The Kid, the Aliens, and Uncle Charlie

by William G.Hutchings

When Eddie got off the bus in Danville, it was as hot as an August night can get in the Illinois corn belt. He picked up the duffle bag and headed toward Vermillion Street. He saw the flashing red neon sign of the Vermillion Hotel only a half block away.  That's where the team had put him up.

Eddie was tired.  He'd stayed awake most of the time looking for them, though looking wasn't exactly the right word because mostly they couldn't be seen.  When they were nearby, though, he could sense them.  Sort of a feeling.

He got the feeling once they might be around when the Greyhound stopped down in Arkansas.  Somewhere around Piggott.  Then another time up in Kentucky, near Paducah. Since then, nothing.  Maybe they just didn't want to come up north with him to Double A.  Maybe they had left him just as suddenly as they'd appeared.  Eddie often wondered why they'd chosen to pick him in the first place.  And why were they really here?  Had to be something other than them just liking baseball.

Eddie thought it would be cooler up here than down in Bogalusa, but it didn't seem that way.  Must have rained earlier. Heat waves shimmered as they rose from the dark, wet asphalt. Looked weird under the street lights.  And across the street a beer joint, The Black Cat Cafe.  As he walked to the Vermillion, he bent to one of his childhood superstitions and tried stepping over the expansion cracks in the sidewalk.  That meant it wouldn't rain -- unless he stepped on one.

Eddie's duffle was a little heavy because of his collection of about 1,000 baseball cards.  He'd been collecting since he was nine.  Didn't carry much else in the duffle. Levi's, couple of t-shirts, underwear, shaving kit, his mitt, and spikes.  He didn't really need the razor.  The peach fuzz on his face could only be seen when the light was just so, but his teammates shaved, and he wanted to be like them.

When he got close to the Vermillion, he could see it wasn't fancy.  It was old.  But the revolving entrance door was a remnant of its better days -- heavy oak framing, thick plate glass, and fixtures of solid brass.  The Vermillion appeared to be just another third-rate joint -- a rung up the ladder from a flop house. He had seen the same run-down hotel all through the south.  The Everywhere chain.  The same folks.  Ball players, railroad men, peddlers, and a few tired hookers.  The same musty smell.  Aunt Thelma would have scrubbed it down with strong brown soap.

Eddie pushed through the revolving door, leaning hard to get the heavy oak's momentum started, his eyes scanning the entire lobby as he entered.  One guy, with his back to the door, sat on a worn and cracked leather sofa, feet up on a small table and talking to a big, older guy who stood at least six-four.  The big guy carried a six pack under his left arm. Eddie knew instinctively they were ball players and looked again at the older guy.  He looked familiar. The big guy's image jarred Eddie's memory.  Enough so that he paused a moment before crossing the lobby.  Then it registered.  Sure. Steve Fossatti, one of the all-time greats.  Holy smokes.  Here in the Vermillion.  Sure wished they were around.  They'd love Fossatti.

Other than Fosatti and the couch guy, the lobby was empty except for the night clerk.  Looked like he was born here.  Old.  Skinny.  Toothpick in the corner of his mouth.  Black suspenders and post office rubber bands tight on the upper arms of his striped, frayed shirt.  He was reading the Sporting News, following each line with his right fore-finger, lips moving silently in concert.

Eddie walked to the desk, the high heels of his cowboy boots clicking on the lobby's black and white tiles, all the while thinking about Fossatti.  The air was a bit cooler under the four-bladed fan that whirled over the desk counter.

The night man turned, toothpick clamped between brown-stained teeth.  Raising his brows in the unasked question, the nightman got off his stool, legs moving with a rheumatic reluctance, then pushed a registration card toward Eddie.  “You the new kid they bringin' up?”  His voice was gravelly. Like pebbles rolling down a washboard.

Eddie said, “I'm Fenlon,” picked up the old Waterman desk pen and signed the registration card.  He turned when he felt the nudge on his left arm.

“Hey, kid.  I'm Radjic. Your roomie.”

Eddie looked the elbow nudger up and down.  Radjic was the guy on the couch, grinning a big smile, the space wide between his two front teeth.  Radjic was all muscle. Maybe a tad under six-feet with a neck that seemed wider than his crew-cut head.  Went two-ten if he weighed an ounce.  He held a half-empty Bud in his left hand, foam still speckling the bottle's neck. 

“Fast Eddie, right?  Wondered when you'd get here.”  Radjic sized Eddie up from head to foot. “You been sick or somethin'?  You're really skinny.”

Eddie grinned, a little self-conscious.  “Always looked like this.”  He felt rather than saw someone move next to him.  He half turned, and there was Fossatti, big as life.  Wow!  Eddie didn't know what to do at first, blinked a couple of times and looked up at the old slugger.  The big guy said, “Hiya, Kid.  I'm Steve.  Steve Fossatti.” 

Fossatti was like a baseball card come alive.  Eddie was so excited he stammered, then said, “Nice to meet you, Mr. Fossatti.”  Eddie bent over, tugging at the zipper on his duffel.  “Mr Fossatti, uh, would you autograph your card for me?”  He pulled out his collection of baseball cards, separated by rubber bands, found the group he wanted, and flipped through it till he found Fossatti's. “Here it is.  When you first came up to Boston.”  He handed the card to Fossatti.

The slugger reached for the desk pen. “Glad to, Kid.”

Radjic thumped his Bud bottle on the desk and pushed a veined right hand forward.  Eddie gripped Radjic's hand.

“Eddie Fenlon.” 

Radjic winced.  Surprised. “Jeez, kid!  Ease up.” 

Eddie heard a giggle.  It was themThey'd arrived -- and they'd put the muscle to his grip.

“Didn't mean that,” Eddie said. “A little excited.”

Radjic eyed Eddie quizzically, slowly rubbing his right hand.

Fossatti laughed again, poked Radjic in the ribs and said, “C'mon up the room.  You too, Kid.  We'll have a brew and tell some lies.” 

“You with Danville, Mr. Fossatti?” the Kid said. He looked at the autographed card again, blew on the ink to make sure it was dry, a wide grin on his young face.

“Kokomo.  I'm the enemy.”

“We play 'em tomorrow night,” Radjic said.

Fossatti looked down on Eddie, scowled and said, “Course if you pitch and I get in, I'll try an' jerk one out.”  Fossatti winked at Radjic, and laughed aloud.  The Kid heard them laugh, too.  They were still close.  Fossatti threw a friendly, oversized arm around the Kid's shoulders, steering him toward the linoleum covered stairs.  Eddie felt special.

Red Duffy, the pitching coach, got Eddie fixed up with a uniform and a locker. The locker room was not much better than the one in Bogalusa, but it was better than changing at the hotel or on the bus like they sometimes did.  Duffy told the Kid that the lockers were surplus from one of the old LST's at the Evansville shipyard.  On the rear panel, Eddie saw a painted heart pierced by a cupid's arrow and the initials, EF/LD. Same initials as his.  Could be a sign.

After Eddie suited up, Duffy called him over. “Stretch a little and take three laps.  Then get loose over in the left field pen,” the coach said.

Eddie walked out of the locker room into the dugout, looked at the smooth-worn bench and went up the steps onto the rough field.  He took a slow look around, assessing his new home.  Covered stands stretched from first to third.  Open bleachers down the left and right field lines, dugouts for the teams off first and third, and bullpens in left and right field.  Probably held four or five thousand, max.  The infield wasn't too bad, but the outfield was beginning to show some brown spots from lack of summer rain.

A tall, slim Hispanic player followed Eddie onto the field.  “Hey, Kid.  I'm Cruzero.  Vinnie, they call me.  Take some laps?”  His accent was heavy.


They started their slow jog and Eddie kept looking around.  A few diehard fans had come out to watch the early practice, but most of the seats were empty.  It was an old ball park, part of the fairgrounds, and right next to the racetrack where pacers and trotters probably ran during the county fair.

“You keep looking around, Kid.  You spectin' someone?” Cruzero said.

Eddie shrugged.  “Tell the truth, I'm kinda nervous.”  They were here in the park, alright.  Early. And more of them than usual.  They sure liked the game.  Took to it like real fans, but they were also mischievous.  Eddie worried a little about tonight.  Maybe they'd just watch. Maybe they would concentrate on someone else. 

“You don't look much like a pitch,” Cruzero said.  He looked over at Eddie, appraising him. “How many innings you go?”


“You don't look strong enough to go more'n three.”

“Could be I might surprise you some. Where's Kokomo in the standings?” Eddie said.

“Way ahead of us.  They're one outa first, but we ain't got nothing to lose tonight.  We're twelve out.  We ain't going nowhere til maybe next year.” 

Two laps later, as the two pitchers trotted past the Copenhagen Snuff sign in dead center, Eddie saw Duffy and Radjic in the left field bullpen.  Duffy stood with his arms akimbo and spit a load of Beechnut about five feet. The pitching coach yelled out. “Hey kid. Let's go.”

Most of the early birds along the left field foul line were kids, hoping for a foul ball.  Plus the ones who couldn't be seen, but Eddie knew they were here. Somewhere.

The pitching coach looked at Eddie, sizing him up. He didn't look too pleased with what he saw. “Warm up here with Radjic, Kid. I'll come back when you're loose.”

Eddie took the ball from Duffy and looked over to  where his catcher had squatted back of the bullpen plate.

“Nice an' easy, kid. Just hit my mark,”  Radjic said.

Eddie turned back to the bullpen rubber.  They were close, now.  Watching him.  He shrugged off his concern about them being pranksters and began a slow, easy motion.  After eight pretty close warm up pitches, Radjic said, “You wanna' come on a little more?”

Eddie nodded and gave Radjic about an eighty percent fast ball hitting the inside black with it, about knee high.  Radjic's glove made a loud pop, and the husky catcher blinked in surprise. “Come on again, kid."

Eddie felt one of them laugh, or whatever they did for a laugh, and this time, Eddie turned up the heat a little more. The rising fast ball also moved away about eight inches.  Enough so that it hit Radjic's mitt on the fat and the ball bounced over to the bleacher fence.  The Kid knew they had done it. Radjic didn't even go after the ball. The husky catcher stood, hands on his hips, and mitt turned under. “Your ball move that way all the time?”


“Been clocked?”

“Not that I know,” the Kid said. Only the sheriff had a radar gun in Bogalusa. Radjic reached for another ball in the canvas ball bag and snap-threw it to the kid. He pounded his catcher's mitt twice.  “Come again, Tarzan.” 

Duffy was heading over their way and waggled his arms for the kid to hold up.

“You loose?” Duffy said.

“Pretty much, sir.”

“Nothin' fancy, now. Show me something, but hit the plate. That's your new job, hitting the plate.  Fifty-nine foot dusters'll put you back in Bogalusa with the Cajuns,” the crusty coach said.

Eddie threw three more pitches. All pretty close, all with a little heat, but nothing all-out.  They were letting him alone now, but everything still rose a little and moved away.

Duffy stood to the side, sizing up Eddie's form and delivery.  He nodded his head a couple of times, surprised at what he saw.  “Not bad, kid.  Keep coming -- maybe a little more over the top.”  Duffy trotted back to where Cruzero was getting in some pre-game work.

Radjic, the ball in his mitt, walked up to where Eddie stood on the low mound. “Tell you something kid. You surprised me.  You got some pop.  Where you learn to throw like that?”

Eddie, in his shyness, looked down, kicked the dirt with his right foot, then inscribed a small box with his spikes. “Always threw pretty good.”

Radjic appraised the Kid. “That one pitch woulda' clocked in the high nineties.”  He looked Eddie over again. “Godzilla don't bring it much better'n that. You on somethin?  Reds, maybe?”

Eddie just looked at him, embarrassment just a tad away. “No.  Nothin' like that.”

“So where'd you get that arm speed?”

Eddie knew he shoudn't tell Radjic about them and how they monkeyed with his arm. They probably wouldn't like it, and if they got mad, no telling how they'd react.

“Come on, kid. Where'd you learn it?”

Eddie couldn't feel them around any more. Maybe they left for a while. Maybe there was someone else in the park they liked.  So, he thought, what the hoo.  Radjic probably wouldn't believe it anyway, so he spit it out. “The Aliens.”

“The Aliens?  What aliens?  West Texas beaners?”

“Not that kind of alien.”

“Yeah?  Where from?”

Eddie looked up into the partially filled bleachers.  He shouldn't have said anything.  Nobody'd ever understand.  “They're, well, they're not from around here.”

“Cuba, maybe?” 

Eddie turned and looked away toward center field. Wished he knew where they were.

Radjic wouldn't let it alone.  He looked around the park and took a step back, a frown on his broad face. “What organization these here Aliens in?”

Eddie hesitated. “None you ever heard of.”

“Well, then. If they ain't illegals and they ain't Cubans, and this here organization ain't none I ever heard of, then who are they?”

“Well...I guess you could say they're sorta on their own.”

“Like The House of David?  Those weirdos with the long beards and stuff?” Radjic said.

“They don't look like that. Least I don't think so.”  Eddie could have bit his tongue. He shouldn't have said anything about what they looked like.

“Don't think so?”  Radjic squinted, his chiseled eye wrinkles merging with the tan of his face

Eddie took a deep breath, exhaling slowly. He'd never told anyone else about the Aliens.  Maybe they'd take a liking to Radjic if he told him.  Maybe not. “Well,...”  Eddie hesitated. “I never saw them guys from the House of David.  But these guys you can't really see. Leastwise, so far.  They're sorta' on a different visual frequency than us.”

“Different what?  What you talkin' kid?  Visual what?”

“I just feel them when they're around."

Radjic cocked his head a little to the side. “You can't see 'em?  You talk or what?”

“Not like you and me talking.”

Radjic bobbed his head slowly, then looked around the stadium, taking two or three seconds before he faced Eddie again. “Tell me, kid.  Top of your head feel a little hot sometimes?”

Eddie blushed and smiled a sheepish grin in response.

“If you can't talk to 'em, how'd they teach you to throw that heater?” Radjic said.

Eddie dragged his spikes through the dirt, head down. “Listen, Radjic, let's just drop it for now.”  He scuffed the dirt from right to left, the dust rising up with its dryness.  Eddie looked up as his catcher turned his head away as if to spit. Eddie heard Radjic mutter, "Whacko."

Radjic was his roomie and they had to get along. “Okay. Okay, Radjic.  They communicate through dynamism. It's kinda like going to sleep with a book under your pillow. You just...well, you just absorb it. Like osmosis.  The dynamism, I mean.”


“Energy. They can turn it on and off. Anytime they want. They could turn off the stadium lights if they wanted. They could make a hot dog dance right out of a bun.  Dynamism's how they do it.”

Radjic started to back away, paused, forehead wrinkling, then his mouth widened to a broad grin of understanding.  “I get it. Really had me going for a minute, Kid.  You're pulling my thing, right?” 

“Well . . . not really.”

Radjic raised his eyebrows, his grin fading.

“You serious?”


Radjic looked at the Kid for a long count of three. “Right.  I shoulda' known that.  Dyna-fuckin-ism.  Right.”  Radjic threw him the ball. “Okay, looney-toons.  Toss a couple more and we'll go in for the meeting.  Go from a stretch this time.”  Radjic frowned at the kid, a real look of concern on his broad face.

Eddie turned away from Radjic and kicked the rubber, sorry he'd said anything about them.   Help me keep my stuff, guys, and we'll have a good time. I won't say nuthin' else.  I promise.

That's when Eddie felt a cool breeze.  Gave him goose bumps.  He looked up at the flag on the pole out in center field.  Limp as a rag.  No sign of a breeze.  Maybe they were pissed that he told Radjic.  If they were pissed, what would they do?  Never happened before, and Eddie didn't want to think about the consequences.

Eddie turned to face his catcher, took a deep breath and let out a long sigh.  Radjic dropped into his squat stance and flashed one finger for the fast ball.  Eddie put his right foot on the right side of the rubber, held the ball behind him fingering the seams, stood up in the stretch position, brought his hands together at his chest, paused, and did a nifty slide-step.  He meant to give Radjic about ninety percent, but somehow, he let it go with everything. Only this time, the ball rose like always but moved left instead of right. Radjic tried to adjust, but when the ball moved left he couldn't compensate. The ball smashed into his mask, knocking him backward on his ass. Eddie ran toward his battery mate to see if the husky catcher was okay.  He felt the laugh.

Danville was ahead by three in the top of the ninth. There was a pretty good crowd for a Wednesday night and its enthusiasm seemed to be growing as the game went into the final inning.  Could have had something to do with the hometown lead and eight innings of draught beer. 

Vinnie Cruzero was pitching a good game. The Kokomo leadoff hitter popped to short.  McIlhenny, the right fielder, struck out.  Next up was Adams, the left fielder, who hit a screamer back to the box.  Adams ran pretty good.  Cruzero got a glove on it, but the ball bounced crazily between home and third, and by the time the third baseman could get to the ball, he had no play. 

At the bench, The Danville manager, Heinie Schultz, looked over at his pitching coach, Red Duffy.  “Whaddya think, Red.  He getting tired?”

Duffy shrugged.

Schultz pulled at the bill of his cap, then said, “Get a lefty up.”

Duffy hollered, "Ramirez. Get loose. And take the kid with you," as he nodded toward Eddie.

Cruzero walked the next hitter on four straight. Duffy looked down toward the pen, and Schultz unloaded a wad. “The dumb fuck. Not even close.  Talk to him, Duffy."

Duffy walked out to the mound while Schultz checked the Kokomo lineup.  Tommy Aspen, a pretty good hitting short stop was due up, and after him Marv Lieber, who'd been playing Double A ball for six years and probably wasn't gonna do much more.  Good glove, no hit. 

Duffy came back from the mound. “Vinnie says he's okay, Heinie. Wants to finish.” 

“Maybe he can get Lieber,” Schultz then muttered something unintelligible, spit again, and looked down at the left field pen.  That skinny kid from Bogalusa was firing pretty good. 

Tommy Aspen took the first pitch for a strike. He fouled the second one into the dirt, first base side. Schultz began to feel a little better. Aspen then hit the next pitch to the right side, a squibber.  Looked like something come out the end of a hose.  It spun crazily on the rough infield.  The first baseman charged the ball, but Cruzero was late getting off the mound. Aspen beat him to the bag by two steps.

Everyone safe and now the bases were loaded.

On the Danville bench, Heinie Schultz grabbed his hat by the bill, took it off, scratched his head and looked out to his pitcher, pissed about Cruzero's fielding lapse. “You fall asleep, Vinnie?”

“He got a brain cramp, boss.” Duffy said.

Schultz climbed the dugout steps and walked to the mound. Some of the fans back of the plate began to whistle and yell, “. . . take him out, take him out.”

Schultz climbed up the eighteen inch dirt mound so his pitcher couldn't look down on him.  “Gimme the ball, Vinnie.” The tall Venezuelan handed his manager the ball and walked off the mound, head down, angry that he didn't get to finish.

Heinie tapped his right forearm. “Bring in the kid.”  That's when the stadium lights went out.  Then on again.  Twice they blinked.  Everyone looked up at the lights except the kid.  He knew.

Pigpen Walker had been the Kokomo manager for three years.  He got his name when he first came up to the majors over twenty years ago.  He was the neatest guy ever to play in the big show.  A real Beau Brummel. His locker looked like the shelves in a department store.  Everything in place.

When the Kid came in to relieve Cruzero, Pen Walker watched him warm up, leaning his arms on the threshold of the Kokomo dugout.  He looked at his game card, then checked the roster and moved next to the batting coach, Mike Kelly.

“Fossatti sober?”

“More or less,” Kelly said.

“Hung over?”

“No more'n usual.”

Pen wondered where that kid got the arm speed.  Didn't look like he could even throw to first without bouncing it. “Can he hit that skinny kid?”

Kelly looked out at the mound, took off his cap, and scratched his right ear.  “Maybe.  But I think the Kid might eat Fossatti's lunch.”

“Need to pick up this win,” the Kokomo manager said. He reached into his back pocket, pulled out the tin of Copenhagen Mint and packed a sizeble pinch under his lower lip, his eyes never leaving the youngster out on the mound.  Pen looked out at Marv Leiber resting on one knee in the on-deck circle.  “I gotta hunch.” 

Kelly walked over to the water cooler.  He knew what was coming.

“Hey, Fossatti,” Pigpen yelled down the bench. “You hit this Pony Leaguer?”

Fossatti grinned.  “Fresh meat, Pen.” 

Pigpen nodded in silent agreement.  “You're in the barrel.”  The crowd reacted with mixed boos and claps as Fossatti walked up to the batters box.

Over on the Danville bench, when Heinie Schultz saw Fossatti, he turned to Duffy.  “Whaddaya think?  Can the kid handle this?”

“Fossatti won't get around on his heat,” Duffy said. “Past his time.”

Schultz spit a load onto the dry dirt outside the dugout. He nodded in agreement.  The Kid was throwin' B-B's.

For 39-year old Steve Fossatti, he knew it was close to the end of his playing career.  He'd been fifteen years in the majors, but bad knees were a problem the last five, and he didn't run too good anymore.  They'd moved him from the outfield, to first, to the bench, and now down to Double A.  Besides the knees, booze had taken its toll.  However, Fossatti was still a favorite of the fans, a favorite among his teammates, and a favorite of management.  With his lifetime numbers there was a real possibility he'd be a candidate for Cooperstown.  He'd already been offered a scouting job by Boston next year.  And, it was time. 

He now led the league in strikeouts because of his nemesis, Uncle Charley.   The breaking ball.  The hard sliders and sharp splitters.  He just couldn't hit them any more, unless he got lucky and got served up a hanger.  Most of the time he looked like Shirley Temple on dirt balls down and away.

Fossatti watched from the on-deck circle swinging two bats to loosen up as the skinny kid threw his last warm-up.  All heat.  Not one breakin' ball.  Fossatti smiled.  All this kid had was heat. Just give him one pitch he could drive, he asked silently.  He looked back at the bench because he thought he heard someone laugh.  A really weird laugh.  He looked up at the crowd in the stands, some still booing.  But that damn laugh seemed louder.  He couldn't pin down where it was coming from.

After Eddie finished his warm-ups, Radjic trotted out to the mound. “Listen, kid. You ain't thrown me a breaking ball yet. This guy's dead meat on a hook.  Them Aliens teach you any breaking stuff?”  

The Kid looked around.  He knew they were still here, but somehow, he'd lost track of them. “I gotta pretty fair splitter.”

Radjic smiled and said, “If you get two strikes, gimme one.  That'll be your out pitch.”  Radjic put his game face back on, turned and trotted back to the plate.  He squatted into his stance and said through his mask to Fossatti, “You're gonna love this guy, Stevaroonie.  That is if you ain't too old to get the bat around.”

“Watch me, Hunkie.”

Radjic called for a fast ball and the kid delivered. Fossatti tried to pull the trigger, but by the time he swung, the ball was in Radjic's mitt. 

The old slugger silently swore, something seemed to have held up his bat.  Weird.  Then, he heard that strange laugh again.  Fossatti looked back at Radjic, the grinning catcher. 

“Ah, the sweet bird of youth,” Radjic said.

“I'll sweet bird you, you no-neck hunkie,” Fossatti said as he stepped out of the batter's box.

“Enough trash talk, Fossatti,” the umpire said.

Fossatti walked away from the box, leaned over to pick up some dirt, and stared at the skinny kid on the mound.  Fossatti stepped back into the batter's box.  He could bench-press this kid with one hand.  

The Kid bent forward, picked up the catcher's sign for a fast ball, moved into his stretch, checked the runner at third, and delivered.  Fossatti picked up the rotation of a fast ball and swung, going to his knees from his own momentum, but again didn't get the bat around before he heard the smack of the ball in Radjic's mitt.

“Surrike twoooo,” the umpire bellowed.

The crowd whooped.

Fossatti stood up and backed away from the plate. Wow! This kid did have some heat, but he felt like something slowed his bat again.  Fossatti was beginning to lose confidence. He was beginning to think Pen shoulda' called on someone else. He didn't want to strike out against this skinny kid.

Radjic snickered, and the stadium lights seemed to dim a little, then brighten back up.

Fossatti thought about the six pack he had stashed in the toilet tank back in the hotel, getting cold.  Coulda' used one now. He looked at Radjic again.  “Laugh at me again, you bohunk, and you'll be eatin' hickory.”

Radjic flipped up his mask and just gave him another funny grin. “Who's laughing?  I didn't hear nuthin. You need a beer, Steveroo.”

The crowd was beginning to get into it.  Two strikes, two out, and the bases loaded. 

Over in the Kokomo dugout, Pigpen Walker was watching the action with the same facial expression as a slow moving glacier.  In the Danville dugout, Heinie Schultz's expression was similar.  The only difference was that Heinie let go a load of chaw every time the Kid started his motion.

Fossatti walked away from the box again, bent over, picked up some dirt, and rubbed it on the bat handle.  This time he stared at Radjic before turning his attention to the kid on the mound. 

“Playbaw,” the ump growled and Fossatti stepped back into the box.  He pointed his bat straight at the Kid in the classic attempt to intimidate a pitcher.  Damn it, he'd get around on the next one or bust a gut.

Fossatti frowned and turned back to the stands.  Not a laugh this time.  Sort of a giggle. 

The Kid stared in to get his sign.  Radjic put down two fingers for the breaking ball, and waggled his index finger to the outside of the plate.  A splitter, low and outside.  The Kid finally nodded, spread his first and second fingers wide over the seams, went into his stretch, checked the runner at third, then delivered.

It looked like the fast ball at first, coming in belt high, and Fossatti barely picked up the rotation.  In a microsecond his brain registered the splitter.  He swung, but knew he didn't have a chance.  Damn.  In that same microsecond he knew he was going to miss this pitch by a foot, because it was going to drop to his ankles.

But something unexpected happened.  He felt the old familiar crack of getting all the ball on the meat of the bat.  The old slugger took two hesitant steps toward first, then watched the ball climb up and soar over the left field seats, right into the light standard.  The Kokomo bench emptied, everyone whooping and hollering.  The stadium lights dimmed on and off three times, and an eerie, bluish-green glow lit up the sky on the east side of town.

Fossatti saw the light show and shook his head.  Must be the booze.  He couldn't believe he'd touched that pitch. He'd really ripped old Uncle Charley.  As he rounded first, Fossatti felt he had company, like someone running the bases with him.  Really strange.  Then he heard it again.  Or felt it. Only this time it wasn't a giggle.  More like a chorus of laughs.  Maybe he should lay off the sauce for a while.

He looked at the Kid on the mound, standin' there, hang dog, eyes on the ground.  He knew he was lucky to have jerked one off this kid.  Still didn't know how he managed to hit that splitter.  But he was thinking about next year as he rounded third.  That skinny kid could be a helluva prospect for Boston next season.  He might not be able to help the Kid with his mechanics, but he could sure as hell help him learn about hitters.  Might really be somethin'.  He was gonna call the chief of scouts tonight and tell him he had a prospect.  After a couple cold tank brews.  Maybe shake off those weird noises he heard.

©2002 by William G. Hutchings

William G. Hutchings is an ex-skier, ex-tech writer, and current fly fisherman. He bums around in his fifth-wheel trailer, following the sun from Idaho to Mexico, with his co-pilot, Max -- a small Swiss herding dog. Bill is in his thirteenth printing of Radio on the Road: The Traveler's Companion, the fourth printing of the NPR Station Directory, and struggling to get Max to type his new novel, Gold of Guadalupe.

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