Friday, April 30, 2010

Jose Reyes Is Prepared to Play the Phillies

Jose Reyes is walking down the street with a mission. There are people all around him, watching his every move, and this is what he wants, but he wants no one else to even see him. He would have sent someone else to do the job, someone not a celebrity, but he's the man for it. No one else would do. He doesn't wear sunglasses or anything else to hide who he is. He just acts like he's anybody else. Not a famous baseball player. Not a man with a plan. Not Jose Reyes.

A homeless man steps forward just enough to be poking into Jose's path.

"I just got powdered water. I don't know what to add," he says. Jose gives him a signed baseball and keeps walking. He did not fully process what the man had said, and with much of his focus already absorbed, most things that strangers say to him sound like requests for autographs. He has brought along a sack of signed balls to deal with these people quickly.

He turns on to a residential street, and his focus goes a step higher. He notices insects, dirt on cars, the length of people's fingernails. He can see from the way a man is walking that he is thinking about growing a beard. Reyes is not telepathic. He's just that locked in.

All around him, his helpers follow. They communicate through a cricket-like chirp, that they, under Jose's tutelage, have learned to communicate complex ideas through. At the moment they are gossiping about how one of them has a date, and it will be awkward and amusing if he wants to bring the date back to his apartment, because all of them live together in that apartment. They have mental space for these frivolities, for they only need follow Jose and watch for the symbol. Then it came:

"Pollo loco!"

Through intense observation Reyes had determined that this street was unoccupied and would remain so for at least another three minutes. He had also identified a target, a red house whose paint was chipped and worn. Lastly he had chosen the design. Out of necessity, certain templates were sketched out ahead of time, but even these would respond to the environment. The shape of the house, location of its doors and windows, and the whims of Jose and his helpers would all factor into the final product.

Still, the initial design goes a long way to determining their course, and immediately, large splotches of white paint are applied to the front of the home. One of the teams two detail specialists sets to work carving ridges into the white, while Jose called out more orders and colors were applied at striking speed.

Certain sacrifices had to be made due to their time constraints. Jose wants to avoid detection for obvious reasons, as do his helpers, all of whom intend to go to college, so the moment anyone approaches the street, Jose gives the signal to hide, and he goes back to pretending he is no one at all, which he can do so well, he has been to known to have long conversations with people, after which they immediately forget that they were talking to someone, and may even experience it as a sudden jump in time.

The team is trained to complete the mission in three minutes, but circumstance allows them two more, and an extra second for Jose to admire it.

Jeff Turbine returns from work. He has been thinking about dinner for two hours now. Yesterday, a friend called and asked if she could give him a lot of asparagus. "I have way too much," she explains. Jeff accepted the offer without further questions. She had too much, he had none. What's to question?

Two things actually. One: given that he planned on steaming all three bushels (not even a third of his friend's unexplained supply), and putting it over risotto, when should he add the rice wine vinegar. Probably toward the end, right? Second question: Who the hell painted an enormous chicken, fire in its eyes, venom in its beak, bristling threateningly at a life size crowd of horrified onlookers on the front of his house? The chicken had one clawed foot perched on top of Jeff's front window, and its pose was more upright than might be imagined so that its head would fit between the two second-story windows. A large egg covered all but the corners of his door.

Jeff proceeds into his house, and finding the interior unchanged, makes himself dinner, checked his email and went to bed. The next day he goes to work and noticed the chicken again on his way out, but within a few days it is normal to him. People laugh and ask him about it all the time, and he generally answers in whatever way he finds simplest for the situation. As time passes, the origins of the chicken become blurrier in his mind. Maybe he did have something to do with it. Could it really be there if he didn't?

Reyes foresaw, not just the opportunity, but these aspects of Jeff Turbines character, via the character of his house. He does not do this out of mischievousness, malevolence or charity. He does it because it requires intense focus. It makes him responsible for others and himself. There's a big series against the Phillies coming up. He needs to be in the right state of mind.

As for his helpers, they return with Jose back to the tallest building in Brooklyn Heights, chirping excitedly. When Jose says goodbye and walks up to the seventh floor, they go down a floor and push open the door with a utilitarian 00 painted on it. To everyone else, they are the Mets ball boys and girls. To Jose Reyes, they are his aids in achieving a higher focus. To Jeffrey L. Turbine, they are the strangers who one day painted a giant menacing chicken on the house he will one day raise a family in. He now has actual memories of doing it himself. He teaches his children to question societal norms. Just like dad did when he painted the chicken. It's what makes his wife fall in love with him.

"You've been moved to third in the lineup after being a leadoff guy for all these years. How does that affect your mental preparation?" Walter Elbow of Baseball Moonthly asks Reyes as they drive together to Philadelphia.

"Sometimes you want to be aggressive hitting third," Reyes counsels. "You start out subtle, just doing what you can to help the team, then BOOM! A giant chicken all over your house!"

Reyes often found he could speak openly about his travails because people tended to assume that they had misheard, or that this was an elaborate metaphor. Walter Elbow does neither, but despite the fact that he was driving the car, Reyes makes himself unimposing, barely noticed, and shortly after the drive finishes, Elbow is casually mentioning to others about how he drove in from New York by himself.

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