With seven players remaining, there is no such thing as an easy opponent. Everyone left could get published and I’d buy whatever they wrote. This week we had to write a fictional story about a real, historical tragedy in history, and the character who goes through it. It was our choice whether or not the protagonist lives or dies.
Sitting up in the hospital bed, he first noticed the IV protruding from this left arm. He then noticed a baseball resting on the tray beside his bed. An instinctual impulse to grab it led to an unfortunate series of shockwaves, knocking what little wind he had out his lungs. Unsure why he was here, but sure he needed to see that baseball, he took more a measured approach on his next attempt. Slow and steady won the race this time, as the tip of his middle finger was able to roll the ball off the tray and onto his lap. There was writing on the ball, the first letter barely smudged.
YOU LUCKY GUY, JACK!
Jack? Was that his name? It didn’t ring a bell, but neither did anything else. In fact, he had no idea why he was here, or why he was in so much pain.
Below the compliment was a signature. It took him a bit, but the name came to form. He heard a stranger’s voice—his own—sound it out.
“Fucking ay! I managed to score you a ticket and you don’t show up until the 4th inning?”
“Sorry, man,” he said, annoyed. “I was with an important client. And you know how traffic is this time of night.”
“Pfffttthh. You’re missing a good one, too.”
“Reuschel’s retired nine straight, and Uribe scored last inning to tie the game.”
He disengaged from his friend and surveyed the field. There was a runner on first. He couldn’t tell who. He heard the crowd react. It was a wild pitch.
“Go go Mitchell you shithead go!”
So it was Mitchell on first. Now on second. He turned to his friend.
“You know, I don’t think he heard you.”
“Lighten up, dude. It’s just a…oh shit, look out!”
He turned around in time to see a foul ball hurtling towards him. He raised his hands up in defense.
He looked at his hands. They appeared fine, quite unlike his right leg, which was in traction.
He looked at the ball again.
“Nice catch!” He looked up to see a doctor approaching. “So, how are we doing?”
“Fine, I guess.”
“Who’s the current President?”
He racked his brain. “Reagan?”
“No, but you’re closer now. Last time I asked you said Ford. Okay, well, your vitals look good. Nurse tells me your pain has subsided. Lookin’ good.”
“Doc, do I have amnesia?”
The doctor sighed. “Too soon to tell. It could be the anesthesia from the surgeries, but it’s unusual for a patient to not remember their name. Still don’t?
He shook his head.
“I’m not too worried yet. And hey, if you don’t get your memory back, maybe you can play center field next week.”
He hated funny doctors.
“So how’d you get that autograph, anyway?”
Flying down the road, his mind wandered. He wished he could go straight home. But he had to fly out to Seattle in an hour for another client and wouldn’t be back until Tuesday. Even worse, he was out of gas. The next exit had a Shell station.
As he squeezed the pump, his mind raced. He’d need to double-time it to the airport if he didn’t want to hurry inside the terminal. And then there was presentation he didn’t know how to finish. The gas pump was unbearably slow. He looked at the man at the next pump over, who also seemed a bit impatient. The man caught him staring. Oh, shit! He recognized him.
“Um, hi. I don’t mean to intrude, but is your name…Candy?”
The man flashed his white teeth in a broad smile. “It might be.”
“Wow. Well, uh, it’s a pleasure to meet you.” He extended his hand. Candy shook it. “Hey, I caught a foul ball you hit tonight.”
“Yeah! Would you autograph it for me?”
“Heh. Sure thing, man.”
He practically threw open his passenger door and found the ball. He couldn’t believe his luck.
“Hey you, wake up!”
His eyes fluttered several times before he opened them. The voice appeared to come from a pretty woman standing over him.
“No, silly. It’s me. The doctor said we could finally see you.”
“Oh…” He looked her up and down. Nice body, too.
“So! Just look at the mess you got yourself into. You’ll do anything to get attention, won’t you?”
He said nothing. Turning his head, he saw someone else on the other side of the bed. A young man, maybe ten or eleven. He squinted his eyes. Nope.
“Oh,” the woman said. “The doctor said you might…”
“I don’t remember. Who are you?”
“I’m your wife, Denise.” She choked back tears. “And this is your son, Jack. Oh Michael…”
He looked at his son, hoping beyond hope he’d remember. He picked up the ball. “I guess this is for you.”
The trip was a success. Michael had secured another client, and he had an autographed ball for his son. As he cruised down the Nimitz Freeway, he turned on the radio. The legendary voice of Jack Buck greeted him. He grinned. Sure, the Giants were down two to nothing, but they were at home now. And Garrelts was pitching.
A loud thunk jolted Michael. He wondered if he hit something. Turning his focus back to the road, he looked ahead. The southbound lane of I-880 was above him. And now it was falling.
Spooky: I have no idea why it took me so damned long to figure out what was going on here – I know a boy of about 14 died when he was hit with a foul ball a few decades back, but given that I knew the players mentioned here, I should have come up with it (this is the earthquake during the 1989 World Series, for the uninitiated). I loved the story’s construction, told effectively out of order, which fit the theme of the victim’s confusion. This was another astonishingly strong week, Survivors, and I’m left clueless about where Immunity should go.
DK: Yeah, of course I have a soft spot for baseball. I was too young to experience following this event when it happened, but as a piece of baseball history it’s pretty satisfying in a story form here, and these flashback intercuts are also pretty effective for unpeeling the way Michael’s situation took place.
Once again I wrote something that turned out better than I thought it would. From the beginning I knew I wanted our hero to have an autographed baseball for his kid, and shortly thereafter I threw in the flashbacks. My biggest decision was whether or not the player would be from the A’s or Giants, and which one at that. I decided on the Giants, as I hated those A’s teams as a kid, and even in retrospect many of their batters don’t have solid reputations. Matt Williams or Kevin Mitchell were more recognizable, but I felt their names were too boring. And if I’m a kid? I want the autograph of the dude with the awesome name. I loved Candy Maldonado when I was a kid and I barely saw him play.
I didn’t win immunity, but I’m not dissatisfied. The competition is really amazing. And this week’s winner made Spooky hug his daughter. Here’s hoping there’s no earthquake in Phoenix this week.