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Scrum-PSM-II Professional Scrum Master II

The Professional Scrum MasterTM level II (PSM II) assessment is available to anyone who wishes to demonstrate his or her ability to apply the Scrum framework to solving advanced, complex problems in the real world. Those that pass the assessment will receive the industry recognized PSM II Certification as an indication of their advanced knowledge and abilities pertaining to Scrum and the role of the Scrum Master.

Anyone attempting the PSM II should have advanced Scrum knowledge, in-depth Scrum experience and/or have taken the Professional Scrum Master course prior to taking this assessment. However, attending a course is neither necessary nor sufficient for certification. The PSM II assessment is very difficult, and consists of multiple-choice questions based on your knowledge of Scrum and how you would handle real-world situations.

The PSM II certification assessment is an advanced assessment and relies heavily on your own experience using scrum, and how you would apply Scrum in particular circumstances. While it is not required we recommend that before taking PSM II you have a passed PSM I and may find it beneficial to review the PSM I Suggested reading page during your preparation.

The PSM II assessment includes questions from the following Focus Areas as defined in the Professional Scrum Competencies.

Understanding and Applying the Scrum Framework:

Empiricism, Scrum Values, Roles, Events, Artifacts, Done.

Developing People and Teams:

Self-Organizing Teams, Facilitation, Leadership Styles, Coaching and Mentoring.

Managing Products with Agility:

Product Backlog Management, Stakeholders & Customers.

Developing and Delivering Products Professionally:

Managing Technical Risk.

Evolving the Agile Organization:

Organizational Design & Culture.

Professional Scrum Master II
Scrum Professional book
Killexams : Scrum Professional book - BingNews Search results Killexams : Scrum Professional book - BingNews Killexams : Agile Scrum Basics for Professionals Course Details

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Agile Scrum Basics for Professionals Course Details

Classroom with students

Agile Scrum Basics for Professionals is a seven-hour non-credit course designed for leaders and practitioners across a variety of industries to learn how the Agile Scrum methodology and framework can streamline your projects. Scrum is a highly collaborative method that can improve the development, management and delivery of complex projects. This course is the perfect place to start for agile project management beginners and those looking to start a path toward certification.

Cost: $199

In this Agile & Scrum course you learn:

  • The differences between an Agile approach and traditional methodology, and discover why Agile is more effective
  • How adopting Agile approaches can increase business value
  • The core practices and philosophies behind this way of working

This course is designed for:

  • Agile organizations
  • Project managers in a diverse range of industries
  • Senior leadership
  • IT and software professionals
  • Product managers

Contact Kena Sears-Brown, Director for more information: 215.571.3936 and

Fri, 19 Aug 2022 10:45:00 -0500 en text/html
Killexams : Agile vs. Scrum vs. Waterfall

Agile vs. Scrum vs. Waterfall

group of Agile project managers sitting in an office

When it comes to project management methodologies, it may seem like there are countless options that are always changing and advancing. The most common project management methods used in business and enterprise are Agile and Waterfall along with the implementation method of Scrum. There are differences and benefits between Agile, Scrum and Waterfall depending on your organization’s goals and the project at hand. Another common tool in project management is Kanban boards, which are most often used in Lean Six Sigma, a process improvement methodology.

Agile vs. Waterfall

Agile is a project management methodology that focuses on adaptability and regular team and stakeholder communication throughout the life of a project. The iterative nature of Agile project management allows for greater adaptability during development. It is best used for projects where change is anticipated or expected throughout the lifespan. For example, in the IT world, developing a user interface application would require a lot of testing and regular feedback and improvements to meet the end user’s needs. Using an Agile approach allows development teams to incorporate beta testing to ensure the delivery of a more effective end product. 

Waterfall is a project management methodology that relies on linear planning to differentiate tasks and eliminate variables. In waterfall, one phase of a project cannot be started until the previous has been fully completed. Unlike Agile, in which you can return to various points throughout a sprint or feedback cycle. Waterfall is effective in that it eliminates the need for change, whereas Agile incorporates change throughout development. 

Before a Waterfall project begins, all assets, documents, requirements, tasks and expectations are collected and assigned to specific team members. Then, each phase of the project is completed in a linear and dependent fashion. For example, in a construction project where there are strict contracts and standards, a more linear approach may be required. Construction on a new building can’t begin until the architectural plans are complete, zoning and permit regulations are met and materials are acquired

Agile vs. Scrum

At Goodwin, we offer courses and professional skill tracks in Agile Scrum, as it is the project management methodology that is growing at a greater pace, leaving the more rigid rules of Waterfall behind. So what’s the difference between Agile and Scrum?

Scrum is a framework within Agile project management that utilizes short development “sprints” that are powered by iterative feedback from stakeholders and internal teams throughout the many phases of project development and delivery. Projects are broken out into smaller phases or milestones and once feedback is delivered and implemented, Agile teams can then move onto the next phase of development to reduce the need for redevelopment at the final phase of delivery.

Scrum is simply how Agile gets done. Agile Scrum focuses on conducting sprints, extracting feedback and clarifying tasks for each member of a team. Regular communication and collaboration across teams is a hallmark of Agile Scrum.


Drexel’s Goodwin College of Professional Studies offers professional pathways and courses to get up to speed about Agile Scrum. You can take two-day courses, ranging from beginner to advanced levels here on campus. Or, you can explore a professional skill track in Agile project management that includes on-campus courses and online essential skill training through The Skills Hub.

If your company is using waterfall and exploring adopting Agile, consider about Agile project management with Scrum training for your employees. Talk to us about getting a complimentary training skills gap analysis and our multiple employee discount.

In the meantime, please take a look at our Benefits of Agile Scrum page for more information on the topic.

Fri, 19 Aug 2022 10:45:00 -0500 en text/html
Killexams : What Is A Scrum Master? Everything You Need To Know

Editorial Note: We earn a commission from partner links on Forbes Advisor. Commissions do not affect our editors' opinions or evaluations.

A Scrum Master is a team leader responsible for ensuring the team implements Scrum in theory and practice. Scrum is one of the most popular forms of Agile, a project management methodology created for software development. The Scrum Master is responsible for serving as a leader for the Scrum team and larger organization, according to the Scrum Guide.

Scrum Master Responsibilities

In a Scrum practice, the team is composed of the Scrum Master, the product owner and the development team. The project owner is responsible for maximizing the end goal’s value, while the Scrum Master’s job is to ensure the team stays on track.

Melissa Boggs, Certified Enterprise Coach and former Co-CEO of Scrum Alliance, spoke to Forbes Advisor and explained that the Scrum Master’s role is to “help the team understand the value of Scrum and how Scrum can best serve the team, for the team to serve the customer.” The Scrum Master focuses on the team’s continuous improvement by introducing and using Scrum principles and practices, Boggs added.

Additionally, their responsibilities include making sure the Scrum events take place and are positive and productive. They also help ensure Scrum is implemented by the team in a productive way and lead the team to adopt Scrum.

A Scrum Master can be either a dedicated position or a temporary role one of the team members takes on during a project. While some teams and organizations require a full-time Scrum Master, others who are further along and more mature in their Agile journey may elect someone on the team for the role, Boggs said. How the Scrum Master fits into the overall team “depends on the goals of the organization, the maturity of the teams and the capabilities of the Scrum Master,” she added.

How To Be an Effective Scrum Master

An effective Scrum Master will understand Scrum, the value of all its elements, their team and how to marry all of them in an emergent way, Boggs said. They will be effective leaders who understand the team’s needs and keep the team on track with their goals.

This means a Scrum Master is continuously learning and creating opportunities for the team to develop their skills. “They are excellent communicators, coaches and creators,” Boggs said. A Scrum Master must be able to integrate both the long-term and short-term strategy while managing the team. “They are able to see the big picture, but they also help the team to decompose the big picture into smaller, incremental chunks of value,” she added. An effective Scrum Master also helps the team create feedback loops and connections with their customers.

According to Boggs, curiosity and openness are two essential qualities for an exceptional Scrum Master. Effective leadership requires patience, focus and understanding that developing a high-performing team is a long-term game. “They are able to see the big picture, but they also help the team to decompose the big picture into smaller, incremental chunks of value,” she added.

Tools and Resources

There are various certifying bodies in the Scrum space, but two of the most well-respected are Scrum Alliance and Boggs recommends that certification seekers spend time evaluating the certification and business models of the organizations before choosing one to invest in. Some differentiators to look out for during research are the price, reputation and community.

How To Become a Scrum Master

There are a variety of backgrounds that could prepare someone for the role of a Scrum Master. “We see everyone from QA Managers to engineers to school teachers that make excellent Scrum Masters,” Boggs said. It is common to see former project managers working in a Scrum Master role, she added.

Differences Between a Project Manager and a Scrum Master

While a project manager keeps track of different aspects of the team, the Scrum Master is focused specifically on the team and ensuring they are effective and achieve the project goals.

“The Scrum Master is not focused on time, scope and budget, but rather building and supporting an environment where a team can iteratively and incrementally build products and Strengthen their system,” Boggs said. “The Scrum Master is accountable for ensuring that the team has everything they need to be effective and that any impediments are removed from their path. They do not control what, how or when the products or projects are completed; those responsibilities are differently distributed in the Scrum framework between the team and the product owner.”

Scrum is often confused with a project management methodology in general. Instead, it is a “framework for developing and sustaining complex products,” according to the Scrum Guide. Scrum relies heavily on the idea of empirical process control and recognizes the complexity and uncertainty that is involved in product development.

Related: What Is A Scrum Board?

Frequently Asked Questions

How does the Scrum Master fit into the overall team or organization?

The specific way the Scrum Master integrates into the overall team is unique to each company. It is not uncommon for the Scrum Master to report to either the engineering organization or an Agile organization, according to Melissa Boggs, Certified Enterprise Coach and former Co-CEO of Scrum Alliance.

Is a Scrum Master the same as a project manager?

A project manager is different from a Scrum Master. While a project manager keeps track of different aspects of the team, including budget, resources and timelines, the Scrum Master is specifically focused on the team and ensuring it is effective and achieves the project goals.

What skills are essential for a Scrum Master?

An effective Scrum Master is knowledgeable and trained in Scrum. One way to gain the necessary skills is through certification. While there are many certifying bodies, the two most well-known and respected are Scrum Alliance and Scrum Masters have a range of backgrounds and experiences, including software development, QA management or team leadership.

What makes an effective Scrum Master?

An effective Scrum Master will understand Scrum, the value of all its elements, their team and how to marry all of them in an emergent way, said Melissa Boggs, Certified Enterprise Coach and former Co-CEO of Scrum Alliance. A Scrum Master will be able to see the project’s big picture but can break it down into practical and shorter-term goals for the team.

What scrum master certifications are available?

There are several scrum master certifications that you can obtain. Some of the most common include
Certified ScrumMaster (CSM), Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO), Certified Scrum Professional (CSP) and Certified Scrum Developer (CSD), which are offered by the Scrum Alliance; Professional Scrum Master I (PSM I) and Professional Scrum Product Owner I (PSPO I), which are administered by; and SAFe Scrum Master (SSM), which is offered by Scaled Agile. There are also more advanced certifications that you can obtain, including Advanced Certified ScrumMaster (ACSM), Certified Scrum Professional ScrumMaster (CSP-SM), Advanced Certified Scrum Product Owner (ACSPO), Certified Scrum Professional Product Owner (CSP-PO), Professional Scrum Master II (PSM II), Professional Scrum Master III (PSM III), Professional Scrum Product Owner II (PSPO II), Professional Scrum Product Owner III (PSPO III), Advanced Certified Scrum Developer (ACSD) and Certified Scrum Professional (CSP).

Fri, 31 Dec 2021 14:56:00 -0600 Leeron Hoory en-US text/html
Killexams : Big scrum likely for Johnson's book

The autobiography of England rugby captain Martin Johnson is going on sale today, just six days after he led his team to a pulsating victory over Australia in the World Cup final in Sydney.

The book includes his description of the match, including Jonny Wilkinson's drop-goal which clinched the 20-17 victory in the last minute of extra time.

"On his wrong foot, Jonny smashes it through the posts and we are in the lead. People told me later it was an ugly kick but it's the best thing I've ever seen on a rugby field," he writes.

Publishers Headline said that by midday on Monday pre-orders had reached 110,000 and were rising.

Ian Marshall, non-fiction deputy publishing director, said: "On the Sunday morning, I came into the office to work on the last chapter of the book.

"Some months before we'd taken the risky decision to wait until after the tournament before publishing, not least because Martin didn't want to provide any ammunition for his opponents from what he said.

"Despite all the celebrations, dinners and unbelievable media attention, Martin had managed to find some time to himself to sit down and gather his thoughts about what he'd been through.

"As always, he was determined to get it absolutely right."

The book looks at Johnson's career and how the sport has changed since going professional in 1995.

Johnson, who made his England debut in 1993, explains why he led the national team to the brink of a strike in the autumn of 2000, and gives insights into British Lions tours - for the last two of which he was captain.

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Sat, 05 Aug 2023 12:00:00 -0500 text/html
Killexams : Scrum-half Ben White named in Scotland starting line-up against Georgia

Ben White is back in the Scotland XV to face Georgia at Murrayfield on Saturday – just three weeks after fearing injury might rule him out of the World Cup.

The scrum-half limped off in clear distress in the first half of the home win over France earlier this month and looked exasperated as he made his way up the tunnel with his ankle heavily strapped. He missed the subsequent match away to France and later revealed that he was “really concerned” when the injury first happened.

However, White – Gregor Townsend’s first-choice scrum-half – has now been deemed fit enough to return to the number nine jersey for Scotland’s last warm-up match before heading to France for the World Cup at the start of September.

In a further boost for supporters, Edinburgh wing Duhan van der Merwe, who suffered a minor ankle injury in the last match in Saint-Etienne, is also fit enough to start against Georgia.

Despite Scotland’s first game of the tournament against South Africa being only three weeks away and the 33-man squad having been finalised, head coach Townsend has opted to send out a strong XV.

Ollie Smith, with five caps to his name, is the least experienced player in the team as he stands in for Blair Kinghorn at full-back, but the backline is otherwise arguably as strong as it could possibly be.

In the forward department, Glasgow prop Jamie Bhatti starts along with Edinburgh veteran WP Nel, with Pierre Schoeman rested and Zander Fagerson suspended. Richie Gray is another likely starter at the World Cup who has been given the weekend off, with Sam Skinner taking his place alongside Grant Gilchrist in the second row.

Dave Cherry starts ahead of George Turner and Ewan Ashman at hooker, while the back-row is comprised of captain Jamie Ritchie, Rory Darge and Jack Dempsey.

Wed, 23 Aug 2023 01:57:00 -0500 en text/html
Killexams : Report: One of AEW All In 2023's Card Changes Confirmed

Rey Fenix reportedly won't be in the Stadium Stampede Match at AEW's All In this Sunday.

AEW's record-breaking All In pay-per-view is just a few days away, but the official card is still taking shape. Tony Khan confirmed during a media conference call on Tuesday that the card will undergo a few changes in the coming days. He stopped short of saying specifically what those changes might be but did note that the AEW World Tag Team Championship match between FTR & The Young Bucks will still go on as planned despite Cash Wheeler's accurate arrest. Fightful Select's Sean Ross Sapp then dropped a report noting Rey Fenix will be pulled from the show, though couldn't confirm why. 

"The indication that we were given was that Fenix was travel or visa related, as opposed to an injury, but that has yet to be confirmed," Sapp wrote. "We've not learned about whether or not Fenix himself is being replaced or if the Stadium Stampede match will be adjusted."

Fenix was involved in a brawl on last week's AEW Dynamite that led to Eddie Kingston throwing out a challenge for All In — himself, The Lucha Brothers, Orange Cassidy and The Best Friends against The Blackpool Combat Club and three partners of their choosing in a 12-man Stadium Stampede match. 

"There will probably be some other changes to the card, necessitated by things happening in the real world," Khan said regarding the changes. "Stuff in some cases, stuff that nobody's fault, but stuff that is not related to the world of professional wrestling and I am going to try to work through this week to make it as strong as possible with (plans that will ) actually making the card hopefully better than it has been. But yeah, there will be changes to the card. I plan to add something and I might have to make some changes in the body of the card stands right now, but they're not substantive changes that will change the quality of the show. And I'm very glad that, the big matches are in such a good position right now. And also to be honest, I think you're gonna have to stay tuned. And then after you see some changes, I, you know, whether it's in the scrum after the pay per view or whatever, I can talk to you more about when and why I decided to do those. But it's not like they were things that even a week or two I knew about or was expecting, to have to change. And, that's part of pro wrestling."

AEW All In 2023 Card (As of Now)

  • AEW World Championship: MJF vs. Adam Cole
  • AEW "Real" World Championship: CM Punk vs. Samoa Joe
  • AEW World Tag Team Championships: FTR vs. The Young Bucks
  • AEW Women's World Championship: Hikaru Shida vs. Toni Storm vs. Saraya vs. Dr. Britt Baker
  • Will Ospreay vs. Chris Jericho
  • Kenny Omega, Hangman Page & Kota Ibushi vs. Konosuke Takeshita, Jay White & Juice Robinson
  • Darby Allin & Sting vs. Swerve Strickland & AR Fox (Coffin Match)
  • Eddie Kingston, Orange Cassidy, Best Friends & Lucha Brothers vs. Blackpool Combat Club (Jon Moxley, Claudio Castagnoli & Wheeler Yuta) & TBA (Stadium Stampede Match)
  • (Zero Hour) ROH World Tag Team Championships: Aussie Open vs. MJF & Adam Cole

AEW All Out 2023 Card (So Far)

  • AEW TNT Championship: Luchasaurus vs. Darby Allin
  • Miro vs. Powerhouse Hobbs
Tue, 22 Aug 2023 09:21:00 -0500 en text/html
Killexams : Scrum injury risk in English professional rugby union

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Sat, 18 Jun 2022 03:00:00 -0500 en text/html
Killexams : Tony Khan Confirms Changes to AEW's All In 2023 Card Are Coming

AEW's biggest show in history will undergo some last-minute changes.

Tony Khan discussed AEW's upcoming All In 2023 pay-per-view at Wembley Stadium in London, England, during a media conference call on Tuesday. While the record-breaking event will be AEW's largest event in its young history, the card isn't entirely set in stone a mere five days out. He specifically mentioned that the Young Bucks vs. FTR AEW World Tag Team Championship match is still on as of now, despite Cash Wheeler's accurate arrest. He also pointed out that Bryan Danielson (who was rumored for a match with Kenny Omega), Jamie Hayter and PAC were all originally penciled in for major matches on the show but those plans had to be scrapped due to injuries. 

"There will probably be some other changes to the card, necessitated by things happening in the real world," Khan explained. "Stuff in some cases, stuff that nobody's fault, but stuff that is not related to the world of professional wrestling and I am going to try to work through this week to make it as strong as possible with (plans that will ) actually making the card hopefully better than it has been. But yeah, there will be changes to the card. I plan to add something and I might have to make some changes in the body of the card stands right now, but they're not substantive changes that will change the quality of the show. And I'm very glad that, the big matches are in such a good position right now. And also to be honest, I think you're gonna have to stay tuned. And then after you see some changes, I, you know, whether it's in the scrum after the pay per view or whatever, I can talk to you more about when and why I decided to do those. But it's not like they were things that even a week or two I knew about or was expecting, to have to change. And, that's part of pro wrestling."

Below is what the All In card currently looks like. What changes do you think are on the way? Let us know your predictions in the comments! 

AEW All In 2023 Card (As of Now)

  • AEW World Championship: MJF vs. Adam Cole
  • AEW "Real" World Championship: CM Punk vs. Samoa Joe
  • AEW World Tag Team Championships: FTR vs. The Young Bucks
  • AEW Women's World Championship: Hikaru Shida vs. Toni Storm vs. Saraya vs. Dr. Britt Baker
  • Will Ospreay vs. Chris Jericho
  • Kenny Omega, Hangman Page & Kota Ibushi vs. Konosuke Takeshita, Jay White & Juice Robinson
  • Darby Allin & Sting vs. Swerve Strickland & AR Fox (Coffin Match)
  • Eddie Kingston, Orange Cassidy, Best Friends & Lucha Brothers vs. Blackpool Combat Club (Jon Moxley, Claudio Castagnoli & Wheeler Yuta) & TBA (Stadium Stampede Match)
  • (Zero Hour) ROH World Tag Team Championships: Aussie Open vs. MJF & Adam Cole

AEW All Out 2023 Card (So Far)

  • AEW TNT Championship: Luchasaurus vs. Darby Allin
  • Miro vs. Powerhouse Hobbs
Tue, 22 Aug 2023 06:42:00 -0500 en text/html
Killexams : 'Smokescreen': Kevin Costner's Estranged Wife Demands Actor Turn Over 'Yellowstone' Contract in $400 Million Divorce Battle No result found, try new keyword!Kevin Costner’s estranged wife has accused the Yellowstone hunk of being “evasive” about his financial assets in the bitter divorce battle over his $400 million fortune, can ... Tue, 22 Aug 2023 11:38:00 -0500 en-us text/html Killexams : The Comebacker

The day was cold, cold even for August in San Francisco. As Lionel walked over the Lefty O’Doul Bridge, the wind seemed to be coming from every direction—the Pacific, the bay, the brackish creek underfoot. And with every step, Lionel’s left shoe squeaked, an especially maddening thing, given that he’d just had them resoled. For years he’d passed a subterranean shoemaker’s shop, thinking it would be old-timey and fun to engage the ancient Romanian proprietor in some project. Finally Lionel had entered the man’s tiny shop and asked him to resole his favorite leather shoes, so soft they felt like moccasins. The whole encounter had been as quaint and satisfying as expected, until Lionel retrieved the shoes a week later and found that the left one now let out a cartoonish squeak with every footfall.

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When Lionel went back to the shoemaker, the old man shrugged. “Some shoes squeak,” he said.

Lionel had learned to walk on the edge of his left foot. This decreased the sound, but gave him a worrying gait. People at the stadium had begun asking him about it.

Lionel covered the Giants for the Examiner—the home games at least. The paper didn’t have the budget to send him on the road. The season was effectively over anyway; the team had no chance at the playoffs, and the mood in the clubhouse was dour. Not that the players were so garrulous in winning, either. Sydney Coletti saw to that.

Brought in to head the media-relations department, she’d drilled the players on verbal discipline, and day after day, they dispensed word clusters that made sense but said nothing: “Trying to contribute.” “Just focused on getting the win.” “Great team effort.” “Happy to be here.”

Sydney strode around the stadium in beautiful suits, sunglasses embedded in her raven hair. As if aware of her imperious affect, she often brought in treats—candy, cupcakes, huge bars of artisanal chocolate. She was polished and warm, but had no qualms about limiting access if a reporter crossed her. So Lionel had traded candor for access, and loathed himself for it.

“Nice work, Lionel,” Sydney said when she approved of something he’d written. It was a terrible thing, to be praised this way.

“Get me sticky,” Lionel’s editor, Warren, demanded.

The problem was that when a player said something even vaguely sticky—Warren’s word for memorable, colorful, controversial—the sportswriters pounced, and often the player paid the price. Apologies followed, and lost endorsement deals, diminished love from fickle fans, a requested trade, a new team. That, or a player could just keep his mouth shut.

Squeak, squeak, squeak.

Lionel entered at the stadium’s media gate and made his way through the dim hallways to the locker room, where he showed his lanyard to Gregorio, the security guard.

“Hannah beat you,” he said.

“Beat me how?” Lionel said, thinking it could be any of 10, 12 ways. There she was, interviewing Hector Jiménez.

Hannah Tanaka was technically his competition, in that she wrote for the Chronicle, the larger of the two valiant locals. But from the time he’d started on the Giants beat, she’d done everything humanly possible to help Lionel—introducing him to every staffer at the stadium, sharing every tip and data point—and he’d quickly fallen in love with her. She was so steady, so funny; her laugh was raspy, almost lewd.

Squeak, squeak, squeak.

She turned when she heard him. She had her notebook out, and her phone—she had some transcription app that converted everything a player said to text, instantly—but she looked at Lionel and smirked. That smirk! Good lord.

She was married, though, and had two teenage girls, and so every year Lionel had gotten better at disguising his heartache. During the games, they sat next to each other, bantering, complaining, comparing notes, and with every word she said, in her low, clenched-jaw way, he was stung by the great injustice of finding his favorite person, sitting next to her every day, but heading home each day alone.

Lionel looked around. He could talk to the second baseman, Hollis, who had some kind of problem with his heel, but what was the point? Warren wouldn’t give him space for news of another almost-injury to a player on a losing team.

Hannah finished with Jiménez and sidled up to Lionel. “Behold the new guy,” she said, and nodded to a gangly man in the corner. She handed Lionel the day’s media packet and pointed to the relevant paragraph about a middle reliever, Nathan Couture, being called up from AAA Sacramento. “Get him before Sydney puts the muzzle on,” Hannah said.

The man in the corner was holding the sleeves of his uniform apart, apparently dumbfounded to find his own name, COUTURE, stitched to the back of a Giants jersey.

“Nathan?” Lionel asked.

The pitcher turned around and smiled. His teeth were small, and he was missing his left canine; it gave him a look of youthful incompletion. He had a narrow, pockmarked face and a weak chin. A wispy mustache overhung his stern, chapped lips.

“First time in the majors?” Lionel asked.

“Indeed,” Nathan said.

That word—it wasn’t heard so much in a locker room. Lionel wrote “indeed” in his notebook, and then asked the most inane, and most common, query in sports. “How does it feel?” It hurt to utter the words.

But Nathan nodded and inhaled and exhaled expansively through his nostrils, as if this was the most provocative question he’d ever heard.

“When I got the call, just yesterday, I was elated,” Nathan said.

Lionel heard an accent. Rural. Southeastern maybe. Georgia? He wrote down “Elated” and underlined it.

“The drive from Sacramento was a fever dream,” Nathan continued. “The scenery rushed by like meltwater. And then to get here, to this cathedral, to warm up, and to meet these men at the top of their craft”—he swept his arm around the room, now filled with a dozen or so players in towels and jockstraps; one was jiggling his leg, as if to awaken it—“and to be welcomed by them without condition, and now to see my name on this shirt … I have to say, it’s sublime.”

Lionel wrote and underlined “sublime.” He looked around to see if he was being pranked. But no one was listening; no one was near.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t get your name,” Nathan said, and extended his hand. Lionel introduced himself, and found that Nathan was examining his face with a friendly but jarring intensity. He rested his eyes on Lionel’s notebook. “Do you take shorthand?” he asked.

Lionel’s handwriting was a chaotic mix of cursive and all caps—a madman’s scrawl. “No, no,” he said. “This is just my personal code, I guess.”

In four years, no player had ever asked even the vaguest question about Lionel’s process or profession.

“I assume you’ll call me a journeyman,” Nathan said.

Lionel had just written that exact word. He quickly crossed it out.

“Don’t, don’t,” Nathan said. “I like the word, and for me it’s apt. And removed from baseball, it’s a good word, don’t you think? Journey-man. I know not everyone loves it, since it implies a kind of purgatory just below success, but in isolation, the word has a simple beauty to it, right? How could you not want to be called a journey-man?”

Lionel looked at the word he’d obliterated. “I guess so.” He circled it. When he glanced up again, Nathan was looking down at him with priestly interest.

“Did you dream of this work as a boy?” he asked.

Lionel couldn’t speak. He returned to the assumption that this was a prank. He looked around. No one looked back.

“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t probe like that,” Nathan said, and laid a hand on Lionel’s shoulder. “I just had the sudden awareness that the two of us are in the enviable, even surreal position of living out our most impossible dreams. The fact that we aren’t digging ditches or mining coal—that I’m paid to play a game and you’re paid to watch a game and tell people what you see—it seems, in a world of sadness and misfortune, to be a thing of great luck. Don’t you think?”

Lionel watched the game in a daze. He sat in the press box, Hannah on his right. On his left was Marco DaSilva, in his mid-20s, round-shouldered and stat-obsessed, and for some reason doing AM radio, where the average listener was 76. Lionel read, and reread, his notes, while hoping Nathan Couture would be called in to pitch.

“Interesting guy?” Hannah asked.

“His numbers are shit,” Marco said.

It was not right to withhold anything from them, but Lionel kept the strange interview to himself. The Giants lost badly and Nathan didn’t play, and somewhere along the way, Hannah, bored by Lionel’s distracted state, moved to sit next to Marco, and made a show of having an especially good time with this new seating arrangement.

Lionel wrote up the game, but because Nathan hadn’t been a factor, it made no sense to include him. He’d play sooner or later, Lionel figured, at which point he could get him into a story. Maybe Warren would let him do a profile. Or maybe not. Warren didn’t generally like human-interest stories.

That night, Lionel went online, searching for Nathan Couture. His hometown was Thomasville, Alabama. He was 28 and had never been to college. His statistics were unremarkable in every way, which meant he was unlikely to remain in the majors for any stretch of time. He was both average and old. A mediocre pitcher who was happy to be in the bigs, and who asked about Lionel’s work and method? What was he thinking?

Nathan was sent back to Sacramento the next day.

Lionel wrote up his summaries of the games that week, printing the players’ inanities, and Sydney baked white-chocolate brownies, which were exceptional.

“I don’t like her baking, actually,” Marco said. He and Hannah and Lionel were watching batting practice on another cool August afternoon.

“Her cookies are brittle,” Hannah said. Lionel hadn’t thought about Sydney’s cookies that way before, but they were definitely on the crumbly side. Soon the three of them had turned on all the food in the stadium. The garlic fries, which had been so crisp last season, were now less crisp, and the little pepperonis on the pizzas had dropped a few notches.

“Remember when they were sort of curly?” Lionel asked.

The gates of complaint were now open. The architects of the park, they agreed, had not allotted enough elevators, so the writers often had to wait—sometimes many minutes—to get from the field to the press box.

“And the paper towels!” Marco said suddenly, tragically.

In the bathrooms closest to the press box, the paper-towel dispensers had been replaced by air dryers, which they all agreed were too loud.

“Well,” Marco said, his voice weary, “I guess we should go inside and get the lineup for tonight.”

Lionel grabbed the copy Sydney had put in his cubby and saw Nathan’s name. He felt a flutter of excitement that embarrassed him.

“Couture is back,” Hannah said, and Lionel nodded, giving away nothing.

The game began, and by the sixth inning, with the Giants up 5–0, it was highly unlikely they would need Nathan. He was the third or fourth middle reliever on the roster, and the starter was still soaring.

But the Padres hacked a series of singles into shallow left and right, and suddenly it was 5–3, then 5–4. The manager made his way to the mound and took the ball, and the starter walked to the dugout, head low and muttering. Lionel looked to the bullpen to see who would emerge.

When Nathan stepped out, he waited on the warning track, taking a long breath. He walked onto the grass like it was the first step of a royal staircase, and then broke into a steady trot. The rest of his entrance and preparations were routine. He kicked the dirt and took his warm-up pitches. His face appeared on the massive outfield screen, in a goofy photo, and 20,000 fans wondered, idly, who he was. Then, without fuss, he struck out the first batter with three pitches.

“Damn,” Marco said, and typed feverishly for a while. Lionel assumed he was looking for some numerical context for what had just happened.

The next batter hit a rope toward left. Winebrenner, the third baseman, knocked it down but bobbled it, and there was a runner on first.

When the third man up hit a dribbler to second, Hollis fielded it—clumsily—and flipped it to the shortstop, who stepped on second and threw to first for a double play.

“Okay,” Hannah said. “Okay.” For Hannah, this was high praise.

Next inning, Nathan took care of the first three batters in much the same way—with crafty pitch selection and pinpoint placement. When the third hitter fouled a ball high, Nathan ran after it, briefly confusing the first baseman, who waved him off and caught it.

Between innings, Hannah took a cryptic call.

“Huh,” she said. Apparently Hollis, the second baseman, was getting an MRI. The heel that had been bothering him was now shot. Something had happened during that double play.

More experienced pitchers closed out the eighth and ninth, and that was that. The Giants won, 5–4. Down in the locker room, the early word on Hollis’s heel was bad. Warren would not want the story of Nathan Couture, not on the night the starting second baseman got injured. Lionel wandered over to Nathan anyway. Most of the players had showered already, but Nathan was still in his uniform.

“Is that corny?” Nathan asked. “I wanted to savor it a bit longer.”

Hollis seesawed into the room on crutches and the reporters swarmed. The professional thing to do would be to go over and hear from the player who’d won four Gold Gloves and was being paid $12 million. But Lionel stayed with Nathan.

“I noticed you paused when you first stepped out,” he said.

“I did,” Nathan said. “I assume you want to know how it felt?”

Lionel smiled and licked the tip of his pen theatrically.

“It was big,” Nathan said.

Lionel wrote down “It’s big” and for a moment, he wondered if Nathan’s earlier eloquence had been a fluke.

“Kidding, Lionel. Truly, I think it’s a happy, wholly irrational spectacle,” he said. “Don’t you think? I mean—”

“Hold on,” Lionel said, and scrambled for his tape recorder.

Nathan took a deep breath. “I mean, those upper-deck seats are probably 200 feet up. Think of it. Twenty-five thousand people were here tonight, some of them sitting 200 feet in the air, to see men play as silly a game as has ever been conjured. Balls and bats and bases—all of it perfected and professionalized, sure, but essentially childish and irrelevant. And to serve it, to celebrate it, this billion-dollar coliseum is built. People come 100 miles to watch it under 1,000 lights. When you and I first met, it was a day game, a completely different atmosphere. At night the stadium takes on the look of deep space. The sky is so black, the lights so white, illuminating a surreal sea of green. When you jog out there, as I did, in the dark, it feels, briefly, like you’re in a spaceship, approaching a new planet.”

Hector Jiménez, the catcher whose locker was next to Nathan’s, had begun listening, and was giving Nathan a disapproving look.

“There was some confusion over that foul ball,” Lionel said, and already Nathan was nodding.

“First of all,” he said, “that ball was rightfully Gutierrez’s, but it started out over my head, and that northeast wind took it toward the first-base line. So I had it in my sights, but then it evaporated. I mean, it ceased to be!”

Lionel caught Jiménez’s eye. He looked alarmed, horrified.

“And for a long moment,” Nathan continued, “as I searched the void for the ball, I thought, I’ve caught a million balls. How could I lose this one? And then I thought, Why am I here? Where are my legs? Are my arms still raised? Why can’t I see? The sky was so black, and this solid thing, this baseball, had utterly disappeared in it! So I wondered if the ball had been real, and if I was real, if anything was real.”

Jiménez tossed his gear into his duffel and zipped it loudly.

“Then I smelled roast beef!” Nathan said, and laughed loudly, placing his hand on Lionel’s shoulder. “I thought, Is that roast beef I smell? Who brought roast beef to the ballpark? Then Gutierrez yelled, ‘Move, kid, I got it!’ and my eyes swung toward him. As they did, I saw the blur of 1,000 faces in the stands beyond first. Then he caught the ball.”

Jiménez walked away. Seconds later, Sydney appeared. She always grew suspicious when interviews ran long.

“Everything good over here?” she asked.

“Fine,” Lionel said, but the interview was over.

Lionel had to wait a few days for the drama of Hollis’s injury to play out before asking Warren for some space in the paper to profile Nathan. Warren had zero interest in it, especially since Nathan hadn’t played again. But then one day an ad dropped out, so on page 23, Lionel was allotted six column inches to introduce “Nathan Couture, Pitcher With Unique Outlook.” He did little more than print the two long quotes he’d gotten from Nathan before Sydney had hustled him away, but the article made an impression.

“You have to play me that tape,” Hannah said, clearly dubious.

All the reporters wanted to talk to Nathan, but Nathan was suddenly unavailable. Sydney felt they’d dodged a bullet in having this eccentric Alabaman talk and talk and somehow avoid a catastrophic mistake. She would not risk it again. But then she said she would.

“The owner insisted on it,” Warren said.

The octogenarian owner of the team had evidently read Lionel’s article, and was an immediate fan of Nathan’s. He wanted Nathan in games, and wanted Nathan to talk, as much as he could, before and after games. The owner, viewed as an eccentric himself (though from Kansas), was assumed to be not long for this world. Three days after Nathan’s first outing, he pitched the eighth inning of another tight game, and again he held his own, and the Giants won. This time, he had to bat, and actually stroked a line drive into Triples Alley. Against the wishes of the first-base coach, Nathan rounded first base and was easily tagged out at second. It made for a comical and eventful inning, and the home crowd went berserk.

Afterward, a scrum of reporters surrounded him, and Lionel, who had unwisely waited for the elevator, found himself in the third ring. He felt oddly proprietary, even jilted. He wanted, to a degree that filled him with shame, some kind of acknowledgment from Nathan that he was different, that he had been first.

Nathan looked around and smiled broadly. “Well, this is extraordinary.”

Hannah was closest. “General thoughts, Mr. Couture?”

Nathan stared at the ceiling for a while, as if peeling back the many layers of the query, then rested his eyes upon her.

“First I thought about the smell of the grass,” he said. “They cut it today, so the smell was fresh and just a bit sour, as newly cut grass is. There’s something both wet and dry at the same time, both dead and alive. I inhaled a bit longer than usual, wanting to take everything in, and I saw four men, all gray-haired, arm in arm in the stands, posing for a picture. Then the Jumbotron showed a picture of the same men, as teenagers, at a ball game. Same four guys, same pose, just 50-odd years ago. And I had the feeling that the four of them, whenever they stand side by side like that, probably feel invincible.”

“Nathan, I—”

Another reporter broke in, thinking Nathan was finished. But Lionel knew he wasn’t.

“Then I saw a seagull. Maybe you did too? It hovered over home plate for a moment, maybe 20 feet up. Under the lights it looked like a tiny angel. I wondered what brought this bird, alone, to the ballpark. No doubt he hoped he might come across some discarded chips or fries, but the risk is considerable, too. Wouldn’t the lights, and 30,000 people, be daunting? But then again, he can fly. Is anything daunting when you can fly? And briefly I thought about the nature of flight. I do think there will come a time when humans can fly more or less as birds do, and I wondered how that would affect our idea of freedom. Will anyone ever feel constrained, spiritually or materially, if they can fly?”

Lionel wrote down “If we can fly.”

“And then it was time to pitch,” Nathan said. There was scattered laughter, and the exchange of looks. Nathan was stranger in person than he had been in Lionel’s article. A dozen hands went up.

“Oh jeez,” Nathan said. “I just went on and on. And you probably have so many other players to talk to. Why don’t we do a speed round? Deal?”

Someone in front asked, “What was it like to get your first hit?”

“If you remember,” Nathan said, “I fouled off the first two pitches. And fouling a ball off is like every mistake you make in life: You put everything you’ve got into a task, and if it’s just a little wrong, it’s wrong enough to make the whole effort a waste of time. The ball goes nowhere, or worse than nowhere. But when the barrel of the wooden bat hits the ball just so—you feel nothing. There’s no resistance. Nothing at all. The ball leaps into the sky. The struggle is gone.”

Marco edged in. “Nathan, the average spin rate of your four-seamer is solid, at 2320, putting you ninth among middle relievers, but tonight, your average for the last three batters was 2090. Do you have a plan to address that?”

As Marco talked, Nathan’s face slackened, his eyes glazed, and when Marco was finished, he said, “Honestly, Marco, I have no ever-loving idea.”

A balding man in a baby-blue sweat suit raised his hand. It was Tom Verlo, from the L.A. Times. He’d likely come upstate to throw a bit of cold water on San Francisco’s new attraction.

“Can you tell us about running?” he asked. “You looked a bit rusty.”

“Was it as bad as I’m thinking it was?” Nathan said, and flashed an enormous and spectacularly awkward smile. “You know, as natural as it was when I hit that ball, running was the opposite. I felt like I was running in 1,000-year-old armor. By the time I got to second, the ball was in the second baseman’s glove. He was waiting for me like a groom would a bride. When he tagged me out, I was so relieved, I wanted to fall into his arms.”

Tom smiled. “On the broadcast, it looked like he said something to you.”

“He did. He said, ‘Mijo, now you can rest.’ ” Nathan looked at the clock on the wall. “We should hurry. Superspeed round now.”

“What does it sound like when a ball is caught?” a young web reporter asked.

“When I was a kid in Alabama, my grandfather lived in the backyard, in a little cottage. Every night after dinner, I would walk back to his place with him, and he would kiss me on the crown of my head and say, ‘Adieu.’ Then he would close the door, and the sound of his door closing would be a muffled, wet, and decisive click. That’s what it sounds like when a ball is caught. Like the click of the door to my grandfather’s home.”

Nathan looked at the clock. “Okay, one last one? I see you, Lionel.”

Lionel, standing in the back, was happy for Nathan, and for the moment felt unnecessary. He shook his head.

That was the game, and the interview, that broke Nathan Couture into the national media. The next day, and for the following week, he was everywhere. ESPN did a segment, and Jimmy Kimmel had him on his show. With Sydney offering Nathan freely to all, the only thing Lionel could do was go to Phoenix.

Nathan’s parents, though they’d raised Nathan in Alabama, had moved to Arizona, and Warren green-lit a longer profile. In a stolen moment before a game, Lionel told Nathan he was thinking of going, and Nathan gave his blessing. “I trust you,” he said.

“Thank you,” Lionel said.

“You report accurately and you listen carefully,” he said.

“I try,” Lionel said.

“They are tremendous people,” Nathan said. “Immeasurably charming. You’ll love them, and they you. I’m envious that you get to see them. I’ll call ahead and let them know I vouch for you.”

Lionel arrived at a comfortable ranch house 20 minutes from downtown Phoenix. A pickup truck was out front, and next to it, a small fishing boat rested on a trailer. Lionel rang the bell, and when the door opened, a thin couple in their late 60s stood before him, arms around each other’s waists. Jim and Dot, short for Dorothy.

“Lionel,” Jim said.

“I took the liberty of pouring you a glass of ice water,” Dot said.

Lionel followed them in. He walked on the side of his left foot, but the squeaking was clearly audible. Lionel guessed, correctly, that they would be too polite to mention it.

“Come sit,” Jim said, and indicated a plush leather recliner in the living room. It was almost surely Jim’s TV chair, and Lionel took the honor given. Nathan’s parents sat to his right, on a matching couch.

“Nathan speaks highly of you,” Dot said.

“He does,” Jim agreed.

Lionel got his notebook out and looked around the room. He’d expected a house full of books, but saw few. There were no trophies, either—no shrine to their son, the professional baseball player. An enormous TV dominated one wall. Next to it were two photos, from middle school, he guessed. One was clearly Nathan. The other was a girl, younger by a year or two, who shared a version of Nathan’s goofy smile. But there was something knowing, even sardonic, in her eyes.

“So how does it feel,” Lionel asked, “with Nathan becoming this …” He almost said “curiosity” but instead chose “phenomenon.”

“Oh, it’s been so nice,” Dot said.

“He worked hard,” Jim said. “Deserves it.”

Lionel smiled, thinking they were warming up. But they were done. Dot held her glass of water with two hands and smiled at Lionel in a motherly way. Lionel looked down at his notebook.

“So outside his skill as a pitcher,” he said, “one of the things that’s gotten Nathan noticed is his way with words. Was he always loquacious?”

Dot winced. She looked to Jim. Jim chewed his cheek.

“I read your first article,” Dot said. “When you had him saying ‘Indeed,’ right away I thought, That’s the comebacker.” She pointed to her temple.

“He was never, you know, book smart,” Jim added. “That was his sister.”

“Never read a book unless you tied him down,” Dot said.

“He didn’t talk a whole lot,” Jim said, “and when he did, he did it in a regular way. He was all laser-focused. That’s how his coaches described him.”

“Single-minded. Then the comebacker happened,” Dot said.

“I’m sorry. The comebacker?” Lionel asked.

“Well, he was hit by a comebacker,” Jim said, sounding surprised that Lionel didn’t know. “In Sacramento. It was on the radio up there.”

“We were at the game,” Dot said. “It was awful. Nathan threw a fastball to a very big guy, I think he was from Nevada, and this guy hit the ball right back at him a million miles an hour. Hit him right here.” Again she pointed to her temple.

“From our angle, it looked awful,” Jim amended. “But later we saw it on tape, and it was more of a … It sorta grazed his head. The doctor checked him out and said he was okay. Nathan felt okay too. He pitched the rest of the inning and did fine. But then he took us out for dinner afterward, and it was like talking to some other person.”

“He had a $10 word for everything,” Jim said. “He said the wine was ‘unafraid.’ I remember that. The wine was ‘unafraid.’ That was new.”

“He did say that. He said a lot of things,” Dot said.

“He talked a lot that night,” Jim added. “We flew home the next morning, and a few days later, he gets called up to the Giants. Which is when you met him.”

“We figured the new way of talking was some temporary thing,” Dot said. “But then your article comes out, and he’s still talking this way—‘indeed’ this and ‘glorious’ that.”

“His sister talked like that. She was the reader.”

Lionel was afraid to ask.

“She passed young,” Dot said, and leaned forward, her hands on her knees. “It was a tumor. When they found it, it was too big.”

Jim cleared his throat. “Anyway. With Nathan, when he was talking like that, we put it together. It had to be the comebacker.”

Dot was nodding steadily, her eyes locked on Lionel. “Like something got knocked loose, and whatever was clogged up in there came pouring out. Sometimes people get hit in the head and start speaking another language.”

Jim nodded enthusiastically. “French, Portuguese, Turkish. But it seems like it’s usually French.”

By the time Lionel left, the impossible heat of paved Arizona had relented. He drove with the windows open, the red sunset behind him. He got back to the hotel and checked his messages. One was from Hannah.

“Sorry about your boy,” she said. “You probably know more than I do. Call if you want to compare notes.”

Lionel looked online and found a short blip about it. Nathan had been pitching in Cleveland when he blew out his arm. He left the park in a sling.

The professional thing for Lionel to do would be to return to Nathan’s parents’ home and get their reaction. But he couldn’t bring himself to bother them, and was so shattered that he sat on the bed and stared at the wall for the better part of an hour. Finally he got to his feet and drove his rental car to the airport.

Back in San Francisco, Lionel waited for news. For two days Nathan wasn’t at the park, and no one had updates. Finally a press conference was called.

The room was full. Lionel sat at the back. The team doctor came out and said they’d done an MRI and consulted with the best specialists in the city. Nathan would need surgery, and even after that, the prognosis was not good. “I can’t promise anything,” the doctor said.

And then Nathan walked in, wearing a coat and tie, his arm in a sling. He sat down. He looked warmly out at the throng of reporters, but before he could begin, Tom from the L.A. Times walked in late. “What’s the prognosis?” he asked.

The room groaned, but as always, Nathan treated the question with great decorum.

“If I were still 18,” he said, “I might be able to get the surgery. Then, in 10 or 12 months, I could return, though with reduced capacity. But I’m almost 30, so there is no way back. Even if I did every last thing right, I’d be, at best, a single-A player. And an old one at that.”

Hannah was in the front row. She raised her hand.

“Hi, Hannah,” Nathan said. “I’m guessing you’d like to know how it feels?”

She laughed and lowered her hand.

“It’s a good question. At the moment, I’m still stunned. Numb. I have to admit my imagination had gotten away from me, and I saw great glory ahead. I was looking forward to the rest of the season, to seasons to come, to the lights, all those people sitting 200 feet in the sky to watch this game. It’s over sooner than I expected, for sure. So for the moment, I’m adrift. Don’t you cry now, Hannah.” He looked around the table for tissues. “All we have up here is water. Here,” he said, and poured her a tall glass from the pitcher. And as he did, time slowed. Every reporter in the room watched closely, as if they’d never before seen water move from one vessel to another.

Nathan sat down again, and called on Lionel.

“Did you have any warning?” Lionel asked.

“You know, my friend, I really didn’t. I felt good that day in Cleveland. But it’s probably like any other thing. How can a sequoia withstand a thousand years of earthquakes and fires and wind, and finally, one day, it just falls? One afternoon, a gust comes and it gives up.” Nathan stood. “I’ll miss you all. Hope I see you here or there or somewhere in between. Goodbye now.”

Lionel walked onto King Street, trying to figure out how to shape the story, or if he should bother. He still hadn’t written about his time with Nathan’s parents; his heart wasn’t in it. When he turned the corner at Third Street, heading home, he felt a presence next to him.

“Caught up to you!” It was Nathan, out of breath. “I tried to find you at the park, and then was wandering around the neighborhood, hoping to run into you. I know you live around here. Then I heard the squeaking.”

They ducked into a burrito place. Lionel tried to order margaritas for them both, but Nathan declined. “I don’t know why my mind is working the way it does now, but I don’t want to mess with it.” He ordered a lemonade.

Lionel ordered a lemonade too, and they sat by the window facing the park. “Your parents told me about the comebacker,” he said.

“Yeah, I figured,” Nathan said. “Funny thing is, I don’t feel different, and I don’t see differently than I ever did before. I’ve always noticed the same things, but I guess that now I have the need, and maybe the words, to describe it.

“My sister was the eloquent one,” he continued after a pause. “My parents mention her?”

“A little bit,” Lionel said.

For a second Nathan smiled, as if thinking of her, of something she’d said. “Anyway,” he said, “I’ll be reading you, making sure you get it right.”

“I can do better,” Lionel said suddenly, and Nathan did not argue the point. It was criminal to sit in that park, Lionel thought, with all that color, all that vaulting joy in a world of sadness and misfortune, and not do better.

“You plan to fix the squeak?” Nathan asked.

“I took it back to the shoe guy,” Lionel said, “but he freed himself of any responsibility.”

“Can I?” Nathan asked, and Lionel took off his shoe and handed it to Nathan.

“It has to be an air pocket, right?” Nathan said. Even with one bum arm, he quickly found the pocket and aimed a fork at it. “Can I?” he asked again. Lionel nodded, and Nathan jabbed a strategic hole. “Try it now.”

Lionel put the shoe back on and walked a few steps. The squeak was gone. His relief was immeasurable. “Thank you,” he said.

They finished their lemonades and stepped back into the city. The lights were on in the stadium. Lionel had forgotten there was a home game that night. He turned to Nathan, thinking he’d be wistful, but his eyes were sharp and happy.

“So what will you do now?” Lionel asked.

“I’ve been thinking about that. Are you walking this way?” Nathan was heading toward the water, his gait loose. Lionel followed.

“Maybe you buy that Romanian shoemaker out.”

Nathan laughed. “You know,” he said, “a few years ago, I was in a high-rise in Guangzhou, visiting a friend at his office. Long story. But anyway, this was 42 floors up, and there was a man outside, cleaning the windows. He had one of those wide T-shaped tools for cleaning the glass—like a blade. You know the tool. So simple. He drenched the window with soap, applying it with such liberality. Just soaked this vast window overlooking this limitless city.”

Nathan turned to the towers of downtown San Francisco.

“And then, with the T-shaped blade, he slashed the surface of the glass with the precision and finality of a guillotine. He got every last white sud. As we watched, the view through the window went from muddy to crystalline.”

Lionel couldn’t figure out what the connection was. Nathan wanted to be a businessman in a Chinese high-rise? And how had this minor-league pitcher from Alabama ended up with a friend in Guangzhou?

“So I thought I’d like to do that job,” Nathan said. He meant cleaning the windows. “Not necessarily in Guangzhou, and not forever, but I’d like to try that for a while. I like being outside.”

They’d arrived at the water, and Lionel thought he should get back to the ballpark. He reached out to shake Nathan’s hand. Nathan lowered his sling and took Lionel’s fingers in his.

“Or babies!” he said, still pumping Lionel’s hand. “You know how after babies are born in hospitals, there are nurses who hold the babies while the moms recover from the birth? How do you get that job?”

Nathan released Lionel’s hand and began backing away, toward the South Beach marina, where hundreds of white masts looked like lances aimed at the night.

“Imagine holding babies all day!” Nathan said. “Wouldn’t that be a worthwhile life? So tomorrow I’m going down to the maternity ward to find out who gets to hold the babies. I want to hold all those babies before they go home.”

This story appears in the September 2023 print edition.

Fri, 11 Aug 2023 23:00:00 -0500 en text/html
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