Candace hated playing catch with Doug. She was terrible at it, and felt bad they couldn’t get a decent rhythm going. She was always missing the ball as it sailed just over her head, or she was too slow-footed to snag the grounders rolling to her left and her right.

“Got it!” she called back to Doug as she turned to follow after another of his throws she’d misjudged. The ball had skimmed over the fingertips of her glove, just above her leaping grab, landing in the grass beyond her.

Candace snatched up the ball then did a galloping chassé in toward Doug for about a dozen steps or so, cutting the distance between them as she cocked her arm to fire the ball back. It was the only way she could reach him with her own throw. She gave out with a grunt as she released the ball, then back-pedaled into place to put some distance between them again, giving Doug room to throw full-out, so he could exercise his arm.

Candace really hated playing catch. But if she didn’t make a show of enjoying it, Doug might feel bad and think he had to find someone else for his workout. It would be one less thing they could do together.

Doug was a key player for the co-ed team at Sirklin, McVittie and Sweetmore, where they both worked. The team called themselves At Long Last Glove, which Candace thought probably sounded better shouted out over beers after a game.

Doug and Candace had first bumped into each other in the pantry at Sirklin, taking turns with the Keurig and talking exotic coffees. Doug was attractive, curly-haired, and shorter than Candace. Which was okay with her, because Doug didn’t seem bothered by her being tall. He joked about having her reach the coffee pods in the pantry cabinet for him. It had been easy to let herself be caught up in his passion for the summer softball games played at Heckscher Fields in Central Park.

Doug had invited Candace to play catch with him between games. She hadn’t handled a softball since middle school, but said yes. Work didn’t leave them with a lot of other times together.

Winded and parched, Candace gave Doug a timeout signal and jogged over to the water fountain. She took a long, long pull at the stream. She straightened up and flinched backward at the sight of a homeless guy standing right in front of her. Like he’d materialized there, transported from where she’d first seen him sitting on the benches across the path, watching their game.

His eyes shifting, he leaned toward her, causing her to raise her shoulder against the smell, trying not to be obvious.

“He’s doing that on purpose, you know,” said the homeless guy.

Right, thought Candace. “Ain’t it the truth,” she said. Mind controllers, the Man, corporate evil, black helicopters, whatever. Then shrugged and said, “But what can you do?” She turned to trot out onto the field.

“You. Chasing the ball. So he can use his phone.”

Candace turned and looked at the homeless guy.

Through dirty cheek scruff, amber-colored teeth and a breath of stale alcohol, he smiled, did a stubby little throw to his left, then turned to his right, hunkered down and put a finger phone to his ear. He looked at Candace and smiled again, a cocked grin that said hate-to-tell-you.

Candace looked around at Doug in the field, who was pretty good looking for a short guy. Then at the homeless guy, who was bent down, mouth on the water spigot, sucking on it. He raised back up, ran a dirty handkerchief over the spigot, wiped his mouth and returned to the benches, not giving her another look.

Candace jogged out to her spot, faced Doug, crouched, shifting her hips back and forth, slapping her glove with her fist, determined that nothing would get by her this time. Doug stretched back and lofted the ball at her, sending it just inches over her head as she leapt, missing it.

She turned around to go after it but stopped and ducked her head slightly to look back at Doug. He had his phone out against his ear, plunging it back into the large pocket of his cargo shorts when he caught sight of her looking at him.

Candace gave the homeless guy the glove and ten bucks as she left the park.