Dear readers, tonight we listen in on a conversation between two characters from the end of the century, in a post-WW3 America where baseball is an act of treason.
Zelda: What are you going to do about a job?
Puppy: I’m still the official –
Zelda: – and only –
Puppy: – baseball historian until the end of this season before they plow under Amazon Stadium.
Zelda: You need to start looking now or else they’ll send you to a Disappointment Village.
Puppy: I’ll get something. I’ve got talents.
Puppy: Excuse me. Didn’t you just get hauled before the principal of your school?
Zelda: Because parents are fools. Because I can’t be creative. Because I don’t kiss their dumb-ass kids’ butts. I’m looking into fish marketing since the radioactive levels have been dropping in the Atlantic. Supposedly there’s real tuna swimming around and having fun. Or maybe it’s salmon, I’m not sure.
Puppy: Sounds fascinating. You’ll last a week. I guess we failures can always share an apartment in the DV.
Zelda: Grandma’s bra straps, we’re never going back there, Puppy. Have some so-called chicken tacos.
Puppy: Which one of The Family’s rules piss you off the most?
Zelda: Where to begin, where to begin. Replenishing the 17 million we lost in the War takes a lot of humping. Lots of humping. But no casual sex. Only for mating and breeding.
Puppy: No surprise you hate that one.
Zelda: With both my chins. And you, oh celibate one?
Puppy: Hey, I had sex just the other year.
Zelda: Because you’re still not over your bitch ex-wife Annette.
Puppy: Not quite ex yet. We’re still going to the Couples Center. Yelling at your soon-to-be former wife once a week because Grandma believes love doesn’t simply disappear tops the list of pissy rules, along with owning baseball memorabilia being a treasonous crime.
Zelda: And you own a lot of treason, don’t you?
Zelda: What am I going to do, Pup?
Puppy: How’d this happen, Zel?
Zelda: The usual way. Stop with the look, Pup. Birth control’s illegal. Shit happens. And no, I wasn’t drunk during sex. For once. Just tipsy. I really like Diego.
Puppy: Then tell him.
Zelda: For what reason? There’s no marrying because of accidental pregnancies, remember? That undermines a healthy marriage. Even if Diego loved me, I don’t know we’d pass the tests. And what is the damn Family except for all these loving relationships? Grandma’s First Insight: All you need is love. Yeah, that’s easy to say unless you’ve never found it like me. Except maybe this time, maybe this time…
Puppy: Then take the chance…
Zelda: Diego’s like 22. I’m 37. He’ll run like hell.
Puppy: There are no abortions, either, honey.
Zelda: And no single mothers. If I’m not married, they’ll take away my baby. Like I said, what am I going to do, Puppy? What am I going to do?
Puppy (Imagining since he’s in the Caliphate of England)
Puppy: Since we’ve been friends since you were 13, I know you’re hearing me somehow, Zel. Some way. First, we’re okay. Everything exploded. Amazon Stadium. Miners. Grandma. Cheng. I don’t even know if you’ve heard any news. But Annette and I escaped to London. Yes, that Annette. Put aside your feelings. Okay, your hatred. She insisted on coming. I barely survived a knife attack by a drunk in an alley and then we hid in a church. Right, first time I’ve ever seen one, too. The Allahs make the English Crusaders use their churches for animals, like a farm. Lots of goat poop. I’ve got a hole in my ribs, feverish, it gets much better – we got captured. We’re in a prison camp somewhere in the wilds of England. Guess what? The Baseball Brigade’s here. Come on, you don’t remember the story? After baseball was blamed for the terrorist attack during the 2065 World Series, the greats signed up for the military to show baseball was loyal. Tony Felton of the Cleveland Spiders is here. Johanna Busco, too. Unfortunately they think I’m a traitor so we’re not exactly having meals together. Actually I punched out Felton. And Annette doesn’t think our mattress is firm enough. I know, I know. The joys of prison life. But the food’s not bad.
Zelda (Imagining since she’s in the United States)
Zelda: Well here he is, Pup. I’m holding up Diego Jr. He’s pretty ugly as much as I know anything about babies, but he looks like Diego. Or Pablo. O-kay. I was lonely one night. O-kay. So it could be Diego Jr. or Pablo Jr. Fifty-fifty isn’t bad for me. After I escaped from the Miners camp, I made my way to somewhere in Connecticut. The Black Tops were fighting baseball fans, there was a curfew, and in the craziness I managed to sneak into a hospital. Where yes, the baby happened. I hope I learn to like children eventually. He pees a lot when he’s not crying. My nipples hurt all the time. I slipped out when they asked for my Lifecard, hitched a ride, robbed a bodega for diapers and ended up in Boston. Ready? First Cousin Cheng has ordered only two parks rebuilt, Wrigley Field and Fenway Park. Forget Yankee Stadium, they say it’s cursed. But I finger-wrote your name in cement near home plate in Fenway. Now this woman Mary I met near the building site has taken us in. She has five brats all named after famous Red Sox players. I’m working as a waitress in her diner. Not funny, Puppy. I don’t trust her but I’m not sure why. Maybe because like you I’m a fugitive? Though if they try and take my ugly squished-face son I will kill lots of them. Lots. My baby’s the bahm diggity.
Gary Morgenstein’s novels and plays have been featured in national media from The New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, Parade Magazine, the New York Post, Sports Illustrated and Fox News Radio to NPR. His recently published sixth novel is A Fastball for Freedom (“Field of Dreams in a nightmare landscape of darkness”), the sequel to his critically-acclaimed dystopian baseball-science fiction A Mound Over Hell (“1984 Meets Shoeless Joe”). An accomplished playwright, his heralded funny new post-pandemic drama, A Black and White Cookie, has had Zoom readings performed by theater companies in New York City, the United Kingdom, Washington, DC , New Jersey and Los Angeles. He is also the author of the stage dramas Saving Stan and A Tomato Can’t Grow in the Bronx, and the off-Broadway sci-fi rock musical The Anthem. Morgenstein is co-creator and writer of the new YouTube scripted television series Joyland, uniquely producedon the Zoom platform and set during the tumultuous 1960s. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.
You can meet Zelda and Puppy on the pages of A Mound Over Hell.
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