they called him the splinter cause he got into you, dreams mostly. he was always in them, as a tall man or a small one, the physical-ness didn’t matter. it was the sound of his voice. high pitched and clear and not necessarily advice or magic incantation formulas. they were simple discussions or monologues, about utilitarian things – staplers, hole punchers, saws…..and yet, upon waking you always felt right and moved without ever looking back, moved like a three-headed monster was chasing after you, seeking a fourth head. in fact, you didn’t move at all. you sprinted as you put on your socks and shoes. you did it like you were crossing a river to freedom. you cherished your decisions too, like quitting the real estate gig in St. Louis and moving to Tulsa to wash dishes at Clem’s diner.
“why Clem’s?” sounded the voice and vice of doubt. “Why over 300 miles away? Couldn’t you find a diner in good old st. louieeeeee, stay closer to home, near mom and dad? they were getting old after all.”
you wore shutters over your ears…shutters that were closed. and you moved on.
it was the dreams that did it, the dreams the splinter provoked, they were so clear and so specific, to not only relocate to tulsa but to find Clem’s and who could resist destiny dropped down in front of you like a billboard….but minimum wage? yes, the bare minimum, the lowest common denominator because this wasn’t about money; this was about dreams and when you said yes to the turnkey motel with a mini fridge and hot plate place, you knew once again, it was right. didn’t know the specifics, but you believed in time, that all would be clear and sure enough, with dawn and sun and life coming back into objects, colors appearing, you looked to the other side and there was ONEOK field, home of the Tulsa Drillers and yeh, they were the AA affiliate of the blue dream Dodgers, the team of Fernando and Rafael Landestoy, but it didn’t matter, none of that major league chatter mattered, only the game did and AA or whiffle ball did the trick, took one’s mind off the panic of being alive.
and there were other splinter dreams that came true, mostly in the meeting of strangers and the clues they slipped your way, subtle ones, through seemingly inconsequential talk about the colorful spinning of clothes in a dryer and the way he looked at your hands fighting for a safe place to hide and how you leaned against a brick wall.
it was these seemingly innocuous words and looks that reminded you of a gift you were given at birth, of being left-handed, of being a southpaw and as luck and destiny and splinter dreams would have it, there was a parking lot at ONEOK Field and it was a place where not only cars parked but fans played soft toss and someone caught sight of you side-winding against a wall and he slipped you a business card and you instantly remembered the golden ticket in your previous night’s dream. you watched the Drillers win that night, a shutout, a 1-0 game that contradicted the team name, the Drillers, but you knew, all is never the same in baseball.
You called the number on the business card the next morning and it was decided right away, to meet at Caeser’s Gym that same day, early afternoon, “first pitch time,” said the man. He said not to worry, that there was plenty of open space, in the back, behind all the bar bells, bikes, and bench presses.
You had no idea how to pitch, not with control, but your ball moved and that’s what attracted the man with the business card. And before he could speak, you remembered another Splinter dream, of a being trapped inside a racquetball court filled with colorful butterflies…..and that first pitch you threw in the presence of the man, that first pitch, you dug your fingernails into the ball without any prior knowledge of a knuckleball, only that southpaw Wilbur Wood threw one and your ball drunk driving its way to the plastic tarp with a square on the middle, hitting just below the lower line, a tad out of the strike zone, but effective bait, no doubt a swing and miss and you were signed right then and there and you suddenly remembered about impossible dreams at the end of times and you knew it was always the end of times.