The thin, pale fellow has emerged seemingly out of nowhere with a guitar.
His song sounds really familiar.

It's all right to lose,
Losing gets the sad out of you.
It's all right to lose,
It might make you feel better.

I lean over to Annie and whisper.

“Has this guy been here the whole time?” I ask.

“I don’t know,” Annie says. She puts her hand on the bucket, like she’s on the verge of needing to use it.

Raindrops from your eyes,
Washing all the mad out of you.
Raindrops from your eyes,
It's gonna make you feel better.

Tooth is swaying with the music, his head metronoming like he’s Stevie Wonder.

“I may need that bucket,” I say.

Annie slides it between us.

It's all right to feel things,
Though the feelings may be strange.
Feelings are such real things,
And they change and change and change.

Sad 'n' grumpy, down in the dumpy
Snuggly, hugly, mean 'n' ugly
Sloppy, slappy, hoppy, happy
Change and change and change

It's all right to know,
Feelings come and feelings go.
It's all right to cry,
It might make you feel better.

The guy finishes off with a spoken bit:

It's all right to lose, little boy
I know some big boys that lose too.

After the last little guitar flourish, Tooth applauds. The rest of us offer polite, uninspired claps.

“Gentlemen and lady,” Tooth says, extending a hand toward the so-called entertainment. “This is Jeb. He’s the pastor at my church.”

Jeb waves. “Hi everyone,” he says with a toothy, Osmond-like smile. “I hope you liked my song.”

“It sounded like It’s all right to cry from the Free to be you and me soundtrack,” I say, “with the word lose in place of cry.”

Patch fires a how-the-hell-did-you-know-that look at me.

“Three kids,” I say.

“That’s exactly what it was,” Jeb says. “I custom wrote it just for you all.”

“Well, you didn’t really write anything,” I say. “You just kinda replaced a few words. You Weird Al Yankovic’d it.”

“Ok, Doug, let’s move on,” Tooth says. “Jeb has something he’d like to talk to us about.”

“If this turns into a Bible study group, I’m outta here,” Bandana says.

“Relax,” Tooth says. He nods at Jeb, who puts his guitar aside, leans forward, and folds his hands together.

“I’ll get right to it,” Jeb says. “Our church has a co-ed slow pitch softball team. In the three years of our existence, we have been defeated every year.”

“You’ve been what?” I say.

“Defeated,” he says.

“What do you mean? Emotionally defeated?” I say.

“No, you know how some teams go undefeated?” he says. “We were defeated.”

“Oh, you mean winless,” I say.

“Yes, winless,” Jeb concedes, looking confused by the semantics. “Anyway, we’re trying to change that. In an effort to become more competitive, we’ve opened the team to non-church members. David and I thought it would be a good idea to see if any of you were interested in joining.”

“Who’s David?” I say.

Wrinkling his brow at the question, Jeb aims a finger at Tooth, who points to himself as if to say how could you not know that?

“The team is going to be great,” Jeb says. “I’m putting together a whole new angle. New name, new T-shirts, everything.”

“What’s the name?” Bandana says.

“We’re calling the team Jesus Christ,” Jeb says. “Think about it. Nobody wants to beat Jesus Christ.”

I deadpan back to Jeb.

“What Bible did you study?” I say.

Annie laughs.

“So wait a minute,” I say. “You’re recruiting for a competitive league from a Competitors Anonymous support group?”

Jeb is stone still, guilt wrapped over his face.

I look at Tooth-slash-David. “Was this the plan all along?” I say. “To search out hyper-competitive people for your softball team?”

Tooth and Jeb exchange guilty glances. I’m waiting for one of them to bite down on a cyanide capsule or something.

This new information throws me. I feel like Luke Skywalker in Return of the Jedi when the Emperor tells him the Rebellion has walked straight into a trap.

I look around at the group.

“How many of you are in on this?” I say.

Patch looks down at his feet in shame.

“I don’t believe it,” I say. “You?” I’d call him by his name, but I don’t know it.

“I’m playing catcher this year,” Patch says, tapping his eye patch. “With my depth perception what it is, that’s all I can handle.”

“What do you mean this year?” I say. “You were on the team last year?

Patch nods.

“So you must be a member of the church,” I say.

Patch nods again.

“Who are you?” I say. “I don’t even know you.” Of course, I never knew him, really.

“Don’t be mad, Doug,” Patch says. “We need you. You look like you’re pretty athletic.”

I start hyperventilating. Pieces of information fall together in my mind.

“Is that…why you let me go on and on with my story?” I say.
Tooth shrugs. “You needed to get it off your chest, right?” he says. “We listened. We were there for you. Now we need you to be there for us.” Tooth looks at Jeb. “What do you think? Shortstop?”

“Pitcher, maybe,” Jeb says, looking me up and down, making me feel dirty.
Tooth produces some pieces of paper. “This is our plan of attack,” he says. “Line-ups, recruiting ideas, playing strategies, silent prayers for church, and so on.”

I look through the hand-written material. There’s a softball diamond illustration with various names at each position. My name is written in the corner with a question mark. Then is the list of recruiting ideas. One reads Form competitor support group. Another says Befriend tailgaters at Bears games. Another reads Visit construction sites.

I feel sick.

“What’s the matter with you people?” I say. “This behavior doesn’t seem very…church-like.”

“Really?” Tooth says. “Trying to spread a message and acquire new members to make ourselves more powerful? That doesn’t seem church-like to you?”

“Good point,” I say, returning my attention to the plans. The last page sends me over the edge. It looks like the Death Star.

“What’s this?” I say.

“The design for a bionic intraocular lens implant,” Tooth says.

Patch smiles. “Once I have the surgery, I’ll be able to play any position again,” he says.

I slump into my chair. Trembling and terrified, I whisper to myself…more machine than man, twisted and evil. I study the eye patch; it bears a suspicious resemblance to the convex oval blackness of Darth Vader’s glare.

I’ve got a bad feeling about this.


Travelling: Intro / Book Jacket, Chapter 1: Cribbagegate, Chapter 2: Two e-mails, Chapter 3: Pattern, Chapter 4: Shattered, Chapter 5: Hilarious Pee, Chapter 6: Suicide, Chapter 7/8: Coaching High school, Shark attacks and appetizers, Chapter 9: June, Chapter 10: 18 and oh no, Chapter 11: DNA, Chapter 12: Peanut Butter Sandwiches, Chapter 13: Tom Brady and the McGuffin, Chapter 14: Game 1, Chapter 15: Who the H is John Havlicek?, Chapters 16 - 17, Chapter 18: Game 2: Great White, Chapter 19: Pickle, Chapter 20: Marty McFly, Chapter 21 / 22: standard deviation, all the pretty flowers, Chapter 23: Game 3: Black Hills, Chapter 24: Twister, Chapter 25: Game 4, Chapter 26: Patriotic Agony, Chapter 27: Locusts, Chapter 28: skype, Chapter 29: Click, Chapter 30: Superman, Chapter 30: Ass Brunch Chapter 32: Mammoth, Chapter 33: Pathetic, Chapter 34: Purple and Gold, Chapter 35: Chowdah, Chapter 36: Mastermind, Chapter 37: m&m cookie dough, Chapter 38: taste, Chapter 39: Dance with the Devil, Chapter 40: Game 7, Chapter 41: 17 to 11, Chapter 42: One Mold, Chapter 43: Stink Smell, Chapter 44: Yarthies, Chapter 45: Oops baby, Chapter 46: Winnah, Chapter 47: Green Pool, Chapter 48: Jesus Christ, Chapter 49: Prequels

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Blogger Will said...
I bet Jeb goes to Overeaters Anonymous to recruit for the pie eating contest at his church's festival.

Anonymous Chuck D said...
lol. Ethical questions abound as we approach the conclusion of this story.... Baby dropping, Jesus Christ, who knows whats next?

Doug this has truly been a great story to get us through this slow summer.

Blogger Evil Ted said...
Will - nice one. I'll leave that for a sequel.

Chuck - Thanks for the kind words. I can honestly tell you if chapters 49 and 50 don't blow your doors off, you have no soul. No pressure or anything ;)

And hey, the baby wasn't dropped!


Blogger Wormboy said...
Sheesh, another great twist!

Anonymous Phil said...