Although spared his predicted snowfall, the Shire is bitterly cold as Frodo, Fiona, and Mick, the Wonder Dog, engage in their traditional soccer match on Saturday morning. It is one of those frozen moments, soundless, with no movement except for the red-shouldered hawk circling, silently. Grey skies overhead however do not sit for Frodo's mood, for yesterday was the day, that which offers hope and optimism; thoughts of blue skies and puffy summer clouds. Pitchers and catchers reported for Spring training. The gallant Braves begin their quest for the return to greatness.
On countless days such as this Frodo and Strider, or Frodo and Faramir, or Frodo and anyone who could catch-and-return, would gently lob the first Rawlings product of the coming season. The energy encapsulated by frozen ground would burst the rugged seams of adolesence, which could not be controlled by any gymnasium. To chase the ball at breakneck speed, with a blur of green beneath his feet, is a true life scenario captured first in print by McCammon in his definitive book, "A Boy's Life." To run fast enough that soon the land would separate from the churning limbs and Frodo would soar, higher and higher, into that which separates heaven from earth. To return only when the ball lands softly in the webbing, and the throw must be returned.
Mick, the Wonder Dog, now breathes puffs of vapor as he returns a tennis ball to the hand of his best friend. Eagerly, he anticipates another sprint to that canine land which separates reality from dreams. Frodo knows that ancient athletes are limited by the cold, and that the limp or soreness which begins this day may last for many weeks. That applies especially to Hobbits and Wonder Dogs.
There is however, a sudden sound not unlike that of bat meeting ball, and Frodo wonders if Chipper Jones may have just laced a line-drive through a drawn-in infield? Mick, the Wonder Dog, assumes it to be a rabbit rising from the brush.
A limb falls from an old pecan tree, and Fiona leads the way home. The once-athletes trudge, sullenly, to tasks requiring their attention, but not their dreams.