Authors: Amicus Arcane
Willa would never have believed it before, but Tim was scaring her. And he knew it. He knew she was afraid, and it pleased him. “Gotta go, dollface.” He slung his equipment bag over his shoulder. “See ya at Cooperstown.” Tim blew past her, out the door and out of her life. He had an All-Star game to attend.
The game was scheduled to begin at one o’clock at Bulldog Park. Families arrived from all over town. There were ice cream trucks and hot dog stands, and the deputy mayor was even there to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.
Tim watched from the dugout, losing his patience with the pregame festivities. How many people could they possibly thank? As Lonegan’s glove tightened around his wrist and a sixth digit rooted into place, he shouted from the bench: “Let’s play some ball already!”
The ump shot him a look. “You’re an All-Star. Try to act like one.” Tim grumbled under his breath. The umpire approached. “What was that?”
“Nothing, blue. Just clearing my throat.” The ump locked eyes with Tim. “Next time you’re out of here.” The glove caused a tickle in Tim’s hand. It was trying to get him to laugh at the silly little man in the umpire’s uniform. Tim bit down on his lip, fighting the urge, waiting for the ump to walk away.
Coach Anderson leaned in. “What’s the matter with you?”
“Nothin’, Coach. I’m a hundred and fifty percent.”
“There’s no such thing as a hundred and fifty percent. Clean up your act before you get tossed.”
“Sure thing, Coach. Whatever you say.”
After the school marching band massacred “The Star-Spangled Banner,” it was time to play ball. Tim’s team took the field. He was starting at first, not his usual position, but unusual things happened at All-Star games. Just ask Lefty.
Right away, a kid blooped one over the shortstop’s head, dropping it in for a hit. Tim was sure to let the batter know when he reached first that it was a lucky shot. Lonegan’s voice whispered in Tim’s ear:
Tell him his grandma hits better than that
. So Tim told him.
The pitcher made a pick-off attempt, throwing the ball to first. Tim swung his arm to make the tag, smacking the kid harder than he had to, shoving him off the bag and tagging him out. It was a cheap move, one not befitting an All-Star. But perfectly legal. As Lefty used to say back in the day, “All’s fair in love and war and baseball.”
The crowd jeered and Tim laughed. He laughed like a hyena. Like Lefty Lonegan.
In fact, he laughed his way through three complete innings. And when he wasn’t laughing, he was shooting rays of sunlight into the eyes of the opposing outfielders with his mirrored shades.
A fine day at the ballpark. Rah-rah-rah, Master Lefty. Oh, I
’m sorry. I meant, Master Timothy.
It was the bottom of the fourth when Tim entered the batter’s box for his second—and final—at bat. On the first pitch, he took a wild swing and the bat flew from his hands, helicoptering all the way to the mound, where it almost nailed the pitcher in the shins. Hey, bats slip. It happens. You can’t prove anything. But if you check the record books, you’ll see Lefty Lonegan did the same thing back in the day.
The ump had seen enough and, as threatened, tossed Tim out of the game. That was just as well; Coach Anderson was about to do the same.
Tim grabbed Lonegan’s glove, his only friend, from the bench and walked across the field to a chorus of hisses. And he continued walking for what seemed like miles before starting to run. It wasn’t an especially graceful run, but that was a good thing. It meant he was running like Tim. And all the while he was thinking: about the crummy things he’d done. About the mess he’d made with Willa. She was right, of course. It was the glove, not him. The glove was evil.
When Tim finally slowed down to get his bearings, he found himself in the center of a parking lot. But there were no cars, only weeds sprouting from every unpaved crevice. Where was he? Tim shuddered when he figured it out. It was the flea market where he’d first laid eyes on the accursed glove.
He passed through the front gate, and when he came out on the other side, Tim found himself standing on a ball field. He located the scoreboard over the right field wall. He could make out some lettering, faded from the sun. No, it couldn’t be. It wasn’t possible. The date said July 17, 1955. Tim’s heart skipped two beats. It was the day of the All-Star game, the one Lefty never got to play—though he did make a swinging appearance out in the field.
The sound of an organ crackled from the stadium’s tinny loudspeakers.
“Charge!” yelled the organist. Tim could see him from the field. It was good ole Rusty McCallum, dead twenty years. What was left of him was back in the booth. Those bones played a mean pipe organ.
Now the crowd was arriving. Hordes of corpses settled into the bleachers with their balloons and their banners held up high, a nightmare in the daytime.
It was time for a quick getaway! Tim made a move for the exit but the players were already taking the field, blocking his escape. There were eight figures in various uniforms, All-Stars in their time. Today you could scarcely call them human. They were more like living skeletons, in differing stages of putrefaction. Some of them were legless, crawling out of the dugout like slugs. Others were exposing their crumbling rib cages, airing out their rotted entrails.
Tim tried to appeal to their, uh…better natures. “You got it all wrong. I don’t belong here! I’m not even a real All-Star!” But the shuffling piles of decayed flesh cared little about what he had to say. They simply kept on coming, forcing Tim back onto the first-base line. There was no escape. Nowhere for him to run. He was part of the team now. And his time had come to…
“Plaaaaay ball!” called out a thing from behind the catcher. It was the umpire. A description of how it looked would cause you to skip dessert for a year.
The leadoff batter, a one-handed collection of bones in a tattered Devil Rays uniform, stepped up to the plate. Number thirteen. Lefty. He was holding a Louisville Slugger in his right hand—not coincidentally, the only hand he had. He pointed the fat end at Tim, who somehow found himself covering first. Strange things happen all the time at All-Star games. Especially ones being played by the dead.
“I want my glove baaaaaaack,” Lefty gurgled in a voice that belonged to the grave. Perhaps it was that unfortunate incident with the noose, but his elocution was plain awful.
Tim yanked the glove as hard as he could, but like a newly grafted appendage, it wouldn’t come off. So he pulled at it some more, screaming with each yank, over and over again, but to no avail. “It doesn’t come off!” he tried explaining. If only Lefty had had ears.
The putrid vision on the pitcher’s mound—a right-hander might be the polite way to describe it—sent a sinker over the plate. Lefty was all over it like rot on a zombie, connecting with a one-armed swing. A dribbler moved up the first-base line, an easy play. But Tim was too busy wrestling with the glove to notice. The ball passed straight through his legs and entered the outfield.
The crowd went wild,
clapping with their bony digits, but an error was the least of Tim’s problems. Lefty was now chugging toward first. “I want my glove baaaaaack.” The undead thing was coming for him, as unstoppable as the game itself. Again, Tim tried explaining: “It won’t come off!” But Lefty wasn’t buying any excuses. He had a thick skull. Literally.
Tim abandoned first base before Lefty crossed the bag. “I want my glove baaaaaack.” Tim rounded second, then third, on his way to home. His plan was to keep on going, straight through to the exit. But he broke the first rule of base running. He turned and looked. One itty-bitty mistake and it cost him. Tim tripped, falling forward, his arms sticking straight out to protect him from the fall. He hit the ground in a face-first slide and, through it all, retained the overwhelming desire to complete the play.
As luck would have it, the ball arrived from the cutoff man—make that the cutoff
—about the same time Lefty ambled into home. “I want my glove baaaaaaack!”
Tim scooped the ball out of the dirt and, as he pivoted to make the tag, yelled into the hole that had once been Lefty’s ear: “So take it!”
Did Tim make the play? Was Lefty safe? Or was he dead on arrival?
They’re still debating it in the netherworld. There was no instant replay. And the ump behind home plate no longer had his eyes. But Lefty did take back what was his—over that there is no dispute. The crowd of living corpses settled into a respectful silence as they listened to the exquisite popping sounds emanating from the field: bones being separated from bones as limbs were relieved of their sockets. Talk about a seventh-inning stretch. Lefty dismantled Tim, piece by piece, until all that remained in the center of home plate was Lonegan’s glove.
Tim’s disembodied head rolled to the pitcher’s mound, arguing the play as it went. “You were out! Out by a million miles!”
“Safe,” insisted Lefty as he staggered toward the pitcher’s mound. Tim had done wrong by the game. And now the game had done wrong by him. His head watched from the mound as number thirteen retrieved his glove and reattached it to his rotting stump. Lefty sauntered off across the field, his skeletal form slowly disappearing into the shimmering glow of the stadium lights.
he librarian completed the final passage
and looked up from the page. “Lefty certainly got a piece of that one. What do they call that in baseball? A singleheader?”
The others remained dumbfounded. Not even a groan. Steve was the first to comment. “Lame, lame, lame. Why in the world would Lefty come back as a zombie?”
The floor was now open—that’s how the Fearsome Foursome’s meetings worked—so Willa chimed in with an opinion. “That
a little weak.”
“Pray tell, elaborate.”
“Well, for starters, having Tim rip off the old man makes him an unsympathetic lead.”
The librarian nodded. “An excellent observation.” He looked at Tim. “Would you not agree?”
But Tim didn’t answer. He didn’t move. He just stood there, white as a sheet. Noah weighed in with his thoughts, too. “Not to be rude, but that whole voodoo angle? They did it a hundred times in the old horror comics.”
The librarian had a blank expression on his face. “Horror…comics?”
“Dude, it’s the twenty-first century. Make it an Internet curse.”
Steve shook his head. “Naaaah.” As usual, he had a critique for the critique. “The Internet’s so been there, done that. And don’t get me started on that whole baseball plotline.”
The librarian appeared flabbergasted. “It is no longer the national pastime?”
“Sure. And that’s the problem. You have to think globally. I would have gone with soccer. It’s got worldwide marketability.”
The librarian lowered his head in a respectful bow. “Impressive. You three certainly know your genre. Of course, we have not heard from the lead, as the young lady so aptly referred to…Master Timothy himself.”
The three friends turned to look. Tim hadn’t moved, except for his left arm, which was now raised above his lap. “I picked it up at a flea market,” he whispered mournfully. He was wearing Lonegan’s glove.