Baseball and Big Toots Requiem

Here’s what I’ve been working on today. I scrawled the original story down in a notebook about 4 years ago, and I’ve decided to polish it up, since the season just started and I’ve yet to do a baseball story. Which is weird, being that my shelves are teeming with books on baseball, a pretty much complete set of W.P. Kinsella (one of my top 5), and all the classics from The Natural to Eight Men Out.

“The mild morning haze had burned off with the workday traffic. The lunch hour came and went, ushering in a hellish heatwave that was supposed to last for weeks. The city already seemed lousy with misery and discomfort. The pavement held the shimmer of fever like a creek of pure hell. You could easily imagine your shoes melting to the sidewalk as the heavy weight of a red-hot afternoon smothered you down. The sky was a cool, clear blue, belying the anger of the sun, probably why so many people chose the hollow respite of the ballpark. Lay back, high in the stands, under the shelter of the overhanging “roof”, and you could well forget for a half hour that your car seats were turning to molten lava and your air conditioner had offered itself up in sacrifice to the Gods of Summer. You’d be wrong, but how often does that matter? If being human means anything, it’s the ability to delude ourselves in a vain attempt to avoid pain or death. Fact is, the small stadium held the heat in, pulling it together, concentrating it like a convection oven. Damp sweat and the stench of fryer grease pressing down in an invisible pea-soup fog, and stealing the breath of the few straggling fans littering the stands.


Joseph ‘Big Toots’ Fortulla was sweating like a Tuscan boar in the ravages of an August drought. As Toots picked his way down the metal stands, he saw bare arms, sweaty necks, and sunburnt legs propped up and draped over seats, poking out of all manner of khaki, denim and tropical print shorts. Every man, woman and child looking as if they’d dropped into those seats from pure exhaustion. Toots could feel their eyes on him as he passed. He was a curious sight. Toots was remarkable, and widely known, for three things – his violent temper, his questionable business practices, and for always being clad in a perfectly tailored, double-breasted pinstripe suit in the darkest midnight blue that had ever been put to wool.”

Big Toots Requiem by Axel Howerton


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