“Your mom called me while you were out.” Said Bonnie.
“Did you tell her I was dead?”
“No, I told her you were at the gym.”
“What’d she want? No. No, don’t answer that. I know what she wanted.” I took near drum sized canister of protein from a cabinet in the kitchen and rationed out a scoop of the powder inside, pouring it into a shaker bottle as I talked. “Same thing everyone wants.”
“She wanted to know if you were worried yet.”
“Did she, now?”
Bonnie watched me pour water into and then shake bottle of protein. I came over and sat at the seat across from her and took a long draw from the shake I’d mixed and placed it dow where it formed a wet circle on the table.
“Well, are you?”
I didn’t answer. I just sipped the shake and made circles.
“I’d like to know.” Said Bonnie.
“Mmm…I tell you, when I first got drafted by the Padres in 2003, they sent me to short season low A ball. The mighty Eugene Emeralds, in Eugene Oregon, of course. I didn’t even know such a place existed ‘till I showed up there. That’s the way a lot of minor league towns are; you don’t know they’re real until you get there. Anyway, they put us up at a hotel the whole season. Downtown at a Hilton. I thought it was just the greatest, like I’d really done something with my life, you know, cause I got to live in a hotel. I thought only famous people got to do that. I thought I was famous.
Then I realized living in a hotel isn’t all that great. Room keys are always loosing their charge. We didn’t have refrigerators in our rooms so we had no way to store food. The restaurant was expensive and closed early. The whole team was on the same floor and they’d be up all hours, drinking and making noise. And the Padres took the money out of our paychecks to pay for the rooms, so we only got paid about eight-hundred bucks a month—barely enough when you have to eat out everyday.
Turns out there is a cost to being famous, even pretend famous like I thought I was. A lot of the guys didn’t say a word about it, they were happy to be there. I was too but I definitely noticed things. I thought it was dumb. I said so when I was asked by one of the Padres scouts about how I was enjoying it all. I remember the look he gave me, like I was insane or something. I wasn’t complaining or nothing, I just thought it was, you know…”
“Dumb.” I nodded.
“I remember when the letter that had my signing bonus in it came to the hotel, all fifteen thoooouuusand dollars. It was the biggest number I’d ever seen on a check. Biggest my whole family had ever seen. My folks, for all their years of working, still hadn’t saved up that much. I called them up, excited to tell them I had it and that I was going to send it home to have it cashed and suddenly they didn’t trust the mail anymore. Suddenly I was target for a mugging. The shadows all had shifty eyes and villains coiled up ’round every corner. They scared me so bad I had the hotel people store it in the safe until I could figure out what to do with it. I finally had three guys from the team walk me to the bank for protection while I deposited it.
Of course, other guys on the team go theirs the same way. Checks for five hundred and six hundred thousand. A million. Getting passed to them by some hotel clueless desk clerk, just as casual as you please. Those guys spent most of it that same season. Never worried about it being stolen because they blew it faster than anyone could take it. I thought that was dumb too, and when I said so they looked at me like I was insane, like I didn’t know how this all was supposed to work.
I lost touch with most of them over the years so I don’t know if they have any of that bonus money left and I’m not sure if they care. But I can tell you that, aside from the tithe I made, I haven’t spent a dime of my bonus—not even to this day. I don’t even know why.
I took final draw from the shake, emptying it, and set it down away from the wet circles on the tabletop. I took a flick of moisture from the bottle and drew a line through all the wet circles on the table with my index finger, connecting them all save for the last one, which I stopped shy of and stared hard at, rubbing my fingers together until all the moister was gone from the tips.
“The more time I spend in this game, the more I wonder if I ever really did have the right personality for it. I guess I’m worried. I guess I’ve always been worried. Just as much worried that I’ll get a job as I am that I wont.”