I’m alone now, the sole occupant of the visitors’ bullpen. The rest of the relievers have disappeared into the shelter of the clubhouse. I remain, sitting in my plastic lawn chair, my glove tucked underneath to shield it from drizzling rain.
I wanted to sneak out of the cage in left field just like all the others, but I drew the short straw. It was my duty to stay behind and play catch with our left fielder each inning our team took the field. The others, no doubt, were probably dancing around like elves in the warm, dry clubhouse, watching the game via the stadium’s closed circuit television, sipping coffee. I wonder if they can see me here, scowling and wet, my parka hood pulled over my damp head?
I can’t blame them for going in. I would happily have done it myself, without any regard for the poor sap who took my place. But I’m here, they are there, and this game is crawling along with no reason for them to relieve me.
Bored and alone, my mind wanders to thoughts on this series. It’s been a disaster. We’ve lost almost all our games. I’ve pitched horrible, the weather stinks, and the town is a dump.
This is the kind of town that gets built around a nuclear power plant. The sun seems the wrong color. The air is rough and crooked. The place where we are staying is a pit. The roof leaked so badly our first night, the hallways flooded. There is no place to eat nearby, so we dine at a local gas station after games and take a shuttle to the mall food court before. Three rooms have been broken into so far. We are taking bets on who it’s going to be tonight.
In the pen, enough water has fallen to form a stream flowing to a nearby drain. On the field, the opposing pitcher is struggling. He and his manager stand awkwardly on the mound. The pitcher has his head down; the coach has his arms folded. I know they are wasting time, so does the umpire on his way to visit.
Glancing back at the freshly formed stream, I immediately notice the landscape has changed. About five feet from me is a brown tarantula the size of my open palm. It is the largest spider I have ever seen, and it’s on a collision course with my right foot.
I explode out of my char, flipping it over, nearly falling into the mud. I scramble to my toppled chair and holding it out in front of me like a lion tamer. The tarantula stops when I move, its front legs hanging in mid-air, motionless. All eight of its eyes watching me.
Should I kill it? Bludgeon it with my lawn chair of righteous fury? That would require getting close, and I’ve heard these fuzzy little nightmares can jump. Besides, I can’t kill it. I have a far better idea.
I’m a boy, and though half of me is scared to see a tarantula big enough to engulf my face, the other is intensely impressed by a monster of its stature. Though it may mean injury, I have to capture it because I can’t pass on an opportunity to inflict this eight legged scare-fest on the other guys in the pen. Its practically my duty.
By tiptoeing behind, I daringly captured it in an empty bubble gum bucket. I could hear it clattering around inside, its legs tapping defiantly in its plastic cell.
When my pen pals came back, I tempted them to lift the bucket. One by one, each of them lifted the edge, and one by one, each of them yelped, dropped the bucket and backed away. I chased some of the guys around with my bucket full of tarantula until I scared them entirely out of the pen. Some refused to come back in until I disposed of it.
“All right guys,” I said, carefully sealing my new pet back into his over turned bucket. “How should we get rid of it? Leave it under the bucket for the grounds crew?”
The guys looked at each other, then smiled evilly. “Leave it? Heck no, we need to stick that thing in Frenchy’s locker!”
“I think we should try to put a leash on it!”
“I’m going to train it to protect my hotel room!”