This is a series of stories inspired by background music. My clearest memories are often tied to the music playing nearby. Like mile markers or souvenirs from a road trip, there are songs that point directly to certain moments. Life is a highway and these are the loudest billboards.
This is a story about imaginary baseball.
He sat on the grass and opened a ragged notebook. Reaching out hesitantly he touched his bruised shin. It hurt. His pants were covered in dirt and grass stains. It felt good. He winced as he adjusted his angle, sending a sharp pain up his leg. It hurt. He looked at the now empty diamond and pitcher's mound where he had stood to throw the losing pitch. He picked up the pen and began writing.
"The crowd cheered, as he walked to the pitcher's mound."
That's how the first chapter started. The first chapter in a notebook filled wholly with first chapters. With this level of subtlety, you might imagine the hero of the story to be wearing a name tag advertising, "Hello, I am a hero, how can I save you?" But that wasn't the case. In fact, the hero looked a lot like the boy sitting in the outfield with a black notebook.
He kept writing, each line of text bending farther off of the college rules as it reached the right margin. Symmetry had no place in the naive, spidery handwriting. Sometimes he would skip letters, so he would have to pause to cram a missed vowel in between a welded O and T. There was a clear goal, one that gave precision a day off. A goal that had no concern for the path, just as straight of a line to the end as could be managed.
"That was strike two! The count was now 3 and 2!"
Of course, nothing could come too easily for the hero. There needed to be mounting tension, a gasp from the crowd. They needed to be on his side, to love him. There needed to be no doubt.
His writing was even more feverish now, disobeying all guides on the note paper. He began to care less about those missing letters. There was only one thing to do. Finish the story.
"The crowd was so loud! They cheered louder and louder!"
The crowd gasped. They were on his side now. They needed him to win.
Every sentence ended in an exclamation. The story kept building, ramping up to the explosion. The moment the hero succeeded. He had filled up two pages with scribbled, illegible writing and was now halfway through a third.
"He threw the pitch! The batter swung! He missed!"
And the crowd went wild, of course they did, they loved him. The people loved him! He had won the game and the admiration of everyone in the stands. What a game. There was a release of bliss, and oh, oh, oh, the happiness! The success! They would remember that game for years.
He stood up slowly, the field was still empty. The screams of the crowd silently existing in the ruffled pages of the notebook in his hand. He thought about how he could have changed the outcome of the real game. How he could have been more like the hero in his story. He looked down at the small amount of blood soaking through his pinstriped socks and decided that it looked tough. Tough was good. He took his Walkman out of the backpack and hit play.