...was caught working on revisions at the day job. Its not the first time. Head-hunters with nothing better to do than sneaking around the facility, digital camera in hand, in hopes of catching a disgruntled employee conducting some form of foul play. Someone huffing on a cigarette in the break room, or sneaking a conversation with loved ones on the cell while on the company's dime. Such fiends we are.
My troublesome acts have always come from a literary form of rebellion. Reading a book on the clock, or jotting down a few lines I've dreamed up while simulating a hamster in its cage...running like hell and getting nowhere fast.
Yesterday was different. Not only was I caught red-handed working on revisions, but my captor just happened to be one of the company's biggest sharks, a fellow I'll call Al...as in Al Sphincter. The "Big A" for short.
"What are you doing?" he asks, hands clasped behind his back, his upper body leaned slightly forward...the almighty A.
Knowing I'm already busted, I say, "Working on some revisions while my part's being checked. Behind me, enclosed in its protective glass housing, a robotic arm was dancing about, touching a crystal-shaped prong to the outer diameter of a torque converter shell, cataloging every detail of an auto part soon to be jammed full with piston plates, hydraulic fluid and the like.
"Revisions," he mumbles. "For a book?"
"For a book."
"You're a writer?"
"I'd like to think so."
He grows quiet, considering his dilemma. Yes, I'm double-dipping, working on something I love, while thoroughly going through the motions with something I've learned to hate. Extra-curricular foolishness on company property. And yet...
"Wanna read it?" I ask, figuring if nothing else, I've found myself an unbiased reader.
He holds out his hand. I offer him what I've been working on...pencil scratches on fax paper.
I watch his brow lift, and wonder if that's a good thing. I'm about to be written up, but may have just sold my first book. Good trade.
"You wrote this just now?" he asks.
"With this very pencil."
I can see the wheels turning..."Oh my stars, a commoner with a brain. What is this world coming to?"
Al returns the paper, and says, "You can't be doing this while on the job. This is your verbal warning."
He turns to leave, then stops. "I only read nonfiction...but yours is okay."
I watch him turn the corner, make sure he's gone, and start shoving more lead across my paper.
...the following is what Al Sphincter declared, "Okay." I hope you agree:)
...a bead of sweat traveled from my scalp down the side of my face, where for a moment it lingered, tickling my chin before accepting its perilous fate. Bent over, hands balanced upon my knees, I watched it fall to the dust, nearly evaporating on impact.
"Coach Hummel, gimme a minute with him."
I studied the dust between my cleats. Nothing more than packed sludge, maybe a scoop of sand mixed in for good measure.
"If you leave him in, you'll ruin him. He'll never pitch again."
"Well I guess that'll keep all those precious records of yours safe, now won't it?"
Give a closer look, it wasn't really sand at all, but countless pebbles rolling about on a field of clay. Their colors, some black, others beige, blended together, providing the locals a baseball diamond similar in shade to any other. But the torn seam in the left thigh of my uniform pants whispered otherwise.
"Son, if you don't straighten up and look me in the eye this instant, you'll be making this decision a whole lot easier for me."
I did as I was told, still wary of my equilibrium. Gathering my senses, I recognized Coach Hummel leaving the ball field, head down, shoulders slumped. Then I looked at Coach Stutzman, and he looked at me.
Under the curious scope of several hundred baseball fans, my coach and I studied each other's expression from atop the pitcher's mound, before at last he spoke.
"Ya know, my youngest son, a few years older than you, he's got the athletic ability of a sloth. That boy could sprain his wrist playin checkers. But his brain's a different story. Sharp enough to leave bite marks. Gets it from his mom, I'm sure."
As he spoke, the home plate umpire's looming shadow lengthened with his approach.
"So he comes to me one day and says he wants to be a doctor, and asks if I have any advice for him. I look him straight in the eye and tell him that no matter what he does, to always keep throwin from the heart."
Hands on his hips, the umpire had joined us on the mound, his brow lowered. Stutzman ignored him.
"When he says I've flipped my lid, I tell him about a pitcher on my ball team. A skinny thing, no bigger than any other kid his age, but with a fastball like nothing I've ever seen before. And all that power, it don't come from his arm. Not his legs neither. That fastball's thrown from the strongest muscle that boy's got."
With a crooked forefinger, he reached out and began tapping my chest, a smirk curling his chapped lips. "Whatever's happened to you, its got you all bent outta shape. Got your heart pumpin like an angry drum. And out here, this is how your dealin with it. Shootin bullets at punks."
"Coach, you're outta time," the umpire stepped forward. "Gotta make a decision."
"Not up to me," Stutzman said. He stood back, folding his arms over a moistened ball shirt. "Got anything left, son?"
...35 chapters in. "Time to keep on keepin on."
Thanks for reading:)