The Flatliner

Neddy Alden couldn't place the guy who brought Conner to the Hillsboro Pizza games of the Hillsboro Little League but she knew they had met somewhere before.

She asked her son Cody if he knew who the man was who brought his teammate Conner to the games.

"That's Conner's Uncle," Cody revealed.

Neddy noticed that the uncle usually brought Connor to the weekday games when Connor's parents showed up late, most likely because of work. Neddy didn't recognize Connor's last name of Larson and she knew it would be rude to ask the Uncle who he was.

Connor's uncle wasn't very social. He sat with the parents in chairs behind the Hillsboro Pizza dugout watching the contests but he didn't participate much in the small talk among the parents although he positively cheered and encouraged both teams.

When Connor's parents arrived, the uncle became even less engaged and mostly just watched the game.

Neddy exchanged a few pleasantries with the uncle during the first few games of the season but he was barely responsive and he didn't volunteer any information about himself. One afternoon, Neddy set up her folding chair next to Connor's uncle who was watching the game and ignoring the small talk of the other parents, mostly cheering on and the rest of the team. Neddy couldn't take the curiosity any longer.

"You seem familiar to me for some reason," she said during a break between innings.

"We went to school together," Connor's uncle informed her factually.

Neddy stared at him with surprise. "We did?"

"I'm Larry Fisher," he revealed.

Neddy's mouth fell open. "Lefty Fisher?" She asked with disbelief.

"They called me Lefty because I didn't seem right and the nickname stuck," Larry reported.

Neddy realized from the look on his face that calling him by his former nickname was not the right thing to do. "I'm sorry," she said awkwardly, clearly embarrassed. "I thought it was a baseball name."

"I haven't been called Lefty in a long time," Larry stated.

"You seem different now," Neddy observed. "Gosh, it's had been what - more than a dozen years since high school?" Neddy said with amazement. "No wonder I didn't recognize you."

"Why would you remember me, not that it's important one way or the other?"

"Well, I…"

"I prefer avoiding the past which wasn't the happiest days of my life," Larry said.

"Oh," Neddy said awkwardly.

She was intrigued by his monotone voice, free from affect and emotion.

"You haven't changed that much in appearance," Larry observed.

"You remember me?"

"Of course," he stated. "You were one of the tallest girls in the class and you're still wearing your dark hair long."

"I guess I'm trying to look young," she sighed.

"Which one's your son?" Larry asked.

"Number Five, Cody," Neddy smiled proudly.

Larry glanced out at the field. "He has light blonde hair."

"Yes," Neddy confirmed.

"And his last name on the back of his baseball uniform is Alden so I guess that means you never married," Larry remarked.

Neddy was caught off guard by his bluntness.

"I haven't seen a guy around so I assume you're a single mom on your own?"

"Jesus, Larry," Neddy said. "What is wrong with you?"

"I'm Asperger's on the autism spectrum," he answered.

She didn't know how to respond.

"I'm not good with social cues," Larry let her know.

"You always were sort of peculiar," Neddy remarked with annoyance.

"You mean weird," Larry clarified.

"I didn't say that!" She insisted, turning red.

"It's okay."

Neddy sucked in a deep breath and she looked frustrated. "Cody's been diagnosed with mild ADHD," she revealed with a defeated tone.

"He'll be okay," Larry said.

"I say mild because although he is impulsive, distracted, irritable, speaks out of turn, and has difficulty with attention and concentration, he hasn't really suffered any academic or social difficulties because of it," Neddy explained.

"He's doing fine here," Larry said.

"He's a great kid but sometimes being forgetful and disorganized gets him in trouble," Neddy admitted. "His absent-mindedness and daydreaming can be an issue."

"Is he taking anything?" Larry asked.

"Ritalin," Neddy revealed.

"Just keep working on behavior modification and teaching him skills to manage his inattention because it will get more challenging as he advances through the grades," Larry told her. "Usually it's the right combination of meds and interactive intervention that works best."

Neddy seemed relieved. "Was it like that for you?" She asked.

"I wasn't ADHD," Larry said

"No, but you must have gone through the same sort of thing."

"My symptoms hampered me for a long time," Larry admitted. "I wanted to fit in but I didn't know how. I misinterpreted social norms, lacked empathy, and acted weird. I didn't communicate or interact well. I had boundary issues. I made strange noises and spoke out inappropriately. I was great at fake crying and my laughter came mostly at the wrong time. I repeated words and sentences over and over again. I took things literally instead of figuratively. I was clumsy and awkward. I was sensitive to pain and could be a hypochondriac. They dealt with it mostly by sending me to the corner or out into the hall."

"I remember some of that," Neddy admitted.

"I had bizarre preoccupations, almost OCD-like," Larry continued. "My room had to be organized a certain way. I was a neat freak to the extreme, so much so that it would distract me from the stuff I should have been doing, like my homework. I was unable to properly socialize. I was a novice when it came to sex stuff. Naturally, I was picked on and ignored and I failed some classes even though my IQ was above average."

"I didn't realize how difficult it was for you," Neddy said.

"But I got through college," Larry said proudly. "It wasn't always easy. I had odd takes on humor, missing obvious humorous moments while at other times laughing uproariously at stuff that wasn't particularly funny, like someone crying."

"What do you do now?" Neddy asked.

"Night Watchman at The Sun Rise Lake School For Boys ," Larry said.

"Good for you," she smiled.

"I'm still conversationally challenged so it's a good job for me," he admitted. "But I've eliminated many annoying behaviors like rambling and looking down or away when people talk to me. I tend to isolate more than I should which is one reason why I like bringing Connor to his games. Forces me to socialize."

"So, you really think Cody's going to be okay?" Neddy asked hopefully.

"People are more understanding these days," Larry replied. "This sort of stuff is more out in the open now. People are more aware and patient."

"Thanks for sharing that with me, Larry, I appreciate it," Neddy said with sincerity. "Sometimes I feel like people really don't understand and they just placate me when Cody's having a bad day."

"I call it my Asperger's Journey," Larry said. "Every day is a new chance but also a new challenge."

"I'd say you're travelling well," Neddy smiled.

"I just did a good job of offending you," Larry sighed.

"It's okay,' she smiled. "I think I understand better now."

They both glanced out at the field and watched Connor and Cody.

"Cody fits in with his team," Larry told Neddy. "That's half the battle right there."

"Thanks," Neddy said with a smile. "I think you're doing a good job fitting in too here."