Saturday, February 2, 2008

The Season, Part 17

Wow, is it really up to 17 parts already? I know the updates haven't had as many characters as late, but it's been nearly impossible to balance with coursework and I only have Friday and Saturday, really, to write, and that's on a good week! However, I haven't missed a week yet and don't plan on starting now...

(I will start the Super Bowl liveblog at about 4 PM EST. Theoretically.)

Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four
Part Five
Part Six
Part Seven
Part Eight
Part Nine
Part Ten
Part Eleven
Part Twelve
Part Thirteen
Part 14
Part 15
Part 16

As always, (c) Rebecca Glass, all international copyright laws apply. Please protect intellectual property rights.

Please note today's section contains content and language that may not be suitable for all audiences.

The Season, Part 17

#27, TJ Redd, second baseman

TJ gets so distracted by the tabloids and the papers that he almost misses it.

To be fair, he’s certainly not the only one that gets distracted by the papers, but it does seem to affect him the most. He knows well enough that the reason for his distraction probably has to do with Jenna, and how he keeps thinking about how he could never do something like that to Jenna…and he’d hope Jenna would never do something like it to him.

That a person of considerable publicity should be accused of adultery is not itself all that surprising in Hope City. It’s happened so many times, especially, as luck would have it, with the politicians that the only sensationalism comes if the mistress (as the adulterers are invariably male) are women or men that are also of note. This, though, is different: it’s Pete.

TJ didn’t believe it the first time he saw it, and neither did the rest of the team. The Spartans had just lost two of three at home to New York; the off-field antics of anyone on the team were not the most pressing concern. The first time he saw the story was the night after the Spartans lost the third game of the series, when the team plane had landed in Florida and TJ had just checked into the team hotel, and went to check his email. The only reason the Hope City Now! webpage was his home page was because it was one of the few sites that had a usable weather forecast for Hope City; he would have missed the story entirely if not for the picture of Pete that was blown up, large, in the upper left hand corner of the webpage.

TJ didn’t pay much attention to the story; he assumed that it was simply a writer fed up with losing to New York, trying to write something that would make Pete look bad, but then, the story started to appear in other outlets, as well. Pete Towers, married twenty years to his childhood sweetheart Anne Gibbons, the man who was known as being unable to lie under any circumstance, had slept with another woman. Pete does not even make an effort to deny it, or even ask for forgiveness, but simply tells the team that his own personal life should not be a concern for the rest of the team.

It stuns the Spartans. Most simply don’t know how to handle it—Pete has, after all, been the face of the franchise for the last twenty some-odd years, the local-grown player that stuck around to coach and then manage. There are few places in Hope City that Pete would be able to go to without being recognized, and perhaps even fewer where he would not be considered an icon.

In some respects, the Accident is easier for the Spartans to deal with: at least then, there’s a clear victim and a clear villain, and it’s easy enough to find a scapegoat. With this, however, the villain is the guy that’s supposed to be the hero. Unlike some of the other team members, TJ won’t go and think of Pete as a victim, after all, he chose to sleep with another woman, but it doesn’t change that the situation is uncomfortable at best.

Like most of the team, TJ can’t stop thinking about it, and the Spartans easily lose the first of three games they have in Florida against a team that would be (and some argue should be) worst in the division if not for the hapless Washington Sox. It’s obvious in the play—TJ’s error on the field, Adrian’s oh-fer at bat, Leo’s sloppy baserunning, Paul having one of his worst outings of the year—that no one’s mind is really in the game. TJ doesn’t think about it too much when Damien plays the entire game like he’s walking on pins and needles; he thinks it’s about Pete.

It’s only when the game is over, when TJ is back in his hotel room, laying out on his king-size bed with a fake headboard, wishing that Jenna was somewhere other than a conference in San Francisco, that it occurs to TJ that he’s seen Damien like that—as he was in the game this afternoon—before. The realization is a slow process, because TJ knows what it means, but the more he tries to resist the possibility, the more he realizes it’s probably not a possibility but a reality.

He lies on the bed a while, trying to decide what to do. The hotel room is pleasant enough; the sheets don’t smell and the casino-like patterned carpet is clean and soft. The room’s a little small for the bed, but TJ’s stayed in plenty smaller, and this one does have a kitchenette and a mini-bar. The TV is not a flatscreen, but it is a decent size. TJ’s got it on the 24-hour news channel, but the volume is too low to hear. It’s something his grandmother told him growing up: ain’t no crime worse’n bein’ ignorant. TJ absorbs the information from watching the screen and reading the trailer crawling at bottom of the screen. If his grandmother was to come into the room now, she’d shake her head a bit, wonder how TJ could understand what was going on, but she wouldn’t disapprove of it.

There are a few options TJ can consider, each as unwelcome as the next. He could do nothing. He could sit back, let events unfold, hope someone else sees it, decides to do something about it…it’s the easiest of the choices TJ could make, but there is no doubt in his mind that it would be the hardest one for him to live with, if he chose it. It’s not just that he’s Damien’s closest friend on the team; it’s that everyone knows it as well. If TJ did nothing, the blame would find its way back to him, if not from Pete, then certainly from Charlie Haus. It’s technically an option, but it’s easily the first one TJ crosses off his list.

He could go straight to Dennis or Liam with his suspicions. They wouldn’t have the authority of Charlie Haus to…(TJ stops his train of thought here, before it gets too ugly). However, it wouldn’t feel right to go behind Damien’s back with only a suspicion, and sooner or later Damien would find out, anyway.

He could drop Damien hints about his suspicions…it’s what he did last time, but instead of taking the hint, Damien would figure out how to hide it, and the problem would only get worse, and not better. On the account of it having been tried and failed before, TJ disqualifies the idea of dropping hints, and thus leaves himself with only one option with which he’s comfortable.

He has to confront Damien himself. TJ knows he’s making it sound more dramatic than it probably is to anyone else, but the truth is, if he doesn’t do it, he won’t be able to live with the guilt of either not doing anything or going behind the back of his best friend. The question, then, becomes how.

How does TJ ask his best friend if he’s gone back to using? Does he try to catch him in the act? Can he trust Damien to tell him the truth? There are many more questions for TJ than there will be answers, but he does know one thing: everyone else on the team is thinking about Pete, and if they’re not thinking about Pete, they’re thinking about Micah. If he talks to Damien right now, tonight, late though it is at half past midnight, there’s a slight chance that the two of them could talk about it without anyone else noticing, a slight chance that they could attempt to solve the problem on their own before anyone else found out. A slim chance, maybe no more than the chance that he’ll get to see Jenna before October, but any chance is better than none.

He takes it.

#50, Eliot Zephyr, utility outfielder

Eliot is too angry for words when he’s woken up from his attempt to get a normal amount of sleep at one in the morning, but it takes him a few minutes to figure out exactly what it is that wakes him: the shouting down the hallway.

Eliot’s always been a light sleeper, so it wouldn’t surprise him if no one else sleeping heard the shouting, but it would surprise him if everyone else on the floor was already asleep…another hour, maybe, but one am is still relatively early when it’s the night before a night game. The shouting, however, is more than loud enough to wake him, and he recognizes the two voices without much effort: TJ and Damien. Anyone else shouting like that, Eliot thinks, and he’d be out of his room in a heartbeat yelling at them to shut the hell up, but if TJ and Damien are going at it, Eliot knows he’s better off maintaining his distance, at least until he figures out what’s got the two so upset. He sits upright in his bed, with the lamp on the night table turned on, and listens.

“—I’m not doing anything like that! What the hell do you—“

“Dam, man, I played the same game as you, and I saw you. You don’t act like that when you’re right.”

“Are you fucking kidding me? I was the only one that showed up today! I was the only one that hit the damn ball!” Damien’s right, Eliot muses—no one else on the Spartans had gotten on base with a hit out of the infield.

“You did and you also struck out twice.”

“Wait, so I struck out twice, so therefore I must be—“

“No. It was everything, man. I was there the first time, it was the same thing I saw again today.”

“So just because you think you saw the same thing again, all of a sudden you get to play fucking God with me?”

“That’s not what I’m doing.”

“Then what are you doing?”

“I’m trying to help you, before Pete or Charlie finds out, or before anyone else on the team finds out, because this would be the last fucking thing any of us need right now.” It’s not like TJ to curse, and it makes Eliot a little nervous. He’s got a good guess as to what the two are talking about, but he decides to listen some more just to be sure.

“I don’t need any fucking help.”

“I think you do, Dam. At least talk to me, ok? It’s got to be what, two years now? Something happened. What? Alia? Is it Alia?” There is a long, tense silence after this, and Eliot knows TJ has struck a nerve. He’s never met Alia, but he saw the article in the paper, the one that Dick Holt wrote, and in an instant he feels bad for Damien. He senses that Alia means more to Damien than just a friend…maybe not a girlfriend, but perhaps more like a sister. At the same time, though, Eliot thinks Damien is a little too Christ-like in his willingness to get caught up in her affairs.

“I got a call last night. She miscarried, and when she was at Bellvue, they found out her liver’s real bad.” It’s not often Damien sounds like he’s about to lose it; Eliot, for one, has never heard a grown man’s voice crack so much, except perhaps when his father spoke at his grandfather’s funeral. Damien’s not a huge drinker, but apparently what’s true for him is not for Alia as well.

“What?” TJ sounds just as stunned, and then his voice becomes delicate and careful. “Was it yours?”

“No. The guy she was arrested with before, Shia, it’s his.”

“Have you and she ever—“

“No.” There is enough firmness in the voice that Eliot knows Damien’s not lying.

“Tough, man. Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I just…she’s like my sister, and now she’s got…”

“It’s not a death sentence.”

“She can’t afford the drugs.”

“You could help her. We could help her.” TJ doesn’t specify if he means himself or the Spartans as a whole when he says ‘we’, but Eliot would have no issue contributing to a fund if the latter was the case.

“I told her that, but she said she doesn’t want people to know. I told her I’d take care of her myself, but she said no.”

“So that’s it then? You’re not even going to try to help, but instead you’re going to take a hit?”

“Don’t go there. Don’t.”

“Dam, man. Listen. You have to help her. We have to help her. She doesn’t need to know it’s from us.”

“She’ll figure it out.”

“So what if she does? It won’t kill you. Come on, be a man for once in your life, and do something to help her.”

There’s another long silence, tense again, but for a different reason. As he waits to see if the conversation—which is now far gone from the shouting match that woke him up—continues, Eliot starts to have trouble keeping his eyes open, an undeniable indicator that he has overstayed his eavesdropping welcome.

The conversation is troubling, for sure, but what is more troubling for Eliot is that it could potentially fall on his shoulders to go to Pete or Charlie if what TJ is accusing Damien of is true. TJ, in the time Eliot has known him, is not really the type of person to put Damien’s happiness ahead of his health, but , even so, if it was Kent instead of Damien with the problem, he’s not so sure he’d go running to the authorities.

Eliot does not have an easy time falling asleep, and when he wakes again in the morning, he tells Kent everything he remembers.


  1. The only reason the Hope City Now! webpage was his home page was because it was one of the few sites that had a usable weather forecast for Hope City;

    See, I've learned never to trust the weatermen!

    Great stuff on both. Both really worked and moved the story along smoothly. I like the slightly longer 2 character updates. It works really well.

    What a great Saturday night treat! Totally made my day!

  2. Continued success!

    I bet a lot of stuff like this happens in the regular season of our real teams, but because it's handled at night, behind closed doors, we never hear about it, and they solve it.

    I'm sure it was that way way back in the 50s.

    Things were much easier back then. Heroes were cleaner. Because things were less transparent.