Now the premise of this story will be revealed. It was heavily influenced by Stephen King’s novel 11/22/63 but on a much more personal scale. I hope you enjoy the direction of this story. It’s much different than my usual mystery/thriller type work.
Joe didn’t tell Mike about the dreams he had before they picked up the seat and sign. He had the feeling that his brother already thought he was headed down the road to being nuts. He didn’t want to validate it. They pulled into Joe’s apartment complex and parked near the door to his unit. They carried in the seat and sign. Joe was surprised at how heavy the seat was. Then they carried in the plywood, the carpet, and some of the supplies and tools that Mike had brought. It was now coming up on 1:30 A.M.
“I want to attach some carpet I brought and mount the seat for you, but I don’t want to wake up your neighbors.”
Joe lived next to a group of three college students, two guys and a girl.
“It’s Okay. It’s payback for when they have their loud all-night parties and their late night ‘study sessions’ Those are just getting cranked up by 2 A.M. and are still going strong when I leave for work. I’m glad I have noise canceling headphones.”
They moved the leather recliner over about three feet and Mike set to work on covering the platform for the seat with the carpeting. It was navy blue, the Chiefs’ color. Joe put the metal sign up on top of the book shelf next to his wide screen TV. The shelf had DVDs from various memorable baseball seasons. It also had a neatly cataloged collection of Langerton Chiefs program books. Some were from before Joe and Mike’s time. Some had autographs in them that were likely pretty valuable. Joe collected them from the time he was a kid. He had the special ones on display here with boxes full of additional books nearly filling a closet.
Mike set the plywood on an edge and began to attach the carpeting with a heavy duty staple gun. Joe helped him set it on the floor and then they lined the seat up on the platform. Mike drilled pilot holes that lined up with the holes in the seat’s leg brackets. He then attached the seat to the base with some carriage bolts.
“It looks great. I owe you one, Mike. Thanks for your help with this.”
“Don’t make me regret it, Joey. You’ve gotta snap out of this. Get a life. Move on.”
“I will. I promise.”
Joe wasn’t sure his brother was convinced when he finally left at about 2:45. Joe thought he had better get to bed if he was going to make it into the office tomorrow. He was far from cocky, but knew the office would have some difficulty without him there.
He was about to head to his bedroom after one more glance at the old wooden stadium seat in his “man cave.” It looked surprisingly good to him. He decided to take a seat in it and for whatever reason, randomly grabbed a program book from a past Chiefs game from the shelf.
Joe felt a strange sensation wash over him when he settled into the seat. I must really be tired. I actually feel a bit dizzy. I better get to bed. But, try as he might, Joe could not overcome the urge to remain in the seat. It felt unbelievably comfortable as Joe set the program book on his lap.
He drifted off to something like sleep.
…And woke up almost immediately, or did he? He felt a warm breeze on his face and was startled by the brightness of a late day sun that was beginning to set…over the left field wall. He had been startled awake in the middle of a game between the Chiefs and the Toledo Mud Hens. It had to be a dream. He had just sat down in the seat in his living room. But this was so vivid. He looked around and saw the familiar faces of other season ticket holders. He smelled the food cooking at the concession stands and the odor coming from the plastic beer cups strewn on the floor of the ballpark. Just as he was convincing himself that this was the most vivid dream ever, his brother Mike sat down beside him and handed him a beer. He looked different; younger somehow.
“This round’s on me. I never thought that Simmons would have used that sacrifice fly with his best hitter at the plate and the bases loaded. You called it, Joey.”
Joe didn’t know how to react. He actually felt the pain as he pinched is own arm. What’s going on? Am I really nuts? Did I finally cross over the line?
“What’s wrong Joey? You look like you saw a ghost.”
“Um, I’m fine Mike. Just a little tired.”
“Well, if the Chiefs hold them here, they’ll sweep this double-header. I’m glad we decided to hit both games. With Sophia and the boys out of town, I would have gone nuts around the house.”
Just then, there was the distinct sound of a wooden bat hitting a baseball as the Toledo catcher hit a long fly ball to center field. The Chiefs were up by one and there was a man on base with two outs. The Chiefs’ center fielder backed up to the warning track and almost to the wall and expertly caught the fly ball for the game’s final out with the Chiefs on top.
“Well that’s it. We might as well head out and join in the traffic.”
Joe was still a bit dazed and confused. He followed Mike up the stairs and through the tunnel toward the parking lot. Mike pulled out his car keys.
As they walked, Mike kept talking about the game and how much he had enjoyed it. Joe was barely paying attention until Mike changed the subject.
“So, Beth should be off work by the time you get home. How are things going with you guys?”
Beth? What was going on When was this game, had he gone back in time
Joe realized that he had a program book from the game in his hand. He glanced at the date and saw that it read June 16th, 2004. Over twelve years ago. Nearly at the end of his relationship with his wife.
“Joe. Are things that bad with you two, or are you just not listening to me?”
“What…oh…sorry. Yeah. Things are Okay.”
“Okay? Really? You guys never see each other. With her job managing the store at the mall and working almost every night, you pass each other going in and out of the door. If you ask me, you two need some quality time. Take a vacation. Get away from the routine.”
Joe was struggling for something to say in this apparent alternate reality while he tried to wrap his mind around the situation. Was he really going to see Beth? He struggled to remember how close to end of their relationship they were in June of 2004. Pretty close as well as he could recall.
“Um, a vacation. Sure. Maybe that’s a good idea.”
“Well that’s a turnaround. Usually you’ve got some lame excuse about how busy you both are at work. You know that company of yours is using you. You’ll never move up unless somehow they adopt you and you change your last name. That’s the problem with family businesses.”
Joe was still reeling inside of his mind. He seemed to remember his brother lecturing him like this on quite a few occasions. As he reflected on his 2014 life, he obviously had not listened. When they finally reached the car, Joe settled into the passenger seat and welcomed the cool air conditioning.
Mike drove them toward the house that Joe and Beth lived in at that time. It was a nice three bedroom ranch with a view of the lake. They had moved in after their marriage eight years earlier and saw it as a place where they could settle in for a while, have a family, and be comfortable. They had settled in, but there was no family. Beth had miscarried soon after their first anniversary and they had no luck since then. They had been to countless doctors and, even though there appeared to be no medical reason for not being able to conceive, they had no luck.
As Joe thought back to 2004, that was around the time that they had resigned themselves to not having a family and had thrown themselves into their work. It had also been the end of their relationship.
As Mike pulled into the familiar driveway, Joe felt a bit of angst as he saw his then wife’s green Toyota Camry parked in the driveway. He hadn’t seen Beth in nearly eight years when, in 2006, she informed him she was moving to Florida and gave him the new address to mail his monthly checks. It was not a fond farewell. This was going to be awkward.