“…there’s been a lot of requests, everybody’s trying to find [a Chooch doll]. Apparently there’s only two, and one of them disappeared. I’m going to have to put that one under lock and key.”
“…and if you’re just joining us, we’re being told Roy Halladay has been scratched from tonight’s start for undisclosed reasons. Rich Dubee hinted at a ‘family emergency’ of some kind, but that’s as close to an answer as we’ve gotten.”
Brandy Halladay knew where her husband was the second Tom McCarthy’s classically purposeless dialogue slapped her in the ears. Roy wasn’t one for missing starts. Roy wasn’t one for missing anything. But there was one thing that could flood his mind with overwhelming panic.
“Its really too bad we won’t see Roy tonight, Tom, because he is a heckuva pitcher,” Chris Wheeler added. Brandy searched frantically for the remote.
“Where is it.”
Brandy turned, startled. Many times before, her husband had materialized behind her. It was his primary method of entering rooms. But seeing him now, in full Phillies gear, as the night’s first few bolts of lightning flashed through the window, was a jolt to her system. Even though she’d known he was coming.
“Its right where its been since March,” Brandy replied. “Downstairs, in the safe inside the other safe behind the painting of you throwing a cutter through the chest of a screaming monster.”
“Looks like Charlie Manuel is having a hard time picking a spot starter here tonight,” the TV said. “To buy some time it seems the Phanatic has run out onto the mound and started dancing. Sadly, the umpires don’t find this amusing in the slightest. And have ejected him. Huh. Well that’s a first.”
“I quite suddenly felt as though it was in grave danger.” Roy looked around, his somber face backed by the distant rumble of thunder. “Is the cat out?”
Brandy looked down at the Halladays’ pet, which was purring contentedly on her lap. “Chooch is right here,” she said. Roy had demanded the name after a day and a half of lively family debate and frequent sobbing. “The last place he’d be is messing around ten feet inside a concrete wall.”
“I don’t know how else to describe this,” Tom McCarthy continued on the ignored television. “But it seems the ejection has caused the Phanatic to revert back to a feral state, as he is now galloping around the infield like an enraged bronco, making a furious, elephantine honking sound out of his funnel-nose. Security seems to be at a complete loss, but–oh boy. Here comes Ross Gload to give it a go.”
“Roy, you’d better get back to the game,” Brandy mentioned. He didn’t hear her; he was far too lost in thought to be distracted by the words of his wife.
“Do you still have you key?” he asked after 30 minutes of disturbing silence.
She pulled out the key which he had told her to never take off her necklace. “As long as you and I still have the only copies, your Chooch doll is safe.”
Roy closed his eyes and clutched his copy tightly, as if the two of them doing it together would make Chooch appear out of thin air. It didn’t. It never would. And each time, Roy was a little disappointed.
“All right, I’d better go,” he said finally. His eye caught the TV screen, on which a shirtless Ross Gload was headlocking an also shirtless Phanatic into submission while the crowd for the first time ever had no idea had to react. A pile of umpires’ body parts indicated that Ross’ heroism had come several minutes too late. “It looks like they need me.”
“It sure does,” Brandy replied.
But he was gone.
“And now–what’s this?” Tom McCarthy asked, once again easily confused. “Roy Halladay seems to have appeared out of thin air and a single stern glance has brought the Phanatic out his crazed derangement. Y… yes, he seems fine now. He and Gload are now shaking hands and parting as friends! I tell you, Roy Halladay knows exactly when to show up.”
“Yeah, you know what they say about Roy,” Chris Wheeler replied. “He’s a heckuva pitcher.”
Brandy turned off the television.