From The Other Seat
An embittered musician with a crumbling career enters a new chapter when she meets a charming MLB scout. She might hate baseball but sets off with the scout, traveling to minor league stadiums throughout the country, living vicariously through his unswerving ambitions. Her personal journey is redefined when she discovers the Zen of baseball; her outlook on the sport, life, and love, unique to where she sits, from the other seat.
The scout stormed in the room some time later. He looked spent, angry, braced on a hair trigger. I was lounging on the bed, a posture I feel guilty about, but someone had to balance out all that tension.
“You find Darko?” I asked, setting down my book.
The scout glared at me. “They’re all downstairs, hungry.”
“But how’d you recognize him?”
“I parked. Told him to find the big white van and walk towards it.”
“Seems like you should have just done that in the first place.”
He made no retort, just glared at me again, and there was no comedy behind his eyes. “I need you downstairs,” he said. “You’re driving the seven seater. Mauro’s too tired.” I started to protest, but the scout was having none of it. “You’re driving,” he barked.
I don’t think any of them expected a girl to be in the mix. They all grew shy when I walked into the lobby and I tried very hard not to blush; so many accents, so many boys. I make a motion to follow me, and they do, which for some reason, amazes me that they do. I’ve never been any type of authority over anyone and this is nerve wracking, too.
The Italians go with the scout in the white twelve seater van. The Croatian must have gone with them too because following me is the Italian coach, Mauro Mazzotti, one Czech kid, one Austrian and two Dutch. We all pile in the back of the black KIA seven seater, which sounds like the beginning of a joke, and maybe it is, but I’m hoping I won’t be at the opposite end, the punch line, after this showcase is through. Kalabek is here after all that fuss, sitting next to the Austrian. I can see them in my rear view mirror just behind the Dutch. I feel like the Mother Goose of baseball. Ten days. These boys are, in part, my responsibility for ten whole days.
We piled out of the vans and into the In and Out burger where the scout ordered food and the boys found their seats.
October 4. At 11pm, fifteen European teenage boys take over an In and Out burger in Mesa, Arizona.
Too nervous to eat, too flustered to think, I did my best at making small talk with Mauro until the scout joined us at our round, concrete table. Outside was a pleasant temperature and I satisfied my anxious heart with notions that the worst was over, at least for today.
When the kids were through with their meals, they spilled out the double doors of the restaurant and mingled, fluttering around our concrete table.
“Why was it so salty?” Damian, a Dutch, asked while squishing his face in displeasure. The other Dutch chimes in, Jimmy, “Yeah, why’d they put so much salt?” The scout and Mauro blame the poor cooking on me and fire me from my duties as food coordinator, to which I accept, with little relief because they are only joking and I’m not yet off the hook.
I was warned about the Dutch early on. They are playful, cocky, problematic maybe, but only as teenage boys and their pranks go, so it was a warning I took lightly. But a matter of missing luggage made me think otherwise. It was an issue that carried on like a rolling wave, building power and force as it closed in on the scout, for what was originally thought to be a prank turned out to be a legitimate flub on someone’s part. The luggage, a small silver case, had indeed been left in some random terminal, and so the issue, a large looming force, kept the one of us that is a scout and the Dutch kids up until half past 2am, which to them, having just flown in, was nearly noon the next day. The recovery of the item, however relieving, did nothing to re-instill the peace, not in my hotel room anyway, the one that I shared with the scout. He was normally not an unbearable person, but his person emanated an unbearable amount of pressure which I felt in my sleep and in the waking hours since we’d arrived in Arizona, since we’d left Detroit, since the cosmos had shifted to squares and retrogrades, the difficulties had been numerous. Still, I trusted in the scout like one trusts the sun will rise— the greater the pressure, the greater the man. The conditions he thrived in, the laws that he lived by, few mortals could have understood. “Baseball is the only sport not measured in time,” he’d once told me. This theory never made much sense to me, but that didn’t mean the fibers of my very being weren’t trying to adjust to this theory.
This novel is a 2015 NaNoWriMo Winner and is currently in progress