Thursday, May 5, 2011

Spookymilk Survivor VIII: Meeting of the Mimes

Sorry it took me a while to post this (to say nothing of the Pixies concert review that I'm about 60% sure will end up staying a half-written notepad document on my hard drive), life has been busy lately. At least I'm still being a bit more prolific than 2010.

This week's challenge was the old "Meeting of the Mimes" standard - two characters face off, neither of them speaks, one ends up in a clearly better position at the expense of the other.

I didn't do so hot at this one last year. In fact, I ended up with the lowest score of the otherwise brilliant week (Spooky still calls it one of his favorite bunch of entries ever, which I'm pretty sure has nothing to do with mine - that's not false modesty, I've actually got the scores to prove that I sucked!). Let's see if my fortune's changed...

Becky’s dad had always called it “pressure that didn’t mean anything”. It was an interesting theory, but as she walked around the pitcher’s mound for what had to be the fiftieth time, it seemed like nonsense. It was only the local girl’s little league championship, but she was playing on the same field that all the local heroes had played.

And here she was, being careless with her team’s lead.

The inning had started out easily enough – a strikeout and a weak pop fly. Then the weight of what was happening dawned on her. Usually she was so good at brushing it off, but with two outs in the final inning, it began to eat her alive. First she walked the opponents’ worst hitter, and then she gave up a couple of hard hits. Now, everything was on the verge of unraveling as the Rockies’ slugger came to bat.

Becky took a couple of deep breaths and one last walk around the mound before taking her place and gazing at her catcher for the sign. Nothing seemed like a good idea. Of course she was over-analyzing – she only really knew how to throw two or three pitches – but she had already shaken off at least five before finally deciding that she may as well throw a fastball. The batter just stared out at her with an amused smirk on her face. Becky quickly decided that she hated the batter and made a point to put everything she could into this next pitch.

It was a bad idea, as the catcher had to nearly leave her feet to catch the ball and keep it from going to the backstop. The smirk continued as Becky got the ball back. She briefly thought about throwing the next one at the hitter’s back before realizing that not only would that tie the game, but she would be ejected. Suddenly she realized – she was beating herself. The batter was not Babe Ruth; she was a 14-year old girl. With a renewed calm, Becky came set and threw the pitch.

The girl swung hard, but did not connect solidly, only able to muster a slow ground ball straight back to Becky. She picked up the ball, set herself and threw the ball…four feet over the first baseman’s head.

Everything seemed to slow down – everything except the baserunners, of course. The rightfielder didn’t even bother going to retrieve the ball, she just put hanged her head and began walking back to the dugout. Becky fell to her knees in stunned disbelief. The batter ran by, not bothering with eye contact (but wearing that same damned smirk) as she joined her teammates in celebration as Becky picked herself up off the ground and walked without a word off of the lit field and into the darkness of the visitor’s dugout.

And here are the judge's critiques...

K: Using baseball on me is a bit like shooting fish in a barrel, but the bait worked. I have to say, I didn’t see this coming; I figured our protagonist would conquer her demons and win the game. I would have taken a stronger pair of character arcs, however; Becky was nervous and downtrodden and then lost, while the hitter was cocky and smug and ended up winning. Turning the tables would have been a stronger choice.

B: When I was 12 I was pitching during our Little League Championship. Though we didn’t have a lead, I too grabbed a bunt and threw it over the first baseman’s head, allowing two runs to score. So, yeah, I feel this. The last paragraph (and the last sentence) is a bit wordy for my taste.

So, yeah... meh. I was actually excited to do this challenge. I came up with the pitcher/batter combo almost immediately, since it's one of the greatest real-life examples of this trope. Watch some of the late-inning, close ballgame drama in a big game (like the World Series) and tell me there's not some good stuff there. Secondly, this actually happened to my team when I was in 7th grade. We had a lead going into the final inning of the championship game, and a throwing error ended the game. I was actually in the dugout during the final inning (I was one of the younger player son the team, and not a particularly proficient hitter, and my pitching days wouldn't come until a couple of years later), and the fateful error was made by the third baseman, but other than that, this is how I remember it.

Sadly, I just couldn't get my wording right - on anything. This challenge was the first where I just couldn't figure out how to say what I intended to say. Every other time I've had a mediocre time of things in this competition, I've had a flawed concept, or I've rushed it, or the overall tone of the piece was a little off. It occurred to me after the fact that having the batter appear smug was a weak direction to take this. I recall the actual batter being one of the younger players on the team, and that he was absolutely overjoyed to make the final hit. Casting the batter as a scared little kid who just didn't want to screw up probably would have made the final paragraph more interesting (or at the very least, it would have made it more readable - Beau's right, those are some ugly last few sentences.) This was the first time that I thought I had something, thought through how to tell it, but simply found myself incapable of coming up with the right things to say - how profoundly frustrating. Apparently, words fail me.

Almost as frustrating was the fact that it was all for naught, anyway. Since there were five remaining Spawn of Steinbeck players, and only four Dark Stormy Knights players, SoS had the advantage. Last season, Spooky and Beau tossed up the "no more teams" post with 8 players left, leaving evenly matched teams. This time around, they posted it with 9, leaving DSK with no chance to avoid an elimination. Since none of us had an immunity to fall back on, SoS got free picking as to who they were going to gang up on. In the end, Ryan got the short straw, and DSK lost a great player and a a great teammate. Let the record state that I stuck with DSK to the bloody end (whoever voted to oust Ryan, it wasn't me). Here's hoping it's not me next week.

Time to get to work.

1 comment:

  1. The cutoff with 9 players seemed like a strong choice when Sam was around...I figured he'd sleepwalk to the merge. In the end, he barely missed it, leaving it at 5-4. Sigh.