Sergeant Bull : Part 7

Jeff directed him to a bathroom at the back of the dugout. A minute later, Bull had shucked off his ball cap, shirt, boots, and shorts. His tight-whites followed, leaving him to stand buck-assed naked in only his dog tags in front of Jeff, whose roaming eyes, he knew, traced his body from flat top to toes.

From there, Bull’s transformation into a baseball god began. He pulled on Finley’s jockstrap and tucked his half-hard dong into the cup, sanitary sweat socks and black stirrups, pinstriped double-breasted uniform shirt, pants, then Finley’s well-worn cleats. Two swipes with eye-black to fight the setting sun and a black ball cap completed the image.

He emerged from the dugout and trotted onto the field beside the eight other members of the team to the spirited cheers of the crowd.

The umpire proclaimed, “Play ball!”

The opposition, a homegrown team bearing the name of a construction company on ugly blue and yellow uniforms, failed to score off Derek’s fastball, slider, and curve into the third inning. After the second man up fanned, Jeff held up two fingers, a signal to the rest of the outfielders. That meant one to go.

A scruffy, tough-looking batter stepped up to the dish. For the last forty minutes, Bull had studied Derek’s windup and pitch, the raw, masculine fluidity of his moves, his leg kick and foot swings. He’d also noticed Jeff doing the same.

He was in these thoughts when Bull heard the unmistakable thunder-crack of seasoned mountain ash striking seamed white leather. Looking quickly up, he realized the batter had gone yard off Derek. The ball sailed up and over second base on a line-drive course toward the centerfield wall.

“Fuck-!” he grunted, back-peddling to the warning track. He only had one chance. If he missed, the team would be down by a run.

Turning on the jets and sprinting all out, Bull charged the wall. From here, everything went on automatic. He timed it just right and dug one foot into the sod as the other climbed the wall. Bull pushed up at full extension. The ball came down just over the wall, but somehow, he managed to snow cone it in his glove. He’d robbed the opposing batter of a line drive round tripper.

A deafening cheer rose up from the crowd. Bull smiled and hooted out a proudly earned, “Yeah-!” and fired off the ball to Jeff. After that, he adjusted his cup. He’d earned that, too.

“Up next for the Army team,” the announcer declared, “Bullen, Thomas. Bullen batting for Finley.”

The new fan favorite, Bull moved into the chalk outline of the batter’s box to the delight of the Army faithful. Adjusting first the hard plastic helmet then his cup to protect both heads from potential damage at the mercy of a ninety-mile-an-hour fastball, he choked up on the bat. The pitch came low and away.

“Ball one!” exclaimed the ump.

He chopped the next two pitches foul. Down to his last strike, he flashed his hardest, meanest game face, spread his feet and hunched his knees, then assumed his stance with Finley’s borrowed bat. The pitcher wound up and fired, shooting the ball up and in.

Bull focused all of his energy into the swing and connected. A sonic boom ripped across the diamond, at its zenith, the baseball. Bull and the cheering crowd watched it rip over the left field wall.

“Home run!”

Bull made a fist and punched air before setting off for his trot around the bases. When he reached home plate, Jeff, Derek, and the rest of his stoked, sweaty teammates were waiting. The victory group hug that followed made it all worth repeating, which Bull did three innings later.

He hadn’t worked up a sweat this good at anything but warfare or sex in a long time, and he admitted he’d never enjoyed hanging with a group of guys more. Three hours after his arrival, he couldn’t believe Jeff and Derek, Sarge Finley and some of the others weren’t buddies he’d known for years. But that was the nature of pickup sports, instant camaraderie and comfort, sweat and maleness celebrated on a hoops court, hockey rink, football field, or baseball diamond.

Once the grunting, butt patting, and knuckle punches were delivered, he started back to the dugout where his clothes sat in a neat pile under the bench near Finley. The other man met him on crutches. Bull realized they were fairly well matched in all visible ways: height, weight, machismo, and as he’d learned, rank.

“Awesome fuckin’ game, Sarge,” Finley growled, balancing on the crutches enough for a high-five. “You did that uniform proud.”

Bull smiled and started to unbutton the borrowed shirt. “I’ll have it back to you in a flash.” He aimed his nose into the swampy heat of his left armpit and wrinkled his nose. “Course, not as clean as when I put it on.”

Finley grinned and Bull unbuttoned to the waist, but didn’t get much further when a strong hand clapped his shoulder. It was Jeff, wearing the same cocky smirk on his All-American good looks. “You got any plans, dude?”

“Yeah – find a motel with a good shower,” Bull chuckled, reveling in the feel of Jeff’s fingers, which began to massage his shoulders with firm strokes.

“You in a hurry?” Jeff persisted.

Bull shrugged. “It’s kinda late. What you got in mind?”

Jeff flashed Finley a quick, knowing look, something Bull’s years of heightened observations as an Army Ranger noticed instantly. “My wife’s out of town this weekend. Finley’s coming back to the house. We got the place to ourselves, and there’s a six pack of cold ones sitting in the fridge. And hey – if you want that shower, you can take one there.”

Bull hesitated – for about a second. He’d grown so close to the men in their short time together, and as much as he would have denied the half-hard bone they’d put in his jock a year before, here and now if something more happened, he wouldn’t turn it down.

He could always blame the beer.

Cleats and all, he hopped onto the back of his Harley and followed Jeff’s new SUV to the Brunson house somewhere in the outskirts of Phoenix. A few minutes after he was asked to turn over his motorcycle keys to the host so their party could begin, a sports truck pulled into the driveway.

“Who’s that?” Bull asked, chugging down the first gulp of suds.

Jeff’s cock-sure smile widened. “The kid – Derek. Hope you guys don’t mind, but I invited Private Conway to join us.”

Derek plunked his keys into the same glass bowl that held Bull’s and was handed a beer. Bull turned away from the incredible image of their starting pitcher, instead watching Finley’s long, flat hairy toes wiggling at the base of his cast. “How’d it happen?”

“Early in the morning, son,” Finley groaned. “That first wrong step sucks.”

Private Derek Conway, ball cap on backwards, grinned dumbly and joined the men in Jeff’s living room. “What about you, Sarge?” The question on Derek’s foamy lips was meant for Bull. “How long ’til you’re in San Diego?”

“A week, maybe. I’m taking it slow,” Bull grumbled. “Real slow. I’m on an extended leave from the service. Got somebody watching my house in North Carolina.”

Seated between Finley and the young pitcher on the couch, Jeff whistled out a sigh. “Shit, boy, what you doing grilling a superior officer like that for?”

Derek’s sexy, goofy face dropped. “Sorry, Sarge,” he said.

Jeff playfully punched the young ball jock’s arm. “I was only fooling with you, bro.” Then, to Bull, he added, “Not very smart. Damn cute, but real green.”

Bull nodded. “I noticed.”

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