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by Bryan Costales
Originally Published 12/5/2009 on bcx.org Genre: Literary Fiction
© 2009 Bryan Costales
Number Five by Bryan Costales
Jerry was waiting for a softball pitch that afternoon, wearing his extra-large jersey that fit surprisingly snug with the number five on the front. He stood with bat poised, felt the left side of his face tingle, then forgot his own name. This confused realization so startled him that he lowered the bat instead of swinging. The pitched softball crossed the plate just as his bat reached the horizontal resulting in an unexpected bunt. The afternoon was sunny and lazy warm but otherwise not remarkable. Jerry was dressed in the green and white of the Mushroom Kings, sponsored by the local pizza parlor. Jerry forgot his own name, so glanced down at his chest and thought of himself instead as number five, the number there on his jersey. “Run!” shouted few people in the stands. Strangers all, he noticed. Number five dropped the bat and ran toward first base. He had never been in good shape, so he ran with more of a slow lope, almost a limp favoring his left leg. Number five began to puff as he used up his little reserve of breath. Ahead the first baseman of the Dove Ducks stood mitt outstretched toward the pitcher and with his left foot planted on a dirty white base. Number five muttered, “Who the hell am I?” over and over as he loped. The first baseman heard him coming, heard the off canter rhythm of his lope and the odd chant he was making, and took his eye off the just thrown ball. “You’re Jerry!” he shouted at number five. Number five stopped one pace from the base, breathing hard. “Who am I?” “You’re Jerry. You work in payroll, I work in shipping.” The throw to first base sailed at eye level between number five and the first baseman with a soft hiss in passing, then was gone.
Number Five © 2009 Bryan Costales Page 2
“Idiot.” but that was about all.Both men turned their heads and watched it roll and bounce away in the direction of parked cars. He heard the words.” He stepped on first and began to lope toward second. Jerry.” number five chanted as he loped.” and “Shit. Number Five © 2009 Bryan Costales Page 3 . You got to take better care of yourself. “Don’t drink so damned much beer next time.” The second baseman looked at him like he was an idiot. Behind him he heard the first baseman shout. but almost a cartoon name. and said. “I had hoped to rest. The name Jerry was interesting.” Number five said.” number five said. He’s crawling after the ball. Jerry.” “You run Jerry. “You’re on.” Number five just shrugged.” said the first baseman. “I bet I can get the ball fast enough to throw you out at second. like the cat or was it the mouse? Jerry was definitely not a familiar name. “I can’t remember my name. “I guess I should keep running. I mean you left eye is bloodshot. The second baseman stood with his hands by his sides and appeared to be watching the first baseman. “What happened at first base?” The second baseman shook his head in a disappointed manner. The catcher remained at home base and appeared to be laughing. He wanted to rest again but glanced back and saw the first baseman crawling toward the ball still somewhat distant. As number five neared he shouted to the second baseman. Number five didn’t recognize the second baseman but felt that his balding head and full beard looked familiar. The pitcher was yelling something at the first baseman but number five couldn’t hear what.” Number five stopped again just short of the base and said to the second baseman. “It looks like that idiot sprained his ankle. “Jerry. “Shit!” then “Ouch!” Number five didn’t look back. He was afraid that if he looked back he would forget that the first baseman called him Jerry.
“Slide Jerry! Slide!” Number Five © 2009 Bryan Costales Page 4 .” to the second baseman. Jerry was the name the first baseman had called him. But he loped toward third anyway. The pitcher stood next to him and appeared to be swearing. Number five noticed the quiet. What are you waiting for? Run home Jerry. He could feel his heart beating fast. he was panting. He realized his mouth was open. A drum rolling heart urged him forward. but he couldn’t help himself. The first baseman was laying on his back. Number five stopped on third and stood there on the base. “Run Jerry. touched second and began to lope toward third. “Thanks. remained uneven and slow. Just a little way further away from the street and traffic and all noise seemed to fade. As he neared third he saw the third baseman take off his mitt and throw it hard at the ground. “Damn. was rolling fast out the third base line. number five saw. He was bushed and exhausted and wanted nothing more than to rest. damn. He was beginning to feel a little bit proud. and the left fielder ran after it. He had no idea the bases were so far apart.” Number five waited for his breathing to ease. He held up one finger. When it just started to ease. He tried to run faster but his speed remained constant. The catcher was standing up and watching for something behind number five.” the third baseman said. Some were shouting.” Number five recognized the name. He saw that the throw from first must have been off. number five thought. Number five turned to listen. He felt his heart beating faster than the rhythm of his plodding steps. He could feel his breath coming in gasps. He realized he had never made it past first base before.Number five decided he might just make it to third so he said. a throw to home. He yelled something. “Just a sec. The ball. The third base coach must be talking to him. Possibly. damn. One of his own team acted as third base coach. He turned and looked to see what was going on. he stepped off the base and began to lope home. In the stands the few people were standing. He imagined birds singing and lutes played by winged cherubs.
in order to hone his craft. so he wasn’t at all certain he had never before slid. He just couldn’t picture his body doing it. He had run the bases nameless. He couldn’t remember ever sliding before. So instead he fell forward. in the Banyan Review. Of course he couldn’t remember his own name. “Safe. Number five couldn’t imagine in his head any way to slide.com. As he approached home plate he noticed the catcher tense up as if he was ready to catch something. and Peridot Books. In the silence he remembered who he was.” He heard something else too. as a kindle download. Kind of tripped himself and fell and reached for and tagged home plate with his hand.bcx. He has written short fiction for over thirty years and has been published in Cantaraville Six. The music ended abruptly and he tried to stand but couldn’t move. he has been writing a bi-weekly short story for almost two years. Those short stories are available here. a springing sound like a thought that had just done a back flip but set to the music of lutes.microhorror.org/blogs/saturday/ Number Five © 2009 Bryan Costales Page 5 . and on his own web site at http://www. also called the “bat book” because of the picture of a bat on the cover. And that was his name now. He heard the umpire yell. He felt his sweat drip into the dirt.Number five figured they must be talking to him. chief of which is the O’Reilly “sendmail” book. Hero! About the Author Bryan Costales is author of several technical books. Micro Horror at www. A strange sound inside his head. but now lay face down in the dirt sweating and panting and a hero.
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