Dock Ellis’ Disciple
His father was a nocturnist; his mother spun into a Quaalude-cocoon by 7 p.m. each evening.
And Turner Bloom, he slept through the steaming summer nights of Gautier, Mississippi on a cot in the dugout of Buddy Davis Ballfield.
He’d practice until 2 a.m. Calloused palms dropping his maple wood bat, Turner’s body would give way to sleep in an acquiescent slide through sweltering, recurrent dreams of unassisted triple plays, glossed lips, and category-five hurricanes.
It didn’t trouble the Blooms that their only child slept blanketed by moonlight alone. The seventeen-year old’s muscled determination, its sinewy force, galvanized the couple.
Their golden boy would not touch sugar. He’d scoop the fleshy pink inside out of half a grapefruit for dessert. Grabbing his cleats, Turner was off, peddling his Schwinn 10-speed through the tymbal crooning of cicadas.
Father trailing son out of the door, Dr. Preston Bloom left for work with his son’s moxie soaking into his skin like sunscreen. Visions of that perfect scarlet stitching holding the cowhide ball along its seams as Turner’s bat hit— crack!—flashed before him as he pulled sutures through broken skin. Defibrillator handles pulsing electricity— crack!—dysrhythmia patients anchored back like Lazarus sliding into home.
Tiny broken blood vessels veining his mother, Blythe Bloom’s nose disappeared because she’d quit drinking— crack!—shuffling away bottles of red wine gifted by dinner party guests into the bathroom. The porous Carrara marble sink tinged pink. Blythe had drained one half of the roiling sea of her addiction that had risen inside her since she was seven and sneaking gulps of cough syrup.
She’d swallow her opiates dry with the coolness of a cobra compressing its prey, looking at her silky skin in the bathroom mirror above her wine-stained sink. But still: half that goddamn ocean inside her evaporated into the sunshine of her son’s bright future.
Crack! Turner sent the ball sizzling over the infield, outfield, the foul territory. It landed at the cusp of the inky forest beyond the park.
Elston let his tired legs give out beneath him, sat on the pitcher’s mound as his friend ran in torrent fluidity through the diamond’s bases.
Otis dropped his glove. Just the three of them practicing in this recalescent heat with the moon waxing; they were preparing Turner for a scout from the Atlanta Braves to be at tomorrow’s game.
Turner jogged out toward the forest.
Elston stood, kicked the clay, “If anyone should be wearing hair curlers, it’s me.” He smiled. “That shit does not look right in white hair; he’s a fuckin’ nut.”
“And we’re the bolts that keep him from rollin’ away; he’s got a chance . Thing about Turner is—” sweat dripped off Otis’ freckle smattered cheeks, “you know he’s always high, but you never know on exactly . . . what.”
The ballpark lights gleamed off the pink curlers tightly rolled with Turner’s shaggy brown locks as he crossed a base path, let the ball fly.
Elston caught the Rawlings and said, “This Dock Ellis shit has gone too far, man. They suspended him for wearing them. They’ll suspend you too.”
Turner shrugged, touching the pink plastic curlers, his microdose of LSD making them feel scaly. He sensed them turning into snakes. He was Medusa for a moment; it passed. As always, Turner was surfing his interior—the same ocean that pushed Blythe Bloom around with its capricious currents living inside her son too. Roaring rapids coursed through the estuaries of Turner’s veins. Wild, brackish energy crashed around the white coral of his bones. And everyone in Gautier knew this, except, of course, Dr. Bloom, who lived inside the guarded warmth of denial.
Elston removed the curlers from his friend’s hair as Turner passed out on the cot, whispering no wonder he stayed here. The guy ended his nights too fucked up to even ride a bike. His buddies left him in his dugout apartment with his battery-powered cooler of food and water humming like a lullaby.
A heavy snow of hope fell in the thickness of Turner’s sleep. He woke with its joyful flakes melting into a thunderous whitewater. His cravings were seethingly high. He shook a Dexedrine into his palm, swallowed it dry.
Turner cut through the sun-dappled forest beyond the field to bathe in a neighbor’s seawater pool before they woke, like always. He traveled naked and barefoot back, air-drying, dancing to the dexterous songs of northern mockingbirds. He sprinted the last bit across the field to dress in the dugout.
He cracked six raw eggs into his mouth then folded his bed into the utility shed before his teammates started to trickle in.
Turner tucked in his shirt over his hard abdomen, laced his shoes.
“What’s up, Dock?” Elston appeared clean-shaven, smelling of rosewater.
“All’s good, man,” he clasped his friend’s hand, feeling how clammy he was compared to the second baseman.
He saw his father had appeared near the fence: looming (6’7), silvery hospital scrubs, dark circles under his gray eyes, straight from the ER.
Turner retreated to the utility shed, pulled his hollowed-out bible from under a cracked floorboard. He took stock of his inventory: greenies, an eight ball of cocaine, ketamine, shrooms, iowaska, marijuana, and a vial of LSD. The subaqueous impulse in him pushed his hand toward the vial. He poised the small bottle’s dropper hovering above his mouth. Just one drop, a microdose, and he’d be coasting over his nerves. But the cap had grown loose, or he hadn’t screwed it on right the last time he checked the vial’s level, and it dropped off into his mouth. A gush of liquid shot down his throat. He spit some up but most made it to his stomach, absorbing into his bloodstream.
Otis’ neon orange fingers flickered signals. Turner had asked the catcher to coat his fingers in Cheeto dust after he’d had trouble tracking their movements. Otis fought the urge to lick off the cheesy puffed cornmeal.
Beam Clay rolled in waves beneath Turner’s feet. Tufts of cotton candy dotting the bleachers matched clouds of lilac and aquamarine melting in a sugary confection down the horizon. The batter before him with his longish tawny hair was Kurt Cobain. The umpire was Bill Clinton.
“Strike three!” Clinton bellowed.
Nirvana’s “In Bloom” rustled through the pecan trees. His opponents were all in him, in Bloom —playing inside his cerebellum. Turner’s mind, frayed out to its ragged pallid edges, no one could pin down what he’d throw next: curveball, sinker, two-seam fastball, the Eephus?
His father had melded with the linked fence; now he wore a chainmail suit of armor. Beside him, Tuner’s mother was Jackie-O, dressed in pastel pink with a pillbox hat.
Then he was being lifted and high-fived by a sea of hands. They said he’d pitched a no-hitter. But he hadn’t been there, not in his body. A vacuous sensation flushed through him. Turner looked across the field and saw himself in little league, winning. The young boy’s body split into a myriad of glittering rainbow prisms. That was the feeling he’d robbed himself of.
The scout clapped a heavy hand down on his shoulder, said he’d be in touch. And his mother, sanguinary from JFK, brought out bottles of pills from the depths of her Chanel purse.
“Look at this,” she whispered, dropping the amber containers into the trash. “You inspirit me,” her words spun in his ears.
That night, as the moon rose and the heat let go of its ruthless grip, he returned from the seawater pool, dressed and sank into his cot. Sleep came swiftly, carrying Turner up from the scorching, bottomless pit of his abyss.
He woke to the crunch of his mother’s BMW convertible pulling into the gravel lot.
Blythe Bloom stood staring into the trash can, pulling back her sheer sleeves, rustling through its filth.
Turner approached her, bible in his cold trembling hands.
He opened the faux book, tilted its contents to slide into the depths of the garbage.
Hot tears rolled down her cheeks; she stared into their converging undercurrents, “Together?”
“I guess so,” he put his American Legion Baseball cap on her head.
“It’s a black hole in there,” she peered into the waste.
“Black holes are vast stars ten times bigger than the sun.”
“Too heavy . . . ” she turned, slowly breaking free from the gravitational pull of their debris.
Mother and son took to the field, their bodies on the threshold of detoxing, running the bases, muscles stretching, hearts beating under the crescent moon.
She pitched. He batted. She batted. He pitched.
The deltas of their souls began to bleed their sediment into their own private reservoirs with such inertia to make it the night they would look back on saying, “ Yes.”
This is when the never-ending work began, its asceticism, in that velvety fluorescence of the ball field.
Jordan Faber is a writer based out of Chicago. A Pushcart Prize nominee, her fiction has most recently appeared in: K’in, Prometheus Dreaming, NUNUM, The Esthetic Apostle, FIVE:2:ONE’s #thesideshow, Deluge [Radioactive Moat Press], and Bull & Cross. Jordan received an MFA from Northwestern University. To find out more about Jordan check out her website, or follow her on Instagram and Twitter.