Friday, June 25, 2010

Enter Thole

"Be thee Met or be thee not? For only Met shall pass." Josh Thole always flinched unconsciously at the question. He did the same thing when going through scanners at the front of stores and anytime someone mentioned standardized tests.

"Met sir," he told Pops the doorman. "Thole, number 30, emergency catcher." Pops sat up, his bushy white mustache still bearing the shape of the table on one side where he had been resting his face.

"Is this an emergency?" he asked.

"Well, if it is, I'm here to catch it." Thole had a personal policy of saying jokes when he thought of them. It was a way of being sociable and combatting bashfulness. Still, it had made him a touch self-conscious, and he chuckled quietly at his own joke to fill the space directly after it. This turned out to be unnecessary. Pops fell into fits of laughter. He rotated in his seat. He bunched up sections of his newspaper, barely present enough to aim for the parts he had already read. He laughed for long enough that Thole considered leaving, because he wanted some time to settle in before the game against the Twins, and it was not at all clear when the laughing would end. Pops did stop though, and Thole was glad he hadn't walked off.

"Do you have memories?" Pops asked him when he'd returned.

"I do."

"So do I. Sometimes they get tickled."

"Doesn't everyone have memories?"

"Yes, but some only a little. Francouer for instance. Don't tell him I said this, but he remembers the smell of toast, but not how it's made. You get me?"

Thole was surprised, perplexed even by how well he did understand Pops. He nodded. Pops nodded back and tossed him his room key. The key flew fast and straight into Josh's hand. He caught it instinctively before he was fully aware of what had happened.


"Elevators just there. It's slow and steady, but it gets there."

Thole nodded and stepped over to the elevator. He pushed the button, the door opened and he entered. The key in his hand was still hot with life.

The ride to the 30th floor felt like a brief safari. As he passed the 4th floor, he heard the nasal buzz of Henry Blanco's oboe playing. At the fifth floor, "Who's right? I'M WRIGHT!" The seventh floor brought the unmistakable sound of a dozen ping pong balls all kept in constant motion. At the twelfth floor, half a conversation about whether or not the other half existed. At the 29th floor, he heard an old audio recording of what sounded like Dwight Eisenhower.

At last he arrived at the 30th floor. Thole tossed his bag on the couch and sat down next to it. He went to the refrigerator which had been stocked ahead of time with young coconuts. He absentmindedly opened one with a machete, and sipped the water inside.

"Met," he said, half-intentionally. The door knocked. Thole scampered over. It was Rod Barajas.

"Mr. Barajas! This is an honor! Come in, may I offer you a coconut?"

"Got my own," said Barajas, lifting one with a straw sticking out of it.

"So, I here you're a little dinged up," said Thole, once they were seated and comfortable.

"It's my mind," said Barajas, staring straight ahead at the wall. "The catcher is the mind of the whole team. That is why we sit by home plate. We wear our mental burden like catching gear. For me though," he made jagged gestures, "cracks in the armor. I read the mind of the pitcher, batter and umpire, but lately I can't tell them apart. Is it my friend or my opponent who wants the curveball. Someone is focusing on the batter's footwork, but who? Me? Who is thinking of Montana? I have memories that feel as though someone is else is remembering them. People tell me things, and I think it is I who have told them. I am excited when I have nothing to do, and bored when I am stimulated. Some days I blame the media. Other days the weather, America, Howard Megdal, parking regulations, an uneventful canoe trip I took as a boy."

Silence took over. They finished their coconuts.

"Why did you tell me all this?" Thole asked Barajas.

"Because if I don't get my mind back, you will have to become the mind of the Mets. And if I do, this conversation will have meant little, but you will have had an interesting afternoon."

As Thole closed the door, he suddenly felt very certain his phone was about to ring. It would be Razor Shines. He would want Josh to come up to see him. Part of him was very surprised to have this realization, and another part was not surprised at all.

No comments:

Post a Comment