I first saw the mummy on the second day of the season. We’d blown a close one on opening day, and now Casey, my star cleanup hitter, had called in sick. Sure, I thought. Sick about striking out on opening day, with the tying runs in scoring position.
With the money he was getting paid, I didn’t care if Casey had bubonic plague, I needed him in the lineup. But he knew he’d get paid either way. Baseball was just a business to my players. There was no love for the game because it no longer was a game, just a business. And it was my job to run that business like an MBA. Sometimes I really hate this game.
I fiddled with my beard as I stared down in despair at the lineup card on my desk. I’d penciled in the first three players: shortstop Barrows, center fielder Flynn and left fielder Blake. But who to bat cleanup?
“Hey Skip, get a load of this!” Cooney, my portly number nine hitter and catcher, had stuck his mashed nose inside my office. “Check out the batting cage!” My mood brightened a bit. Nothing kept Cooney from a game. He’d play street stickball with kids in the morning, take extra batting practice in the afternoon, and beg to play in every game at night. The last of a dying breed....
Sighing, I rose to my feet. I’d fill out the lineup card after watching batting practice to see if there was anyone who could hit better than my seven-year-old grandson. I ambled out to the field to see what the problem was. Perhaps another water balloon fight, or a beehive in the stands, or an argument over an incentive clause.
Standing next to the batting cage, holding a bat over its shoulder, was a mummy.
I’d seen mummies in museums and in movies, but never in the flesh—or was there flesh under the mummy’s wrappings? The dirty bandages—I hoped it was dirt—completely covered its tall, lean body except for two eyeholes, out of which peered fiery red almond-shaped eyes over blackness. A few torn wrappings fluttered in the cool April breeze, which unfortunately was coming my way. I gagged at the spoiled cheese smell.
Of course, it was just someone dressed up in a costume, right down to the red and black contact lenses. Halloween was many months away, but our fans were pretty loony.
“He came in ‘bout five minutes ago, Skip,” said Cooney, whose fresh uniform was already dirty. “Look over there.” Cooney pointed, and I saw that part of the brick wall under the bleachers had broken apart, leaving a man-shaped opening, with bricks strewn about on the ground. “That crazy bastard came through the wall like it wasn’t nothin’!”
“Where’s the security guard?” I asked. Cooney pointed. The guard sat among the bricks against the wall, rubbing his head.
“When it came through, the bricks just exploded all over the place,” Cooney said. “One of them hit the guard. Don’t think the mummy meant it.” He held up his cell phone. “Don’t worry, I already called 9-1-1.” He pocketed the phone. “Might as well get back to work. But that thing—it went straight to the batting cage, looked through all the bats, and picked mine out. Great taste, huh?” Cooney returned to catching batting practice.
The mustachioed Barrows, our reluctant singles-hitting leadoff hitter (“Home run hitters get the big bucks,” he always complained) was in the batting cage, swinging at pitches from Coach Smith and glancing over his shoulder at the mummy between pitches. When he finished, Barrows looked the silent figure up and down. The mummy stared back through its eyeholes.
“Look,” Barrows said, “I’ll be signing autographs after the game, so get lost till then. I gotta do my pre-game meditating. And maybe you should go take a shower or something.” Barrows sauntered off to the dugout where he sat on the floor, cross-legged, and closed his eyes. A moment later he began humming.
The husky and yet swift Flynn next entered the batting cage. The mummy also entered, the bat still resting on its shoulder; they arrived at home plate at the same time. Flynn, his eyes half-closed, perhaps imagining pitches he’d be flailing at, more likely thinking about his upcoming salary negotiation, walked into the mummy. He bounced five feet back before falling on his backside, scattering about loose baseballs.
“What the hell is that?” he exclaimed, shaking his head in confusion. “And what is that smell?”
I’d had enough of the masquerading fan. “Hey, you, get out of there.” I approached the batting cage. The mummy watched me approach, the outer corners of its red eyes twitching slightly. It still gripped the baseball bat over its shoulder, its fingers wrapped tightly over the handle. It wore a golden ring on its right index finger with a large emblem of a rearing cobra.
That’s when the police arrived, four of them, with the team owner and a few sidekicks following closely behind. Half the team pointed at the mummy. The police, seeing the dazed Flynn still on th -- [End of Preview.]