Changeup, Chapter 21

Joe knew he was breaking the rules, but he didn't even hesitate for a moment as he turned on his old transistor radio.

He turned the volume all the way down, and then back up just a hair. He didn't have to waste any time finding the right AM station; his dial never moved from the broadcast of the Dukes, his hometown minor league team.

He couldn't cheer since it would alert his parents, but he could silently pump his fists in the air toward the invisible ceiling in his blackened room. Every hit, every stolen base, and especially every run was celebrated with the fervor of Christmas. Every strikeout, every double play and every long fly ball that didn't quite make the fence filled Joe with dismay.

Joe's folks sat in the living room. Joe's dad read the paper while Joe's mom worked a jigsaw puzzle.

"Ed? Did you hear that?"

"I know."

"Are you going to go talk to him?"

"No. Let him be, at least for tonight."

"You say that most nights."

When they finally headed off to bed, his dad stopped and opened Joe's door. He smiled as the light from the hall showed little Joe, in his footed pajamas, hugging the transistor radio as nothing but static eminated from the speakers.

He kissed Joe on the forehead and gently placed the radio on the dresser.

As he tucked him in once again, he whispered, "Good night, Buddy. Love you."


Giveaway: The Honest Toddler: A Toddler's Guide to Parenting

The last giveaway went well, so let's do it again!

Tell us your funniest kiddo story. It can be about you as a kid, or about your own progeny.

  • Grocery store meltdown
  • Embarrassing church moment
  • Bathroom mishap

Two lucky winners will receive a copy of The Honest Toddler: A Toddler's Guide to Parenting, by Bunmi Laditan.

This giveaway is sponsored by Bunmi and her publishers - THANK YOU!

Edit: Congratulations to Chad Jones and Rob Shepherd!


Changeup, Chapter 20

Renee sat across from him, frowning nervously.

With one hand, she slid her appetizer around and around her plate. Her other fidgeted and rubbed an earring. No genie appeared.

"What's wrong?", Joe asked.

Renee's frown immediately dissolved as she glanced up at Joe. She smiled slightly.

"Nothing's wrong. I'm just nervous. It's a big night."

Joe laughed.

"I wasn't nervous when I met your dad."

Renee chuckled. "You planned that one right! Had I brought you to meet him, you would have had every reason to be nervous."

Joe smiled. "I'm a planner."

Renee laughed again.

"But really", Joe said. "You don't have to be nervous about meeting Mom. She's great. Easy-going."

"Am I?"

Joe stood and pulled out the table's only empty chair.

"Mom, this is Renee. Renee, this is my mom, Bee."

The waiter topped off drinks as initial pleasantries were exchanged. They ordered, then talked about Joe.

Joe hadn't quite seen this one coming. He thought he'd have to guide the conversation to make sure the ice was broken. Instead, they laughed like old friends. Renee listened to each of the stories Joe's mom told with enraptured interest, interjecting only with a question here and there. It turned out he wasn't really needed except to turn red and explain himself now and then.

He sputtered the embarrassing back story to the infamous giraffe escapade. After the laughter died down, Bee said to Renee, "Joe tells me you're a baseball nut, too."

Renee nodded enthusiastically. "Grew up on it. My dad didn't know how to relate to a little girl, so we bonded over baseball."

The conversation turned to the good old days.

Bee said, "What do you miss the most?"

Renee thought a moment. "Announcing."

Joe looked puzzled. "Announcing?!? You never told me you were an announcer."

Renee blushed. "I wasn't. But sometimes Dad would put on a big league game with the sound off and let me be the announcer. Seems silly now, but it was a lot of fun then. It made Dad enjoy the games no matter who won."

Joe turned to his Mom. "What do you miss?"

"Watching you. You loved it so much. You were never much of a pitcher, but I remember the first time you got put on the mound. Your team had a good lead, so the coach was kind enough to let some of you try out positions you wouldn't normally get to play. You pitched the last inning of the game."

Joe beamed. "I remember that! I was nervous, but settled in quickly. I struck out one of my friends on the other team. I couldn't believe I did so well!"

Joe's mom laughed. "No, you were terrible! You struck out your friend, but gave up 6 runs beforehand. You struck him out the second time you faced him that inning! But you didn't care; you were just excited to take the mound. You smiled ear to ear, from start to finish. I've always wondered what that felt like. I was so happy for you"

They stayed so long, they shut down the restaurant. They walked to their cars, the conversation hardly interrupted. Joe opened the door for Renee. The handle jammed. He sighed, embarrassed.

"Guess I'll have to finally replace this old thing."

"Why?", asked Renee.

"Runs fine", said Bee. "Don't toss something aside just because it's not fancy."


Team Coverage of the Zip Line Straitjackets

How many of us aren't sick of the local news? It's 3 minutes of Gloom 'n Doom, followed by a 2 minute medical report telling you to avoid bananas because they cause cancer but to eat lots because they aid in weight loss, and capped off with 17 minutes of Live Team Coverage of the Fact It's a Tad Bit Windy Outside.

Sometimes I go back through old messages on my phone to clean out junk I don't need. I'm looking at a message right now from an old friend. It says, "Right on buddy, stay in touch." It's from January 18th. I never replied.

I have never heard the song Christmas Shoes, but I have heard everyone complain about it. It still can’t be worse than The Little Drummer Boy. The reindeer should have run over the Little Drummer Boy, not Grandma. Per rumpa pum THUMP.

When the Boss asked for ideas for 2014, apparently she wasn't looking for awesome ideas like “Install zip line from roof to parking garage.”

Sometimes when I’m dancing I forget the work elevator has cameras.

Curse Allen and his wrenches. Long live King Philip!

Straitjackets get a bad rap. A little re-branding and they’d sell like hot cakes to parents of toddlers. I mean, it worked for the leash, right?

What's your best idea for 2014?.

Changeup, Chapter 19

Tryouts lasted a week.

Joe watched on and off, but did not offer any input. He had expected most of the hopefuls to be hacks simply having a good time. He was surprised at how many had showed up with talent as well as a glove.

On the last day, he sat in a dugout watching with Mr. Finnigan. Mr. Finnigan was pacing, again. He was angry and more than a little anxious with the approach Joe had taken to fill the shortstop position.

"Tell me again why we're putting on this circus instead of bringing in a pro."

"A 'pro' is one thing, Mr. Finnigan. A washed up star coasting into retirement is another. Not only would that be more expensive, but nobody fitting that description could be expected to try as hard as a rookie."

Mr. Finnigan paced, his scowl growing.

"We're making fools of ourselves. I'll bet the other owners are laughing themselves to sleep every night knowing we'll put anybody on our team."

Joe smiled.

"I bet the other owners already have shortstops."

Lou came into the dugout, a stack of bats over his bony shoulder.

"Who would you pick, Lou?"

Lou looked up at Joe, started.


Lou glanced nervously at Mr. Finnigan, and then said, "I'd pick that Carson kid."

Mr. Finnigan snorted derisively. "Him? He's 17!"

Lou's eyes narrowed and his jaw set as he said, "He's quick on his feet. Nothing gets past him in the gap between second and third, and he attacks sharp hits instead of flinching from them."

Mr. Finnigan laughed, but his tone was curt. "He swings at everything. He had no patience at the plate."

Lou was undaunted. "Doesn't matter. Comes with experience. You can't teach someone hustle or drive. I can teach him patience."

"Not your job, Lou. Leave the bats in the corner on your way out."

"It is now", said Joe. "You're fired, Mr. Finnigan."