THE FINAL OUT

As you get older
life is like
always being up at bat
when it’s two out
in the bottom of the ninth,
the score is two-to-one against you
and you are naught for four on the day
with the series tied at three-to-three,
when the bases are loaded
with the runners at the ready,
and the count is three balls, two strikes,
so you have to keep hitting foul balls off
in order to stay in the game
while waiting for the money pitch
that will let you drive home
that final winning run
while your arch adversary, 
the opposing pitcher,
having already gone the distance,
keeps throwing blazing strikes
right down the pipe,
laying them across the plate,
so as not to walk home that tying run
waiting over there on third base 
just ninety feet from home, 
where the runner paws the ground
with his eyes on the pitcher
waiting for that golden moment when
he might take the chance to steal their thunder
while you’re both trying to put the game on ice
for your respective teammates and their fans
but every time you fend one pitch off
your reward is to simply face another one
that you just cannot let slip by you
because if that were to happen
you would have to hit the showers
without having brought the bacon home,
and there’s a looming sky overhead
that threatens to wash out the final pitch
with sudden squalls of cool October rains,
so you dig in your heels,
take your practice cuts
to throw the pitcher off his pace,
while he shrugs off the catcher’s signs
until he gets the call he wants
for what he thinks will be the winning pitch
and goes into his final stretch
before releasing the ball from his grip
into that existential moment
 when a fraction of a second
and a fraction of an inch
will ultimately determine
the difference between
failure and success…
…until a sudden thud behind you
forces the game into suspension
because the home plate umpire
has just dropped dead,
having suffered a fatal heart attack
and the third base runner
takes the opportunity
to steal home, 
tying the score at two all, 
as the skies opened up
and the rains poured down
on the tied game that was 
called on account of rain 
and, of course,  the dead umpire.

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