Big John barely fit his belly through the opening as he emerged from the manhole in the middle of Ridgewood Avenue. In his bright orange jumpsuit he resembled the sun rising out of a dark-hued sea.
“Hey, Stu,” he shouted in a surprisingly high-pitched tone. “Ya gonna play some ball tonight?”
It struck people in Ridgewood as incongruous when a suit-clad attorney was seemingly accosted on the street by the most conspicuous representative of the sewer department. But after fifteen years of playing softball on Big John’s team, I was not alarmed.
It all began in the summer of ’83 when I was new to town. I took a walk in the municipal park one weekend, tidy in my white alligator shirt and tennis shoes. A bear of a man dressed insanely in black, given the heat, shouted in my direction from the middle of a softball diamond.

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