Squinting through the fingers of my softball glove, I take a deep breath, inhaling the fragrance of leather and hot, humid air. Standing in our neighbor's pasture where our family of eleven has joined the Saunders family of nine to a softball game, I can feel the sweat trickle down my back, and my wilted "wings" are sticking to my forehead. My view of the action at home plate is mostly blocked by my mitt. I could remove it from the front of my face, and would probably not make my face quite so hot, but if I were to do that, the gnats would have a better chance of getting in my eyes.
|The Iseman-Beidler Clan|
While the softball game drags on, the only activity I am actively engaged in the outfield is keeping those infernal insects out of my eyes. Occasionally, I remove the mitt from my face to take a swipe through a swarm of gnats, hoping that by clearing a path through the buzzing mass of bugs, I will scare them away. They quickly reassemble, flying around my head, and I go back to protecting my eyes with my mitt.
Gnats are so annoying. During the heat of any summer day in Virginia, they travel in swarms, attracted to eyeballs, apparently. I swear I spent the better part of June, July, and August of my childhood trying to remove dead gnats from the corner of my eye.
Being in the outfield is such a drag; it is just so boring out here. The only people possibly having any fun are the pitcher, and whoever has a turn at bat. The Saunders boys and my brothers know if they hit the ball in my direction, they're probably going to get a home run out it. I'm too busy protecting myself from the bugs, and I'm not exactly known for my athletic skills. I hate softball, and the only reason I'm even out here is because the Saunders family is comprised of seven boys, several falling in my age range of interest.
Granny Iseman once told me at a church picnic that I needed to hold a small, leafy branch over my head to get the gnats to fly OVER my head, instead of around it. They're attracted to the highest part of us, and apparently, we trick them into thinking the branch is where the top of our head is. Gnats are not only pests, they must be pretty stupid. It seemed to work for her, but I was a teenager, and couldn't afford drawing undue attention to myself. I became adept at folding the corner of a Kleenex into a sharp point to retrieve gnats from the corner of my eyes because I wasn't willing to carry foliage above my head.
Gnats are probably why summer is NOT my favorite season. And why I hate being outdoors in the summer in Virginia. And why I really hate playing softball. But gnats are only ONE reason I hate softball. There are bigger reasons I hate that game, but that's a story for another day.