Shannon and Bill guide me slowly into the house, my hand and face wrapped in ice packs.
“I still think we should go to the hospital,” Shannon says.
“I’m fine,” I say through my tightened jaw. “The other team’s third baseman checked me out. He said I’m ok.”
“But he’s a veterinarian,” she says.
“Humans…animals…we all have…bones and stuff,” I say, and look to Bill. “I think I might be able to pitch next week. They’re gonna need me.”
Bill eyes me like I’m crazy.
“Tell me something, Doug,” he says. “Have you ever had the bacon, egg and cheese biscuit at McDonald’s?”
“Greatest breakfast sandwich ever, right?” he says.
“I guess,” I say.
“You ever take it apart to see what that rolled up piece of processed egg tastes like on its own?”
“Hasn’t everyone?” I say.
“How’d it taste?” he says.
I make a sour face.
“That’s right,” he says. “Doug, you’re a good egg…you might even be a good egg substitute made from a mass-produced powder, but you need that bacon, you need that biscuit, you need that cheese to be something great.”
“I don’t understand what that means,” I say.
“It means that you could be a very good contributor on a talented team,” he says. “But you’re not anyone’s savior.”
I stare back him with resentment.
“I’m a flimsy, tasteless piece of processed egg,” I say.
Shannon giggles. “An egg,” she says.
“Don’t sell yourself short,” Bill says. “Without the egg, there’s no sandwich.”
“So you’re calling me a…” I spit out the term in disgust, “a role player.”
“Hey, there’s nothing wrong with being a Danny Ainge,” he says. “You’re a white guy with some pretty good game, but you need a Larry, you need a Kevin, you need a Chief.”
Bill and Shannon lower me into a chair at the kitchen table. I pull the ice pack off my head.
“You need any more ice, honey?” Shannon says.
“I’m good,” I say.
Shannon tells to Edwin and Fiona to get into their pajamas. The conga line heads upstairs.
I have that melancholy look. Bill sits down across from me.
“Hey, man, I know,” he says. “You want to be bacon. I want to be bacon. Everyone can’t be bacon. If everyone were bacon, you know what you’d have?”
“What,” I say.
“The Atkins diet,” Bill says. “And I’ll tell you what – that’s an unpleasant existence. I tried that diet for a week. By day 5, I was dreaming about doughnuts, bagels and bread, and eventually bacon didn’t even taste good anymore. The world needs eggs like you and bread like me. We make the bacon taste good.”
“Why do you get to be bread?” I say.
“Because I’m often toasted,” he says.
I grin and as Bill stands.
“Good one to finish on,” he says. “Tip your waitress. Try the veal.”
Devlin comes into the kitchen. Bill looks to Dev and points to me. “Good egg, your dad,” he says, then to me. “Alright, later.”
“Thanks,” I say. “Later.”
Devlin takes the same seat across from me.
“So,” I say, adjusting the icepack on my hand. “What did you think? Embarrassing, huh?”
“Kind of,” Devlin says, “but I was kinda proud too.”
“Really? Why?” I say.
Dev thinks. “Well, we spend a lot of time on sports,” he says. “We play, we coach, we cheer, we watch Sportscenter all day long. If we didn’t try hard, if we didn’t care a lot, what would be the point? It wouldn’t make sense. It would be a waste. Tonight, I could tell how much you cared. It was a little embarrassing, but it was…who you are. Who we are.”
“You think I should quit?” I say.
“Yes,” he says. “But you won’t.”
“Do you want me to quit?” I say.
“No,” he says. “It’s not you.”
“We’ll see,” I say. “You and Bill might be right.”
“I just don’t like seeing you get hurt,” Dev says. “As for Bill, he just wants you to spend more time on the couch watching games.”
“How’d you get so smart?” I say.
“Mom,” he says.
Dev stands and circles the table. On his way past me, he pats me on the shoulder.
“You’re bacon to me, Dad,” he says.
He bounds upstairs, oblivious to the impact he’s just made. My chest swells with pride.
In spite of the evening’s humiliating events, I feel like I’ve just…I don’t know...
Two weeks later, I call out Larry Bird’s name during an intimate moment in bed with Shannon. I have no idea why. To this day, if you listen closely on a quiet summer night in Chicago, you can hear the distant echo of her reaction in the breeze.
Well there you have it, folks – my over-the-top therapy-session-slash-response to the Celtics’ gut-wrenching loss in the 2010 Finals. I sincerely hope you enjoyed it. If you did, please comment, even anonymously, to let me know.
And if you really enjoyed it…
You can buy the book. Yup, that’s right, you can buy Traveling, the novel.
Now I know what you’re asking yourself: “Why should I bother to purchase what I just received for free?” Well, that’s a pretty damn good question, actually, so I guess I better come up with something. Ok, here it goes – each book contains:
- A special Author’s Note enjoyed only by those who have made this special purchase.
- The official text version of Traveling on actual, physical pages that you can turn, like a real book.
- A version that allows you to enjoy Traveling without a WiFi connection, or even a computer.
- An item you can use as your virtual Wonka golden ticket, entitling you to meet me, Evil Ted, if you are ever in the downtown Chicago area. You will receive:
o One face-to-face meeting, during which I will talk to you as if you are a person I care about for a period of at least five minutes.
o My signature on your copy of the book (or of any other copies of my books you may have purchased). I will be happy to give you either a personalized signing (as in, “Hi Joe, glad you liked my book…”) or an I-want-to-sell-this-on-eBay-version-someday-when-you’re-famous signing (just my signature and nothing else).
o Special mention in our Basketbawful “Fan of the Day” segment, which will include a photo of the glorious meeting and a special ET write-up of the encounter.
- For purchasers of three or more books, I will wear special accoutrements, such as the Larry Bird wig and stache made famous in my Larry Bird Theme Park video.
- For buyers of six or more books, I will basically debase myself in whatever way you choose. If you are a Laker fan, bring a Laker jersey and I will wear it in said Larry Bird hair and stache, prance around like a drunken fairy, and scream “Lakers rule!” at the top of my lungs in a public place.
Now much would you pay? But wait… there’s more!
Purchases of any of my books (even the much more thrifty downloads) will contribute to the make-Traveling-a-movie fund. You’ve already seen what kind of magic I can create on a budget of virtually zero. Imagine if I can sell a whole ton of books and stockpile some cash for a better camera and lunch money for a few good actors….
And finally, if you have trouble parting with your hard-earned cash for a narrative you’ve already read online, consider my other works. There’s The Art of Reprisal, a cool, dark psychological thriller that took me about fifteen years to complete… and oh yeah… I do have a couple of books that…. let’s see…. hmmm…. how to describe them….. ok…. imagine, if you will, the easily digested humor of Traveling, but as a hilarious, disgustingly filthy, dystopian male satire that would burst into flame if you brought it anywhere near a church, or even near, like, an optimistic person. That’s Modern Man. Now imagine I’ve cast aside my conscience and decided not to only have gut-bustingly funny filth, but also decided to eliminate any redeeming qualities from my characters whatsoever. That would be Hot Mess.
Piqued your interest? Thought so. Perverts.
I know what you’re saying: “How sad to debase this great and pure literary experience with a tawdry money-making scheme, ET.” To that, I say – money making? HA! Given that I’ve been writing for 20 plus years, adding up the profit of the books I’ve sold would give me approximately…10 bucks a year – hardly something on which to make a living. I do it because I love it. Of course, if I could be successful enough to do it full time someday, awesome. But if not, the Clark Kent job continues.
Again, I hope you enjoyed reading Traveling as much as I enjoyed writing it. I was thrilled to be able to share it with you in this way.
If you have any questions, comments, or inquiries for me directly, contact me at: email@example.com