After sliding into home plate, Grady Nash stood and brushed the dirt off of his pants. The whoops of the small crowd made him feel like a million bucks. He tipped his KC Royals baseball hat to the folks in the bleachers as he walked back to the bench. Trading his beloved cowboy hate for a baseball hat had been tough, but after numerous comments from the guys he worked with, Nash had found it easier to just relent.
"Not bad for an old man," Butch Carlisle said with a slap on the back, nearly knocking Nash to the ground.
"I'm thirty-four," Nash reminded his new friend.
"Yeah, like I said, old." Butch spat a sunflower seed shell on to the ground, the pile growing with each inning of the softball game. Despite his rough appearance, Butch was an okay guy. With shoulders as broad as a barn and forearms the size of Popeye's, Butch's shaved head only added to the biker exterior he liked to cultivate.
Nash crossed his arms and leant back against the dugout's chain link fence. Despite Butch's barbs, Nash felt damn good. He might be older than the others on the team, but he was still young enough to keep up with them.
"We're going to Wally's after the game," Butch said as another shell flew from his mouth.
"Wally's, huh?" Nash tried to remember what time Sidney had said he'd be home. "I could use a beer." Or four. He'd lived in Lake Forest for almost three months and had yet to go out without Sidney, which meant he rarely went out. He'd been lucky one of the guys from the garage hadn't been able to complete the summer softball season or he'd never have left the house that day.
Joe Banks crossed home plate standing up and Nash gave Butch a high five at the come from behind win. Nash followed the rest of the players out of the dugout to acknowledge the effort of the opposing team with hand slaps.
He returned to the bench and picked up his glove. Unlike the other players on the team, Nash didn't own any equipment besides the old beat-up glove he'd used in high school. "I'll follow you," he told Butch as they headed to the parking lot.
Nash climbed into his red Ford pickup. He'd need to call home as soon as he got to the bar. Was it a bad thing that he secretly hoped Sidney was still at the job site? It wasn't that he didn't love Sidney's company, but he was ready to make a few friends of his own. The guys at the garage, where he'd finally found a job, had been pretty good about welcoming him, but Nash wanted more than that. He'd got used to life on the ranch where camaraderie seemed to come naturally. It wasn't that he was looking for a new best friend--Sidney would forever hold that position in his life--but he enjoyed watching the men at the garage laugh and tease each other. A part of Nash wanted that kind of relationship with them as well.
One beer, he told himself. Surely he'd still get home long before Sidney.
Nash pulled up his truck beside Butch's old-style Harley. He'd driven by Wally's every day going to work but had never been inside. The moment he stepped foot in the door, he smiled. Yeah, he could be comfortable in the place. Not too crowded but with a nice blend of customers, Wally's seemed like an unpretentious spot to grab a beer with friends.
After a quick phone call home to leave a message on the answering machine, he joined the group of guys from the garage, who were busy shoving tables together. The arrangement seemed not only natural for them but the waitress as well. "How many?" she asked, cruising by the group.
"Four to start," Butch said. He turned to Nash. "You like Coors Light?"
Nash nodded, grabbing a paper menu from the centre of the table. "Anything good to eat?"
"Best cheddar burgers in the state," Pauly said.
A frosty mug was set in front of Nash. "You're new," the waitress said.
Nash smiled. "Just moved to town a few months ago from Kansas."
"My name's Jes if you need anything."
"Nash," he said introducing himself. "And I'll take a cheddar burger medium well when you get the chance."