John CurtisSeptember 8, 2008
The Two Freaks
(continued from Ken McMullen)
The Two Freaks roamed the land. No one remembers them now. How could they? Even when they were around very few ever noticed them, and then only in fleeting glimpses that could easily be dismissed as a trick of the eye, a second glance always finding them gone. They stuck to the shadows, the margins, the fringes. Occasionally they showed up at gatherings, but only the sparsely-attended ones and only for a moment. There are no records that they ever existed, but if you ask me there are traces. Here, there, and everywhere: traces. Through all the years of my 1970s childhood, the Two Freaks roamed the land.
They showed themselves to John Curtis just moments before this picture was snapped, though by the time his own less-elusive image was captured they were gone, leaving the bespectacled journeyman hurler to wonder if they’d ever been there at all. He’d been taking a pregame nap in the bullpen when summoned by the baseball card people, and while still half asleep, stumbling through the bullpen gate, he’d heard the thin flat tooting of a wooden wind instrument and saw whirling longhaired figures rushing by him, close.
“Security!” someone had yelled.
John Curtis had staggered backward, blinking, and when he’d regained his balance the blurry figures had disappeared.
He continued walking until the photographer told him to stop, then performed his guarded, flat-smiling pose, the slight wince underlaying his facial expression hinting of his growing doubts about the whole strange encounter.
“Say cheese,” the Topps photographer said.
“Just a synapse misfiring,” reasoned the college-educated lefty to himself as he pretended to be ready, glove-up, to field a screaming liner through the box.
“Got it. Beautiful. Couldn’t have been better,” the Topps photographer intoned, distractedly. He was already scanning his clipboard for the next forgettable 1976 Cardinal.
“Just a trick of the mind,” thought Curtis, meandering away.
But as John Curtis moved back toward the bullpen to await a situation hopeless enough for his long-relieving services to be necessary, he noticed that what he’d already decided was a dream had somehow left some tangible residue. The sky clouded over and it started to rain, and John Curtis went to stick his pitching hand into his back pocket and jog for cover, but as he did so he found that a big red umbrella was jutting from the rear left compartment in his pants. He hadn’t put it there. Why would he? It had to have come to him from the Two Freaks.
He pulled the umbrella from his pocket and opened it. The sudden shower beat down, making everyone else on the field scatter. John Curtis just stood there, laughing, temporarily invincible beneath the small yet inarguable miracle of shelter.
(to be continued)