[A new short story and we just finished a short film - 11 minutes - strong imagry and great soundtrack including wZ when the flute meets the sea - peace, Joe]
JJ drove toward the setting sun when he passed a stalled car. He pulled over to the side of the road and backed up to where a man was standing. JJ opened the door and the man approached.
“I’m glad you stopped," Algernon said. "My car went kaput. I stepped on the gas but it didn’t do any good so I pulled off the road."
JJ fixed a broken fuel line and gave Algernon a thumbs up. He walked away as Algernon shouted.
“Hey, where are you going? How much do I owe you?”
“You don’t owe me anything.”
“Listen, I don’t live far from here. Why don’t you stop by for a visit?”
“Sounds good,” JJ said.
JJ followed Algernon off onto a dirt road back to a remote homestead.
On the porch sat an old man in a rocking chair with overalls tucked into his cowboy boots. As the two men approached the old house, Algernon clued JJ, “That’s my grandfather, Mr. Lucero. He doesn’t see very well. He likes to sit out on the porch and wait for the sunset. We have to describe it to him. He likes to tell stories about the old days on the railroad.” Introductions were made and Algernon slipped off to gather refreshments as JJ found a chair near the old man.
“How’s the sun looking now?” Mr. Lucero asked.
“The sky looks like a well used coloring book,” JJ said.
“I dreamed about my brother Cash last night," Mr Lucero said. "He spent a lot of time in and out of jail with one hitch of several years in the pen. He met an old man in the lockup that was a whiz at cards. He liked my brother and taught him all his card tricks. They spent hours everyday handling cards. My brother became quite proficient, quick and deft.
“When Cash got out he spent all his time at the card table. And he won most of the time. He learned about marked decks and got a little group of gamblers together. They worked the camps along the railroad or the wheatfields, or where ever a lot of men with money were gathered. They spread out, each one getting into a different card game. They won most of the time. Then late at night they would meet at a hotel room and split the take.
“Cash would disappear for long periods of time then suddenly turn up and leech off Mother. He was loaded with money but never gave us anything. Instead he’d get drunk and buy his companionship. After his last binge he hung around the house for days and got on Mother’s nerves.
“He tried to come up with some quick claim deed so he could sell her property. When I found out about it I ran him off. He finally died passed out on the tracks when a train ran over him in the dark. I felt guilty about it for a long time. Maybe if we had tried to reabilitate him. How’s the sun now?” Grandpa asked. Algernon responded out of habit as he returned to the porch with cold Tecate and lime.
“It’s half gone, below the horizon, Grandpa.”
“Your grandfather told me a story about his brother,” JJ said. “I have a brother who is a baseball umpire. He got me interested in baseball because he was always talking about it. I went to a few games with him and just watched. Then I started to practice by myself. I collected a pile of rocks and laid out a playing field in the empty lot next to our house. I had a cracked baseball bat, a castoff from the Little Leaguers. I tossed rocks up in the air and tried to hit them over the far fence. It was frustrating at first because I would swing and miss. With daily practice I got better. People saw me in my imaginary games and called me “rockhead".
“I had two imaginary teams with some of the best players that ever lived on my lineup. There was Ty Cobb and Willie Mays. I got to where I could hit a rock over the fence almost every time. I could also hit the rock in different directions, like down the right field line. Mother was the only person who understood my devotion to these imaginary games. She watched me from the window sometimes. She never interrupted me while I was playing a game. My team won most of the time and I would come inside sweating and smiling. Mother smiled, too.
“I went with my brother once to a pickup game. They came up one man short and asked me to fill in. I told them I hadn’t played a real game before. But they didn’t care. Told me to come on and play. Fill out the roster.
“My brother was behind the plate and called me out on strikes my first time up. I came to bat in the bottom of the ninth. We were behind by two runs. There were two outs and two on when I stepped into the batter’s box. I felt a new pressure that I had not experienced hitting rocks. My teammates were depending on me. The count was three and two when the pitcher served me up a high fast ball. I saw a rock falling through the air. I saw the picket fence in the backyard and thought about my imaginary teammates. I concentrated every muscle on the point where the bat met the ball over home plate and sent it with great force over the left fielder’s head. They told me later that my home run had set a record, a real tape job. When Mother heard about it she just smiled and nodded. I quit hitting rocks after that game. On that one showing I had an offer to try out for another team. But I felt my fantasies had been realized and I was free to pursue other interests.”
“Where’s the sun now,” Grandpa asked?
"Gone down," JJ said. "The lightshow is over."
"You can sleep here," Algernon said. "We have an extra room."
We all slept soundly.