Last week, I posted the last installment of my stream of consciousness serial, Road Kill. It ended up being substantial enough that it will be edited and published in book form at some point.
I really enjoyed writing it and it forced me to sit down and write at least 1,500 words of original material each week on a schedule.
I’m now introducing a new serial in a totally different genre. It’s a genre I really haven’t published much, sci-fi/supernatural, except in the form of short stories. This story was inspired by a book that I read. I don’t want to reveal the inspiration yet, because I don’t want to give away too much of the story beyond this introductory chapter.
For now, I’ll just reveal Chapter 1 and look for your feedback.
Extra Innings – Inning 1, Out 1
Triple A baseball is just one step below the majors. For Joe McClean and his family, being fans of the Langerton Chiefs was a legacy passed down through multiple generations. Located in the no-man’s land part of Pennsylvania that formed a small barrier between Western New York and Eastern Ohio. Langerton’s sports scene consisted of baseball during the all-too brief spring, summer, and fall along with minor league hockey during the seemingly endless winter. Hockey was a great diversion in the winter, but it was baseball that added a special magic to the warm summer nights.
The Langerton Chiefs had a long history going back to the 1940’s. The United States was hungry for normalcy after the horrors of World War II. The wholesomeness and pure sense of America that baseball offered were just the cohesive forces that the country needed to pull itself together.
The minor league system for baseball, with its A, AA, and AAA teams gave fans an outlet for inexpensive entertainment that showcased talented players before their potential ascent to the Major Leagues. Many of the stars of the AAA Chiefs went on to be well-known players. Also, players on the mend or those looking for a comeback often made appearances in minor league parks to sharpen their skills with the farm team.
The parent clubs of these teams tended to shift from time to time. Joe McClean remembered the days when the Chiefs were a New York Yankees farm club with great fondness. The Yanks would come to Langerton each year for an exhibition game. Joe and his brother had stood in line for autographs from greats like Don Mattingly, Dave Winfield, and other stars of the 80’s and 90’s. Joe’s dad had a Langerton Chiefs baseball card for Thurman Munson that had the late, great catcher’s signature.
Now, as Joe passed through middle-age, the Langerton town council had voted to tear down the old Maxwell Stadium and replace it with one of those brand-new,old-fashioned stadiums that had become popular when the Baltimore Orioles built Oriole Park at Camden Yards in 1992. Joe was not happy with this development.
“I can’t believe they’re going to tear the old place down,” Joe said to his brother Mike as they downed a huge breakfast at the Little Star Diner.
“It’s just progress. Maxwell is a dump.”
“A dump? It’s the place where we saw some great players and some great games. How can you call it a dump?”
“Yea. We did have some great times there back when the Yanks were our team and not the Blue Jays. They’re not even an American team.”
“How many Americans make up a team these days, anyway?” Joe half-joked. “You’re right. American kids play soccer now. I don’t understand a game where, after three hours, there’s no score.”
“Sounds a lot like baseball?”
It was different though, the brothers agreed. A scoreless baseball game was a nerve-wracking event where, with each pitch, a million different outcomes were possible and strategic decisions could turn the momentum in a game. Both McClean brothers believed this to be true.
“I’m going to miss those old metal and wood seats. Something about that place made me feel at home,” Joe said.
“The new place will be fine. It’s the game that counts, not where it’s played.”
“I know, but still, the ambiance is going to be missed.”
“Ambiance? Look at you Mr. Fancy College Boy. If you miss it so much, why don’t you go grab some pieces of the stadium and put them in your apartment?”
Mike was the older brother by eight years. He went to work in the auto plant right out high-school. Joe had gone to college and was now a CPA.
Joe was silent.
“I don’t like that look, little brother. I was joking, but your face says you didn’t get the joke.”
“Well, what are they going do to with the seats and the signs?”
“Trash them. After they salvage what they want, they’ll come in with dozers and back hoes and tear the place down, load it in dump trucks, and haul it away.”
“So what’s the harm in taking a seat or some signs if they’re going to just dump them?”
“There’s no harm if you don’t mind the breaking and entering or the theft charges that go along with your plan.”
“Listen to you. You always had a drawer full of candy bars and then cigarettes in our room when we were kids. Did you pay for those? Besides, I was going to ask.”
“Hey, we were kids then and even though Mom and Dad dragged us to church every Sunday, I didn’t know any better.”
Joe smiled at his brother’s comments. He remembered those Sundays when Father McDougal would give a homily filled with parables about the evils of money and material goods. This was always followed by the passing of the basket so that the church could collect some of that evil money.
“I’ll call the box office and see who I need to talk to. You never know, they might just let us take some stuff,” Joe said.
“Well good luck with that. I’ll be looking forward to those padded box seats in the new Price Choice Stadium.”
The stadium was to be named for a grocery store chain owned by Lackawana Specialty Services, a holding company with rumored ties to the mob in Western New York. LSS owned the land that the stadium was on and decided to name the stadium after it’s discount grocery store chain and obliterate Maxwell name that the stadium carried for nearly 70 years honoring a World War II hero from the area.
“I’ll be there too, but I sure will miss old Maxwell with its leaky roof and smoky field.”
The concession stands that sold burgers, hot dogs, and other grilled item were close to the field at the third base side. When the wind swirled off of Lake Erie, it often took the smoke from the old-fashioned grills and covered the field in a thick, wonderful smelling, carcinogenic haze.
The brothers finished their breakfast and went their separate ways. Mike, to one of the few remaining auto parts manufacturers in the northeast, and Joe, to the accounting firm of Romano, Provenza and Bianchi. The brothers got together for breakfast every Tuesday morning and had done so every week of their adult lives baring sickness, vacation, and holidays. The Little Star, a 55 year-old greasy spoon was always their destination.
Joe pulled into his firm’s parking lot. The building that housed R, P, & B was a circa 1960 cinder block box with plate glass windows. Joe had worked here for 20 years. He was a hard worker and would have made partner in any other firm by now. Nepotism and the lack of an Italian last name, however, kept that from happening in this firm. He was content, though, lacking the drive and the nerve to strike out on his own. R, P,& B was the only accounting firm in town and virtually every business and many individuals in Langerton made up their client base. Joe walked past the offices along the wall to his half-walled cubicle.
It was Johnny Provenza, one of the new junior partners that was just one year out of college and was the son of one of the partners.
“Good morning, John.”
“How about those Steelers last night?”
“I missed it. The Yankees were playing the Red Sox in the ALCS last night.”
“Baseball. What a snooze fest. Does anybody watch that anymore?”
“I still do,” Joe said feeling his age more than ever.
“Oh yeah, of course. By the way Joe, do you have the Healthway numbers for me yet? Dad’s been asking for them.”
“I’m just checking some last minute figures and should have it to you by the end of today.”
John noticed others in the firm beginning to watch the exchange between him and Joe.
“See that you do, Joe. I won’t tolerate missing a deadline.”
Healthway was one of the accounts that Johnny had been handed when he joined the firm as a junior partner. It was a lucrative medium-sized account with minimal complexity, but was way above Johnny’s abilities. Joe had offered to help and found the account totally delegated to him. He wondered if John Provenza, Sr. knew the work was not being done by his son. Joe would never tell. He just did his job without passion day after day. He was content. His only passion was baseball.
Baseball was a passion that led to Joe tracking every statistic of every player on the Langerton team as well as the Yankees. He went to every Chiefs home game and weekend away games when they were within a three hour drive. And now, they were tearing down old Maxwell Stadium. The place where so many of his memories were made. He needed to get a piece of those memories for himself before they hauled it all away, but how?
Joe put it out of his mind. He had the Healthway numbers to finish and he had to focus and set aside his childish notions. He didn’t think about it until lunch time.