Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Free Featured Fiction: "Hack: The First Inning," #5

More free fiction! Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

I'm going to keep on serializing the first installment of
Hack as long as I have segments to give. Why? Because I'm a hell of a guy, that's why!

Previous Installments

#s 1-2: HERE
#3: HERE

#4: HEREDisclaimer: This story contains adult language and themes. Reader discretion is advisedEnjoy!
-D.J.

Hack: The First Inning
#5
D.J. Gelner


5

“KNOCK, KNOCK, KNOCK.”

“Come in,” Hack growled from the couch. He had been trying to nap for maybe an hour or more, but was only able to nod off for a few abbreviated stretches.

The door cracked open with sufficient temerity that Hack immediately knew it wasn’t Willie coming back for “round two,” nor was it Keith, who apparently fancied himself King Shit of Hoplite.

Instead, an attractive redhead peeked her head in the office. An awkward-looking, freckled boy with a mop of brown hair and long nose peered over her shoulder.

“Yeah?” Hack asked, already annoyed.

“Uh…Mr. O’Callahan? I’m Samantha Rappaport, one of the interns for the Magpies. This is Barry Wojciechowski,” she turned to face the beanpole behind him, and he offered a timid wave.

“Are you the ones who’re supposed’ta move Willie’s stuff?” Hack asked.

“Yes…yes, we are,” the look on Samantha’s face indicated that they had already heard more than they ever wanted to know about Hack from the man who had recently been demoted to bench coach.

“I’m guessin’ then that you can get some shit fer’ me too?”

Samantha looked back at Barry, who shrugged.

“Sure. Sure, we can do that.”

“Good. I’m gonna’ need a pen and paper—how you people can run an organization without it is beyond me.”

“Actually, our computer system has won several awards for user-interface and—” it was the first time Barry piped up. After the look Hack gave him in reply, he was sorry he had done so.

“I need a dozen black handkerchiefs. Or red, or blue—dark colors. I need all the Robitussin ya’ can find. I need a hotplate and a supply of Campbell’s Chicken Noodle; not that cheap imitation shit—it gives me the fuckin’ runs. I need a case of Ol’ Reliable, I need—”

“The fiber supplement?” Samantha asked.

“What? No—Christ! Actually, I need that too, but—” he waved a hand at them, “—the whiskey, the whiskey. Not the little bottles, either—the big sonsabitches.”

“We’re not twenty-one,” Samantha shook her head.

Just…get it.” The two interns jumped as Hack raised his voice. “And I need a program.”

“What OS do you use?” Barry jumped in.

“What? What kind of a dumb Pollack question is that? A program? You know, with all’a the players and their statistics and everything?”

“Oh…” Barry thought for a minute, “…I think we still have those.”

“You better, ’cause if not, I need stat reports on all’a our hitters against the pitcher we’re goin’ against tonight, and pitch-by-pitch breakdowns on how our starter and our relievers do against all’a their guys.”

“That’s all in the database.”

“The what-the-fuck now?”

Barry shook his head, “Forget it. I’ll get you the relevant printouts.”

Hack snorted, “How’s that for a change? An enterprising Pollack…”

“What’s that?” Barry asked.

“What?”

“A Po-lock?”

“Fer’get it,” Hack waved the question away.

“Is that everything you need?” Samantha asked.

“For now, yeah.”

“How’re we supposed to pay for this stuff?” She asked.

“Tell Keith to take it outta my paycheck.”

The interns stood and stared at Hack. He glared right back.

“Well? I’m waitin’. Get ta’ gettin’!”

They quickly loaded Willie’s modest belongings onto a pushcart and wheeled them away.

Not but an hour later, Hack heard another knock on the door.

“Yeah?” He had nodded off again.

Samantha and Barry appeared in the doorway.

“Well if it isn’t Tweedledee,” he looked at Samantha before he turned his scowl toward Barry, “and Tweedledumb. Need more instruction, do yas’? Old man didn’t explain what—?”

“No, we have everything. Even the whiskey, just like you asked.” Samantha said. Barry pushed the cart with the requested items piled atop it.

“No shit…” Hack said. He wobbled to his feet and grabbed a colorful, neon orange binder from the top of the pile. “What the fuck is this?”

“Those are the reports you requested,” Barry said, confident for the first time in Hack’s presence. “A team overview of stats, plus splits for all of Springfield’s pitchers, and splits for our hitters against their hitters, indexed alphabetically.”

“Christ, whattaya have, friends at NASA?” Hack thumbed through the printed out pages, “This’ll be just fine…yeah…just fine…” he looked up at Barry without even a hint of a smile, “You keep this up and they’ll be sure to give you a raise.”

“Oh, we don’t get paid,” Barry said nonchalantly. “We’re college students doing this for course credit.”

“I knew it! I knew a Pollack couldn’t possibly be this smart,” Hack harumphed. “Why in the sam hell would ya’ wanna work for a minor league team for free?”

Samantha shrugged, “Get in the industry. Work our way up.”

Hack shook his head, “Look sweetie, I understand you’re tryin’ to bag yerself a husband,” Samantha recoiled in horror, “but you, Pollack—this is dead end, son. There’s no future in it. Stop wastin’ your time.”

Samantha scowled at Hack before she composed herself again.

“Will there be anything else, Mr. O’Callahan?”

“Naw, this should keep me busy for a while. Go on…” this time, he didn’t have to say it twice; the interns couldn’t hide their faces of displeasure as they left the office.

Hack sat at the desk and threw himself into the research for the next several hours. Two of the scouting reports in particular caught his eye: the catcher, Robert (“nickname: Truck,” the scouting report read) Traynor, who, judging by the numbers, hit anything thrown at him like it had just insulted his mother: .344 average last season with 38 home runs and 138 RBIs.

The other one was the shortstop, Manny Poblado, who still started despite the following “glowing” review in his scouting report: “Can’t hit, middling range, mediocre speed, decent arm.”

“How the hell is this kid startin’?” Hack asked himself.

Within an hour, Hack had assembled his lineup for the evening. Players trickled in, but Hack kept himself busy by reading all of the binders the “Pollack kid, Woja-somethin’,” had assembled. He wasn’t the type to glad hand a bunch of minor leaguers, especially when they hadn’t yet been fortunate enough to make his acquaintance, and especially when they were as sheltered and soft as this group looked to be from their pictures.

Game time was 7:05 that evening, and the Magpies were scheduled to take batting practice at 6:05. At 5:55, all of the players sat in the dingy folding chairs in front of their lockers. Some of them played video games on their phones, or, for the more serious gamers among them, their Sony or Nintendo portables.

Others congregated in the various cliques that had naturally formed, generally along racial lines, though there was a marked tension between the self-described “rednecks” and more suburban, affluent white players.

It didn’t help that the clubhouse only featured one older, cathode ray TV, similar to the one Hack had smashed to bits in his home the previous evening. All of the various cliques fought over what channel it should be on.

“God damn it,” a hulking man with sandy hair said in a Southern accent, “Who the fuck put it on How I Met Your Mother? No one likes that intellectual bullshit.”

“Shut up, Mitch,” a thinner brown-haired player with glasses shot back.

“Fuck you, Sid. I’m pitchin’ tonight. If I do a shitty job, I blame it on this bullshit.”

As if to make Mitch’s point, Josh Radnor’s character on the show launched into one of his insufferably self-important monologues.

“I don’t think Larry the Cable Guy’s on right now,” Truck Traynor said with a grin.

“Nope. But Duck Dynasty sure as shit is, and that shit is funny as fuck,” Mitch replied.

“Homesick, are we?” Sid asked.

Truck shook his head and laughed as he put on his shin guards.

“You little bitch—” Mitch took two giant-sized steps toward Sid, who’s only defense consisted of a wise-ass grin.

All the while, the Latin players escalated an argument over an esoteric card game and the din of salsa music in their own corner of the locker area.

Hack had struggled into his uniform hours before, but was just now folding one of the crisp, dark handkerchiefs into his back pocket. He swigged down another gulp of Robitussin, and several deeper swallows off of the already half-full bottle of Old Reliable.

He heard a “crash” from the locker room and wiped his mouth on the sleeve of the turtleneck he wore under his uniform before he grunted and waddled to the door.

Hack shook his head at the scene that unfolded outside: Mitch Henry, that evening’s starting pitcher, had Linus “Sid” Fynch in a headlock, as Truck Traynor tried to pull the hulking southerner off of the center fielder. Meanwhile, Manny Poblado and first baseman Juan PatrĂ³n slapped each other as Spanish curse words resonated throughout the locker room.

“God damn it,” Hack sighed as his eyes narrowed, the emotionless, sad orbs finally ignited in their sockets and began to dance.

“Hey! Stop it. Stop it!” Hack yelled as he stumbled toward the locker room. Even though he screamed over the din, the players were too engrossed in their various altercations to pay any heed.

Frustrated, Hack picked up a bat along the wall and swung it against the mesh metal siding of the locker next to him.

The ash connected with the mesh with a loud “BOOM,” and dented the web of metal. The players looked up to see who or what had caused the commotion, and were surprised to see that it was a short, bald senior citizen.

And he was pissed.

“I don’t know what the fuck kind’a country club operation Coach Williams was runnin’ here, but the first rule of my locker room is that when I tell you all to shut the fuck up—” Hack screamed the words at the players and raised the bat toward them, all of whom took a half-step back, “—you god damn well do it! Are we clear?”

“Who the hell’re you?” Mitch asked.

Hack galloped over toward Henry and shoved the bat in the towering pitcher’s face, “I’m yer’ worst fuckin’ nightmare, son. No wonder our country’s gonna be taken over by the goddamned Chi-nese. Yer’ a bunch of dumbass baseball players, and you don’t even recognize greatness when it’s swingin’ a god damned bat around yer’ locker room! My name is Hack O’Callahan. I’m yer’ new manager.”

Willie belatedly raced into the room to check in on the commotion.

A bespectacled black player in the far corner of the room gasped.

Everyone else looked blank.

“Hack O’Callahan?” The black player asked. “The Hack O’Callahan? Four World Series rings, greatest manager of all-time Hack O’Callahan?”

“I like this one already,” Hack offered a half-grin. “This old ass of mine could use a good kissin’.” The players half-laughed at the comment. “But on this team, make no mistake, you are to refer to me as Coach, or ‘Coach O’Callahan.’ If you earn my respect, maybe someday I’ll let you call me ‘Coach Hack.’”

“Is this true, Willie?” Truck Traynor asked.

Willie nodded, “In light of Coach O’Callahan’s remarkable record, I’ve agreed to step aside for the season and become his bench coach. You all are to offer him the same respect that you would me.”

“Bullshit, Charles,” Hack shot back, “If you offer me the same respect that you offered him,” Hack stuck a gnarled thumb at Willie, “You’ll get the same shitty result. You will offer me more respect than any coach you’ve ever had. More than your shitty little high school coaches or…” he looked over at the stunned Latin players in the corner, “…whatever…y’all have down wherever you’re from. For the Einsteins amongst’yas’, more than yer’ ivory tower, egghead college coaches.

“I command that respect, gentlemen, because I am better than those coaches. I have four of these,” he balled his left hand into a fist and thrust it in front of him to showcase a glittering, ruby-and-diamond -studded monstrosity of a ring, “to prove it. So forgive me if I’ll be damned if some little pissant comes in here and acts like he’s King Shit. I’ve got news for you, buddy; yer’ King shit, minus the ‘king.’ Are we clear?”

Maybe half of the players nodded. Others looked toward Mitch Henry or Truck Traynor for guidance.

“I’m not here to be yer’ momma, and I sure as hell ain’t here to be yer’ buddy. In fact, I couldn’t give a damn if you hate each others’ guts, and can’t wait to strangle each other. But men, those murders are gonna’ have to wait until after the season.”

A few chuckles went up from around the room.

“I know it can be tough for a lot of you, especially the Latin guys and the brothers—” Hack nodded in turn toward the Latin players in the far right corner of the room, and the bookish black player in the left corner of the room. “Where’re the rest of you?” Hack asked the black player, unthinking.

“What do you mean? College men?” As if to underscore the point, he pushed the glasses up on the bridge of his nose.

“No, no—the brothers? You know…black guys?”

“Yeah, Eldrake—where the hell are they?” Henry asked.

Eldrake?” Hack emphasized the first syllable.

“Eldrake Gamble,” he stuck out his hand, “I’m honored to meet you, sir.”

“Christ—what the hell is this, a box social? We’re ballplayers, not bankers,” Hack paused for laughs but received only quizzical glances. “You need a nickname. What’d the other kids in the hood call ya’?”

Willie smacked himself in the face, while Henry let out a low, ignorant laugh.

“Actually, I grew up in Buckhead, Georgia. Suburbs of Atlanta. Went to Georgia Tech, so I’m—”

“How about ‘Flash?’”

“Excuse me?”

“Flash? Ya’ know—like the comic book hero?”

Gamble snorted out a nerdy laugh, “Uh, I’m not exactly known for my speed, but—”

“Flash Gamble makes you sound dangerous, like you’d put a guy’s head through a car window before he knows what’s what.”

“Uh…okay then…” Gamble tailed off, hand still outstretched

“No need to shake my hand, either. Like I said, I ain’t here to be yer’ buddy. I ain’t here to discriminate on none’a’ya, either; I don’t care if yer’ white, black, brown, yella’, or purple, ‘cept if yer’ purple ‘cause yer’ chokin’ on somethin’, and even then I only give a shit if you can hit or pitch a little.”

This one elicited the desired chuckles, except from Willie, who rolled his eyes that the old codger was already repeating material.

“Everyone will get a shot, and we will win ballgames. The good ones of yous’ might even make it to the show. But gentlemen, the next time I walk in and yer’ fightin’ each other like a bunch of goddamned dogs tearin’ each other apart for a bone, I will take this bat, and shove it up somebody’s ass!”

More chuckles followed, along with a couple of guffaws from Henry’s corner. Even Manny Poblado smiled at the reference. Traynor winced and shook his head.

“The lineup for tonight is up on the manager’s door. You got a problem with it? Tough shit. Show me somethin’ in practice. Now get on out there and take some BP, will ya’?!”

Silence swallowed the room for a couple of seconds as everyone looked toward their various clique leaders as to how to respond.

Finally, Truck Taylor clapped and let out a sharp, “Yeah!”

Perhaps spurred on by Hack’s casual racism, Mitch Henry soon followed suit, as did the Latin players, only some of whom had any idea what exactly had just happened, other than that a crotchety, elderly man barged into their locker room and hit a locker with a bat. Pete Moray, who still hadn’t said a word to Hack, rushed over to try to interpret for those with clueless looks on their faces.

As the team took the field, Hack finally broke into a wide grin.

It’s good to be home, he thought.
* * *
Tune in to "Free Featured Fiction" again next week to see what's in store for our scheming hero.

Can't wait? You can get Hack: Innings 1-3 for free on Scribd (as a PDF), KoboiBooks, and Smashwords. It's $0.99 on Amazon and Nook due to their Byzantine price match policies.

     And if you want to check out the entire series, 
Hack: The Complete Game is available for $3.99 in Kindle/PaperbackNookKoboiBooks, and Smashwords editions.
 
Thanks for reading, and Happy Hunting!

D.J. Gelner is the Co-Founder and CEO of Hunt to Read. Check out his books on his Hunt to Read Profile. Contact him directly at djgelner@hunttoread.com.
 


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