Practice Makes Perfect
July 29th, 1995, almost the end of summer, a year, and six months before CJ’s (Charles Rollins Jr.) first exhibition baseball game at Chester Park Middle School.
Before the beginning school year, Charley (Charles Rollins Sr.) is showing his son the fine art of dodging a dirty spitball pitch. Charley himself, once a prolific baseball batter & runner, back in the mid 1970’s (who still frequently finds himself stuck in that time-period). Charley also attended Chester Park Middle School in 1974, as he managed to take his team to their first National Championship, before an unforeseen occurrence happened.
Naturally, Charley desires Charley Jr. (CJ) to supersede his almost minor league record. Charley & CJ are practicing in a large field outside of their middle-class integrated neighborhood behind a cul-de-cac street. Charley’s youngest son (Mason) watches on with some of the neighborhood children in attendance. Charley advises to CJ, “Remember Junior, always keep your eyes on the ball son. Think of it like somebody shooting a gun at you. Are you gonna duck or just stand there and get yo big ol greasy head blown off?” CJ confidently responds, “Duck!” Charley continues, “What are you gonna do when the ball spins out at a 45-degree angle?” CJ earnestly responds, “Swing!” Charley continues, “Once you knock the ball out of the park, what do you do?” CJ honestly replies, “Run!” Charley emphasizes, “Run fast son! Like you just stole the President’s wallet! Ya hear me boy?” CJ smiles and replies, “I got it Dad!” Mason and the other kids start to laugh.
As Charley starts to pitch the ball to CJ, he yells out “Junior, hold a firm grip on the bat with both hands. And remember, in the real game, you gonna have an umpire standing behind you trying to signal me. So, pay close attention to the ball, ya hear me?” CJ nervously responds, “Alright Dad!” Charley throws a light pitch towards CJ, he swings with all his might, but misses the ball. CJ is clearly disappointed with himself. His father comes to console him by saying, “Don’t beat yourself up son! Ya hit some, ya miss some! But more importantly winners don’t ever quit. And home-runs are not scored by those who don’t ever swing.” CJ looks at his Dad with a sense of wonder, gives him a high five and says, “Thanks Dad!” Currently Mason yells out, “DADDY, I’M HUNGRY, LET’S GO HOME!” Mason runs and jumps on Charley’s back while CJ retrieves the baseball. CJ then joins his father and brother walking home. CJ then asks, “Dad, when are we gonna be able to get new uniforms for this season?” Charley honestly responds, “When I pay off this expensive mortgage to this house your Mama wanted, and you make it to the MLB!” (Major League Baseball)
Meanwhile, Charley’s wife (Patricia) is at their home preparing dinner for the family. The phone suddenly rings from an unknown caller on the caller ID notification. Patricia answers with extreme delight. The unknown caller says something very provocative to Patricia as she is smiling, glowing and responds by saying, “Well, that’s the first time I’ve heard it put that way! You have got to be the most original obscene caller I’ve ever heard! You must have practiced long and hard at this! WAIT! Let me take a guess, you’re a professional pervert Huh? Yea, you’re a specialist! Do you have a business card?” Patricia laughs loudly. She then sees her husband walking back towards the house with their sons and bluntly says to the unknown caller, “Well Mr. Pervert, I hope you enjoy the rest of your day but if you dial this number again, I will notify the police, you bad little rascal!” Patricia then smiles and abruptly hangs up the phone.
Charley, CJ & Mason enter their home in eager anticipation of what was on the dinner menu for the evening. Charley instructs his sons, “Alright boys, y’all know the drill, go upstairs and wash up, get ready to eat.” CJ is beating up on Mason on the way upstairs making an abundance of noise. Patricia, not in a particularly good mood boldly yells out, “WILL Y’ALL KNOCK THAT SHIT OFF!!” The boys stop playing. Charley is suddenly alerted by his wife’s irate temper. He goes to comfort her and says, “Hey babe, it’s alright! Damn. Boys are gonna be boys, ya know?” Charley kisses Patricia and proclaims, “Um hum, what cha got going on the stove baby? Sure, looks good. I can smell it all the way outside Ms. Patty Crocker!” Patricia shrugs Charley off her and angrily says, “Don’t give me that crap Charley! You spoil those kids way too much! You’re not being a good role model either!” Charley grabs a beer from the fridge while washing his hands in the kitchen sink. Charley, in confusion replies, “Just what the hell is that supposed mean Patty?” Patricia callously responds, “Man look at you! Drinking beer before dinner, you don’t even have enough sense not to wash your nasty hands in the sink where we clean our dishes. Sometimes I really wonder just who in the hell raised you Charley.” Charley takes a huge swig of beer while drying his hands on the dish towels. He casually replies to Patricia, “I bought this house and these dish towels. Can’t you get through one day without complaining about something, Bubble Butt?” Patricia becomes frustrated. Charley once again tries to console Patricia by saying, “Come here boo boo! Give Chucky a kiss! Come on!” Patricia pushes Charley away and very angrily says, “DON’T START WITH ME TODAY, OK! I’M NOT TAKING ANYMORE OF YOUR SHIT CHARLEY!” Charley respects Patricia wishes of being left alone, takes another swig of beer and says, “Ok honey, no problem! I guess that menopause thing is starting to kick in now. I won’t bother you. It’s a good thing we renewed that United Health insurance huh!” Charley blows a kiss towards Patricia and finishes his beer. He then yells out to his sons, “HEY, Y’ALL HURRY UP AND FINISH, QUIT MESSING AROUND. I DIDN’T TELL YA TO CLEAN THE WHOLE HOUSE, JUST YOUR HANDS! FOOD GONNA GET COLD!” Patricia is so angry, her eyes become lightly blood shot. Charley is completely bewildered and blindsided at the level of his wife’s unhappiness.
During family evening dinner, Mason starts to tell a joke he heard from one of his classmates. Mason says, “Hey Dad, did you hear the one about the monkey, the polar bear, the elephant and the nun?” Charley curiously looks at Mason and replies, “Naw Mase!” Mason laughingly says, “Me neither!” Charley laughs abundantly and says, “You little jive turkey!” CJ chuckles and shakes his head. Patricia sternly says to Mason, “There’s no talking at the dinner table Mason.” Charley looks at Patricia with some disappointment but tries to pay her compliment by saying, “Patty, your cooking is so good baby, the food can do all the talking.” Charley winks at CJ & Mason as they smile and try not to laugh. Patricia is not amused.
After dinner, Charley offers to help Patricia clean up the kitchen while the boys get ready to bathe and prepare for bed.
As Charley is taking out the trash he asks, “What’s is biting your ass Patty? You’ve been acting very stand offish lately. Is it something I’ve done? Let’s talk about it ok?” Patricia bluntly says, “Charley, do you know we are currently 3 months behind in our property taxes? I had to go into my 401k savings to cover that cut off notice on our electricity bill. We’re way over budget spending $600 a month on groceries but you still felt it was more important to spend it on CJ’s little league baseball equipment. Not to mention Mason’s medical expenses which as you so eloquently mentioned ‘It’s a good thing WE renewed that United Health insurance’ which carries a $1500 deductible for his medication!”
Charley can clearly see Patricia has been holding on to this frustration for some time. Charley sternly responds, “Patty, you wanted this expensive ass house. I tried to tell you that it was above our means. Now, what the hell do you expect? Is that why you’ve been walking around here with your face all twisted up and shit?” Patricia furiously replies, “YOU SEE! THAT’S WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT CHARLEY! WE’RE STILL LIVING BELOW OUR MEANS AT 35. NO GROWTH IN THE LAST 10 YEARS! IF IT WERE UP TO YOU, WE’D STILL BE STUCK IN THAT MOLE INFESTED 2 BEDROOM APARTMENT IN THAT ROUHGISH HOOD WITH YOUR DRINKING BUDDIES!” Charley goes to the fridge to grab another beer. Patricia shouts, “SEE, LOOK AT YOU!”
CJ quietly comes downstairs and hears his parents arguing loudly. Charley begins to get upset but maintains his composure by replying, “Patty, I’m not going to do this with you tonight. Now first thing Monday morning, I will contact the tax assessor’s office to discuss what payment options we have available to adjust our bill. Ok? I got several hustles in the works for the summer to help us get caught back up. I just really need you to calm down.”
Patricia accidently drops a plate on the floor, it shatters. CJ becomes startled as he jumps.
Charley quickly sets down his beer and runs to assist Patricia. Patricia, once again shrugs him away and says, “Just leave me alone Charley!” Charley abides her wishes and replies, “Patty, whatever issue you got with me, don’t take it out on our kids. They didn’t ask for this!” Charley takes a swig from his beer, then yells out, “HEY BOYS, COME ON AND HELP TAKE OUT THIS GARBAGE!!”
It’s getting late in the evening, as CJ & Mason both run downstairs to help their father with taking out the garbage. CJ sees his mother picking up the broken plate, with a false sense of wonder of what is going on. Patricia is silent. There is significant tension between CJ and Patricia. CJ & Mason take out the garbage with their father.
Unexpectedly, Charley begins to spray CJ & Mason with the outside water hose in the front lawn. CJ connects the other lawn hose and begins to spray his Dad and little brother, like a sword fight. Mason is screaming with laughter. Charley tackles CJ in the muddy puddle of water as Mason joins in and starts splashing water over them both. Charley and his sons are laughing extremely loud! Patricia, in a cold blank almost psychotic look, just stares out the window at Charley with sincere jealousy at the adornment CJ & Mason have for him.