(Mrs.) Jacobs' Ladder
Tara Harper was devastated when her co-worker Brenda Jacobs was felled by a serious heart attack just two weeks before the beginning of the school year.
Tara had been a student at St. Anne's Catholic High School before returning as a teacher so she had known Mrs. Jacobs since she was fourteen - more than twenty years. Mrs. Jacobs had been a memorable teacher when Tara was a student and a good friend when they became coworkers.
Mrs. Jacobs was in her sixties with a forty year teaching career behind her and it was clear that she would not be returning to the classroom anytime soon – if it all – when she was stricken.
Tara visited her mentor several times in the hospital and she learned that Mrs. Jacobs would require follow on surgery for blocked arteries and was facing major lifestyle changes which might include retirement. This was sad news for Tara who looked to Mrs. Jacobs for friendship, support, advice and camaraderie in the teacher ranks. St. Anne's wasn't going to be the same without Mrs. Jacobs!
"You have to promise me one thing," Mrs. Jacobs said to Tara from her hospital bed in the ICU. "Especially if I don't make it."
"Stop, don't talk like that!" Tara protested.
"Promise me that you'll find a man," Mrs. Jacobs insisted. "You're wasting your life, Dear."
"Please don't do this to me, Brenda," Tara pleaded. "Let's just worry about you for now."
"I'm too busy worrying about you!" Mrs. Jacobs replied.
The school hired a last minute replacement before the new semester started. Elliott Logan seemed like a nice enough guy, but Tara found herself resenting him for replacing her idol. The students liked him, however, and they adjusted to their new History and Civics Teacher.
Still, Tara didn't go out of her way to chat with the new guy, hoping that his stint would be short-lived and that Mrs. Jacobs would return – maybe even by Christmas.
St. Anne's was a relatively small Catholic High School and it was easy for the faculty and Staff to interact together. Most welcomed Mr. Logan with friendly and Christian charity and while Tara was polite when their paths crossed in the halls, lunch room, and meetings, she didn't engage the new teacher beyond pleasantries and she was relieved when Mr. Logan got the subtle message not to bother bothering her beyond professional courtesies.
Christmas came and went without the return of Mrs. Jacobs. Tara visited her friend, now home after a couple of surgeries and rehab stints. Mrs. J. had lost a noticeable amount of weight and she looked gaunt and weak. Tara was struck with the realization that her hero would not be returning to St. Anne's.
"I'm not dying, Tara," Mrs. Jacobs assured her when the older woman saw the look of panic and concern on Tara's face. "At least not yet."
"But you're not coming back," Tara realized.
"I'm not coming back," Mrs. Jacobs confirmed. "Which is why you need to find yourself a man sooner rather than later!"
Tara was crushed when she left Mrs. Jacobs house. It wasn't fair that a (relatively) young and (reasonably) handsome Mr. Logan was all settled into the routine as Mrs. Jacobs' replacement. It also annoyed Tara that Mr. Logan made changes to Mrs. Jacobs' classroom and curriculum. Logan was much less strict about traditions and norms and Tara didn't like his low key laid back approach to teaching. Tara wished the guy would disappear and that things would return to normal but she knew that was a fantasy that would never come true.
The school year ended without fanfare and Tara looked forward to her summer break. She enjoyed her down time and she spent her days relaxing, visiting Mrs. Jacobs, reading, doing a little bit of writing, and taking in some Serguci League amateur baseball games at nearby Beano Field.
Tara had been attending games since she was a kid when her older brothers played and she still enjoyed the sport and the setting. Beano Field was a magical place to watch a contest and the talent level of the amateur players was impressive.
Tara was surprised and confused when she saw Mr. Logan in a Beansboro Beansters uniform the first time she saw that team play. She was irritated by his presence, not sure why he had to wreck her summer relaxation and her love for baseball by showing up to play ball.
But he got two hits and made a great catch in right field in the first game Tara saw him play and, as the summer progressed and she followed the stats in the Greenville News and Dispatch, Tara noticed that Logan was among the top ten hitters in the league, even though he was older than most of the other players.
Tara's intrigue and curiosity forced her to speak to Mr. Logan about a month into the season. She waited for him after a game, standing by the gate on the third baseline as he chatted with some of his teammates after losing to the Miller City Mudhens, 10-4.
The Beansters had been a bad team for many years, a sad state of affairs given that the original flagship team of the league was named in honor of local World War II hero Beano Serguci for which the league was formed and the ballpark renamed for.
Logan did a double take when he realized that Tara was waiting for him and he grinned as he approached her.
"Isn't this place great?" He asked, glancing around the ballpark. "Like something out of a sports book."
"It's kind of famous," Tara replied. "They even filmed a movie here about eight years ago with Quinn Blake."
The unexpected ballplayer nodded with approval. "I didn't realize you were a fan until I saw you up there in the stands for many of the games."
'It's a nice way to spend a summer's evening," Tara shrugged.
"You like baseball?"
"I wrote my Masters' thesis on Baseball literature and how it relates to American culture."
"Wow, great," an impressed Logan replied.
"And you play?" She asked.
He motioned for her to have a seat in the third base dugout and he sat next to her. She liked the view of the field from that angle.
"I played at the Naval Academy," The Beanster told her. "Then I floated around in the minors for a few years until I realized I wasn't going anywhere."
"So, you're re-living the dream here?" Tara asked with a touch of sarcasm.
"I just wanted to see if I had anything left," he smirked. "I'm having fun."
"How'd you end up in Blue County?" She wanted to know.
"I briefly served with the now retired Commander Rich Buckley who – in the small world department – is on the St. Anne's school board," Logan explained. "He gave me a call and here I am."
"What were you doing before?"
"A little bit of everything," he said. "I'm still in the Navy Reserves so I get some extended active duty orders," he explained. "When I'm not doing that, I work temp jobs and bounce around from here to there."
"Any regrets?" Tara asked. "About not being good enough?"
Logan laughed. "Hey, I was good enough to play at the Academy and make it to the minors," he said. "I'm grateful for the opportunity and I'll always remember the experience."
Tara realized that she allowed her annoyance and resentment to come out in a less than charitable way.
"How come you're talking to me all of a sudden?" Logan wanted to know.
Tara blushed, embarrassed to realize he noticed her cold shoulder throughout the year. "I don't know," she admitted.
"You're not some sort of local Baseball Annie are you?"
"Of course not!" She said, insulted by his inference. "Can't I just be a fan?" She asked angrily.
"Yes, you certainly can," Logan said calmly.
Tara sighed and let out a breath, knowing that she was being a bitch. "I love Mrs. Jacobs," she revealed after an awkward moment of uncomfortableness.
"I've heard nice things about her," the replacement teacher said.
"I had her when I was a student at St. Anne's and she's been my mentor and friend since I joined the Faculty," she explained. "I was very upset when she got sick."
"I understand," Logan said with sympathy.
"It's not your fault," Tara admitted. "I shouldn't have taken it out on you."
"It's okay," Logan said. "I'm like the new guy joining an established team. Somebody's always being replaced."
Tara glanced at him and she felt a large load of regret, resentment, and guilt disappear from her shoulders and empty from her gut. He really was a nice guy and a pretty good ball player too.
"I don't think Mrs. Jacobs is coming back," Logan delicately told her.
"I know," Tara sighed, trying not to tear up. "Are you staying for another year?"
"Only if you'll talk to me," he said lightly.
She smiled. "I'm sorry I was a jerk."
"I'm glad you like baseball," he replied.
"We should get out of here before they lock us in," Tara said, getting up from the dugout bench.
"Thanks for talking," the ballplayer said as he followed her out of the dugout.
"Maybe we can do it again sometime," Tara remarked as they headed for the gate.
"I'm here several times a week," Logan quipped.
"Me too," she smiled.
They were outside the park now.
"Well, good night, Mr. Logan," Tara said cheerfully.
"Please, call me Elliott," he smiled. "We're not in school, Ms. Harper."
"It's supposed to be Miss Harper at school," she said rolling her eyes. "But you can call me Tara out here."
"I'm honored," Elliott grinned.
Tara gave him a wave and she headed for her car, relieved by how things had played out.