Taps for Earthlings, Part 1

Me
I can tell nobody has told Sam Parsons much about my misfortunes.
Boss Tunney
  Remember, Sam ain’t Beau Brummel, so you don’t have to heed his fashion advice.
Me
  True, writing a stats column for Fantasy Baseball Daily don’t qualify, even if we are celebrating his freedom.
Boss Tunney
Being sprung from the alcoholic center doesn’t mean he can edit GQ.
Me
He got one look at my clothes and choked on a piece of cake.
Boss Tunney
What happened, exactly?
Me
He said I had become a suit. Lay off, Sam, I said. He said: Look! A gray suit, a black tie. Dressed for management, or burial!
Me
He then asked where’s my purple-and-green checked sports jacket. I told him it’s Elena’s fault: she made a gentleman of me.
Boss Tunney
You two got married just before they took Sam’s pink elephants away. Have you flipped out so soon?
Me
You don’t know, either, Chief?
Boss Tunney
No, what happened?
Me
Well, it was right after Sam went loopy that Elena started hearing voices.
Boss Tunney
What kinda voices?
Me
It got so bad, she’s now at Glendale Horizon upstate. I just came back from visiting.
Boss Tunney
Well, did the psychiatrist give you a diagnosis?
Me
Yeah, catatonia, or more specifically excited catatonia.
Boss Tunney
Oh, very rough. The outlook is never good in such cases.
Me
Maybe they can’t help her, but I will.
Boss Tunney
Now Harlan, you’re a player analyst! You run the best tip sheet, but not in the medical world.
Me
So?
Boss Tunney
My publisher is on my back, and I can use a player ranking sheet from you.
Me
Those medical-world shrinks don’t know what’s wrong with Elena.  I do!
Boss Tunney
You do?
Me
Well almost.
Boss Tunney
That’s interesting, maybe you can collaborate with Sam on an article for Modern Psychiatrics.
Me
No, really, just look at this chart. Look here, I use the same system that I always use to dope the player predictions.
Boss Tunney
Are ya sure that’s the way to diagnose psychosis?
Me
Look, Elena’s got excited catatonia; she used to be a dancer before we got married, and now she does time steps all day.
Sam
We meet again, Boss and son. I overheard you; ya know stereotyped movements are typical of catatonia.
Me
You don’t get it; she does time steps! That’s the first thing you learn in tap dancing. But its the same steps repeatedly for hours on end each day, and she keeps talking like she’s carefree and happy!
Boss Tunney
Sounds like she’s gone, all right.
Me
Talks like she’s givin’ lessons to some jerk kid who can’t get it straight.
Boss Tunney
I hear when these catatonics pull out, they don’t remember much, or maybe nothing.
Sam
It’s protective amnesia.
Me
She better pull out soon! I tell you I miss that girl. She can’t tell her hubby from her hair dresser, but she sees somebody she’s teachin’, and I’m gonna dope it out.
Sam
It’s too much for you.
Me
Too much for me, huh, Parsons? Who was it picked six complete-game starting pitchers opening day? I’ll beat the schizophrenia handicap.
Boss Tunney
You haven’t been paying much attention to your player prediction sheet while you been doping out your catatonia gal.
Me
I miss Elena! I miss the wool sweaters soaking in the sink, the toothpaste tubes squeezed from the middle. I have to get her back somehow.
Sam
So how do you dope it out so far?
Me
I took a cab. I went out to that place. I sat in a room and watched her give dance lessons. Elena was worth watching, even with her eyes dead and shooting blanks. Somehow her feet kept shuffling through that time step. . .
* * * * * * *
Keys
Mr. Locke, visiting time is almost up.
Me
All right, all right, Keys.
Me
Elena, listen. Elena, how long can this kid take to learn a time step?
Keys
She can’t hear you!
Me
Look, Lainey, I don’t know who these squares are that you’re working for, but tell them that if they take you, they gotta take me.
Key
It don’t work that way!
Me
Here I had my key idea. Elena was showing them how to dance, whoever they are. And the only way I could spring her was to find out who was controlling her and why.
Sam
This assumes there is somebody actually there.
Boss Tunney
As the poem says, As I was going up the stair, I met a man who wasn’t there. He wasn’t there again today, I wish that he would stay away.
Me
My first step was to get this dim bulb interested in me and what I know about baseball and doping out player predictions.
Sam
It worked when you went for your present job!
Me
So I stood there next to Elena and I started to talk.
Sam
They must have been tempted to lock you up, too!
Boss Tunney
Not as much as I am tempted to fire you both!
Me
I said, the first thing you got to figure is mean performance. You take a pitcher, you’ve got to know the mean stats, going back through the minors, then you got to know how to adjust those stats to major-league conditions.
Sam
Excruciating minutiae, that’s you all right!
Me
And there’s training. You take a lefty with good breaking stuff, see them during the spring with the big leaguers, and check if they can fool hitters who can handle breaking stuff. You also got to know any phobias.
Keys
Mr. Locke are you all right?
Me
You top rank a pitcher who’s scared of big crowds, you’re gonna come a cropper.
Sam
Big crowds could just as easily make a fireballer throw harder.
Me
True. So I kept coming back every day, I’d just sit there next to Elena and talk about baseball and hope. Then finally I started hearing their voices.
Boss Tunney
I’m not sure I’d admit that.
Me
A voice said: Locke, this way, Come this way, this way Locke, come on now.
Sam
I had a similar experience with snakes.
Boss Tunney
Hissing?
Sam
No, talking!
Me
I could still see the attendant in his white coat…
Sam
I can still see mine, too, and just as plain…
Me
He kept asking me questions, but I couldn’t hear him. I just kept talking about the ballplayers, and then suddenly I was there!
Boss Tunney
Where was ya?
Me
Somewhere else. I was in a big arena and the folks looked like at a futuristic ballpark or maybe the Atlanta airport, but with trees and statues, hundreds of people standing around, looking on edge.
Sam
Sounds like a NASCAR event.
Me
Well, there was a little man with big glasses standing next to me. He looks scared, but I knew it had worked; I was on my way to visit Elena!
Sam
And not just the automaton Elena, eh?
Me
Yes, and it really did work! Wait’ll you hear this. I was on another planet!
* * * * * * 

Look for part 2