Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Billy Saddle, a Baseball Novel, Chapter Five: Castor and Pollux

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David’s children are a joke of the universe. Elena’s father Pablo died during her first pregnancy, so their eldest automatically took his name. Naturally, the genetic blender kicked out a gringito with blond hair, blue eyes and a windstorm of freckles. This crook-nosed Ichabod Crane charmed his way to an insane level of high-school popularity, and now, at 19, maintained his dominion over the local youth as night manager of Laney’s Pizza. He rarely left the premises.
            The naming of number two fell to David, who chose to honor his still-living Uncle Derek. This time, the blender delivered jet-black hair, coal-black eyes and skin the color of pancakes. Now 16, he resembles a young Desi Arnaz, minus the skills with music and women. He is, in fact, the biggest geek David has ever known – but he glories in his geek-ness, which is somehow very cool.
            David loops his softball bag over his shoulder and closes his car door, unleashing all the stars in the galaxy. He sends his thanks to the tall pines that block out the lights of town. And there’s Gemini. He and Larry were so much alike that they called each other Castor and Pollux. In the sky, he could never remember which was which.
            He stows his bag in the hall closet and reports to the computer room, where Derek is pursuing his parallel life in the World of Warcraft. His avatar, a blond viking with green gecko-skin, is doing equestrian battle with a gold-plated triceratops. He wins, as expected, stomping the poor critter into a copper-puddle extinction.
            “Yes!” he exults, and spins in his chair. “Hi Dad. How’d you do?”
            “How much?”
            “Eight runs.”
            “I don’t…”
            “You beat the spread.”
            “You’re making book on slow-pitch softball?”
            “Sure. I had you as eleven-point ‘dogs. And Toby Monamer, that almighty oaf, now owes yours truly a cool deuce.”
            “Two bucks. We keep it pretty light.”
            “But it’s still gambling.”
            Derek tents his fingers like a district attorney and speaks in a booming baritone. “Miss Thompson, please read back the testimony from… sometime last month.” He places a pair of reading glasses on the tip of his nose and responds in a Lily Tomlin nasal. “Derek’s father: ‘Son, the best way to stay out of trouble is to find creative ways to stay busy.’”
            David grins. “You are such a geek.”
            “Damn straight. And if you really are going to raise me in the bustling cultural paradise of Open Sores, what’s a little gaming if it keeps me away from the crackheads?”
            “You know, one of these days…” David raises a rhetorical finger, “I’d sure like to win an argument with you.”
            Derek flashes a Cuban bandleader smile. “I’ll toss you a bone once in a while. Ya got my numbers?”
            He hands him the scorebook. “Stat monster.”
            “You beat the spread with eight men? Who the heck is Red Man?”
            “We had to Shanghai a civilian. Didn’t even catch his name.”
            “Not to tweak your old-school sensibilities, Dad, but today we call them Native Americans.”
            “Gotcha. Get to sleep sometime.”
            “I will. Love ya!.”
            “Love ya back.”
            David heads down the hallway, already working on his next-day limp. He pauses at the bedroom door and is relieved when he hears Elena snoring.

Photo by MJV

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