Pete gave me a prompt the other day that I said I should have saved for Wednesday, so I used it again today. Same prompts, different story. Many of my readers dislike or are profoundly indifferent to zucchini, so the recipe is not one that includes it.
This one’s for Pete.
Steffie at the Bat
by Marian Allen
Steffie had had no objection to children, as a species, unless she had to clean up after them. Then her handler, known to her only as “Pete,” had ordered her to sponsor a T-ball team in the name of her small business, Book’em Books and Gifts, and volunteer at their practices and events.
“I understand the sponsoring,” she had told him, as they had sat back-to-back in a restaurant, their faces behind menus to shield their conversation from lip-reading enemy agents. “It’s a brilliant way to launder even more money. But why do I have to be there?”
It was a rhetorical question. One followed orders. One wasn’t owed any explanation for them.
Pete was different, though. Pete liked to give you the big picture.
“For one thing,” he said, “you’re a single woman without even so much as a pet, let alone a kid or even nieces and nephews. Suddenly, you volunteer your bookstore to sponsor a team of bumbling babies? If you don’t volunteer, it looks fishy. If you do, people will assume your biological clock is running down and you’ll take an experience of childhood any way you can get it.”
It made sense, and it had the additional strength of being true. She had no desire to actually marry and breed, but working with “the kiddos,” as Coach Everly called them, filled a void she hadn’t known was there.
Pete said, “It’ll also give us another crowd setting to pass information. That never hurts.”
So. Steel-Nerve Steffie, baking cookies and washing uniforms for a pack of toddling Ty Cobbs. There was one for the diary, if you were a diary kinda gal.
Now, in the new clubhouse she’d helped pay for, she held up a bottle of detergent for an invisible camera. From the field outside came shouts, applause, and the occasional crack of a bat connecting, as the WalMart Zucchinis played the Book’em Browsers.
It gave her a little jolt of pleasure as each uniform that went into the wash showed some stain of the chocolate pie she’d brought to last night’s pre-season pitch-in. It was her mother’s recipe: Buy a chocolate-cookie pie crust. Make instant chocolate pudding with chocolate milk instead of white and fill the crust with that. Top it with chocolate whipped topping and sprinkle it with chocolate shavings. Not exactly Martha Stewart, but kids loved it. Obviously.
“New! Improved! Removes the toughest stains!” She held up each smelly garment before dropping it in the washer. “Chocolate! … Chili! … Boogers! … I don’t want to know what!”
A stray ball rattled the mesh covering the safety glass in the window. Parents and children from both sides cheered and clapped for a solid hit, regardless of its bad aim. She loved that about T-ball, at least at this youngest level: it was a wacky celebration of kids having fun playing a game. The divisiveness, competition, and pressure would come later, with the coaches having more trouble teaching good sportsmanship to the parents than to the kids.
She started the washer, dried her hands on the tail of her uniform shirt, and left the building.
A large hand wrapped around her upper arm a she blinked against the sunlight. Lips brushed her ear as a deep voice murmured, “I’ll have that microchip. Now.”
“What are you talking about? I don’t have any chocolate chips. Or potato chips.” She put a quaver of fear into her voice. “Have you tried the concession stand? It’s right over there.”
The hand shook her arm, squeezing it so hard, even the bone hurt.
“Don’t play around.”
She recognized him, now: They called him Wild Man. He had no compunction about killing innocents in pursuit of what he went after, and any witnesses against him had ended up retracting or dead.
“I don’t have it on me,” she said. “I already put it in the drop.”
Reluctantly, she led him into the woods that ringed the ball park.
When they were deep enough to be unobserved, she pointed to a tree.
She pointed upward. “It’s in that hole.”
“That one. That one, there.”
When he looked up, she punched upward, satisfied by the crunch of his nose breaking. He threw her to the ground and staggered back, left hand raised to catch the blood. His eyes would swell shut soon.
“Good job, Steffie!” she said.
“To hell with you and to hell with your microchip,” he said, drawing a gun. “Say goodbye to a kid or two.”
“Poor sport,” she said. When he turned, she picked up a fallen branch and swung. If his head had been a softball, she’d have hit it out of the park.
Back in the clubhouse, she washed her hands and called Pete to arrange for a cover-and-clean. She was sorry to change out of her uniform into civilian clothes, but needs must.
She turned off the machine and dialed it back to the beginning of the wash cycle.
“Ground in dirt!” She dropped her uniform in with the rest. “Human blood!”
Outside, a bat connected and the crowd went wild.
MY PROMPTS TODAY: Shout, WalMart, zucchini, diary, Steffie