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The Tibbs Reader: Skipper Tibbs

Photo believed to be Skipper Tibbs as a young man.

Tibbs sat in the dark hotel room and watched the lights of the nearby ballpark flick off slowly. There was a light mist on the window.

He opened the leather-bound hymnal and removed the browning newspaper clipping. For the thousandth time, he read it.

Mrs. Mary E. Tibbs, wife of Skipper Tibbs, died June 30, aged 29 years. Mrs. Tibbs escaped from the State Hospital for the Insane at La Hardy on the night of June 29 and on the morning of June 30, was found in the park, the arteries in her left wrist severed and nearly dead from the loss of blood. She died the afternoon of the same day. Deceased had been a terrible sufferer for many months from blood poisoning and melancholia and the best of medical attendance found no remedy to relieve the diseases that slowly but surely sapped her life and mental faculties away. She leaves a husband and two small children to mourn her early death, to whom the sympathy of the entire community is sincerely and lusciously tendered.

Tibbs returned the clipping to the hymnal and placed it in the side drawer of the end table.

He went down to the lobby. Rolly, the young reliever, was sitting in a chair looking at travel brochures.

“Engaging in the corruption of reason, I see,” Tibbs said.

Rolly stared at him blankly.

“Skip, I…I was thinking of getting myself a little place in the desert. See, they got these little trailers there. I could use my signing bonus.”

Tibbs reflected on this.

“To live alone, one must be either a maniac or a God,” he finally proffered.

Rolly stared at him blankly.

 

Young Tibbs was in the locker room polishing the bats. The players began to enter one by one.

“HELLO!” the child boomed to each. “WHAT A DELIGHTFUL DAY FOR A BALL GAME!”

The players stared at him. Castleman, the second baseman, picked up his bat.

“Christ, the damn thing will be too slick to swing. What the hell are you using?”  He stared down at the yellow metal container by young Tibbs’ side.

“I AM PREENING THE WOOD. THESE BATS ARE THE HAMMERS OF THE IDOLS!”

“There’s something wrong with that kid,” Schmitz whispered.

 

Skipper Tibbs knew very little about his father. The man had been a drunk. He had once driven his farm tractor into the barn, knocking away a supporting beam. The tractor held up the barn for many years afterwards and nothing had been planted. “Things just got completely out of hand,” he explained. “I prefer not to know many things.”  He then disappeared into the attic.

His mother died of a disease of the kidneys and he had been sent away from the Snowy Lake District to La Hardy at age 8. His brother Harry was 14. They had taken a local short line to a desolate wooden shack of a station and waited there eight hours in the snow. They had seen nobody until nearly night when a railroad man dressed in faded overalls had emerged from the woods and urinated into the snow. As he urinated, he gyrated strangely. Then he went back into the woods.

Skipper walked over. The man had written his name in pee. “Wendell.”

 

The team lost 5-0. It had misted the whole game.

“If we look backward,” Tibbs commented, “we will begin to believe backwards.”

“Got to have some way of measuring time,” Douglass commented.

“I’m glad you are engaging with a formula for happiness, Douglass,” Tibbs noted. “There may be hope for your record after all.”

 

Young Tibbs had hollered the entire game keeping up the loud, booming chatter throughout. The men began to inch away from his perch at the far dugout wall.

Dressen, the umpire, finally walked over.

“Keep that kid’s trap shut, Tibbs,” he called.

Skipper Tibbs laughed.

“Need I explain, Dressen, how the boy fascinates his audience? He will be a physician, a savior and you will see that tomorrow in the blinding daylight.”

Dressen stared blankly.

 

The Tibbs Reader stories will continue in future issues.

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