“What the hell is wrong with Mickey?” Murph asked. “Did something happen out there?”
“I think it was Lefty,” Danvers said. “That jackass was jawing at him from the dugout, and making all kinds of gestures. I put a stop to it but I think it may have rattled him.”
Murph saw the boy struggling, and was quick to intercede. “Hey, Mick, what’s going on pal?” he said. “Everything okay?”
The boy did not move. Just stood there, catatonically, his fragile soul naked in his glassy eyes. He was remembering the last time he saw Lefty. And he could still hear the assailant’s voice, cold and vituperative, and the pathetic cries of Oscar, his favorite pig, after Lefty plunged his boot into the porker’s side, killing it instantly. Then there were the hours that followed, with Sheriff Rosco, and all the questions. So many questions. The recollection was overwhelming. Frightening. He just wanted it to all go away.
“‘Slowly, silently, now the moon, walks the night in her silver shoon…’”
“Mickey, come on now. We’re not doing that now. There’s no need. You’re home here. We’ve got a game to play here. Hear that crowd? Listen to them. They all came for you.”
The boy’s affectations were unchanged. He continued to stare vacantly, rocking back and forth, trying desperately to drive the hateful memories out of himself.
“This way and that, she peers and sees, silver fruit upon silver trees.”
Murph put his hand on the boy’s shoulder and squeezed gently.
“Hey, Mick, you’re okay. Save that poem for home. Come on now. Just you and Boxcar. Like always. Focus on that glove. Nothing else. Toss that apple right to the glove. Just like you used to do for Oscar. Right to the target. Can you do that for me?”
Maybe it was his manager’s touch, and the way Murph’s urgency flowed through his fingers and into Mickey’s body like some electrical charge. Or maybe it was the mere mention of the name Oscar, said out loud, that made the difference. Maybe it was both. Whatever it was, the boy began to free himself slowly from the demon that had seized him. He blinked several times, as if cleaning the lens to his mind’s eye, and stopped his recitation of the poem.
“Oscar didn’t like Lefty, Murph,” he said. “No sir. Mickey don’t like him much either.”
Murph grinned and shook his head. “Don’t sweat it, kid. Nobody here does.”
The Brewers took the field moments later, led by their ace and fan favorite,Mickey Tussler. The crowd was bristling with an untamed enthusiasm, waving placards professing their unconditional love for the “Baby Bazooka” and chanting his name. In the wake of his superhuman exploits on the field, and all of the misfortune and injustice that had befallen him elsewhere, Mickey had become a cult hero of sorts.
Purchase The Legend of Mickey Tussler on Amazon.