It had been there for years, stuck in the corner of Tucker Bandwith’s bedroom, leaning against the wall. Tucker never touched it, not out of respect, more disinterest than anything else. He never called it a bat. To him, it was a club because he was into ancient cultures, long time ago cultures, Neanderthal and caveman cultures when supposedly men carried around clubs that helped them ward off monsters, dinosaurs, and saber-toothed tigers.
It was an official bat. Some old ballplayer used it, a real MLB player or that’s what Tucker’s dad said, insisted, in a slur, a drunken slur. He had some connection to the player on the bat, but he never told him what it was. Dad gave it to him in the hope he’d catch the fever and he did, but a different fever – cowboys and punk rock music. Had an album collection that snaked around his room. He wore string ties with brooches and combat boots. He sprawled out on the black and copper- colored shag carpet in his bedroom, read the liner notes of albums and listened to music, the names of songs and albums, even the musicians didn’t matter, only the love he had for the lyrics. He dreamed of becoming a rancher and the dream made its way from his head to his heart to his hands. He rode horses, held reins at the local, indoor stable and on the rare day when it was warm outside and the livestock roamed or reclined, he studied the ways of cows sprawled out on the earthen floor, especially the way their tails waved in the wild, unpredictable breeze.
But then there came a foggy day, so foggy that you could only see the bottom half of downtown skyscrapers and in the suburb where Tucker lived, the water tower completely disappeared. Tucker had never been part of such a day. No one in Broomsville had, Broomsville, the coldest town in the nation, with 347.7 below freezing days per year, but never any fog and then so suddenly this fog, like a Woody Guthrie dust bowl blues rolling in thought Tucker. His caveman instincts kicked in; he picked up that bat, that club and prepared himself for whatever might suddenly come in from the fog, into his private 8×12 bubble. Minutes seemed like hours. He had his Star Wars watch to prove it. He rubbed the bat and it was smooth. He stopped for a second and for the first time, he read the name wood-burned into the barrel. There were actually two names – Louisville Slugger and Pepe Frías. He wasn’t sure which one was the actual name of the player, but it seemed strange to name a kid after a town – Louisville though he knew a girl named Georgia. Anyway, he chose “Pepe” as the name and began to make up a little jingle to soothe his fear of fog…
“born in a railroad track town
wearing an imaginary crown
Pepe Frías makes me clench my fists.”
about a land that no longer exists.”
And he took his song to heart or to his hands; he clenched them and then squeezed them around the bat handle and a creature suddenly appeared out of the fog, a dwarf of a creature with a computer screen for a head, a keyboard chest with all kinds of letters from all different kinds of alphabets – Cyrillic, Latin, and Chinese. There was a purplish brown liquid oozing out from where a human’s belly button would be. It mumbled in low baritone sounds not making any sense. Tucker grabbed the bat and started swinging. The computer screen head soon popped off and that purplish brown liquid started oozing from its arms which were mufflers and from the legs which were mini cement coal plant towers. He kept swinging that bat round and round and up and down and he made solid contact each and every time and he didn’t stop until the creature stopped speaking in that horrible low baritone. A strange silence, a loud silence began.
The fog lifted and Broomsville returned to cold and dark and all was well and right and fine except for the animal rights activists who insisted Tucker had killed an animal for no reason at all. Tucker pleaded with them, insisted that it wasn’t an animal, that he didn’t know what it was, but it made a scary sound and seemed ready to attack, that it was an act of self-defense.
The activists didn’t believe Tucker. They chased after him and they had gas station nozzles that shot gas and large softballs which were actually hard and they reared back and flung them at Tucker who ducked down alleys, kept a decent distance, avoided his attackers, but they grew in number when word sprang up about Tucker “the animal killer.”
Tucker knew every Clyde needs a Bonnie so he ran to his high school and waited behind the old elm tree; he waited for the wonderfully blue-haired, skinny, daughter of a construction worker – Ms. Penelope Dagger. Nothing needed to be said. They held hands and raced toward the Ludding Sea. Tucker positioned the bat under his armpit. Penelope scooped up a decent sized branch and together they sprinted across back yards and over fences and along railroad tracks. They knew all the shortcuts and soon the water appeared. You couldn’t see the other side. It felt like forever, They waded out into the water and drifted, staying afloat thanks to the bat and the branch.
The sun crawled slowly across the sky. Tucker and Penelope tried to bury their fears and enjoy the salty smell and cold, but refreshing water; they tried to feel gratitude towards the wood that kept them afloat, but they couldn’t help looking all around, for the boat that would inevitably appear, an Animal Rights Activist boat that would kill them. Instead, a few minutes later, a canoe appeared and two paddlers asked about the bat and they knew Pepe Frías, knew he was from San Pedro de Macorís and knew his 1976 Topps baseball card, him smiling in a Montreal Expos uniform.
“Any friend of Frías is a friend of mine.” said one of the men. He smiled. “Give me that bat and we’ll give you a ride.”
Tucker handed over the bat, climbed aboard, and with the barter complete, he sang his song,
born in a railroad track town
wearing an imaginary crown
Pepe Frías makes me clench my fists.”
about a land that no longer exists.
No need to clench your fists,” encouraged the paddler. “You’re heading to a land that still exists. You’re already there. It’s the nowhere land.”
“The now here land,” added the other paddler.
Now here thought Tucker. He looked at Penelope. They enjoyed the cold breeze and the seagull soars up above and the purplish clouds on the horizon. It wasn’t long before a fishing boot appeared. The canoe paddlers said a few words and the fishermen extended their hands and Tucker and Penelope stepped on board and then a few miles up ahead a larger cruise ship came into view. Tucker and Penelope slipped onto the back deck and no one noticed. They eventually joined the shuffleboard crowd and made small talk with an old couple from Dusseldorf. The ship was headed south, to the Caribbean.
They watched the waves bubble up behind them as the ship raced on…