THE ONCE AND FUTURE BING – CHAPTER ONE – AMERICA’S LAMEST PASSTIME

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Cover Illustration by Casey Bug

So, despite a lot of the setbacks that have befallen me with my NaNoWriMo efforts, I still persist, albeit, about 6000 words behind schedule after a week-long road trip threw me way off course, but I’m bound and determined to catch up and hit 50,000 words by the end of the month if it kills me. In the spirit of this, I’ve decided to share the rough draft of my first chapter with everyone to give a taste for the bizarre story I’m cooking up here.

Check it out at the drop!

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It was the not-so-distant rumblings of a disagreeable bowel that snapped Bingham Barlow out of the sun-stroked stupor he had slipped into while standing in the center field position on the baseball diamond of Blue Dog County Municipal Park. The weather had reached the mid 90’s, which meant an unbearable time for players like Bing and his teammates in their questionably breathable uniforms, but unfortunately not too hot that it would cause a county wide heat advisory to have the game shut down or postponed.  

Bing’s team, the Owl’s who had no interest in such a boring sport, but whose parents, like many others, had decided that their children should be signed up for the league in between football and basketball season as well in order to keep their little white, suburban boys “off the drugs” and “out of violence gangs”.  In the little league pecking order, the Owl’s while Bing’s team, the Bobcats, would be considered the lowly, bottom-feeding guppies in the league. Every game the against the Owl’s this season had ended in a bloodbath to rival any number of the grizzly stylized murders that Bing and his friends would stay up late to watch on Channel 7 Friday Night Frights. 

The Owl’s had gotten in two more runs that inning before the Bobcat’s got to take another chance at bat. The team’s morale was low enough from the shellacking they usually took from the Owls, the brutal heat of the day was enough to drive each of them out of their skins.  Bing’s best friend, Eric Porter sat down on the bench next to him and offered him a handful from the bag of sunflower seeds he had been eating from and spitting mangled shells onto the dugout floor. 

“So, I’ve almost got enough money saved up for launch day on the Nintendo Wii next week. You down for to stay over and get into some Mario Galaxy shit.” Eric said with a nudge.

“Yeah, man. Sounds awesome. Your folks gonna be cool with it?” Bing replied.

“Dude, my mom loves you. Won’t be a problem.”  

The boys paused and chewed their sunflower seeds. The heat was making even talking a labor of epic proportions. 

“You seen the trailers for the Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition?” Eric finally asked. 

“Nah man, what’s that?” Bing asked. 

“Oh, you’ve gotta see it! Hang on.” Eric said, reaching into his pocket and pulling out a his smartphone. “It’s basically the same game as the Game Cube one, but like… You have all the different weird ass movement controls that come with the Wii, so you can like… Actually slash and shoot at zombies and shit. It looks totally corn nuts!”

Bing took a handful of sunflower seeds and shoveled them into his mouth as Eric thumbed around with his smartphone, trying to find the video to show him, but Bing’s mind had begun to wander elsewhere, back to the big hug he’d gotten from Eric’s mom, Mrs. Porter just before the game started.  Mrs. Porter’s breasts were the things of pubescent boy legend. Big, soft, perfumed, and in the heat of summer, always on stunning display.  The woman was generous with a hug and her cleavage had given Bing a newfound appreciation for the lost art. Mrs. Porter, an enthusiastic sports lover, got excited whenever anything positive happened for the Bobcats with lots of fist pumping, shouting, and best of all, jumping in the stands.  Bing had a crush on his best friend’s mom since before he was ever aware what a crush was and those thoughts kept him preoccupied as he continued to sweat all the moisture out of his body in those dragging, brain cell-sucking moments in the field. 

Aaron McCormick, the team kiss ass who was otherwise known as “the coaches pet” tapped a pen against the clip-board he carried that contained the batting order before looking up and calling out to the team. “Barlow, you’re on deck.”

Bing let out a labored groan as he reached for his favorite bat, an old wooden Louisville Slugger full of cracks and dents and slipped a baseball doughnut around it so he could get in a few practice swings before his time came.  His first go at the plate only served to put him on base with a four ball walk, which meant a lot of standing on first waiting for someone to hit the ball so SOMETHING might happen.  Just as Bing started taking his practice swings and contemplating the easiest way to strike out, he heard a voice speaking lowly to him from behind the fence. 

“You’re gonna wanna swing low, kid.” said a man in an expensive gray business suit with well-styled hair, mirrored sunglasses, and a grin that Bing would later in life come to describe as “shit eating”.

“Huh?” Bing broke his batting stance and looked over his shoulder.

“That’s Josh Mayrik up there, right?” The man asked.

“Yeah…” Bing said, a little weirded out by the questions. 

“Mayrik always throws ’em just low enough to be legal. The reason he strikes so many people out is because they’re swinging too high.”

“Gee, thanks mister!” Bing said in his best ‘aw shucks’ tone “but all I’m looking for is a strike-out so we can all go home sooner than later.”

“Oh, that’s right…” The man said to no one in particular, as if he were just remembering something he’d clearly forgotten.

“What’s right?” Bing asked, finding this guy’s presence increasingly odd.

“Trust me. One day, you’re going to end up really enjoying this sport.” The man said.

“Are you kidding? The only thing I can think of more boring than this is watching golf on TV!” Bing said with a swing and a grunt. 

Bing then slung the bat up on a shoulder and looked at the man. “What’s your deal, anyway? You some kinda weirdo kid toucher or something?”

The older man chuckled dismissively. “We got a chain length fence and a ton of eyes between us. Even if that were what I was after, don’t you think I’d be smart enough to wait it out and corner you over by say, the bathrooms?”

“So you do know your way around the boys room, huh? Buzz off, sicko.” Bing dismissed. 

The man took a pause in his jabbering and Bing smiled to himself, thinking he’d managed to clip Chatty Cathy’s strings before the man exhaled and leaned into the fence. 

“Look, I don’t have time to drag this out. I’m you from the future, kid. Bingham Francis Barlow in…” The man paused for a second, looking him over, apparently trying to figure out how old the boy was. “Oh, about twenty years or so I’d guess?”

Bing stayed quiet and kept swinging the bat, hoping that not indulging this clown would make him go away.

“Kid, I’m not here to molest you.” The man said. 

“Well, that’s a relief…” Bing said, voice dripping with sarcasm as he kept swinging.

“I’m here because almost thirty years from now, you’ll be going to jail for a simple, stupid mistake.”

Bing stopped swinging then. The bat fell to his side and he looked at the older man through the fence like he had grown a second head. The look on the man’s face had no trace of sarcasm or joking.

Bing indulged him, “What? You gonna tell me to go to church or something?” 

“No, I’m going to teach you how to avoid it. Stay out of jail, stay undetected, and grow up to be a very wealthy old man who will want for nothing.” The man in the slick suit said, narrowing his eyes on the boys. 

Bing scoffed and went back to practicing his swing, choosing to ignore the weirdo in a suit, just as the weirdo leaned into the fence, casually curling his thin, manicured fingers into the chain-length and hanging there.

“Yeah, I wouldn’t believe me either…” the man said lowly. 

“Is this the part where you try and lure me over to your ‘Delorian’ with promises of candy and tickle fights?”

“What? No.” The older man protested. 

“Whatever, Stranger Danger…” Bing said with a roll of his eyes before letting his Lil’ Slugger cut through the wind.

“You’re on the fast track to something really special, kid. You don’t even realize it yet, but you’re going to overshadow everyone on you know in a matter of years. I just need a few minutes to ta–” the older man said 

“I said steer clear, poop smear!” Bing declared, cutting the man’s voice off and doing so loud enough that a couple people in the stands began to look to inspect the scene. 

“Alright, kid… Another time, then.” The man in the three-piece suit said, raising his eyebrows with his hands as he backed away from the fence slowly.

Bing went back to his erratic swinging regimen as he watched the man turn slowly away from the fence and walk away.  The boy could hear him crooning out a song over his shoulder as he walked away.

“Swing loooooow, sweet chaaa-ri-oooot! A’comin’ fore t’ carry me hooooome!” The man sang out in a rise, putting an old blues drawl on every enunciation, before his voice faded off into the distance on the fall. “Swing loooo-hoooow, sweet chaaaaah-ri-ooo-hot! A’comin’ fore t’carry me hoooome…”

Bing gave the man another bemused look as he disappeared behind some trees and snorted to himself and looked up to see Higgins finally struck out at the plate. 

“Me from the future…” Bing scoffed under his breath, making his way to the plate.  

 “Dude must think I’m a bigger asshole than he is.”

“STEP ON IT, BARLOW!” The coach shouted impatiently, ejaculating nicotine-flecked ropes of spittle down onto the back Collin McAfry’s neck, causing the boy to wake from his heat-induced stupor and check the sky for rain with a brief gleam of hope in his eyes before realizing what the brown, viscous liquid really was and being sent into the very driest of heaves. 

Bing hefted the bat onto his shoulder, bumping it clumsily against the side of his neck as he dragged his feet to the plate. Taking a wide batting stance, he white-knuckled both hands around the cudgel’s rubber grip and stared down the mound into the eyes of the Bobcat’s pitcher, Josh Mayerik. Bing knew Mayerik from a couple of different games the Bobcat’s had played against the Owl’s earlier in the season. Mayerik, unlike many of the teammates that Bing had come to sympathize with in a sort of kinship not unlike “brothers in arms”, loved everything about Little League baseball, from the camaraderie to the itchy, hot uniforms. Mayrik’s dad raised him to love every aspect of the game from not long after his little baby brain gained the neural plasticity needed to recognize what a “ball” was. Mayrik was famous for frequently bragging about the extensive baseball card collection his dad had accumulated which would one day belong to him, along with the prize of the collection, an original T206 Honus Wagner, otherwise known as the rarest and first baseball card ever to exist in the history of ever. Mayrik bragged about that card every day in school for a solid month when he finally wore his father down hard enough to let him bring a binder full of cards in for show and tell at age seven. As it stands, no classmates have gone on the record as having seen Mayrik’s father’s supposed Holy Grail of baseball cards, and most people over the years had secretly come to think of the kid as a way-to-obsessive blowhard about a great many things. Josh Mayrik was probably a bald-faced little liar about most things, but his dominance on the pitcher’s mound carried no air of exaggeration.

Mayerik spat in the dirt and proceeded with an attempt to look into Bing’s soul with an icy stare that his dad taught him before his first pitcher try-out years before. Bing had to consciously force his eyes to keep from rolling out of his skull as the stare passed through him for a moment like a White Castle slider without the bowel distress.  The pitcher made eyes down at the catcher, gave a silent nod of agreement and then turned eyes back to Bing, who was just looking forward to striking out and going home already.

Mayrik wound his arm up and fired the ball down the center of the plate as Bing swung at it half-heartedly.

“STRIKE ONE!” The umpire shouted into the air.

Bing watched that smirk beginning to curl on Mayrik’s face and something within him switched from annoyance to pure, vinegary piss. He took his batting stance again to go for another hit and Mayrik threw another heater right past as Bing’s bat cut the wind.

“STEEEEEE-RIKE TEEEW!” The ump called with the dramatic timber and mannerism that would make your overly-enthusiastic high school drama teacher swell with pride.

Bing was annoyed now.  As sick as he was of this game, he was becoming even sicker of the pitcher’s smirk began to curl slower than frying bacon. 

Pitch number three came, wild and outside. Bing stood still, letting it fly right past him. 

“Ball one!” The umpire called in a shorter and clearly less enthusiastic tone. 

Bing looked up at the mound to see a look of surprise on Mayrik’s face. A look of surprise. Shock. He clearly thought Bing was going to swing on that pitch and that fact began to bring that smirk down just a tad.  Suddenly, Bing felt one of his own begin to pull at the corners of his mouth as he took stance again and showed it to Mayrik.  

The wind-up. 

The pitch.

High, outside, and would have hit the umpire in dead center of his chest if the catcher weren’t some kind of clairvoyant. 

Bing felt the wave of tension that he usually got when he was in play on the baseball field leave his body suddenly. Almost as if watching Mayrik squirm on the mound and try to hide the fact that he’d been thrown off his game was giving him some kind of power.  Maybe he was turning around on his opinion of America’s favorite pastime.  Or perhaps he was appreciating his newfound ability to get in another person’s head as he roamed around inside Josh’s and started knocking things over and kicking his dirty shoes up on the furniture.

Mayrik took a full minute to shake it out and get his head back in the game. The icy stare came back, burning with more intensity than Bing had ever seen. Bing choked up on the bat as the pitch left Mayrik’s hand as a melody came into his head.  The pitch came in hard, straight, and fast, but Bing’s eyes followed the ball like it was spinning in over-produced bullet time.  The ball came in low and right down the center. Bing swung hard, connected, and sent it flying.

He didn’t even get an eye for where the ball was headed as he made his run for first base. Just before he hit the mat, he cocked an eyebrow as the Bobcat’s in the outfield began to slow their pace while looking up at the sky. Suddenly, a frenzy of hollering applause began to erupt from the comatose parents of the Owl’s and Bing looked up to see his ball landing with a thump, just six inches away from a blue BMW in the parking lot. He then looked around to see his team mate, Brett Welker, who had been stuck on second for the better part of the inning taking a leisurely Sunday stroll across the home plate.  Seeing this, Bing slowed his own pace and began walking, nay, strutting around the diamond, reveling in the disgusted smirks of the Owl’s base men as he passed them by. As he rounded third base he found himself humming a familiar tune that it took him a moment to place as the tune that weird attempted pedophile guy had walked off singing. 

The Bobcat parents in the stands cheered as Bing stamped his foot down on the home plate and proceeded back to the dug out for back pats, high fives, and adulation but all he could think about was the song, the guy’s advice, and the fact that without even consciously realizing it, the ball he’d swung on to wipe that smirk off Mayrik’s face was a low one. For a brief moment, all his talk of being “from the future” or whatever seemed a bit more eerie than coincidence.  

Soon, the inning ended and the Bobcat’s took to the field for the start of the eighth inning, Bing found himself scouting the areas outside the fence to see if the man had stuck around, but alas, Bing couldn’t find hide nor hair of him as far as the eye could see. Eventually, his mind drifted back to the fascination he had with Mrs. Porter and her giant boob hugs and forgot all about it. 

As the last two innings of the game went by, the Owls managed to score three more runs on a fumbled catch by the center fielder and a walked in runner on third.  It wasn’t enough to win them the game, what with the Bobcat’s having a nine point lead in the first place and no “slaughter” rule in place for the Blue Dog County Little League Association to mercy kill a game like this.  A final score of 13 to 4 brought them a little less humiliation than some of their other losses, and for that day, Bingham Barlow was the hero of the post-game consolatory pizza party.

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Love it? Hate it? Either way, I’m gonna finish this damn thing if it kills me! Feel free to leave any comments or criticisms in the comments sections and if you feel like spreading the love by tweeting, ‘liking’, Facebook-ing, Tumblr-ing, or even Linked In-ing the link here around, I’ll come and dance at your wedding!

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Aaaaand We’re Back!

Man, I gotta tell ya, of all the ways I figured I could ring in my 31st year on earth, I had never expected the absolute shit show that has encased the entirety of my September.

So, the last month got particularly ugly. (If my admittedly bitchy last entry is any indication.) On top of the loss of my father at the beginning of September and all of the inherent stress that came from that just got compounded by the sickness that hit me harder than a drunk driver in a Buick. As resistant as I am to going to a doctor after seven years lacking insurance, after about four days of spinning and being unable to leave home, I finally gave in and went to one of the walk-in clinics at Walgreens. After that, I came home with a couple hundred bucks lighter with a gaggle of pills. Took those for a couple days to no real effect and broke down and made an appointment to an ENT doctor. After getting my hearing tested and being told what I already knew (I’m dizzy and pretty deaf) they prescribed me with some steroids to go on top of the rest of the pills I had. I started taking those for a couple more days, still no effect, so I went for a follow up with the ENT, who told me that they didn’t know what was wrong with me, but they had three options left for what to do to me.

1) An fMRI to check and see if I might have a brain tumor. (Which they admitted wasn’t very likely and would have cost me at least a grand without insurance)

2) They could inject steroids directly into my ear drum, which only had a 1/3rd chance of doing anything productive with my hearing loss or the vertigo.

3) Go with my original plan to stay home and wait it out like I had already planned before I dropped a thousand dollars on tests and meds that did sweet fuck all to help the problem.

My lividness with the situation aside, I stopped the medications all together, almost as an act of defiance and, under the advice of a friend, went out and got my “New Age” on, getting my first experience with acupuncture. The way I figured it, it’s a new experience, it might help my ear, and really, what’s another $80 on top of the pile of cash I already flushed down the crapper, anyway? So, I made an appointment and got my prick on. The whole experience was interesting, getting needles stuck in different areas in my back, arms, legs, hands, feet, and some centralized attention around my dead ear. I walked out of their office feeling no better from the vertigo, but my mood was amazing. All the tensions that had built up in me just went away for no discernible reason other than the fact that the turning my body into a pin cushion had unlocked something really pleasant within my mind and body. I walked around that day, still dizzy and a quarter deaf, but walking on air for several hours.

This feeling went on until a couple of hours after I got home, when I found myself thrown into the most disgusting, ugly, bile and excrement filled rage I’d felt in the last two years… And I couldn’t tell you why or what was making me feel this way to save my life. I went from the soundtrack to Singin’ In The Rain to Black Flag’s Damaged like a snap of your fingers. I paced around the apartment wanting to put my fist through the wall for ABSOLUTELY NO FUCKING REASON! It was bizarre and the fact that I couldn’t figure out why I was so pissed off just served to make me angrier. I went and jumped in the shower and started doing some deep breathing, racing through my own head, trying to figure out if I was going crazy or if maybe, just maybe I did have some kind of brain tumor pressing down somewhere on my brain’s limbic system. The hypocondria began to spiral out of control when the answer finally hit me out of nowhere.

In my trademarked bullheadedness, I decided to go cold turkey off the Prednazone prescription (of which I’d been taking six pills a day of for a solid week) and it dawned on me exactly what was going on in my frezied brain.

I was having ‘roid rage!

‘Roid rage is a real fucking thing and I was experiencing it.

I’d been on steroids before as a kid when I was recovering from my second surgery. I don’t recall the dosage, and I don’t recall any incidents of irrational anger for no reason, but then, I was 7 years old and on a myriad of drugs. There’s not much from that time period that I remember. The only reason I had no desire to use them now was because they caused the small, but still massively annoying gynecomastia (AKA: “man boobs”) that I’ve had ever since and won’t go away, no matter how many push-ups or butterfly curls I do. So it was with great hesitation that I went downstairs and took a smaller dosage of the pills. I managed to ween myself off of them within the span of another four days.

It’s been about a month since labrynthitis has knocked me flat on my ass and pretty much made me useless for a couple of weeks. Luckily, the extreme dizziness and puking into a bowl until I had nothing left in my body to throw up ended within the first 12 or so hours of it happening. The unfortunate part is, the vertigo has persisted for the entirety of the last four weeks and still hasn’t completely cleared up. Worst yet, the loss of half the hearing in my left ear still hasn’t improved and it’s pretty likely that the loss will be permanent. The thing that gets my hopes up about the possibility of regaining most if not all of my hearing is the faint, tinnitus-like bit of high-pitched white noise that I hear in the ear whenever I’m sitting somewhere quiet. It’s pretty much exactly like that running gag from Archer.

Fortunately, I’m not completely deaf in that ear, I’d say I’m at about 30 to 40% of what I’m used to on my left and I’m trying to strengthen the possibility of the hearing coming back by listening to music and especially lots of audiobooks with only the left headphone going. Then there’s the unintended plus sides of the hearing loss, like having an easier time ignoring bad music blaring out of some asshole’s car when I ride around with the windows open. Also, I can (and have) used it at times as a more reasonable excuse to ignore people or requests for things I’m in no hurry to do. Furthermore, now that I’m off the drugs and not sleeping away 80% of my days, my brain is firing back up and I’m back to writing. Wrapping up production on The Zipper Club in the next couple weeks after all these setbacks, writing more entries for The Long Odds here, and preparing an outline for my first year of participating in NaNoWriMo. I’ll be writing a little more about that in the next week or so and give everyone the all the information they’ll need to follow my progress across the month of November.

Every cloud has a silver lining!