Twins short fiction: Joe Blanton Gets A New Contract

Kirby Lee-US PRESSWIRE

Joe Blanton doesn't know where he is, but he knows that something doesn't seem quite right.

Joe Blanton awoke as normal, nice and late. He didn't know where he was, upon awakening; this too was normal. As a major-league pitcher, Joe regularly woke up in places he wasn't familiar with. Joe had once gotten in a cab outside his hotel and asked to be taken to Dodger Stadium only to find out - after a half-hour of driving and a blazing argument with an unscrupulous cab driver - that he was actually in San Diego.

A moment of observation, though, was enough to tell him that he was not in a hotel room, this time - he was in his own house. There was his dresser, with the pictures of his family - but hadn't that been over on the other side of the room, before? And hadn't the bed been under the window? Now the bed faced the window.

He shook his head, as if to clear some cobwebs. Philadelphia, that was where the bed was under the window. In Los Angeles, they had changed things, here in the apartment. His wife had liked the change. Joe rose, went to the window, and looked out at the mounds of snow, heaped behind the house.

Mounds of snow.

Hmmmm.

-------------------------------

Terry Ryan had never liked his Target Field office, not in the winter, when all he could see from the window was a snow-filled stadium. We should shovel this place out in the winter, he thought idly. Let's remind ourselves that baseball's coming back, that we've got work to do.

He sighed. Always work to do, and especially this year on the pitching. He had to call Tampa Bay today, Atlanta too. The team needed some pitching and Tampa Bay and Atlanta had it. Ryan looked at the board that covered one wall of his office; there was nothing for it but to find someone for the staff, someone to supplement Diamond and Baker and Blanton and maybe Gibson if the youngster was healthy. He'd been hearing good reports on Gibson, on his workouts, on…

Blanton.

Hmmmm.

---------------------------------

Joe Blanton blinked. The mounds of snow stayed put.

He shut the curtains. He rubbed his eyes. How long had he slept? With trepidation, he slowly again opened the curtains.

The mounds of snow were still there.

Joe was still pondering this when his wife walked in. "I was just about to come get you up," she said. "You wanted to get a decent start today so you could be sure to be on time to get downtown for the festival."

"The festival?" said Joe, weakly.

"You know," his wife said. "TwinsFest. You're signing autographs and speaking today, remember?"

-----------------------------------

Hand on the phone, Terry Ryan stared furiously at the board. Blanton. Why was Joe Blanton on the board, as a Twin?

But of course he was on the board - he'd been signed for months now. He could remember the negotiations, how smoothly they'd gone, how they'd come to terms with Blanton with no effort at all, how both sides had spoken of how happy they were, at the press conference.

Hadn't they? Of course they had. He could remember it.

But it felt strange, somehow. Almost like he was remembering a scene in a movie, rather than his own life. But here he was, in his office, with Joe Blanton on the board in the starting rotation, and the board never lied.

----------------------------------

Showered, shaved, and out of the driveway, Joe Blanton was surprised to discover that he seemed to know the way downtown.

His mind had been racing as he'd climbed in the car. He could remember signing with the Twins, how they'd seemed like a natural fit - he could even remember packing things up in L.A. and moving out to the tundra, a shock if he'd ever had one. But it all seemed unreal, like reading the operator's manual for a car and looking up and discovering that none of the pictures quite match up with the car that's actually in front of you.

He was on the freeway before he noticed. "Downtown, follow 394," said the sign.

Of course it did. That was where downtown was, he knew.

Somehow.

------------------------------------

Terry Ryan pushed a button on the intercom. "Could you get me a copy of the Blanton contract, please," he said into the black box.

"I think it's still on your desk, on the right-hand side," came the answer from his assistant. "I just saw it there this morning."

Ryan looked at his desk. The contract was there. The contract had always been there. He'd been reviewing it just before the phone call.

Hadn't he?

-------------------------------------

The radio, thought Blanton. I'll listen to the radio. He hit the power button and was both shocked, and yet not surprised, to find that all of the presets seemed to be associated with a station.

Pop music. Rock music. Political talk. Sports talk - let's leave it on the sports for a moment, he thought. See if I can get my bearings.

He listened to a Timberwolves report and a college hockey segment and he was just starting to lose the thread when he heard his name. Joe Blanton is now a Minnesota Twin, said the voice, and then the radio crackled with static.

Joe looked at the radio. The numbers on the clock were rotating wildly. He looked up, and discovered that his car appeared to have stopped traveling forward, which was fine because all of the other cars had stopped traveling forward too. Only fair that his would have stopped, as well.

He was on the point of getting out of the car to have a bit of a look around, in what appeared to be a time-frozen world, when the voice finally spoke up.

"Have you figured it out yet?" it said.

Joe Blanton tried to jump and spin around and clutch at his heart, all at the same time, but after some speedy attempts at doing all three either concurrently or consecutively, decided instead to pass out.

-------------------------------------------

When he came to, time was still frozen, but Joe was no longer alone in the front seat of the car. Brad Radke sat in the passenger seat, wearing what appeared to be a long, flowing robe with a Twins logo on the left chest.

Twenty-five sentences all tried to simultaneously fight their way out of Blanton's head and through his mouth, but what came out was, "Why me?"

Radke smiled. "Listen, Joe," he said. "This is all going to become more clear to you, but we could tell you were confused, so here I am. You belong in Minnesota, is all; you're a natural fit. In fact, you're such a natural fit that the Universe began overcompensating for your inevitable arrival. It became clear to us that if you were to mistakenly sign elsewhere, it would tear a hole in the fabric of space-time. Rather than let that happen, we just jumped you forward in time a little - past the contract, past the move, right to where you belong, here in Minnesota."

"Who is 'we'?" asked Joe, curiously.

"We? Oh, just a few people who ensure the continued stability of the universe. Me. Albert Einstein. Lemmy from Motörhead. The kid who played 'Goldberg' in 'The Mighty Ducks.' A few people like that. Now, if you're sure you understand what's going on, I'll be off. Just remember, you can't tell anyone about this."

"Why not?" asked Joe.

Radke smiled. "Who would believe you?"

----------------------------------------------

At Target Field, Terry Ryan had tried to move on with his day, but the Blanton thing kept bugging him. He decided to pop his head into Rob Anthony's office. Rob would know what was going on.

Ryan stopped at the door. "Say, Rob?" he said.

Anthony looked up from the desk. "Sorry, can I have a minute?" he said. "I'm composing today's insulting text message to Anthony Slama, and I want to make sure I make this as needlessly insulting as possible."

"Sure," said Ryan. "Never mind. It was nothing, anyway."

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