The Human Rain Delay was first captured in cardboard in this 1975 Topps offering. He’s not mentioned as such anywhere on the card. I’m guessing this nickname wasn’t yet in existence but rather gathered momentum gradually as the player’s approach in the batter’s box became more familiar to everyone. Obviously someone had to first coin the term at a particular moment in time, but the coining surely came after an accrual of moments over the years, everyone becoming more aggrieved by Hargrove’s deliberate batting box routine, the touching of this and the tugging of that, everyone finding themselves wishing, with growing exasperation, that he just get on with it, but Hargrove himself holding fast to the conviction that this is the one and only moment there is. What’s the rush?
The other night I woke up from sleep and looked straight into death. There’s some kind of a chemical in your brain that keeps you from staring straight into death most of the time, but it’s in short supply in the middle of the night. Every so often throughout my whole life, all the way back to when I was the kid first looking at these cards, I’ve woken to the unmitigated reality that in a short while this will be gone forever. There’s nothing to be done to ward it off.
I never liked Superman. Have I ever mentioned that? Probably. I’ve mentioned everything at least once in this ongoing attempt to ward off with words what can’t be warded off. I don’t get the appeal, honestly. He’s impervious to everything and can do anything. The whole scenario seems to be without any frailty, a fascist daydream of inhuman invulnerability. Give me instead the Human Rain Delay. Now there’s a superhero I could get behind. He’d be a somewhat somber, cerebral cousin of the Storms, that brother-sister duo forming half of the Fantastic Four, the combination of the mortal world and the elements in his name similar to The Human Torch, and his dubious collection of relatively flimsy “superpowers” most closest in the superhero world to Sue, the “Invisible Girl,” who—presumably due to her origin in the mind of a fantasizing misogynist—didn’t possess any strength or the ability to shoot fire or lasers or harm any man in any way but could turn invisible and create invisible shields and cushions for the fellows should they be, say, blasted out of the sky by Dr. Doom. He probably would never rate his own series but might get called into the fray occasionally and in marginal ways during the sprawling ongoing saga of the Marvel foursome as they continually faced down total global annihilation. His only power would be to cause some minor annoyances. He’d have, I don’t know, keen eyesight, good judgment. He and the Thing would have some kind of a running dialogue, the latter always wanting to roll into calamitous action with his trademark bellow, “It’s clobbering time!” and his rock-hands balled into building-crushing fists, and The Human Rain Delay, on the other hand, quietly but in an enervating adenoidal monotone, advocating patience. Ultimately, his counsel would be ignored, and his modest collection of tics and mannerisms, his so-called powers, would prove as irrelevant as words in the seemingly unstoppable wave of destruction hurtling toward the Fantastic Four and by extension all of humanity. But maybe for a little while he could sort of slow things down a little.
A few days before I woke up and stared straight into death, I went down a hill backwards on a sled. It was Christmas Day. I’d been going down a hill in a blue plastic sled with my older son, Jack, for an hour or two, him in front and me in the back. My other son and my wife and her family were back at my wife’s parents’ house.
“It’s getting to be time to go,” I said. “One more.”
“Seven more,” Jack said. He’s five. He never wants anything to end.
“How about two more?”
We haggled for a while, finally settling on four, with the requirement, per Jack, that each one be “crazy.” We went down the hill with me lying down on my stomach and him on top of me; with our eyes closed; on our knees; and, finally, backwards. The last one was my favorite. The laughs whooped up out of me like they haven’t since childhood, and then I was in a snowy heap, and then I was staring into my son’s beaming, laughing face. Time stopped.