Sunday, August 5, 2012

Baxter the Flying Sleepwalker

 "So, Mike Baxter walks into a bar," said J Bay. The Mets guffawed like panthers. They were, as they always were on mornings in San Diego, at Maple Mary's Home for Young Coconuts. They were swigging from young coconuts.

"Every time Mike Baxter comes to a street corner, both signs change to walk," said Andres Torres. The Mets snickered like whales.

Scott Hairston had one: "Mike Baxter was running errands, and I was like, there's no need for that." The Mets chuffed like mailboxes.

Ruben Tejada waggled with anticipation: "Mike Baxter drinks only Johnny Walker." Baxter nodded. The Mets chortled like rivulets.

Ike Davis was finally ready: "Mike Baxter was at the opera, and he was like, 'what's going on?' and someone tried to explain the plot to him, but he still didn't get it, because he hadn't noticed the subtitles above the stage." Everyone, even Maple Mary, was silent. "And then he walked into the lobby." The Mets hollered like faraway sirens.

"But on a less fluffy note," Valdespin began, and the Mets quickly became less fluffy to be prepared for the remainder of Jordany's sentence, "how did you draw all those walks?"

Baxter thought back to his days in the Met Hospital. Sometimes he played cards with Gee and Santana. He watched the Mets on TVs in every room. He chatted up Paul Wilson, who still came by just to say hi.

But mostly, he slept. Out of fatigue and boredom, sure, but also because sleep brought him closer to something. As he slept, he had vivid dreams of Citi Field. He walked over the metal bleachers. He tiptoed across the bullpen wall. He fluttered on down to the field. An inky figure flitted through the air. Then another one. They were tall, nearly two-dimensional. Blotty secretions of a fountain pen, hovering and zipping through the air.

"Slards. All of them slards." It was Razor Shines, sitting besunglassed on the bullpen wall. Fans flooded the stadium like someone had left the faucet on. Mets arrived, as did Gnats. The slards remained. The Mets clobbered the baseball and baseball itself with pure success, but at every last moment, a slard nudged the ball just a little bit that way, causing pop-ups, strikeouts and other-team victory. Failure itself mingled in the air.

"Damn slards!" shouted Baxter.

"Sleep," said Shines.

"But I'm already-"

"Sleep anyway."

So within his dream, Mike Baxter went to sleep. As he drifted off he heard a scurrying noise, and he knew that somehow, the slards were repulsed by his sleep.

A week later he was back on the team, wondering how he would ever beat the slards. And then it happened. He fell asleep within his inner sleep, and his outer stayed awake the whole time. It was indelibly crispy, and I'm not just saying that.

"Ready for some baseball?" asked manager Collins in a rhetorical, "let's get excited," sort of way.

"My spirit animal is the aye-aye," said Baxter.

For the entire game, the slards could do little to help the Padres, and got the hell out of there whenever Baxter came to bat. Dude walked five times. It was boggle-minding.

Back at Maple Mary's, Baxter sipped a coconut, as he pondered what to say to Valdespin.

"Mike Baxter got a job as a dogwalker," said Mike Baxter, "because all he needed was the dog." The Mets laughed like lampshades. With each zuoprring (the standard unit of laughter), they woke a little more within waking. They slept a little more within sleep.

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