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#14, Daniel Lewis, outfielder
Daniel is in the middle of a glorious night with Alyssa when his phone rings.
“You didn’t turn your phone off?” Alyssa is aghast. She’s wearing a pink silk slip that she’s pulled up to her neck, so that the two of them are not unoccupied. They’re lying in Dan’s king-size bed, with the silk sheets Alyssa bought just for this purpose. There are lit candles on the windowsill, and incense with Alyssa’s favorite scent, sandalwood rose, burning in each corner of the room. All that’s missing to recreate their Caribbean honeymoon is the beachfront porch and ocean breeze.
Dan attempts to ignore the ringing, trying to keep it from ruining the moment, but it doesn’t work. The moment was ruined the instant the display window in the phone lit up, tingeing the room in an eerie green glow.
“Who the hell would be calling now, anyway?”
“No idea.” Dan is lying on top of Alyssa. He makes no effort to rise.
“Well, do you think maybe you could turn it off, and then we could get back to…us?” It comes out as a command.
Dan rises to obey. His phone is on the windowsill, where Dan keeps it when he sleeps out of habit. He walks over, picks up his silver phone with the intention of turning it off, and is distracted by the message that shows through the display window:
3 Missed Calls
He flips open the phone and sees the most recent number of the missed call:
He knows something’s wrong right away; the number belongs to Pete Towers and Pete has never called Dan, let alone at this hour—nearly midnight. The only reason Dan even has Pete’s number is for an emergency. He doesn’t need to check the other phone numbers to know something is very, very wrong.
“Lys,” he manages, “It’s Pete trying to call me…I gotta take this.”
“Pete…he wouldn’t call if it wasn’t important.”
“Can’t it wait till morning?” Dan feels for Alyssa. Truth is, he’s been waiting a long time for a night like tonight, and if he could put it off to morning, he would, but if it were a minor emergency, one that could wait, it would have been Dennis calling him. Not Pete.
“I don’t think so.”
“Fine,” Alyssa concedes. She pulls her slip back down to cover the rest of her exposed body. She rises from the bed. “I swear, it’d better be important.”
“It will be.” Dan finds Pete’s name in his contact list, and hits send. It rings twice before being answered.
“Pete speaking,” Dan hears Pete’s voice. It doesn’t sound like Pete, though. It shakes, like one who has smoked too many cigarettes.
“Yeah, it’s Dan. You called?”
“Yes. Dan…” There is hesitation. “There’s been an accident.”
“An accident? Who? Bad?”
“A car accident. It’s serious, you should-“
“Who? Dylan? Eliot? Dennis? Who?”
“Micah.” That name hits Dan like a punch to the gut. Of all the names, all the Spartans, Micah would have been the one furthest from his mind.
“Micah? What? How bad?”
“He’s in surgery. Doctors say he’s been in surgery for over two hours now…listen, a lot of people are down at Bellvue waiting…”
“Yeah,” Dan says, understanding that Pete is not really suggesting anything as opposed to ordering it, “I’ll be right there.”
“Good. Micah can use whatever support we can give him.” There is a click, and Dan is stunned into silence. Pete’s not talking about a fender-bender, that goes without saying, but if Pete won’t mention exactly how serious it is on the phone, it means that Micah is probably not leaving the hospital any time soon. If ever. Dan tries to ignore the last bit.
“What is it?” Alyssa jolts him back to the present. He’s wearing his emotion on his sleeve, because Alyssa’s tone is at once soothing and tender.
“Micah…he’s been in an accident.”
“Micah…Micah Garcia? The pitcher that lives five down?” Alyssa knows Micah as well as she does more or less only because he lives so close to them on Brighton Lane.
“Pete wouldn’t say how serious on the phone, but said I should go down to Bellvue…he’s in surgery.”
“You should go.” Alyssa doesn’t offer to keep Daniel company, but he likes it better that way. To put it nicely, there aren’t a whole lot of guys on the Spartans that like her too well.
“Yeah. I might be a while…you going to be all right on your own?”
“Why wouldn’t I be?” Alyssa reverts back to her normal self as Dan throws on a pair of tattered jeans and an old t-shirt, the closest clothing within reach. If he wore clothing like this to the Stadium, Pete would be more than a little upset, but Dan assumes, correctly, that what he’s wearing right now isn’t really a concern. He could probably show up in his boxers and it wouldn’t matter.
There’s a large media contingent in front of the emergency room doors at Bellvue Memorial when Dan gets there. He sees Dick Holt, of course, but also the local Hope City newscasters, the national sports newscasters, and a host of other people he has never seen before in his life. It’s about half and half between English and Spanish speaking, but it’s Dick Holt who recognizes Dan and approaches him first.
“Dan…did they tell you anything?” It’s clear Dick doesn’t want to ask the question, but Dan knows if Dick doesn’t, the others will, and they won’t be nearly as considerate.
“Pete just said there was an accident. You probably know more than me.”
“Rumor is there was alcohol involved…”
“It wouldn’t have been Micah. He doesn’t drink on nights he pitches, before or after.” Dan is appalled at the suggestion that Micah could have driven drunk, and he senses that Dick feels the same way.
“All right, thanks.”
“Am I the last one?”
“I’m not sure. I think there were a lot of people here by the time we got here,” Dick says, referring to everyone present and not just the members of his paper, “but I did see TJ and Damien going in, and Kent came in with Eliot and Dylan.”
“Okay, thanks.” Dan enters through the large automatic doors. He doesn’t have to ask anyone where to go; a nurse recognizes him instantly from an injury he had a few years ago, and tells him that the entire Spartan team can be found in the waiting room of the fourth floor operating suite. Dan thanks the nurse and finds the elevator. It’s one of the longest elevator rides of his life.
When the elevator doors open, Dan is immediately greeted by a large room with soft light, a sea-green printed carpet, light classical music in the background, and magazines piled so high that anyone under the age of five could climb the pile and call it a feat. The near entirety of his team, even Terry, who has taken the precaution of using crutches, is already there, some standing, some sitting, some unable to make up their minds. The only one missing is Li, and Dan imagines that is because of the language barrier and that Pete, with twenty-three other names to call, thought it best left a task for Brendan or Charlie Haus. Pete isn’t in the room, but Dennis tells him as soon as he enters that Pete went outside to make a call, presumably to find out if Charlie or Brendan had managed to get in touch with Li. Dan spots Dylan with some difficulty—everyone is a shade or two paler, so Dan can’t just look for the palest face in the room.
Dylan’s sitting in one of the corner chairs, looking uncomfortable. He’s flipping through the pages of a magazine, but Dan can tell he’s not really reading it. There’s an empty seat next to him. Dan takes it.
“Hey,” Dan says, “I could probably use some seeds right about now…”
“Forget sunflower seeds, and get me a rum and cola.” Dylan smiles, but only just.
“How long you been waiting?”
“Over an hour. I thought you weren’t coming, I think Pete tried calling you-“
“Three times. I was with Alyssa.”
“With Alyssa?” Dylan picks up on Dan’s meaning without a second thought. “You didn’t turn your phone off?”
“I forgot. I tried to ignore it, but the third time it went off, Lys got pretty upset.”
“I can imagine.”
“Anyway, what have they told you?” Dan is anxious to change the topic. Even with Dylan there is not much love spared for his wife.
“Next to nothing. They say it’s serious, he’s in surgery, we’ll know more after he comes out of it.”
“Did they say what happened?”
“I missed that bit, I came in with Kent and Eliot and the doctor was just finishing explaining what had happened, but I think it was something like he was at a stoplight on Jefferson and there was a drunk driver that rammed into the side of his car or something.”
“Damn. Micah’s got that convertible, doesn’t he?” Dan hadn’t even thought about the car that Micah would have been driving; his concern wasn’t how the accident happened, it was what was going to happen to Micah. The thought overwhelms him.
“Christ, I didn’t even think of that. I think I heard that he was hit by an SUV…and an SUV and that little car…I…” Dylan can’t finish. The image is enough to make Dan feel multiple waves of nausea at once.
“How’s everyone else doing?”
“Haven’t been paying too much attention…what I did see, though…Eduardo looks horrible, worse than any of the other guys, even Pete.”
“That would make sense,” Dan sighs, “Eduardo sees Micah as his baby brother.” The two fall into a silence. There really isn’t much they can say—either they have said it, or it’s not appropriate for the moment. Light-hearted dugout banter has no place in the purgatory of a waiting room.
It’s another few hours, nearly three AM, before a doctor finally emerges into the waiting room. He is dressed in green scrubs, still wearing a surgical cap that hides a hairless scalp. He drops his surgical mask to reveal a thick white beard, reminding Dan at once of Santa Claus, though the beard is far too short. He doesn’t have to wait long to garner everyone’s attention; even Pete is quick to hang up his phone and return to the room when he sees the doctor.
“Right,” the doctor starts, his voice carrying a thick accent that sounds a little bit like Kent’s, “I’m Dr. Brian Jacobi. I can see that there’s no hiding this from any of you, but know that general Bellvue policy is for only immediate family to be made aware of a patient’s condition. Given that Mr. Garcia has no immediate family in the area, I am willing to bypass regulation.
“Mr. Garcia was brought in, as you know, after his car was, we believe, struck by a driver under the influence of alcohol. The impact was driver’s side door, and strong enough to flip Mr. Garcia’s car, thus meaning that Mr. Garcia bore the full impact of the collision. That said, Mr. Garcia is relatively lucky—he was not killed, and there is no spinal injury, which means he is not paralyzed. However, that does not mean his injuries aren’t serious. There was a splenic rupture, which, as you might imagine means that we had to remove his spleen. His left shoulder was separated, which we repaired surgically, and his left wrist was broken, which we also repaired surgically. He broke three ribs, which we cannot surgically repair. They will take six weeks to heal.
“There is something else…when giving Mr. Garcia an MRI to determine the full extent of his injuries, we noticed some severe tendon damage in the right arm, by the elbow, that’s probably a result of a pitching injury. I’m not sure how he was able to pitch with that arm…but the good news is that we caught it, and now it will have time to properly heal. Right, then, questions?”
There is a long silence. It takes a while for everyone to digest what they’ve been told, and Dan’s focus is on the words not killed, not paralyzed and the phrase that does not mean his injuries are not serious. There are so may questions going through Dan’s mind that he’s not sure any of them are worth asking, so he doesn’t. In fact, no one seems to be willing to ask anything, except for Pete, who looks…angry.
“Dr. Jacobi,” he says, “what are you saying about his right arm? That it was injured before the accident?”
“Quite. It looks like damage from being overstrained. It’s a good thing we caught it now…” Dr. Jacobi doesn’t finish the sentence, but Dan knows what he’s about to say. It’s a good thing they caught it now, because if they had waited, it’s likely Micah’s pitching career would have been destroyed before it was started.
Only, Dan thinks, right now Micah’s pitching career shouldn’t be anyone’s concern. Not even Pete’s.
#53, Monty Allison, relief pitcher
The season does not linger on May twenty-first.
The Accident, as it’s being called in the Spartan locker room, has an exaggerated effect for Monty. For one thing, he’s no longer the team pariah. The team largely follows Pete’s lead, making that role now the exclusive property of Steven King. Though common sense tells Monty that Liam should be more at fault for missing Micah’s pre-Accident arm injury, Pete faults Steven for having Micah throw too often and not recognizing the signs of the injury, even when he would have been aware that Micah would have never admitted his arm hurt to Liam. That Pete and Liam are friends, or at least close to it, Monty thinks, probably also plays a role; Steven has never quite been Pete’s favorite person.
The more important effect of the Accident for Monty, however, is that with Micah suddenly unable to pitch, there’s an open hole in the rotation. Monty knows better than to bring this to the immediate attention of Pete and Steven; if he was to do that he’d probably be banished from the team, even from the bullpen. Instead, Monty knows his best course of action is to wait. Wait out Paul’s start, wait out Li’s start, wait out Graeme’s start, wait out William’s start, and then when Pete and Steven realize they are short a starter, hope that they decide to give him a chance. It might be his only chance, he might ruin it, but at least he will have had one.
Pete’s not speaking much to Steven, not since he yelled at him, behind his office door, but loud enough for everyone to hear, blaming him for the Accident. When Pete does need to talk to Steven, he tries to send Dennis or Liam instead, but both of them, Liam especially, try to tell Pete he will have to make peace with Steven sometime before the season’s end, especially if they hope to play in October.
It makes the locker room a tense place. No one is quite sure what to say, when to say it or how to say it, so they keep their mouths shut. It’s not been a comfortable place for Monty the entire season, but now the entire team feels as he does. There’s no talking to Pete, no trying to calm him down; Pete will come to his senses eventually, but the only thing for the Spartans to do for the moment is to go through the motions. Get changed, play the game, hit the showers, get changed again, see you tomorrow.
The tension breaks on the day that Micah’s supposed to start, May 27, against St. Louis. It’s not so much that Pete and Steven start talking like friends again, they don’t, but it’s the first time since the Accident that someone says something that gets a laugh. Not a chuckle or lip service to the idea that it’s supposed to be funny, but instead, the raucous laughter that rattles the lockers themselves. Monty is changing, his locker between Jeff and Li, still with no word from Pete or Steven on who will start the game, when it happens.
Pete walks out of the office, and, as is usual a few hours before the start of a game, he posts the line-up card on the bulletin board on the wall. He says nothing about the line-up; it changes seldom, except on the occasions he decides to give Dylan, Kent, Dan or Eliot a rare start. The only notable difference from the normal of late is that Kent is given the start at first, but that is due to Terry’s hamstring. As usual, after posting the line-up card, Pete goes back into his office without saying a word. Bran is the first one to walk up to the bulletin board after Pete’s departed, but instead of leaving after a quick glance, Bran stands there, transfixed.
“Guys. You gotta come see this.” Even though he’s from the Ohio Valley, enough winters playing baseball in the Caribbean have left a mark on Bran’s voice. He speaks in that deep voice, sounding like he says mon when he means man. It works perfectly with his dreads and reggae music he likes to sneak into the CD player.
Monty knows Bran wouldn’t mention something if it wasn’t worth it, so he follows the throng and finds an angle at which he can see the card. Though Pete’s handwriting is messy, it’s far from illegible and Monty reads:
1. Bran Stromer CF
2. TJ Redd 2B
3. Damien Riley SS
4. Alfredo Martinez 3B
He doesn’t look at the rest of the card; he knows what Bran caught. It’s a well-known bit of clubhouse lore that Pete is a fan of Italian food, and that he often eats something akin to macaroni slathered in alfredo sauce before a game, and the slip is amusing.
“Adrian,” Bran says, “I didn’t realize you were so saucy, man.”
“Yes, well, I could be a breakfast cereal,” Adrian replies, not missing a
beat. There is a moment of silence, and then, from Leo—
“Yeah, Bran, he could be that hi-fiber laxative…”
“Aw, man, are you telling me you’d rather be creamy, white and sticky than whole grain?”
“You know,” Kent interjects, at the perfect moment, “there is an important part of my biology that I should hope is creamy, white and sticky.”
There is a half second of silence, as those in the locker room try to decide how to respond to Kent’s comment, but when Bran cracks his smile and Graeme has one of his looks, the locker room is lost in laughter. Had anyone else uttered the words, it probably would have topped out at being vaguely amusing, but Kent times it just right, and that, coupled with the cadence of his accent has even Monty out of breath.
The release that the laughter provides is overpowering and all of the tension that has been building in the small space evaporates in an instant. There is relief in knowing that they haven’t lost their sense of humor beyond all repair. There is a great release in knowing that the laughter isn’t forced or laughter for the sake of laughter, but laughter because something funny has happened. It gets loud enough for Pete to come back out of his office, looking bewildered, but at the same time relieved to see his team, at least momentarily, happy.
“What’s so funny?” He doesn’t raise his voice and says it in the same voice as if he was asking for the time, which only adds to the laughter. Bran is the only one who can come to his senses enough to answer Pete with a semi-straight face.
“Coach, you got a thing for that Italian food?”
“I like Italian food, yes, but what does that have to do with anything?”
“You made a sauce out of Adrian, creamy, white and sticky.” Again, the locker room erupts in laughter, but Pete is still slightly bewildered, so Bran points to the line-up card. As Pete approaches, the rest of the Spartans move backwards, so that by the time Pete is up close enough to the card to read it, he is alone. It takes him a moment to spot his error, but he does it fast enough to avoid a prolonged awkward silence.
“Ah. I see. Well, then, Adrian, you have my full apology, and as part of the apology, I’ll make sure to get some fettuccini alfredo in here for after the game. Sound good?” Pete sees a look of approval on nearly everyone’s face, so, satisfied, he returns to his office for last minute pre-game preparations.
The thought of warm, creamy pasta after the game is enough to occupy Monty’s mind for the rest of the time that it takes him to finish getting dressed, and, indeed, it occupies his mind so much that he nearly forgets to check the line-up card. He’s not really sure what he expects to see when he remembers to look at it, but what he does see, is his name not penciled, but penned in the number nine spot. The pitcher’s spot.
LEAGE STANDINGS THROUGH THE END OF MAY
New England Tribe 27-14
Hope City Spartans 24-17
New York Knights 24-17
Florida ‘Canes 19-22
Washington Sox 15-26
Chicago Lakemen 24-17
Minnesota Berserkers 23-18
Cleveland Rivermen 23-18
St. Louis Gold 22-19
Memphis Jazz 22-19
Detroit Moose 15-26
California Diablos 29-12
Seattle ‘Nauts 25-16
Denver Mustang 20-21
Texas Stampede 19-22
Kansas City ‘Nadoes 15-26
Saturday, January 5, 2008