The Strikeout Kid

by Steven Wingate

He calls all of us
            my priest said 
but I didn’t hear Jesus
only a bell clanging down a dusty street:

a cowbell 
in a Wild West version of Galilee
swung side to side on its rope by a wandering beggar
shuffling by and saying He calls all of us.

But I still didn’t hear Jesus
though the next day
I saw that beggar walking again
swinging that bell again
shoeless again, and I thought

I’m a fool for just watching this.
So I got a cowbell and a rope
and walked ten paces behind him
and swung that cowbell
like I’d been doing it for two thousand years.

But I still didn’t hear Jesus
and I lost the rhythm of the swinging
because I didn’t walk through the world right
because I kept my shoes on
because my feet were too weak to go bare

and I wasn’t worthy 
of being a bell-swinging beggar.
I was just a guy 
who tried and failed
and I still didn’t hear Jesus.

But then he whispered to me
like a volunteer baseball coach
talking to a kid who’s struck out 
            five thousand times in a row, saying

Come on now, you can do it now. 
Don’t listen to that “No” 
in your head.

Steven Wingate is the author of the novels The Leave-Takers (2021) and Of Fathers and Fire (2019), both part of the Flyover Fiction Series from the University of Nebraska Press. He is an associate professor at South Dakota State University. His writings on faith and culture have appeared in such venues as Image Journal’s “Good Letters” blog, The CressetDappled ThingsThe WindhoverThe Other JournalTalking Writing, Solum JournalAssisi, and Belmont Story Review.

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