I: 607 Area Code

INCOMING CALL:
GEORGE HERMAN RUTH

*** ONE MINUTE TO GO! ***

The words flash across my TV screen. I can hear hearty laughter and drunken shouts from outside my window. Parties are going on in the apartments above and below me. From what I can tell, people are excited. New Year’s Eve always seems like a big to-do for everyone – else.

I look around my apartment – no party happening here…  A few old pizza boxes and Chinese takeout containers are strewn about, discarded among the stacks of sports books, newspaper box scores and baseball programs. James is laying in the corner, chewing the laces off of another fresh baseball, unfazed by the muffled EDM beats thumping all around us. Give James a new baseball and he will shut out the entire world until either it’s a ball of yarn or it’s time for dinner – whichever comes first.

*** 50, 49, 48, 47 ***

My phone starts buzzing on the coffee table. James lets off a single bark to alert me before going right back to his ball. He’s already frayed half the seams. It’s his third this week. I look down expecting to see POTENTIAL SPAM on the screen. 9 out of 10 calls I receive these days are robo-dialers telling me I’ve won a free cruise or trying to sell me a time share somewhere in the Caribbean. 

But the name I see is a familiar one.

GEORGE HERMAN RUTH

LOL. The only George H. Ruth I “know” was the legendary Yankee slugger and founder of the 700 Club – not the Christian spiritual talk show on cable tv – the 700 home run club.

I grab my phone and check the area code – 607. Cooperstown, New York.

*** 42, 41, 40, 39 ***

This has to be some kind of scam. Babe Ruth, calling from Cooperstown, at 11:59 on New Year’s Eve? Come on. But who would choose such a specific name as their alias?

A strange feeling starts to creep up my spine. My eyes dart to James, who’s stopped chewing. He’s growling, staring at the phone in my hand, one paw holding the ball in place, tail wagging furiously. I can feel him telling me to answer it.

“Uh, hello?

“Hi, is this Mr. Howard? Mr. Joe Howard?”

The voice is gruff but seems kind. I should lie, pretend that he didn’t actually say my name, but my brain doesn’t communicate properly with my mouth.

“Um, yeah. Who is this?”

“It’s George Ruth, or err, Babe Ruth. More people know me as Babe, but I prefer George. Hate to call you so late, but there’s something I need you to do for me Joe.”  

*** 29, 28, 27, 26 ***

“You still there Joe?”

I’m at a loss for words.

“Sorry… Yes, I’m still here. Forgive me for what I’m about to say, but, aren’t you dead?”

The voice on the other end of the phone lets out a wheezy laugh.

“Ha! Fair question, and no offense taken. Yes, I’m dead. In your reality that is.”

“In my reality?” I ask sheepishly.

“Yes. Listen, I’ll explain more later, but I need a yes or no answer from you. There’s a job opening for a GM/Manager for the Brooklyn Biscuits, a Major League baseball team similar to the ones you are familiar with, the Red Sox, the Yankees, etcetera, etcetera…But this job is in a different reality, the CS Paradigm.”

“The CS Paradigm?”

At this point I’ve figured out that it must be a prank call.

*** 20, 19, 18, 17 ***

“Yes, The Called-Shot Paradigm. So remember the story of when I ‘called my shot’? Pointed my bat towards the outfield before stepping into the box and immediately hitting a dinger to the exact spot I was pointing at? Yes, it really happened. Well, when the ball landed, a portal to a new world, exactly like ours, opened up. A parallel universe. And I have the power to bring whomever I want across with me. With your knowledge of baseball, and lack of a social life, you would be perfect to come run this team. What do you think? You in?”

Whoever this person is, he is crazy. How does he know anything about my social life or lack there of. Time to put an end to this nonsense. I just want to end the call.

*** 10, 9, 8, 7 ***

“Sure George, I’m in, but only if I can bring my dog James with me too.”

“Wonderful! Wonderful news Joe. Of course James can come. Well, then it’s settled. You are the new GM/Manager of the Brooklyn Biscuits. I’ll see you tomorrow Joe. Bye now.”

*** 3, 2, 1, Happy New Year! ***

A firecracker goes off in the alley below me and my apartment goes dark. Great. Not only does an unknown weirdo who has my phone number think he is going to meet me tomorrow to bring me into an alternate reality, but now I have no power.

I walk over to James. It’s time to call it a night.

“What a wack job. What a way to kick off another year, huh Jammies?”

He grunts and drops his ball as I pick him up and we make our way to bed.



Categories: The Brooklyn Biscuits - A Fictional Memior

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