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By Bruno Rescigna
Mickey, the bartender, brought Guy a drink. "From that old couple in the corner. Said to tell you they been fans of yours for forty years."
Guy raised his glass of scotch to the couple and smiled. The smile vanished when he turned to see Steve enter the lounge.
Guy Russell could have gone to the majors a thousand times, but he always turned them down. "I like it fine right here. I make a good living and I don't have to worry about some network puke messing with me because of ratings." Then Steve was hired as producer.
"I can't get anything done," Guy complained to anyone who'd listen. "Kid's got an idea about everything. Thinks he knows it all. I was doing games when he was doing things in his diapers. First, he changes my Guy Russell Scoreboard. Then he tells me I need to explain the strategy more. Said women don't understand the game. That's what husbands are for, I told him."
The Bullpen Lounge, across the highway from old Leif Park, was Guy's favorite hangout on the road. Booths with red Formica tables and red plastic cushions lined the perimeter of the place. Bats, gloves, and photos of major leaguers who once played locally hung on the knotty pine walls. The bar was long and rectangular. Picture cards of players covered the top of the bar. A thin sheet of clear plastic that ran the length of the bar protected the cards.
"I've been coming to this bar for twenty years." Guy looked up at Steve. Both men leaned on the bar as they faced each other, empty stools stood behind them.
"You say that every time we come here." Steve placed his attaché case on the bar.
"You know what your problem is, Steve? You think you know it all. How long have you been a producer?"
"Two years, Guy. A week longer than the last time you asked me. You read my memo?" Steve asked.
"I never read your memos," Guy said.
"I wrote that I had an idea that I'd like you to hear." Steve spoke softly to avoid drawing attention to their conversation.
"It'll be another change. Something else that'll be totally opposite my style. I can't bend anymore, Steve. If I do I think I'll break." Guy shook his head.
"What bend? I haven't been allowed to change one thing!" Steve's voice rose.
"The Guy Russell Scoreboard, you changed that." Guy's voice rose to equal Steve's.
"I repainted a studio prop from beige to light blue. Two years and I repainted a pegboard. That's not bending, Guy; that's rigor mortis." Steve ran his hand through his thick hair.
A middle-aged man stopped to tell Guy how much he enjoyed Guy's play-by-play.
"Thank you," Guy nodded modestly. "I appreciate it." Guy smiled and turned to Steve as the man walked away. "Another man who likes the way I do my job. That must make about fifteen hundred people who've come up to me over the last two years and told me how much they like the way I call a game." Guy tapped Steve's chest. "You know how many people have told me to change everything? Nobody, zero. I figured since you like statistics so much, you'd want to know the results of my survey . . . fifteen hundred to nothing." Guy laughed.
Mickey placed another scotch in front of Guy. "It's from that man over there." Mickey pointed to a well-dressed older man sitting in a booth. "Said to tell you he was a fan." Mickey smiled. "You're good for business."
To read the rest of this story, click here to order a copy of the Winter 2004 issue.
BRUNO RESCIGNA has had short stories published in Bucks County Writer,
comedy sketches performed on public radio in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and
Lawrence, Kansas, and two one-act plays staged at the University of New Mexico.
He lives in Wilmington, Delaware.
© 2004 Bruno Rescigna
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