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The Tibbs Reader: The House at 2814

July 20, 2017 Leave a comment

Ferguson Bunts?

Bunts stood at the counter, admiring the crazy-horse leather journal– coptic-bound with a tie-closure made of the finest island silk. The initials “G.T.” were hand-pressed into the cowhide in pure gold. A strange symbol, specially designed by Bunts himself, was in-laid into the center of the cover in ivory.

“Fine work, fine work indeed Mr. Chester. Why, this is a MOST DELIGHTFUL tablet!”

The stationer looked at the initials. “Thought your name was Bunts.”

“Indeed! Indeed it is,” Bunts replied. “But this exquisite cahier is a birthday offering for my dearest schoolmate and confidant Gertrude Tork.”

“Lady friend,” the stationer said suggestively.

Bunts lowered his voice.

“Our intimacy transcends the lecherous ideas in your head, Mr. Chester.”

Chester looked at the floor.

“Not that I have failed to muse on those things carnal,” Bunts boomed loudly. “But, as the poet said, “the act of fornication is akin to a rose growing in winter!”

“What poet?”

“A 17th-century bard of the continent. You would not be familiar with his work. Tis’ only available in the most obscure libraries.”

Bunts threw several large bills on the counter while Chester wrapped the tablet in brown paper. Bunts then examined a rack of fountain pens but put each back with a sort of nauseous disdain.

He drove into town and into an older neighborhood of run-down homes. At the crest of a hill at a cross-street, bordered on one side by an unkempt graveyard and on another by a mysterious flat factory of nebulous purpose, Bunts parked the shiny new Neptune.

He turned a corner onto a short street and began passing a series of large ancient homes that had been broken into apartments and empty overgrown lots. The homes became progressively smaller as he descended the hill until he arrived at a series of duplexes.

“AHA! THE VENERABLE 2814. THERE SHE IS, THE FROWZY EDIFICE OF ABOMINATION!” Bunts boomed loudly. A nearby neighbor, senselessly hoeing a patch of dirt, looked up with confusion.

He walked around the side of 2814. It was a duplex (one half of which was boarded) and featured a strange inaccessible porch completely covered with plastic latticework. The day was sweltering– all of the windows to 2814 stood open and bereft of screens like wide-open mouths. He banged at the side door loudly and removed a pure silver cigarette case from his white suit coat.

After some time a busty blonde woman, perhaps in her forties, answered the door in a tight bodice.

“MY DEAR!” Bunts boomed. “WHAT AN ABSOLUTE, UNPARALLELED DELIGHT TO SEE YOU AGAIN!”

“Would you keep it down, fer’ Chrissakes,” said the woman, who grabbed the big man’s hand and led him up a stairwell. The walls were all stained yellow with nicotine.

Bunts closely watched her curvy posterior bouncing up the steps.

“WHAT A DELIGHT!” he remarked.

The room was large but stuffy– a dented box fan failed to provide any breeze and oscillated with a loud, slow creak. Clothes and spent food containers were strewn everywhere. A television buzzed senselessly and the large bed was unmade. A wicker papasan chair was covered with tawdry paperbacks.

Bunts pushed them aside and plopped into the chair. “I SEE, MY DEAR, THAT YOU CONTINUE TO READ TRIFLING MATTERS. WHY, HAVE YOU NOT EVEN OPENED THE GREAT WORKS OF LITERATURE THAT I BROUGHT TO YOU?”

“There ain’t nothing wrong with them terrorist attack novels,” she said. Bunts admired her bosom and lit another cigarette.

“I HAVE BROUGHT YOU ANOTHER MEMENTO TO SHOW MY DEEP, ABIDING AFFECTION FOR YOU DEAR. IT’S A TABLET, ONE OF THE FINEST YOU SHALL EVER SEE.” He handed her the gift. She tossed it on the bed.

“Alright, Daddy. What’s it going to be today? Are the teeth in or out?”

“AH. WHAT A DELIGHT! YOU, MY DEAREST LOVE, ARE AN IMMORTAL OFFERING OF FEMININITY STRAIGHT FROM THE GODS! LET US THANK THEM BY REMOVING THE TEETH– THAT WRETCHED CARTILAGE!”

WHAT AN UNMITIGATED DELIGHT THIS SHALL BE!” Bunts said after a long pause.

He rose from the papasan. The woman removed her dentures and placed them on the bed stand.

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The Tibbs Reader: Officer Gentry

June 9, 2017 Leave a comment

Officer Gil Gentry

Officer Gentry was interviewed in 2014.

Listen, let me first tell you that Gil Gentry is no bullshitter. So, I’ll tell you exactly how it happened, best I can remember.

Steve and I were on patrol and we was parked behind a laundromat and on the second floor of the laundromat was this apartment and in that apartment was a girl named Agnes. Now, Agnes worked at The Holiday House which was a meat and potatoes kind of place but upscale. Nice, you know? Kind of place you’d take your mother out or somethin’, provided you didn’t want to blow a lot of scratch. Anyway, everybody in town liked Agnes. Not only did she have a good personality but she had, and let me tell you, two of the best god damn melons you could ever hope for. And I ain’t talking about god damn produce. I’m talking just the most perfect god damn gazongas. I mean, these things were so god damn perfect that you’d think that somebody said to God, “Hey God, how about making the best bazooms ever imagined” and God said, “Yeah, sure, I’m out for that challenge” and BOOM, he come up with Agnes.

The interview asked Officer Gentry to get to the point.

OK, look, anyways Steve and I– I’ll admit it– we was watching Agnes undress. I know…I know…we shouldn’t a’ been doing that but there you go.

Anyway, a call comes over the radio. Shots fired out at Lake Rancho Berries.

Steve says, “Anybody hurt?”

“No. Nobody hurt. A couple of people pretty scared though.”

“Shit,” Steve said once the call was over. “Might as well take our time on this one, Gil. Look, Agnes is taking her panties off.”

Well, anyway, I ain’t proud of it. But anyway, after about two hours of watching Agnes undress repeatedly for some reason, we finally get out there to the Lake. Connie Ryan from over Almond County was already there.

“What the hell took you rubes so long to get here?” he barked.

“Pressing matter,” Steve said. “What do we have here?”

It was at that point, I observed two kids wrapped in towels and sitting on the curb.

“This here is Mike Ferron and Leslie Porchtops. These two was making out…”

“We were NOT making out,” the girl named Leslie called out.

Connie leaned in close. “I like to think they were making out. Spices things up, you know.”

“Absolutely,” Steve said. “Roll with that.”

Ferguson Bunts?

“OK, anyway these two were making out (Leslie started shaking her head indignantly) and I believe that Mike here had her bra half off with her perky breasts partially exposed and the next thing you know, shots are hitting the water all in front of them. Well, Leslie, who by now was completely nude (Leslie barked out again), well, she an’ Mike jumped in the water.”

“He didn’t fire again?” I asked.

“No sir,” Connie answered. “Just packed up his gun, actually told them to have a good day, and drove off.”

Connie reached into his pocket. “Recovered a couple of casings– looking like he unloaded with an AR-15, my guess.”

“Sounds like he didn’t intend to hit you, then?” Steve asked.

The boy spoke first. “Every shot hit the water.”

“Get a good look at him?” Steve asked.

“Yeah, absolutely…he…”

“I DID NOT HAVE MY BRA OR PANTIES OFF!” Leslie suddenly called out.

“Listen, clam up would you?” Steve said.

“He was a big guy, I’d say maybe 250 pounds. He had a beard and he wore a three-piece white suit.”

We all stared at each other. It was a long time before Steve spoke.

“Well, listen, kids– nobody was hurt. What do you say we just call it square, huh?”

“CALL IT SQUARE?” Leslie hollered. “He shot at us!”

“YEAH!” Mike followed.

“Listen, you,” Connie said, pointing to the girl,”one more outburst and I’m hauling your lovely, fully-blossomed, doubtlessly firm and supple ass downtown.”

“But, aren’t you even going to fill out a report?” Mike asked.

“Let’s just call it square,” Steve said again– a little more firm this time around.

So, anyway, we saw the kids off in their fancy pants car and Steve and I– we went back to the parking lot behind the laundromat where, for reasons unclear, Agnes was still dressing and undressing. I think maybe later we got milkshakes. But that really was the last we heard of the whole thing.

The Tibbs Reader: Incident at Lake Rancho Berries

June 9, 2017 Leave a comment

Ferguson Bunts?

Bunts sat in his darkened study loading a Prince of Lankville AR-15. He attached the laser sight and versa pod.

IF YOU ARE LOOKING FOR THE ULTIMATE IN ACCURACY OUT OF AN AR-15 RIFLE, LOOK NO FURTHER! he boomed. He then laughed senselessly for a full minute until tears began to run down his bearded cheeks.

He placed the weapon into a duffel bag, walked outside into blinding sunlight, and tumbled into the white sports car, parked at an odd angle in the driveway.

He drove at a leisurely pace down Route 55 and turned onto Rural Route 9 away from Almond Beach towards Lake Rancho Berries. The surrounding countryside and rolling hills soon became visible.

LAKE RANCHO BERRIES IS THE PERRRRRFECT DESTINATION TO RELAX FOR A WEEKEND. He was nearly screaming now. WHETHER YOU’RE LOOKING TO ENJOY THE LAKE IN AN RV OR A TENT… He suddenly nodded off and nearly drove the car off the road. He pulled to the side, listening to the crunch of gravel beneath. He dozed for a full half hour.

When he woke, he was briefly unaware of where he was. OF COURSE, MRS. STOCKSDALE, OF COURSE DEAR– AS YOU KNOW, I AM QUITE SKILLED AT THAT MOST DELIGHTFUL ACT OF STIMULATION, he blurted out, his mouth dry and his voice hoarse.

There was a bottle of Old Lankville on the floor. It was warm from the sun but he took a long swig anyway until the bottle was nearly empty. He tossed it into the trees along the road.

He pulled away, passing the pumping station on the left. A worker, standing by the gate, took notice.

WELL, I SHALL HAVE TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT HIM, Bunts declared to no one.

He made a U-turn and pulled into the lot at an odd angle. The man began fiddling with the padlock on the gate. Bunts stared hard at him through the sun-spattered windshield. Then, he rolled down the window.

I wonder, did you take notice of the man in the white sports car? he asked in a low, menacing voice.

The man tugged at his cap.

Did you take note of his unusual appearance perhaps? The beard, the white three-piece suit? These are the sort of things an observant man might perceive. But he would be wise to forget. To forget.

THE COW KNOWS NO BOREDOM OR PAIN, he suddenly boomed. SHE CANNOT REMEMBER!

“She also gets slaughtered after a time,” the man noted.

EXACTLY! Bunts responded. I COULD TELL RIGHT AWAY THAT YOU WERE A MAN OF SENSE!

Bunts backed the car onto the highway and began laughing hysterically.

 

He scanned the parking lot overlooking the lake. A luxury car, spotlessly clean, sat idle and empty.

WHAT A DELIGHTFUL DAY, Bunts boomed. He took notice of another half bottle of Old Lankville which had emerged from beneath the passenger seat upon stopping.

AND EVEN MORE DELIGHTFUL NOW!  HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

He clicked on the radio and found a station out of the East playing light trumpets. He drained the rest of the bottle.

The sun disappeared behind some clouds and the lake grew darker.

Bunts slowly lifted himself out of the car. On unsteady legs, he removed the duffel bag from the trunk and began negotiating the long hill that ran down to the water.

He had spotted them from the parking lot. A young couple, sunning themselves on a picnic blanket, at the end of the promontory that jutted out into Lake Rancho Berries.

AH, YOUNG JEJUNE LOVE. WHAT A DELIGHT!  Bunts removed the AR-15 from the bag, attached the sight and folded down the versa pod. He then fired nine shots in a perfect semi-circle into the water in front of the couple.

The man and the woman both covered their heads and then the woman began screaming. The man grabbed her and the two jumped into the water. They were under for a full half minute.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA, Tibbs boomed.

He disengaged the sight, folded up the versa pod and placed everything into the duffel bag. Then, he ambled up the hill.

When he got to the parking lot, he looked back. The couple had their heads half out of the water, staring at him. He waved.

HAVE A GOOD DAY, he yelled.

 

He got into the car and drove back to Almond Beach. When he passed the pumping station, he saw no one.

The Tibbs Reader: Rex Poffo, Neighbor

June 6, 2017 Leave a comment

By Rex Poffo

It was about 1998 that Debbie and I bought the house in Almond Beach. It was our first house and it needed some work but it was all ours.

I had a job as a night watchman at the Twin Pines Double-Tiered Strip Mall and Debbie worked nights as an orderly at the Eastern Lankville Memorial Cheaper Hospital. On the weekends, we mostly worked on the garden and I did some painting and Debbie put fresh sheets on the bed and then she watched teevee for the rest of the day. It was nice.

Mr. Bunts lived across the street. He was the first one to come over and say hello. He was a big guy with a beard and he always wore a white three-piece suit.

“You going to church, Mr. Bunts?” I asked. It was Saturday but there were some of those people that go to Church on Saturday.

He looked confused. “OF COURSE NOT MR. POFFO! OF COURSE NOT! I HAVE NO SUCH ILLUSIONS OF A FROWNING DIVINE POWER WHO SWATS US WHEN WE ARRIVE INTO THE DARKNESS, AS THE POET SAID,” he noted in his booming voice.

He presented me with a cake in a box wrapped in a gold bow.

After that he began to bring us cakes pretty regular. One time, my car broke down in the next village and when I looked up, the next thing you know, Mr. Bunts is sitting right there in a big giant orange Neptune.

“WHY, MR. POFFO! IT APPEARS YOU COULD USE SOME ASSISTANCE!”

I was happy to see him but confused by his surprising appearance.

“OH, I’M EVERYWHERE MR. POFFO! EVERYWHERE.”

He removed a delicate looking porcelain box from the backseat. It appeared to have real diamonds all around the handle. Imagine my shock when he opened it to reveal a gold wrench.

“RELEASE THE HOOD MECHANISM, MR. POFFO,” he said.

I did and Mr. Bunts leaned in, made a few abrupt adjustments and then, the next thing I knew, the car fired right up on the first try.

“WHAT A DELIGHT!”

 

One morning, early, Mr. Bunts appeared on our stoop. He had a pearl-handled suitcase in his hand. I looked past him and saw another Neptune, this one a red perfectly-restored antique model, idling by the side of the road.

“MR. POFFO!” he boomed. “I WANTED TO APPRISE YOU AND YOUR MOST FETCHING BRIDE THAT I SHALL BE AWAY FOR TWO WEEKS TIME. I HAVE BUSINESS.”

I didn’t know what business he might have. I mostly just saw him driving around or hammering stakes into his yard or bringing back shopping bags full of inflatable balls. It was all he seemed to buy.

“COULD I IMPOSE UPON YOUR KINDNESS MR. POFFO TO, UPON OCCASION, GLANCE AT MY HOMESTEAD TO SEE THAT NO ONE HAS MOLESTED ANYTHING?”

“Sure,” I agreed.

His voice lowered suddenly.

Ferguson Bunts?

“While I don’t expect there to be any such pother, I would advise you that if you should observe anything untoward, please shoot to kill.”

“WHAT A DELIGHT!”

He turned on his heel with the pearl-handled suitcase and plopped into the driver’s seat. He laughed loudly the entire time. Then he sped off.

 

It seemed that he was gone for nearly a month. And then, one day, I noticed a brand new sports car in his driveway.

I walked over, took a look around (hesitatingly) and then knocked on the door.

Bunts appeared almost instantly as though he were waiting right there.

“MR. POFFO!  I AM MOST APOLOGETIC THAT I DID NOT BID YOU GREETINGS UPON MY RETURN. SADLY, I HAVE BEEN ILL.”

I noticed a large mass of something that seemed to jut out from his chest beneath the suit vest.

“That’s alright, Mr. Bunts. I just wanted to see if that was you and not somebody that might be…molesting your house.”

“OH, NO!  IT IS ME, MR. POFFO!  IT IS MOST DEFINITELY ME.”

He laughed loudly but I noticed he was holding his chest the entire time as though in pain.

 

That night, I brought the trash out. Bunts had already placed his at the curb.

It was then that I noticed something odd about the contents. I creeped up to the bag while keeping an eye on the house. It was eerily dark and silent.

There was a white suit visible inside. It was spattered with blood around the chest.

 

I didn’t tell Debbie. She was watching The Love Canoe on teevee anyway and wouldn’t have responded.

I went down to the basement to think.

 

The Tibbs Reader will continue in future issues.

The Tibbs Reader: 1851

June 1, 2017 Leave a comment

Elijah Pangborn and a woman.

Fort Conifer, 27th September, 1851.

SIR,— Having in my report, dated at the Pendleton River on the 10th June, and addressed to Sir A. von Klacik J. Grant, communicated the details and result of my spring journey over the ice, snow, and slippery little frosts along the Lankville Boreal Shores, I have now the honour to acquaint you that the boats expedition under my command, which visited the Great Polar Ocean this summer, arrived here yesterday in safety, but I regret to say without having gained any information of Sir J. Tibbs and party.

The morning of the 4th August being lusciously fine and clear, land was seen in one or two directions in which it had not been previously noticed, and bearings were taken of it. The islands were bereft of all flora and fauna although we did then discover a small satchel of groceries upon the shore of the nearer which did contain therein curious canisters of beans and many empty bottles of diverse spirits. The young ice did not thaw until after the tenth hour after which, by great perseverance, we made very tolerable progress. Working all night, and sometimes aided by the sails and the burner, at 7h. 15m. a.m., on the 5th, we landed on the Western shore of Heinish Bay, and after staying 3 hours again probed on; but the ice being thinner, and consequently more closely packed on the shore, we had great difficulty in making headway, and were at last obliged to wait the rise of the tide at a point in Krimpett Bay.

We remained here 3 hours, and had an interview with a party of Region Natives. Our interpreter, a Region Native named Whapcornuck had intercourse (verbal) with this tribe who did report the presence some time ago of a large white man holding a sphere to the heavens on many an occasion.  We then again commenced creeping along the shore, and had proceeded but a short distance when we did discover a rounded sphere of pine-wood which excited feverish interest and seemed to corroborate the account of these savages. In appearance it was remarkable– nigh so perfectly spherical as to appear other-worldly. It had a curious mark, resembling the letters “t” and “d” and apparently stamped upon one side, and at a few feet distant from the globe there was a bit of white line in the form of a loop nailed into a crude cross with two copper tacks. Both the line and the tacks bore the Ninth Republic Government mark, the broad arrow being stamped on the latter, and the former having a red worsted thread running through it.

We had not advanced a 1/2 mile when another sphere was discovered lying in the water, but touching the beach. This was a piece of oak, perhaps 9.0-9.5 inches in diameter and uniformly round. The sphere had the appearance of having been pushed into or through a clasp or band of iron, as there was a mark of 3 inches broad across it and small pocks and dents which circumnavigated the mysterious orb. And it was also discovered, quite nearby, the remaining part of a stanchion (as I suppose it to have been) which had been formed in a turning-lathe, and was 3 inches in diameter.

As there may be some difference of opinion regarding the direction from which these globes of wood came, it may not be out of place to express here my own opinion on the subject.

From the circumstance of the flood-tide coming from the northward, along the Eastern shore of Upper Craughing Land, there can be no doubt but there is a water-channel dividing Upper Craughing Land from The Northern Cloister, and through this channel I believe these globes have been carried along with the immense quantities of ice that a long continuance of northerly and north-easterly winds, aided by the flood-tide, had driven southward. I shall here opine that this same flood-tide carried forth the satchel of groceries. The ebb-tide not having power enough to carry these items back again against the wind, the large bay immediately S. of Medium Craughing Strait became perfectly filled with ice, even up to the S. shore of Northern Cloiser Land. Both orbs of wood appear to have come to shore about the same time, and they must have been carried in by the flood-tide that was at the time flowing on during the previous ebb ; for the simple reason, that although they were touching the beach they did not rest upon it.

The spot where they were found was in lat. 61′ 49′ N. ; long. 98° 17′ W.

I have the honour to remain,

Sir, your most obedient servant,

Elijah Pangborn

The Tibbs Reader: Skipper Tibbs

May 31, 2017 Leave a comment

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.

The Tibbs Reader: Schmitz and Douglass

May 30, 2017 Leave a comment

Douglass about 1936.

It was during the Second Great Lankville Slump of 1936 that two fading, alcoholic pitchers named Schmitz and Douglass were assigned to a lower-level club in the Southern Hill Area.

Both were bachelors. Both were unrepentant inebriates. They split a series of dark rooms above a musical instruction studio on Main Street and were awakened each morning, heads throbbing, by the incompetent twang of student guitarists or the flatulent toot of student trumpeters, always and inevitably followed by the hysterical voice of Sternweiss, the owner and teacher.

Schmitz and Douglass were both ugly men- another commonality. A sportswriter had once referred to the pair as “resembling lurking undertakers”. Both were scrawny and not particularly athletic in appearance with angular features, hook noses and perpetual dark stubble.

It was during a May game against the Basin Area that Schmitz was knocked out of the box early, the end-game being a mammoth three-run homer that cleared an abandoned farmhouse a hundred feet beyond the left field wall. The small crowd razzed him mercilessly.

When Schmitz repaired to the cramped, ill-lit clubhouse, Douglass was already waiting, half out of uniform.

“C’mon, let’s blow this bing.”

They drove around for awhile, putting down four beers each, then stopped and bought a bottle of Old Lankville. Eventually Schmitz parked in back of a four-story brick Women’s Hospital.

“All kinds of thatched cottage in that place,” Douglass commented.

“Yeah, but it’s all diseased.”

Douglass thought about that.

“Well, maybe not the nurses.”

“I concede to your counterpoint,” Schmitz proffered.

 

The next day both Schmitz and Douglass expected a chewing out but instead they found that Bragan, the old Island skipper had been fired or had left on his own accord (the matter was never made clear) and a grim little man named Tibbs had been named as his replacement.

Tibbs seemed to derive no pleasure at all from the game. “I’ve told my boys to go into the hotel business,” he said during his first audience with the club which took place in a ceaseless mist during the pre-game batting practice. The park was silent and eerie– no one had bothered to put the lights on. “This here game is no manner of lifestyle. I was in the big league for six years, boys, and even THAT was no manner of lifestyle. Yessir, this game is a nugatory amusement in the most cosmic of direct essences.”

“The hotel business is a grand tradition,” Tibbs said suddenly, after a long pause. His uniform fit him poorly and his striped socks sagged as though they were pulled down by some great weight. He then launched into a long history of innkeeping which he kept up at various points throughout the entirety of the game that followed that evening.

The next night, Tibbs’ son served as bat boy. He looked nothing like his father– he was round-faced, cheery and loud, booming a series of exhortations with each pitch. When the aging slugger Moss homered in the 5th, the boy was sent into a series of nigh-diabolical spasms of joy and was the first to greet the startled Moss at the plate after the obligatory rounding of the bases.

“WHAT A DELIGHT!” he chortled in a voice unnaturally deep for a 10-year old.

Schmitz, drunk, entered the game in the 7th with the score tied 4-4. He struck out a 35-year old opium addict who had once played centerfield for the Capital Bats, then walked two straight and permitted an infield single. Tibbs made his way slowly to the mound as twilight emerged and the lighting flicked on erratically. Moths gathered beneath the dim illumination. The crowd murmured oddly.

“Schmitz,” Tibbs said when he finally reached the mound. “There is no reason for any of this. I’m speaking metaphysically.”

He spat, turned around and walked back to the dugout.

Schmitz proceeded to allow a grand slam home run to the number eight hitter.

 

They were driving around again. “I don’t have anything left,” Schmitz said. “My drop pitch and fade away are gone.”

Douglass thought about that. “You could start loading the ball. Nobody gives a damn.”

Schmitz spit out the window as the cattle fence posts whizzed by.

 

In the clubhouse the next day, the trainer Weintz, a stone bald man whose only remedy for anything seemed to be an alcohol rubdown, had an old copy of The Lankville Baseball Register. Some of the players were looking up Tibbs’ record.

“Batted .314 one year,” Castleman, the second baseman, noted. Schmitz stared at the small printing. It meant nothing to him. He couldn’t read a word.

“Noticed that,” Weintz said. “Even hit .290 in his last year. Wonder why the hell he gave it up?”

Tibbs came in then. He wore a crumpled black suit and a tie. The tie had a cactus on it.

“Well boys. Let’s hustle out to the field. Not that there is any conceivable reason for us to do so. This is everyday being for death.”

The clubhouse emptied into another light mist.

 

It was Douglass’ turn to get hit around. He started and went 3 innings, allowing 8 runs.

“Sorry, skip,” he said, as he handed Tibbs the ball in the 4th. “My fastball didn’t have any zip on it tonight.” He watched as a fresh-faced kid who had joined the team that day jogged in from the bullpen.

“Pitching is just a self-projection upon the actual possibility of being in the world, Douglass,” Tibbs said. He rubbed the ball with his small hands. “Douglass, you need to delimit your range of experienced phenomena.”

“I’m ready skip!” the kid reliever yelled. He was shaking.

“Didn’t you hear what I just said about delimiting your range of experienced phenomena?” Tibbs barked at the rookie.

Douglass walked off slowly to jeering.

 

“I ain’t got anything left either,” Douglass said. They were driving around at night again.

“That umpire was squeezing you,” Schmitz noted.

“Who was that guy? Looked familiar.”

“That was Dressen. You remember Dressen?”

Douglass spat out the window and pulled on the beer.

“Dressen, from the old Interstate League,” Schmitz continued. “You should remember him. He hit a moon shot off you back in ’32. God damn thing hit the Lank-Buoy sign on the building across the street from the park. Longest ball I ever seen.”

“Why do we always drive by this same cow pasture?” Douglass asked after a long silence.

 

Tibbs sat in his room at the hotel. There was a picture of his two boys on the end table. He picked it up and stared at it.

They were both in full Child Scouts regalia. Gump on the left, Lorne on the right. He put the frame back on top of the lace.

“Children have a vulgar concept of time,” he said aloud to no one.

 

 

The Tibbs Reader stories will continue in future issues.

 

Categories: The Tibbs Reader