“Okay, Honey"

Fiction by Frank Vespe

Because of their alphabetically close last names, Veronica Thomas and Tommy Treadwell were always side by side, forever together. Whether sitting on the school bus, attending class, or leaning on the walls during fire drills, Veronica and Tommy were inseparable, so it was only a matter of time before they became a couple, everlasting. 

During a sixth-grade class trip to the art museum, Veronica and Tommy stood aimless in front of a life-size bronze of a couple holding hands. Always the romantic, Tommy turned to Veronica and whispered in her right ear they would one day marry.  

“Sure,’’ Veronica answered, an answer remotely distant from the “Okay honey” he had always heard his mom and dad say to each other, childhood sweethearts like him and Veronica.

In the ninth grade, Tommy became the starting pitcher for East Hills High School and immediately caught the eye of college recruiters. Even though baseball teams didn’t have cheerleaders, Veronica made a point of cheering her Tommy on at every home game. After his right shoulder found the tail end of a rocket line drive, Tommy rode the bench the rest of the season, yet Veronica sat right behind his dugout, cheering “Tommy, Tommy, Tommy,’’ louder than anyone else. 

After the last game of his senior year, Tommy pitched a shutout, and Sammy the Scout for the Single A Burlington Burrows cornered Tommy and Veronica walking toward her metallic blue F-150. 

“I wanna make you and your parents a very attractive offer,” he said, handing Tommy an index card with a lot of zeros written on it. 

“That’s a lot of commas,” Veronica gushed. 

“We have big plans for you, Tommy,” Sammy the Scout continued in his thick Southern drawl, chewing on an unlit, half-smoked fat cigar. 

“Starting pitcher for our Single A Burrows, and then. . . .”

“And then?” Veronica’s eyes widened. 

“And then, the Show.”

“The Show?” Tommy responded.

“The major leagues, my friend. The real deal,” Sammy finished. 

Sammy stuffed a worn business card in Tommy’s tattered Rawlings glove his father wore 20 years before. 

Staring at the card in his open mitt, Tommy turned to Veronica and blurted, “Let’s go pick out that engagement ring.” 

“Cool,’’ she said, again not exactly the “Okay honey’’ Tommy hoped to hear. 

Tommy’s prowess on the mound quickly moved him from Single A to Triple A, sending him north to play in the Penn League, a league certain to gain him attention with the Yanks and Red Sox, his favorite teams since his fourth birthday when his dad gave him a Whitey Ford autographed baseball glove and a Carl Yaz baseball bat. 

The winters up north were brutal, but to gain strength, Tommy shoveled snow in front of his neighbors’ double-wides in his Gildersleeves trailer park while Veronica baked the fresh apple crumb pies she knew he loved.

Their first Christmas brought a wonderful surprise. Veronica was pregnant. As she ogled the EPT strip for confirmation, Tommy couldn’t control himself and blared, “Time to get that crib!’’ 

“Good idea,’’ his wife answered, but sadly not “Okay honey,’’ as he hoped. 

Veronica went into labor the morning of the final game of Tommy’s regular season, a game everyone was certain would result with a call to the Show for next season.   Although the Bigs played on his mind, Tommy couldn’t shake the image of his newborn baby, an image which made him drift off after each pitch. 

“Keep your head in the game,’’ Randy the catcher screamed to Tommy after he looked away before the ball crossed the plate. 

In the bottom of the third, Tommy received a call in the dugout from Veronica. 

“I think he’s a southpaw,’’ she whispered into the phone as Tommy’s eyes filled with water. 

“He’ll love the ball the guys signed for him,’’ he said. “I’ll be there after the game, sweetheart.’’ 

“Sounds good,’’ Veronica answered, not the “Okay honey’’ Tommy wished for. 

The bottom of the order batters were all that separated Tommy in the top of the ninth from his final win and a one-way ticket to the major leagues, so his plan was simple: heat, heat, and more heat. 

The number seven batter wasn’t even close to Tommy’s three 98-mile-per-hour fastballs, while number eight struck out trying to bunt a third strike. Instead of batting their pitcher, the opposing team sent up pinch hitter Clyde Williams, a powerhouse major leaguer just sent down to Triple A to “get his butt in gear.’’ 

The count was 0-2 as Randy the catcher signaled what every catcher signals with an 0-2 count, a low and away curve, but Tommy shook off his catcher three times, eager to blow smoke past Clyde and meet his newborn rookie, so he hurled a fastball some claim was 106 miles per hour. 

Newton’s Law of Physics confirms the ball that crushed Tommy’s right eye also traveled 106 miles per hour, a speed he had no chance to react to except thump to the ground, his left leg and right arm twitching uncontrollably. 

The next morning, in the same hospital in which his wife gave birth, Tommy lay in the I.C.U., a ton of white gauze wrapped around his head as large as a honeybees’ hive, exposing only his left eye, with a hundred tubes and electrodes connected to keep him breathing, barely. Veronica came in a wheelchair with Tommy Jr. snuggled tight in her arms. Sadly, Tommy’s left eye stared only at the flat line on the EEG. “There’s no brain activity,’’ the seasoned nurse said as she replaced a dextrose five-percent I.V. bag. 

When the nurse left the room, Veronica inched Tommy Jr. close to his father’s face as she stared deep into his eye, an eye that spoke a million words. 

“My Tommy, my Tommy,’’ she cried inches from his face, but all Tommy could do was look in her eyes, then look at the EEG, then look in her eyes, then look at the EEG. 

As her eyes followed the tracheotomy from Tommy’s neck to its machine, a faint smile grew on her lips, then to its plug in the wall. 

Leaning close, she gently kissed his lips, touched his forehead, then whispered in his right ear, “Okay honey,’’ and pulled out the plug. 


Frank Vespe lives in Springs.