We played wiffle ball over on West Hill Place, just off of Charles Street, by the T-station. Drivers would use it as a shortcut to get to Storrow Drive, even though they weren't supposed to. It interrupted the game. We'd have to move the traffic cones or undo the chain to let them through. There'd be dirty looks shot and much huffing and puffing, but the drivers didn't care. We were just kids playing wiffle ball. West Hill Place was essentially a circle. Car bumpers played the role of bases and a convenient manhole served as the pitcher's mound. You got a homer if you hit it fair over a second floor window. We weren't exactly power hitters - we had more luck scoring runs by grounding the ball under parked cars. On the rare days there were no cars, there weren't a lot of runs scored.
There were usually only three or four of us playing and so we had to adapt the rules a tad. You could throw the runner out by hitting him with the ball. It was a dangerous strategy as a miss would almost always result in a run scoring. We also always underestimated just how much that little white plastic ball stung when it slapped against the flesh. Shrieks of pain resulted in derision, so you had to grimace, bear it, and take your place out in the 'field', fiercely rubbing the point of impact and wincing.
Contact was sublime. It always is, whether it's a proper ball against a wooden bat or plastic on plastic, there are few better feelings than the shudder of a bat when it hits the ball, that split second of unity and ultimate harmony that comes when the ball's trajectory reverses and it becomes part of the bat's motion, exploding forward with a crack that staggers the forearms. The hitter becomes a motor; an engine generating propulsion. The balls sails and as it does an incredible sense of forward motion flows through you. There's no time to appreciate it; you have to run and maybe, if you reach base safely, you smile and clap your hands together hoping to feel again the moment of contact.
I'm writing a new book. I can't really say much about it yet, but it's not fiction. It's not about baseball or wiffle ball either. But it's new. Instead of sifting through countless pages in the big purple binder, buried in words I've already written, I've got blank sheets staring back at me, waiting to be filled. Some writers fear blank pages, but not me. For me it's a thousand points of contact, hit after hit, as each page fills so goes the forward motion and as I type I feel the shudder in my forearms and so it flows.