BY: MARY JANE BRYAN
Due to unusual circumstances, when Misee Sue makes a “miracle” catch, allowing her high school baseball team to win the state championship, no one sees it. Everyone thinks she’s lying—there was no way she could have caught it. The title goes to the other team. Parents, her “soul mate,” all the townspeople in this small community totally ignore and shun her, including during graduation. After a week, she cannot stand the hurt and betrayal any longer and drives away to a friend in another town, never to return. Then a farmer comes home from a week-long vacation, raving about the catch he saw Misee Sue make. The championship is overturned and Misee Sue’s team wins the title. Everyone runs to find Misee Sue, now convinced she was telling the truth. But the knowledge is bittersweet. It’s too late. She is gone.
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In The Catch of Misee Sue by Mary Jane Bryan, Misee Sue Stone is a high school senior who is playing center field in the championship baseball game when she makes a miraculous catch behind a bush, winning the game. But because it was behind the bush, no one sees it. So no one believes her. They think she is lying in order to win the game, and the other team gets the championship. So the whole town shuns her, even her own family—all except her sister, Kia—as well as her soul mate, whom she planned to marry. Devastated by the hurt and betrayal, Misee Sue drives away and disappears just hours before an eyewitness appears and verifies her catch. Now everyone in town is sorry, especially her family and her boyfriend, but it does them little good, and there is no one they can blame but themselves. But what happened to Misee Sue?
Well written with marvelous characters, this one is for fans of romance as well fans of family sagas. A great read.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: The Catch of Misee Sue by Mary Jane Bryan is the story of a young woman who is basically honest, but because she makes the normal teenage mistakes, she is not believed at one of the most important times of her life. Misee Sue Stone is eighteen, a senior in high school, a straight-A student, and valedictorian of her high school. She also plays center field on the high school baseball team. In the last game of the year, the playoff for the state championship, Misee Sue makes a miracle catch, winning the game for her school. But because the catch is made behind a bush in centerfield, and because Misee Sue’s arch rival says that Misee Sue had said she would do anything to win the game, no one believes she actually made the catch and the umpire awards the game to the other school. Although Misee Sue has never lied about anything important, just little white lies that all of us tell on occasion, her family is humiliated and they shun her, along with her boyfriend, her best friend, and the rest of the town. Hurt and confused, Misee Sue puts up with this for over a week, then she decides to hell with it. She packs up and leaves home. Then a farmer who has been on vacation since the day after the game, but who saw the catch Misee Sue made, comes home and starts talking about what he saw. Now the whole town knows how wrong they were, but Misee Sue is already gone, never to return.
With wonderful characters that you can’t help but identify with—I am still angry at her hometown—The Catch of Misee Sue will stay with you long after you read the last page. Well done for this talented author.
The ball went high and deep. It seemed to hang in the air forever before starting downward.
Back and around she went, as fast as she could run, which was pretty fast.
She had to run to the back of center field then go around because there was a considerable-sized bush right in the middle of deep center field, about fifteen feet from the out-of-bounds line.
She never took her eye off the ball, even as it disappeared for a split-second behind the bush.
She reached up and over as high as she could. The ball hit against her chest, bounced down into her forearms, which she put together to hold the ball in place, then it rolled down to the edge of her glove, threatening to fall off her hand.
A rapid twist of her wrist brought the ball right inside her glove, but this strange twist of her upper body caused her to lose her balance and fall backward. She fell straight onto her back, landing about one foot from the line.
Although she was short-winded, she held up her glove with the ball in it. Her arm was straight up in the air. She kept it there.
“I caught it! I caught it! I did it! I really did it! We won! We won!”
Latimer Jones was at the back of his barn, hanging up an old halter, when he heard a loud commotion from the ball field. He knew they were playing today, but this was extra noisy. Something important must be happening.
He stepped out the back door of the barn just in time to see the baseball flying through the hair, seemingly directly toward the bush, up and over it.
At the same instant, he saw Misee Sue running as hard as she could toward it, on this side of the bush, never taking her eyes off the ball. She knew where she was going, of course. He couldn’t remember for how many years the kids around here had been playing around this particular bush, so it was second nature for an outfielder to skirt around it in pursuit of the ball.
He saw the ball hit Misee Sue in the chest, bounce around on her forearms, roll down toward the mitt. Then she flicked her wrist and caught it, falling from the twist of her body.
His fist went up in victory.
Good for you, Misee Sue! he thought.
At the same instant, he heard the lowing from his cow at the front of the barn. He turned back inside the barn, closing the door behind him. He locked it and also a second door going into the main area of the barn.
As he walked through the barn to the front, the noise of the ballgame grew fainter and fainter.
But he smiled. He thought, by the sound of things, that Cedarville had obviously won the game with Misee Sue’s miraculous catch. At least, that’s the way he saw it, a miracle catch. One that would only happen in a lifetime, and that one at the most important time it could. Kinda like a reverse Murphy’s Law, he thought.
He talked out loud to his cow as he walked through the barn, so that dampened the noise outside even more.
“Now, Bessie, you know I’m sorry. I had to repair the part that broke on the combine. Took some extra tooling. I know, I know, your udder is totally full, and you don’t like to be kept waiting. I’m coming, just hold your horses!”
He laughed at his own joke.
As he milked his cow, he thought how important this baseball game was to Cedarville. The town hadn’t won a district championship, much less a state championship, ever. And this was what this game was. The state championship game, and against their arch rival, Dover, from two counties over. He thought Dover had won just too many times in the last several years. It was about time someone beat them, and good for Cedarville.
Good for Misee Sue.
Not like back in the day. Latimer played a mean game of baseball back in high school. He thought of games he had forgotten for years. He was the shortstop and a mighty good one until his horse got spooked one day while he was riding and threw him. His knee hit a large rock, split the kneecap, and that knee was never the same again.
There had been talk, by some, about him going on to play ball at college, and then professional ball, but the accident took all that away. Deep down, it was okay with him, though. He really loved the game as a young man, but was not obsessed with playing it enough to want to make it his life’s work.
One other young man his age, though, went on to play in the majors for a few years until he twisted an ankle and, like many others, could not play after that. Drove him to drink, it did, and, to this day, he just drank down at the local bar and talked about his “glory days.”
Latimer had been sensible enough to stay on the farm, and look what he had now. His wife was gone, but two sons and grandsons came at harvest time to help bale the hay, put it up, and sell a good crop, two times a year. His hay was some of the best around these parts.
So, he understood how Misee Sue must be feeling right now. There were those who would not think he kept up with the ball team, but that was not so. Most home games, he went in just at game time, stood at the end of the bleachers, and watched the game. This was his routine for both football and baseball.
Once upon a time, it was to watch his own sons and their friends, now it was to watch the sons and daughters of the friends of his sons, since his two boys had moved away. But he was genuinely interested in watching the games and kept up with which team won which game and the standings.
He smiled as he thought again of Misee Sue’s catch. But his mind went to taking care of this bucket of milk. He had to get his chores finished and get to the house to pack.
His nephew and his wife were coming early in the morning to pick him up. They were going up to Nebraska to visit with his brother and other relatives for a week. He couldn’t drive by himself that long a distance anymore, but the nephew and wife were always calling to invite him to go and didn’t mind him being along.
He thought that was good, some friends his age seemed to be left out of the younger family plans.
He was looking forward to the visit.
Again, he thought, Good for Misee Sue. She would be a heroine. The town would probably give a parade in her honor.
Besides, Misee Sue was a fav of his. Prettiest girl in town and the nicest, too.
Misee Sue was shouting as loud as she could as the left fielder rounded the side of the bush.
All this action had taken place in less than five seconds, just long enough for her to catch the ball behind the bush.
The left fielder was her boyfriend, Clayton. He heard her shouts and saw her flat on her back on the ground at the same time. He stopped short, not sure what he was seeing.
She looked sideways and saw him.
“Clayton, Clayton, I did it! I caught it! Can you believe it?”
She was so excited. She started to rise up, but not before the right fielder and a couple of other players had rounded the other side of the bush.
“No, no, I can’t,” said Marie, the only other girl player on the team. She was the third baseman. She spoke loudly so everyone gathering could hear.
She was jealous of Misee Sue and always had been, ever since first grade, when she moved to town with her grandparents. Probably, if she had been there for kindergarten, the jealousy would have started then.
“What do you mean, you can’t? It was a miracle. I can hardly believe it myself, but I did it!” Misee Sue stressed the words. She was jumping around, still with the baseball in her glove. She ran to Clayton and twirled him around.
“You saw it, didn’t you, Clayton? You were right there, right at the bush. I can’t believe it still!”
She was so ecstatic, knowing that the catch had been the winning catch, that, with this catch, her team had won the state championship for their class, 1-A. For this small town, it would mean the world.
She was so overjoyed that she did not realize that no one else, not even Clayton, was shouting or jumping around, rejoicing with her. She did not realize for several seconds that everyone was just standing there, very still and very quiet, watching her.
She started dancing, twirling around and around. Her cap had fallen off, and one side of her long, blonde hair had escaped its pins. Her hair twirled around her head as she spun. She still had the ball in the glove on her left hand.
Finally, she stopped and looked around. By this time, the other team’s players had arrived, as well as the rest of her team, the umpire, and the coaches.
She was surprised. Why weren’t they jumping around, excited for the win?
“What’s wrong?” she asked. “Why aren’t you shouting? We won! I caught it! The final out for the other team. We’re the state champs!”
But everyone was quiet, still.
What was going on?
“What?” she asked.
A bad feeling hit her in the pit of her stomach.
The umpire spoke first. “Did anyone see the catch?” he asked, as he looked around at the crowd, first to one side of the semi-circle that had formed around Misee Sue, then to the other side.
Several, then more, shook their heads.
“Who was the first to get here? After she said she made the catch, I mean,” the man said.
“I was,” Clayton responded.
He answered almost reluctantly, Misee Sue thought.
The umpire turned toward him. “Did you witness the catch? Can you vouch for this?”
“Uh…well…no, I didn’t. I got here when Misee Sue was on the ground, holding the ball up in the air. She had fallen with it, I guess.”
“Yes, I fell after I caught it,” Misee Sue said. “My body got off balance with how I had to catch the ball in the glove.”
She described, with motions, how the ball hit her chest, and then bounced to her forearms, rolled down them to the edge of her glove, and then she twisted her hand to catch the ball, which threw her left arm to the side, which made her fall.
After she stopped talking, she looked around. No one was smiling. Some were even shaking their heads back and forth, however small.
She didn’t understand this. What was happening?
“If no one saw you catch the ball, since it seemed like an impossible catch, who’s to say you didn’t trap the ball on the ground and pick it up, hold it in the air, and say you caught it?” the umpire asked.
Misee Sue’s head snapped back like she had been slapped. Her eyes went wide.
“Yeah,” Marie interjected, “didn’t you just say two days ago at school that you would do almost anything to win this game? To beat Dover and be the state champions for our division, since it hadn’t happened for forever? I heard you say that, I’m sure others here did, also. Right?”
Marie looked around. Several nodded their heads up and down, including some players on the team.
“But—but—that was just an expression, one that ev-eryone uses, all the time. I wouldn’t lie and say I caught the ball if I didn’t. You know that. I don’t do things like that. Didn’t you hear the ‘almost’ in that expression? You all know me,” she continued, as she gestured around the crowd with her right hand. “I wouldn’t do something like that. Yes, I know it seems like an almost impossible catch, but it happened. I caught it!”
She emphasized the almost. She also heard her voice rising to the next level, which showed her stress and dismay.
The umpire gestured as he spoke. “The way that ball was going, there was no way it could have descended straight down like a catch you’re describing, would allow. No ball, going that fast and high, suddenly plunges downward, just after it clears a bush this tall. The momentum alone would carry it farther back.”
“But it did, and I caught it,” Misee Sue insisted. But she heard her voice give the slightest hesitation this time. “Here it is, in my glove. Still. Just where I caught it. It never touched the ground. Never.”
Suddenly, a player for the Dover team realized the implications of this, what the umpire was going to do. He was going to rule for them, that their two runs to home would provide the win for them.
“We won! We won!” he shouted. He started running around the bush toward the stands, where everyone was still on their feet, waiting for the ruling.
When they saw the player come around the bush shouting, all hell broke loose on the Dover side of the bandstand. People poured out of the stands to greet the other players, who were now running toward home and shouting, jumping around.
The Dover band started playing “Another one Bites the Dust” then “We are the Champions” by Queen, the old standard go-to victory song for all high school marching bands. In this case, it seemed doubly appropriate.
In the meantime, the umpire was continuing. “In light of the obvious facts of the flight of the ball and the fact that no one but you, Misee Sue, can say that you caught the ball before it hit the ground, I have to rule that Dover wins by one run. Sorry,” he said. He turned away.
Misee Sue couldn’t believe what she was hearing. She tried one more time. “I caught it, I really did. You know me. I really would not say I did if I didn’t, not even to win.”
But Marie’s words had done their damage, especially with others remembering Misee Sue really had said that two days ago at school.
She couldn’t believe her eyes when she looked to Clayton for support. Surely, he believed her. She caught his slight head shake. He mouthed the words, “Sorry, not this time.” Clayton was the first one to turn away, push his way through the group that had gathered, leaving her there.
One by one and two by two, the others turned and silently walked away.
There was no joy in Cedarville that day.
If Misee Sue had looked at Marie when Clayton first turned away, she would have seen an evil gleam in her eye and the slightest of smiles on her lips. Marie turned away with the others, not wanting to draw attention to herself.
But Misee Sue’s eyes had been on Clayton alone.
Clayton turning away from her.
Clayton not believing her.
Clayton not walking to her side, sticking up for her, saying he, at least, believed her, even if he had not seen the actual catch.
That was the biggest blow of all.
© 2018 by Mary Jane Bryan