the brief walk around the water. Stopping briefly at the Constellation’s ticket office they decided to return later and visit it properly. The last time that the ship had been open to the public in Baltimore had been many years ago, and neither of them had visited it at that point. Ahead of them on their journey sat the former power plant, dominating everything before it. On the one side of it was the ESPNZone sports restaurant, the other was a Hard Rock Café. In the middle was the Barnes and Noble bookstore that Amanda enjoyed so much.
They managed to spend a good hour in the two-storey store. Lee managed to lose Amanda on several occasions, only to find her in a different section each time. After that he persuaded her to stop for a quick drink at the Hard Rock’s outdoor bar, and they laughingly listened to two young men discuss the merits of the two baseball teams playing.
“Oh come on, Hans,” the blond-haired young man told his colleague. “The Yankees are a fluke.”
“Ah, Jeff,” the bespectacled darker guy sighed. “We’ve got players that last. Unlike you guys. We’ve got Jeter, and the rest of them. You’re stuck with Cal; he’s a has-been.”
“No, he’s not. He’ll get that three thousand hits, maybe not this season but next.”
“If he makes it that far.”
“Plus we got Albert Belle.”
“Oh come on, that guy is erratic at best.”
They left the young men still arguing and continued on their way. Amanda loved Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. It was the main attraction in town and there was always so much going on, so much to do. There were always so many different people around, tourists and locals, black and white, young and old, all with their own particular slant on life.
“What time is it?” she asked some time later while they were stood on the deck of the Constellation, looking out toward Federal Hill.
Her husband glanced at his watch. “After three. I guess we should head down to the Wharf Rat, get a seat outside before the game finishes. At least we’ll be able to hear the game from there.”
“Okay.” Amanda turned from the railing. “I think I want crab cakes,” she decided aloud. “What about you?”
“Well, since I cleared us off duty with Billy, I intend to have a beer. That’s the first thing. They’ve got a couple of good English ales on tap, including some that Emily recommended.”
She laughed. “Well, I guess we better get going then. Doing not a lot is thirsty work.”
Laughingly, they left the ship and walked away from the harbourside,
past a Peruvian group playing panpipes. They headed out onto Pratt St.,
crossing it by the Legg Mason building, and soon they were finding themselves
a table outside the bar where they were meeting their oldest son. While
Lee went inside to get the drinks Amanda leaned back in her chair and closed
eyes. She listened to the roar of the crowd from Camden Yards, the home of the Baltimore Orioles, and sighed. Yes, she thought. She loved days like these.
Note: I’ve heard it said that you should write about what you know –
have! For nearly a year I worked in downtown Baltimore and when
Constellation came home I had a prime view from the 25th floor of one of
office buildings on Pratt St.. For those of you have not been there, the
buildings mentioned in this story are real places, places that I used to
haunt almost on a daily basis. I was in the Barnes and Noble almost every
day and I have enjoyed beautiful summer evenings with colleagues at the
mentioned – shame on me! Any geographical errors are purely my own – I am
working from memory after all. As for the baseball? Well, I’m not a Yankee
fan but it sure was good to watch Cal get closer to those 3000 hits!