Friday, September 2, 2011

The Return: A Short Story

September 1, 2011, Boston, MA

The car sped by the ballpark in a flash, barely pausing to open the rear passenger side door and toss the package out on the street.

The package landed with a bone-crushing thud on the pavement, a large mass covered in old quilts and tied with twine. The package began to shift and move on the ground.

The quilts were thrown aside and a cloaked, hooded figure emerged. The hunched, wretched creature shuffled toward the clubhouse door. Not recognizably human, it moved forward only with intense effort.

It entered the clubhouse unnoticed and paused in the middle of the room, its face and head completely swaddled. After several minutes, the trainer, Gene Monahan came upon the figure and asked what its business was. The creature grunted, almost inaudibly. Assuming it was a sick, homeless man who had wandered in off the street, Monahan asked assistant trainer Steve Donohue to fetch some warm soup. Monahan gently began to peel away layers of rags until finally the creature straightened and revealed its craggy face from under a mound of unwashed hair.

"My God!" gasped Monahan. A crowd quickly gathered around.

"Are you..." said someone.

"Is that..." said someone.

"Scott? Scott Proctor? Is that you?" said Monahan.

The creature cleared its throat and spoke. "I...I was called that once, yes. Scott. That is my name. Scott."

"I can't believe it's really you!" said Donahue. "We thought you were lost forever! Where have you been?"

"I...I can't remember all of it," said Proctor. "There was cold...I remember cold. And darkness. And unfathomable horrors and evil. But mostly, I remember this."

Proctor rolled up his right sleeve to reveal a monstrosity of a limb, something that could only be called an "arm" in the most clinical definition of that term. It was withered, and only a third the size of his good arm. It had freakish, Frankenstein-like bolts coming out of the elbow, and raised red scars running the length of the whole thing. Random lumps grew and receded like bubbles, and worst of all, the entire arm seemed to hang from the shoulder by one vulnerable, shredded tendon.

"Oh, Scott," Monahan said. "You really think you can still pitch with that?

"Yes, Geno," said Proctor. "I've been rehabbing for five years, and my velocity is up to 73 mph on the fastball. I really think I can help this team. It's been a long and terrible road, but I'm finally back where I belong."

Proctor's eyes flooded with tears, and his teammates rushed to embrace him in a gentle, loving group hug. Just then, the clubhouse door opened again.

Major League Baseball's Executive Vice President of Operations Joe Torre strolled in, whistling a jaunty tune from old Italy.

"Hey everyone, how ya doin'?" he said. "Bud wanted me here for the big series with the Red Sox to keep an eye on the umpires and all that, but I wanted to say hello. Jeet, how ya doin'? Mo, lookin' good."

"Hey Mr. Torre," Derek Jeter said. "Look who's here! Look who's back!"

He turned to put his arm around Proctor, but the creature was gone. He vanished without a sound, and without anyone seeing him leave. The creature faded back into darkness.