Grand finale time for the Phreak Show. We’re no stranger to complete and utter fiction on TBOH. So it is with open arms that we welcome chapters 1-4 of Ryan ‘s (@petzrawr, formerly of The Fightins) novella to the Phreak Show. I only just now realized I’ve been spelling “freak” wrong this entire week. Fuck.
Ruben Amaro Goes Back in Time Using Darren Daulton’s Time Machine
by Ryan (@petzrawr)
The GM twisted uncomfortably in the lawn chair in which he was sitting. He wasn’t happy to be here, and he was even less happy about the circumstances that brought him here but, as his predecessor taught him, desperate times called for desperate measures. The air hang heavy with the scent of Hawaiian Tropic Bronzer and stale High Life as the TV that was balanced precariously on top of a stack of milk carts blasted in the background. Somewhere from another room, the man The GM had come to see yelled “I found it! I found the fucker!” The GM grimaced; partly because he was hoping that this lunatic was full of shit and partly because he was pretty sure he sat in some mustard. This was an $800 Hawaiian shirt. Ruined. Fucking Daulton.
“I found the fucker!” Dutch yelled as he ran back into the room where he left Ruben Amaro Jr. He was shirtless, his orange skin standing in stark contrast to the stark white walls of his condo. Dutch’s eyes were wide open and blood-shot, his hair a tangled, sweaty mop. In his left hand was a silver cylinder and in his right was a small Ziploc bag half-full of a white powder. It takes a lot to rattle The GM but he was nervous. Very nervous. This kind of lunacy isn’t something he wanted to indulge. Like a cloud, “desperate times call for desperate measures” again floated to the forefront of his consciousness.
“I wrote about this fuckin’ thing in my book. Did you read it? I sent you a copy.”
“Uh – I” The GM shifted nervously, and looked away from the former catcher.
“It don’t matter, I don’t even remember writing the fuckin’ thing.” Dutch threw his head back and let out a long, manic laugh which was cut short by a loud belch. “Anyway, if you want to use the machine, you ain’t goin’ nowhere without this.” Dutch turned the cylinder over and over in his hands. The GM found himself staring into the surface of the object. Something about it wasn’t right. It shined like the surface of a mirror, yet it reflected no image of its surroundings.
“What is it?” The GM asked. His face felt slightly numb; his eyes still drawn to the object.
“It’s the key, man. Car don’t start without no key, right? Well, the machine don’t start without its key. Come on, I’ll show you.”
The GM sat with his head in his hands. Before him, on his desk, were the results of the tests on his second-baseman’s knee. The news wasn’t good. Done for the season. Replacing that barbarian in left? He knew the team could manage. Hell, he couldn’t wait to cut that caveman loose. But Chase? Christ. From a drawer in his desk, The GM removed a bottle of Rolaids. His hands trembled and he had to fight to get the lid off the bottle, and when it was finally open, he popped a half-dozen of the antacids in his mouth. His stomach ached. Badly.
This was supposed to be his year. He worked so hard for all this and the pieces were all in place. All the work he’d done to assemble his masterwork pitching rotation. All the attention. Only a few short months ago, he was a fucking god. The people loved him. And now all anybody talks about is that knee. That fucking patella. That fucking tendon. That fucking knee! This was supposed to be his year! He was supposed to win his trophy! His trophy! His gaze caught a framed photograph of the Phillies celebrating on-field after winning the World Series in 2008. A sharp, stabbing pain again ran through his gut. That wasn’t his win. ’08 was Pat’s win. What had he won? He hadn’t won shit!
The pain in his stomach grew more intense. What could he do? He was the engineer. This was his team. What could he do? One thought ran through his head: “What can I do?” The thought kept running through his brain like a distant locomotive running with a full head of steam. The idea grew louder and louder, “What can I do? What Can I Do?” The locomotive kept running; kept getting closer and closer to the front of The GM’s mind. Acid churned in the pit in his stomach as the locomotive got louder still. “What Can I Do? WHAT CAN I DO?” It roared now through his mind, his consciousness filled with the roaring refrain. It felt like a migraine, but the most son-of-a-bitching migraine he’d ever felt. The locomotive came nearer still, moving faster and faster, “WHAT CAN I DO? WHAT CAN I DO?” His guts churned, his brain ached. The locomotive was damned-near on top of him now. For the first time, he could make out a word painted on the side of the locomotive. It was the engine’s name. In bright yellow block lettering was painted the world “failure”. The GM, the wunderkind, realized that he could fail. In this city, with these expectations, failure was not an option.
The GM stood from his leather desk-chair and roared, “WHAT THE FUCK CAN I DO?” He swept his arms across his desk, knocking over his photographs, awards, and a pile of unread mail. “WHAT THE FUCK CAN I DO?” he yelled as he punched at the air and kicked at the tumbling stack of mail. The envelopes and packages scattered about the room. “WHAT THE FUCK CAN I –“
The GM stopped mid-sentence as his eyes set upon an object on the floor. In the middle of his carpet landed something he kicked. It was a book, and on its cover was a man with a look that was as crazy as the one on The GM’s face now. He walked to it and dropped to his knees. Here was his answer.
The answer to his problem is in these pages. The GM picked it up and looked at the book’s title: “If They Only Knew”. Its author was a name from his past. It wouldn’t be pleasant, but this man had the answer. The eyes on the cover, wide with excitement and a little bit of lunacy, belonged to the one they called Dutch. Darren Daulton.
“So… how does this work, exactly?” The GM asked tentatively, as he propped himself up on one elbow while laying in what was once a tanning bed.
“It’s pretty fuckin’ simple, Rube,” Dutch said as he cracked open another can of Miller High Life. “Lay yerself down and I’ll take care of it. Make sure you wear these. You’re going to need em,” Dutch tossed The GM a pair of tanning goggles, “when this thing gets goin’ it gets pretty fuckin’ bright in there.”
Dutch walked to a panel on the back of the tanning bed, and inserted the metal cylinder into a hole in the panel. The cylinder slid effortlessly into position and the panel’s displays jumped to life, casting a glow onto Daulton’s face that reminded the GM of kids sitting around a campfire telling ghost stories. A dull ache formed in the pit of his stomach, but not the acidic burn he was used to. This was pure, primal fear. Dutch turned a knob on the panel, and a display that showed the current date quickly moved backwards. After a few turns of the knob, the display read “Fri. Mar 24 2006”. Dutch took a swig of his beer, signaling his approval.
“Go and grab him and bring him back here. Well, bring him back here back then. Whatever. Pronoun usage gets a little sticky when yer talkin’ about time travel, you know what I mean?” Dutch again laughed his manic laugh.
“One more thing,” Dutch said as he scribbled a note on a notepad, “When you see me… past-me… give me this note.” He tore the note from the pad, folded it, and handed it to The GM. Ruben instinctively unfolded it and read it.
Dutch again laughed. “Yeah, it’s a codeword I came up with back when I started working on this time machine. If anybody says the codeword to me, I’ll do whatever they tell me to do, because I’ll know I sent ‘em back in time.”
“But… ‘Pussy Farts?’”
“Yeah, funny right? Oh, one last thing.” Dutch said before tipping the his can back and chugging the remaining half. “Yer gonna have to get,” Dutch paused and let out a loud belch. “Yer gonna have to get naked.”
The GM’s eyes widened. “What? Why?”
“Don’t you know anything about time travel?” Dutch bellowed and laughed. “Haven’t you never seen The Terminator?”
The GM sighed heavily. “Desperate times…”
“Chase! Hey Chase!”
The second-baseman turned as he heard a familiar voice calling his name as he walked towards the clubhouse after his usual spring workout. It was the voice of the Phillies’ Assistant GM Ruben Amaro Jr. Chase and Ruben had always got along well. Heck, Chase even sort of looked up to Ruben a little bit. Chase thought that his career could possibly take the same path as Ruben’s, who had become one of the team’s front office guys after retiring.
“Oh, Hey Ruben. What’s going on?” the second-baseman asked as The (assistant) GM jogged to catch up with him. Chase noticed that Amaro was dressed differently than usual. Instead of his smart, business casual attire he was wearing jeans that were clearly too big for him, a baggy sweatshirt, and flip-flops.
“You done for the day, Chase? Want to go grab some lunch? It’s on me.” Chase agreed. Coming off of his first full season as a major league starter, he didn’t feel that he was yet making enough money to ever turn down a free meal, so what the hell?
“What happened to your Beamer, Rube?” Utley asked as he got into the car whose door Ruben opened. The 1998 Plymouth Breeze was a far cry from Ruben’s usual ride; a slick BMW 7-series.
“It’s, uh, in the shop. This is a friend’s.”
It broke The GM’s heart to hear the kid in his passenger seat crying like he was, but… “Desperate times”…
“Please let me go! Please, Ruben, you’re scaring me!” Chase sobbed. At first, The GM wasn’t sure whether he should have gagged Chase after tying his hands behind his back or not, but with all the screaming that his second-baseman was doing he wished he had. It was tough to drive with him shouting and wriggling like he was.
“Chase, listen to me. I’m not going to hurt you. Actually… actually Chase, I’m going to do something you’re going to really enjoy.”
“Oh, Christ, no!” Chase screamed.
“What? Jesus, no, nothing like that,” The GM was flying by the seat of his pants here, he hadn’t exactly planned this conversation out. “Chase, how would you like to win the World Series? Huh? That would be pretty good, right?”
Chase stopped crying. After a few seconds he sniffled. “Yeah…”
“Okay,” The GM continued, “Well, that’s what I’m giving you the chance to do. You see, I’m from the future.”
Chase instinctively flinched, but remained quiet. “The… the future? Wha…?”
“Listen Chase, I’m going to give you the chance to play on a team with Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt. There’s going to be two other guys. One’s named Cliff Lee. You might have heard of him before, but he turns out to become the best lefty in the game! And there’s Cole Hamels. You know him already, but he’s going to be a huge deal in the future, too. People are talking about this team having one of the best rotations in the history of baseball.”
The GM looked over. Chase had stopped crying. He was staring straight ahead. He was listening intently. The GM continued.
“But there’s a problem, Chase. There’s a big problem. You see, you are supposed to be the heart of the team. You’re supposed to be the leader of this team. In my time, you’re a hero to the entire city of Philadelphia.”
“What do you mean, ‘supposed to be’?” Chase asked. There was no sadness. There was no fear. There was just a quiet, reserved intensity. The GM had him right where he wanted him.
“You see, Chase, in my time, you get hurt before the season even begins. You miss the entire season. You miss your one chance to play on what could be one of the greatest teams in the history of the game.” Ruben was embellishing, but not all that much.
“Chase, you can destroy the National League. I have foreseen this. It is your destiny. Join me.”
Chase was silent for a full minute. The GM’s heart was in his throat. Finally, Chase spoke:
“Okay, I’m in. But… how?”
“Well, you know Darren Daulton, right?”
“OH FUCK, WHAT?”
The GM stood in front of the podium before the assembled media. It was his favorite place to be. He loved manipulating these writers, and there were so many of them. He knew what they were expecting to hear, he knew that most of them had already typed their stories saying that Chase Utley would be shut down for the entire season. He baited them along, too. He strung them along for as long as possible before finally dropping the bomb.
“The final test results are in. The tendonitis is clearing up. We are going to put Chase on the 15-day disabled list to begin the season, but we feel very confident that after a brief rehabilitation assignment, he’ll be able to rejoin the team.”
There was a brief moment of silence amongst the writers as this revelation processed in their minds. In real-time, it was probably only a half-second, but to The GM it felt like it stretched on forever. Time slowed as a smug grin formed on his face. He had done it. The GM, the wunderkind, realized that he couldn’t fail. After all, in this city, with these expectations, failure was not an option.