This is the second to last installment of Extra Innings. A few of you have been with me on this journey and it has been a long one, 12 weeks shy of a full year.
This is the second weekly serial I have written and it has taught me a few lessons that I will likely cover in a separate blog post.
One definitive lesson is about continuity. As I go back to past weeks looking for information on what I’ve previously written, I’ve found a number of continuity issues with back story and past character events.
When I turn this serial into a book, I will correct these things. Normally, when a book is written, continuity checking is one of those things that beta readers help out with. This serial has been all me. It’s over 70,000 words of stream of consciousness writing that, while it is a decent story, there are gaps and plot holes that will be fixed.
Look for next week to have the resolution to this tale and then look for it as a book sometime in the future with the gaps, plot hoes and continuity issues fixed.
If you want to catch up on the previous installments of this serial, you can click on these links:
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14, Part 15, Part 16, Part 17, Part 18, Part 19, Part 20, Part 21, Part 22, Part 23, Part 24, Part 25, Part 26, Part 27, Part 28, Part 29, Part 30, Part 31, Part 32, Part 33, Part 34, Part 35, Part 36, Part 37, Part 38, Part 39
The rest of Joe’s time in the 1993 timeline was immaterial. Joe had once again set in motion the movement toward owning his own firm. He had the same conversation with his parents in which they offered him support. Joe reacted much the same as he had in the original timeline so the future would play out in a similar manner with regard to the business. Being with his parents this time was somehow different. He felt a sense of detachment. His time in the mausoleum brought him some closure. Trying to save his parents’ lives had seemed like a good idea at first, but Joe now knew that it was only prolonging the inevitable and the more he prolonged it, the less pleasant that eventuality would be.
Joe, once again, fell asleep on the couch watching (but not watching) a movie with his parents. Once again, like the last time he had used this timeline to change events, he woke up in the lakefront house that had belonged to John Provenza in his original present. His business was successful in this timeline and it was on his own terms. He had started it from the beginning, not assumed it because of being a whistleblower or by refusing to be a whistleblower in the persona of his grandfather. Joe felt the best about this iteration of his business becasuse it demonstrated that he had the intestinal fortitude from the beginning. He may not have turned out as wealthy as he did as an executive with RPM, but he was not affiliated with criminals and not married into their family. Now, he was ready to focus on his next objective, Beth. Joe was pretty sure that he knew what to do, but it was going to be tricky and the timing was going to be crucial.
He showered and shaved so he could look his best in the new timeline. He wasn’t sure if this carried over, but it was worth the effort and it made him feel better. He then went to his two -drawer file cabinet. A sense of dread passed over Joe as he opened the top drawer, but this was replaced by relief when he found the remaining program books and his legal pad between the folders just as he left them. He grabbed the next program book for his plan and replaced the rest in the cabinet.
Joe had a bit of research to do before he ventured to another point in his past. He looked through his larger file cabinet and found the information he was looking for. He was pleased with what he found as it would help his next jump. This jump to the past was a bit risky.
He went out the garage and backed the Tesla out of the driveway and sped toward Langerton Deluxe Storage. He remembered the code from his previous stint in this timeline and, this time, he didn’t need Kenny’s assistance with the combination lock. He removed the lock and raised the door to the unit. The stadium seat was in the corner of the storage unit just where he expected. Joe climbed over the boxes and furniture to the seat and sat down. He took a glance at the program book. His destination was a new one, but he hoped this part of the plan would work.
July 13th, 1996
Joes return to this game eight years earlier had nothing to do with the game itself. It had to do with a pivotal event in his marriage to Beth. This day was a double-header with the Pawtucket Red Sox. The Chiefs were in third place and had a five game homestand against the Sox that year. This double-header was the last two games of the series. The Sox were in first place; the Chiefs in third. The Sox had been swept in the first three games and, if the Chiefs could keep it going, they would inch up into 2nd place in the International League.
As Joe opened his eyes in the seat at the stadium, the sun was fully on him. His brother and his father were also at the game. The games were pivotal for the Chiefs and the crowd was amped. Joe wasn’t interesting in the games, however, for two primary reasons. First, he already knew the outcome. The Chiefs would drop both and would remain in 3rd place for the rest of the 1995 season. Second, this was a pivotal day in his relationship with Beth. He was now 24. Three years had passed since his refusal to work for the Provenzas. Joe knew, from his research, that his fledgling firm was doing well enough for him to be out on his own. Luckily, he had kept all of his tax records and knew he had filed individually and had deducted a home mortgage expense in the 1996 tax year. He knew something else that was key, he had never actually been to this game in his original timeline. The program book that he held was one that his brother had brought him. Joe had to work on this Saturday in 1996 in the original timeline. He was slaving away for the Provenzas. As much as it pained him to miss this game, Joe also knew that, because of being stuck at the office, it was the night he would reconnect with Beth.
He had figured out why Beth wasn’t part of his life in his present after refusing the job from Provenza in 1993. As a result of starting his own firm, he hadn’t been working on this Saturday in 1996 which meant he hadn’t gone to dinner at Dominicks’ and he hadn’t run into Beth eating alone. As a result of that chance meeting in his original timeline, he had ended up joining her for dinner and they had started dating. They had married two years later. Joe decided that he needed to make sure this night happened in order to have any kind of future with Beth in his revised life as a successful business owner. The fact that he actually made it to this game successfully and his brother and father had not questioned his presence meant that he had guessed correctly.
Joe waited for a lull in the action and then feigned a vibration from his pager.
“Oh great,” he said turning to his brother.
“What is it, Joe?” Mike asked.
“It’s the new super market chain account. They want some numbers.”
“You know how it is. I don’t want to lose this client early in the game. I’m just going to run by the office and pull the numbers for them.”
“You’re a good businessman, Joey,” Joe’s father said. “Give them what they want, when they want it and you’ll go far.”
Joe felt a wave of emotion at the sound of his voice.
“Thanks, Dad. I’ll try to come back, but don’t wait for me. I’ve got my car at the office.”
Joe knew, for a big game like this, they would have parked their cars at the office and walked to the stadium. Maxwell’s small crushed-stone parking lot would never handle all of the cars.
Joe walked down the steps and through the tunnel. It took him about 15 minutes to walk to the office. The streets near the stadium seemed deserted as much of the town was either at the game or home listening to it on the radio.
Joe had no intention of doing any work. What he wanted to do was get into his car, go home and spruce up and think about what he wanted to say to Beth at this ‘chance’ meeting. As he recalled it, they had fallen naturally into conversation and he had somehow had the nerve to ask her out. He didn’t want to change much. He just wanted to make sure it happened.
Joe found his car, a 1996 Acura Legend, in the parking lot. It was a decent car that spoke well of his financial position. He drove to the house he had purchased. Ironically, it was the same ranch that he and Beth lived in when they were first married. He had apparently purchased it early in this timeline. Joe entered the house barely paying attention to his surroundings. He wanted to take a shower, wear something decent, but not obvious and head over to the restaurant. According to his recollection, Beth would be there in about an hour.
Joe pulled into the Dominick’s parking lot and walked in. He cursed himself as he was apparently early. The hostess smiled at him. Apparently he was starting to build his reputation as a businessman in Langerton as hers was only the first of a few nods of recognition.
“Would you like a table for one?” the hostess asked.
“Um, I’m actually looking for someone. I’m…I’m not sure if I’ll be eating in or getting take-out.”
“The hostess smiled again.
“That’s no problem sir. Just let me know and I’ll help you out.”
Joe went to the restroom, more out of nervousness than a true need to go. When he came out, he planned on looking around the dining room again and, if Beth wasn’t there, he might go out and sit in his car for a bit. He looked around the room and saw no one resembling Beth seated for dinner. He decided he would sit in the car and wait for her to arrive, assuming that she was coming at all. He turned to walk out and bumped into someone who was entering.
“I’m sorry,” Joe said automatically and then he saw who it was.
“It’s okay,” Beth said. “I wasn’t looking either.”
Joe was at a loss for words.
“Joe? Joe McLean? Is that you?”
“It’s Beth, Beth Burton. Remember? From high school?”
“Beth. Of course, I remember you.”
“Funny bumping into you here,” Beth said. “Literally.”
They both laughed. Joe had forgotten how beautiful and engaging Beth was at this age.
“I’m just back in town,” Beth said. “I moved back home with Mom and Dad until I can get on my feet.”
“I just finished working and I’m here for dinner,” Joe said.
Beth looked confused.
“I thought you were going out when I was coming in.”
“Oh that. I was just going out to make sure I locked my car.”
Joe hesitated to ask the next question.
“Are you eating here alone?”
“Well, I was going to get takeout,” Beth said.
“Why don’t we grab a table. We can catch up on old times,” Joe said trying to sound natural.
“That sounds great,” Beth said without hesitation.
Joe and Beth went up to the hostess stand.
“I see you found who you were looking for,” the hostess said.
Joe felt a burning sensation in his face.
“Were you expecting someone, Joe?” Beth asked.
“Um, no. Well, just my brother, Mike. But, he’s not going to make it.”
“Oh, okay. Well then it’s just us,” Beth said.
The waitress grabbed two menus and led Joe and Beth to a table.
They sat down and fell into a natural conversation. Joe had to tread carefully as he had to avoid all their history in the other timelines. He truly had to act as if he and Beth were getting to know each other without the baggage. It was difficult, but refreshing in a way.
Dinner was as delicious as ever at Dominick’s. This restaurant was the one constant in all the timelines, Joe thought to himself. They shared what they had done since high school. Beth had earned a business degree. Joe told her about starting his own accounting firm while underplaying his success. Despite his desire to appear humble, Beth seemed suitably impressed. When dinner was over, joe felt nostalgia washing over him. He and Beth had hit it off well, perhaps better than in the original timeline. Joe knew more about her than he was able to reveal so he knew her likes and dislikes and played to them. After he paid the check and left the waitress a generous, but not pretentious, tip, he asked Beth if she would like to go out sometime.
“Of course, Joe,” she answered. “This was fun. Of course, if I get this job at the mall, my schedule might be weird, but we can work around it.”
Beth gave Joe her number and he walked her out to her car which was a station wagon borrowed from her parents. He got into his own Volvo and drove home. He looked forward to falling asleep and waking up in the present once again. This time, he hoped things had changed enough and that he was done traveling. He vowed to himself that, once he was satisfied with his timeline, he would destroy the stadium seat.
Joe parked in the driveway and went into the house. He was still giddy about having dinner as young Joe with young Beth. He assumed he did everything correctly. He would know for sure when he awoke back in the present.
At first, he had a hard time settling down and getting to sleep. He found a copy of the book, Hard Landings, on his nightstand and began reading about the struggle between management and labor in the airline industry and he quickly found himself dozing.
Joe awoke with the sunrise. He was back in the lakefront house, a good sign. He rolled over to see what time it was and felt another presence in the bed. He was startled at first at this unfamiliar feeling. When he turned the other way to see who it was, he found himself looking at Beth. She opened her eyes and smiled.
“Good morning, Babe,” Beth said.
“Good morning,” Joe said as a feeling of warmth spread throughout his body.