when i had the time i started taking my manuscripts around to literary agents - ones that actually had offices that i could sit and wait in.
i would be politely told to just leave the ms, but i would point out that i was a major league ballplayer and would bring a copy of the new york post with my picture in it to prove it, and sometimes the receptionists would look at the copy of the post and tell me to take a seat, maybe ms ashton or ms golden would see me, if i wanted to wait.
the literary agents i got in to all told me the same things - my books were “hopeless garbage” and “i can’t believe anybody writes this kind of crap any more” and “there’s not much market for thomas wolfe imitations these days”. but they also all suggested the same thing - that there were agents who specialized in books by celebrities - if i thought i qualified as a celebrity.
so i went to one that was recommended as such. i left my first novel at the desk - thundering highway - and the one i just finished - go piss out the sun - and two days later i got a message to go back and talk to elaine ellerby.
elaine was about eighty years old and sounded like she had smoked every cigarette ever rolled.
i started to explain who i was and she said, “i’m a ravens fan, honey, i know who you are, and i can’t tell you what a thrill it is to meet you in the flesh."
that sounded promising but then she said, “but honey, this stuff is just awful. awful awful awful. can’t you just be satisfied to strike guys out and hit home runs?”
i told her i had only become a ballplayer by accident, but had always had my heart set on being the new thomas wolfe - or the new tom wolfe or kerouac or hunter thompson.
“i figured as much. so i don’t suppose you want us to write something for you - which, just between you and me is mostly what we do here.”
“no, there wouldn’t be any point in that. look, i know i can publish it myself , but i would just rather have a real publisher do it.”
“gee, i really would like to help you out.” elaine coughed a few times.
“i got four other novels,” i said. and i started to describe my second novel - the man of prophecy.
elaine listened politely. “you mean it’s about a kind of guru? some spiritual shit? maybe we can use that.”
“all right, i’ll bring it in tomorrow.”
“you do that. and i’ll treat you to a nice lunch, just you and me.” elaine opened a drawer. she took a baseball out of it. “hey, can you autograph this for me?”
“i’m sorry it’s just the one. i got a couple of great-grandsons, ten and eleven years old, but they don’t give a shit about the ravens. one is a man u fan, the other likes fc barcelona. you know how it is.”
the man of prophecy became the best-selling book of all time, except maybe for the bible.
hundreds of millions of copies were sold, in every country and in every language in the world.
billions thrilled to the story of terry trigg , the wandering preacher with his message of love and reconciliation for the whole of the human race, and the whole of creation, and his tragic love for the pop megastar corinne chan.
my other novels were issued too, and though they couldn’t match the sales of the man of prophecy, enough of them sold that they made me the second or third best selling author of all time, after agatha christie and maybe shakespeare.
stephen king, j k rowling, e l james, and james patterson all ate my dust big time.
but the sales of the book, and books, was the tip of the iceberg.
people all over the world took the teachings of terry trigg seriously, and personally. churches and “centers” for his teachings and wisdom sprang up all over the world.
i was confused with the fictional terry trigg, and hailed as a prophet and guru.
in the united states, the church of trigg with its message of reconciliation replaced the democratic and republican parties, and most of the churches and religions, with only a few catholics, southern baptists, and orthodox jews holding out.
due to overwhelming public demand, congress repealed the law requiring the president to be 35 years old, and i was urged by an adoring world to run for president so that i could begin the healing process by which the human race would come together as one, with all the old borders and boundaries between countries dissolved forever.
what could i do but accept? i accepted the nomination just as the new baseball season began.
it was taken for granted that when the season was over and the election held, i would win with over 150 million votes, while my unfortunate opponent, senator clayton of the combined republican-democratic party, who had agreed to run just so that there would be an “election” , might get a few thousand votes at best.
the first old coach’s name was scrubby carter, and he was a crusty old beer drinking baseball man, and he had seen it all.
after i threw a few pitches to him at sixty feet six inches, he took me into the clubhouse. there was a crummy little office and i waited there while he opened a safe and took out a contract for me to sign.
he started talking , and for a few seconds i thought he was telling me i had a right to remain silent like i was being arrested, but he was actually saying i had a right to find an agent, but that would delay getting my first paycheck from the club.
i did not take any of this very seriously, and the thought of any kind of paycheck sounded good, as well as the thought of more of the real food they had at the camp, so i signed.
after i signed the contract scrubby kept me talking for a while, and then another coach came in and told me to get my things from the dorm and he drove me to the airport and they sent me to the ravens’s main spring training camp in florida.
i didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to joe and never saw him again after that, not even after i was on the front page of every newspaper and the cover of every magazine in the world .
when i got to florida i was introduced to the manager of the ravens, d d rogers.
d d was not an old-fashioned beer drinking baseball man like scrubby carter. he was more of a stats guy. he stayed in better shape than the players, lived on tofu and oolong tea, and went to bed every night with an eight inch thick three ring binder full of statistics.
d d and the pitching coach, lefty ashworth, took me aside and watched me throw. they had a gun on me and i was throwing up to 140 miles an hour staying in the strike zone. i could get up to 150 but usually missed up out of the zone when i threw that hard.
they were impressed, but agreed i had to learn to change speeds, because even at 140 if i threw the same speed every time i would get hit.
lefty and the assistant pitching coaches taught me to throw at different speeds by using different grips - 140, 130, 120, down to 95 which would be my “change-up”. they also taught me to throw a cutter off the fast balls 120 and lower. and a curve ball, which i already sort of remembered from little league. and i was a quick study on the knuckleball, but they said i would only get one called every two or three games.
since i did not know that much about baseball, i agreed that i would always just throw what the catcher called and never shake him off. they liked that.
what they liked even better was that my arm never got tired or sore, so i could pitch every day.
it also turned out that my bat speed was as good as my pitching speed. so i could pretty much hit a home run every time up, and would not have to be d h’ed for. of course once the other teams caught on they would just intentionally walk me every time, but from the ravens’ point of view that was still better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, or a d h who hit .250 with 19 home runs.
well, if you are a baseball fan which you are probably not, you know what happened next.
the ravens went 151 and 11 in the regular season, and then won the playoffs 3-0, 4-0, and 4-0.
i pitched in 144 of the regular season games and went 138 and 2, with an e r a of 0.007, and 3,757 strikeouts in 1,303 innings. i had shutouts in all 11 playoff games, including two perfect games, with 276 strikeouts.
i got days off from hitting once in a while, to give me a rest from running the bases 4 or 5 times every game. i was walked almost every time, but sometimes on the road when we were way ahead, the other team’s management liked them to pitch to me because the fans liked to see me hit 600 foot home runs. i ended up with 44 home runs, and 47 hits in 50 official at bats, and was intentionally walked 658 times.
all this got the attention of the media, even though not too many people pay that much attention to baseball any more, not even in new york. i was accused by people who were interested enough of being a cyborg or of being on drugs, and the ravens were accused of “destroying baseball” but they, and i, obliged by my submitting to being tested by anyone who wanted to test me.
and even though nobody cares much about baseball any more, there were enough slow news days, and enough magazines needing to be filled out, that i became half way famous.
to me the best part of the whole thing was that i was now famous enough that maybe i could get my novels published.
and that was when things started to get interesting.
it all started when i lost my job at willie’s drive in tacos.
not that losing the job was a surprise.
willie had told me months before that when his nephew graduated from college the job was his.
i knew that. and i should have been looking for another job.
but i never got around to it. i was too busy completing my sixth novel - the one that was finally going to get published and make me famous and win the nobel prize for literature.
i finished the novel - titled go piss out the sun - the next day. i packed the six novels, my old portable typewriter, and some socks and underwear into a duffel bag, and went down to the freeway entrance to hitch a ride to the big city.
i didn’t care which big city or if i went east or west or north or south - i would take the first ride that would pick me up.
so i got to down to the freeway entrance and there was a guy already there with his thumb out and i thought i recognized him. he had a suitcase beside him, with a baseball bat and a baseball glove and a pair of cleats all strapped to the suitcase.
it was joe meeley, one of the jocks in high school that i had never hung out with or talked to much. i had never gone out for any sports as i was too busy working after school at willie’s and writing my great american novels.
we got to talking and he told me had been drafted in the 39th round by the chicago capybaras after he graduated from high school but had been cut after one year in class a . but now he was headed to a tryout camp of the new york ravens, hoping to catch on with them.
he was pretty friendly and talkative, and he told me i should come along to the training camp with him.
i told him i hadn’t played any baseball since i was ten years old in little league. but it was obvious he just wanted some company.
i told him i didn’t have a bat or a glove or spikes. he told me that was not a problem, they would have plenty at the camp but most of the guys preferred to bring their own.
and he said i should come along just for the food - “real food, real steaks and pork chops and stuff like ordinary people never even see any more.” he hinted i might want to get a few square meals under my belt before i started hitching to new york or san francisco or mexico city.
i thought that sounded reasonable, and also the training camp might be some good material for my next novel or a short story.
so i decided to go with him.
a farmer came along in a pickup truck and gave us a ride forty miles north on the road to iowa where the training camp was.
after a few more rides - and walking in the rain for over in an hour north of st louis - we got to the training camp just before midnight.
but the camp was closed and we couldn’t find anybody to let us in. we slept under some trees just outside the camp. we could hear laughter inside the camp. it sounded like some serious partying.
joe thought that was a good sign. “those bums will be tireder than us when we get out on the field tomorrow. “ and he fell fast asleep.
after looking up at the night - there were no stars but where do you see stars anywhere these days? - i fell asleep too.
in the morning they let us in, along with a couple of other guys who had arrived during the night. we got to take a shower, and they fed us.
joe was right about the food. i decided i would try to stick it out as long as i could, although i figured they would see right away that i was not even a real jock, and probably send me on my way before noon.
i thought they might ask me some questions about who i was and where i had played, but joe knew some of the coaches and he told them i was o k and that seemed to satisfy them.
i went into the clubhouse and they gave me a glove and cleats and a cap and a t-shirt that said “new york ravens” and i went back out on to the field.
everybody was just warming up, playing catch with each other. joe was already warming up with some guy he must have known from before. one of the coaches he had told i was o k was standing beside them watching them, and they were all paying no notice of me.
i looked around and i saw an asian guy standing by himself, flipping a ball up and down in his glove. i didn’t know if he spoke english so i kind of made signs to him to ask if he wanted to warm up with me.
he told me he was from pismo beach california and his name was dylan fernandez. so we started playing catch, about eighty feet from each other.
as soon as i threw the first ball to him, he laughed and said, “whoa! not so hard, dude! we’re just warming up here!” he looked around. “and nobody is even watching us.”
i didn’t think i was throwing hard, but i tried just lobbing the next toss to him, and he says, not laughing this time, “not so hard!”
so i backed off about ten feet and lobbed another one and he goes, “bro, i’m not wearing a catcher’s mitt!”
at this point joe and his warmup partner and the old coach take notice.
the coach says to me, “throw him another one - nice and easy.”
and i do, and dylan fernandez yelps and says “hey, if he breaks my hand the new york ravens better have a good team of lawyers!”
the old coach looks at me kind of funny, and then at dylan and says, “all right, let me go get a catcher’s mitt.”
all around us the guys warming up stop and look at us and another old coach says to the first one, “what have we got here?”
“looks like the love child of steve dalkowski and the hydrogen bomb,” says the first coach as he goes off to find a catcher’s mitt.
“oh, nothing, miss. mister devereux has an account with the company, to deliver all guests and all new governesses up here.”
all new governesses? amanda wondered. and the term “deliver” had a slightly sinister sound to her ears, but she did not suppose the cab driver meant anything by it.
amanda got out of the cab. she looked up the long driveway at the big dark house. there were no lights showing.
“i would take you closer to the house, miss, but mister devereux gets upset if we so much as nick the flower beds.”
“that’s all right,” amanda murmured. “i am sure i can manage.”
“you can see the house is dark. if you bang on the door someone will hear you. mrs watchworth, the housekeeper, is dead drunk half the time but if you just keep banging she will hear you.”
“thank you. you have been very helpful.”
the cab driver smiled. “it’s my job.”
as amanda had all her earthly belongings in one small bag which she carried, the driver did not have to get out to open the trunk for her. he turned the cab around and sped off back down the hill.
amanda wondered if she should have tipped him. he had not seemed annoyed, and in amanda’s experience, servants - or “service people” as they were supposed to be called now - let you know when they were displeased.
but amanda was a servant - or “service person” - herself now.
she walked up the long driveway. she did not notice any of the flower beds the cab driver had mentioned.
as she approached the house, she realized for the first time just how big it was.
it towered over her, blotting out the moon.
the oak door was wide enough for three people to enter side by side.
there was a brass knocker on it in the shape of the face some hideous leering god. bacchus? moloch?”
when amanda struck the door with it, the door opened at once .
the woman who opened it, whom amanda assumed was the housekeeper, glared at amanda with empty eyes like an alligator’s.
“is this - is this the devereux residence?” amanda asked timidly.
“of course it is the devereux residence,” the woman answered. “what else would it be?”
amanda did not answer the question, but blurted out “i am miss arbuthnot, the new governess.”
“of course you are miss arbuthnot, the new governess. who else would you be?”
amanda managed a smile. “may i come in?" she asked politely.
“no, stand out here all night with your thumb in your mouth. of course you can come in.” and the woman stood aside to indicate that amanda should enter.
the woman had not identified herself either by her name or title.
“you are mrs watchworth, i presume,” amanda said as they proceeded down the hall - the very dark hall.
“mrs watchworth! no, i am not mrs watchworth, what gave you that idea?”
“i am sorry, “ amanda stammered. “i - the cab driver said the was your name…”
“you mustn’t trust these rascally cab drivers. mrs watchworth is the housekeeper at broken ferns, on the other side of the hill.”
“well - i am sure it was an honest mistake on his part,” amanda laughed nervously.
“honest mistake! all these cab drivers are spivs and villains and white slaving scum! they lie for the sake of lying. was this cab driver a blackamoor?”
“was he a blackamoor? a colored fellow? a negro? or perhaps he was a lascar, or a chinee?”
they had almost reached the end of the end of the hall. a faint light showed beneath a door. but the housekeeper, or whoever she was, had stopped in her tracks and amanda stopped beside her.
“i don’t think he was any of those things,” amanda answered. “ he seemed - he seemed quite - “ amanda groped for words - “quite normal. in fact he was very polite - he was almost - almost a gentleman.”
“a gentleman! a gentleman indeed! did he try to sell you any drugs?”
“oh, no, nothing like that.”
“did he… intimate that perhaps he knew a better opportunity for you than being governess here at red chimneys? an opportunity that involved travel to foreign lands? hmmm? ”
amanda was bewildered by all this. “oh no, no, he … hardly spoke at all the whole ride, until we reached here.”
“hmph! well, look here, if anyone in the neighborhood tries to sell you any drugs, just remember that mister wood and myself have better dope than any of the riffraff about.”
and with this curious pronouncement, the woman reached for the door under which the light was shining.
“excuse me, but i didn’t catch your name,” amanda blurted out before the door opened.
“you didn’t catch my name? maybe because i didn’t throw it at you. my name is mrs biggs and i am the housekeeper here.” the woman stared at amanda with redoubled ferocity. “surely you did not think i was anything other than the housekeeper?”
“oh no, no, i knew that right away…”
mrs biggs flung open the door, and amanda followed her into it.
the room was lit only by a low fire, and by a single candle on the mantelpiece above it.
the room had one occupant, a tall, gray faced man seated comfortably in an armchair in front of the fire. amanda surmised right away that he was the butler, although seated in what was undoubtedly the master’s chair. this did not surprise amanda as she knew this was the way of the modern world, where jack is as good as his master.
“this is mister wood, the butler,” mrs biggs announced. “don’t trouble yourself to rise, mister wood. it is only the new governess.”
“i had no intention of rising, mrs biggs, thank you very much,” the butler intoned in an impressively deep voice. he stared rudely at amanda. “ugly little thing, isn’t she?’
mrs biggs sniffed. “not quite as ugly as the last one, though.”
“you don’t think so?’ mister wood replied. “a slightly healthier complexion, maybe. but look at that figure - like a telephone pole. no curves, but no real slenderness either.”
amanda did not know how to reply to this. should she ignore it - or should she try to be “feisty” or “spunky” as she knew was expected of a modern girl?
but before she could frame a reply the butler spoke.
“may i ask you a question, miss?”
“of course, sir.”
“do you like to have a good time?”
the housekeeper and the butler both laughed at amanda’s confusion.
“i hope, sir, “ amanda finally managed to say, “that i will give satisfaction -“
at the word “satisfaction” her two tormentors burst into fresh laughter.
“and that i will indeed have a good time,” amanda continued - “with the children.”
“the children?” asked mister wood. “what children? what are you talking about?’
“but, sir, i am engaged as a governess, am i not? perhaps there is only one child? i was not clear about that…”
suddenly the housekeeper shrieked - “she doesn’t know! ha, ha, ha!”
“no, she must not!” the butler brayed. “ha ha ha ha ha!”