Speed Date

Playing for the New York Yankees, that would be a dream come true. Playing for the Milwaukee Brewers, that was like having a wet dream about your wife.

The women perked up and the men on the other side of the room deflated as Dobbs walked in. He was 6’3” and built like a sprinter. A plump woman with a clipboard waved him over and had him pick a card out of a hat, then told him to stand with the other men.

   Dobbs thought about the game last night. He had been staring at a pretty girl in the stands. The catcher had noticed and picked him off, which is pretty unforgivable for a pinch runner. His only job was to not get picked off. He couldn’t hit, he couldn’t throw, and he could barely bunt. All he could do was run fast and supposedly be smart on the base paths.

   The men started to move and Dobbs came back to himself. He vaguely remembered a woman’s voice, maybe the plump woman with a clipboard, giving instructions. The other men were moving off towards booths. The booths were numbered. He looked at the card in his hand. It read “2”. He headed to booth two and sat down. A pretty blond joined him and smiled. A bell rang.

   “What was that?” asked Dobbs.

   “The bell? You didn’t listen to the instructions.”

   “I’ve been having problems concentrating lately. My timing is off.”

   “What do you mean?”

   “Like the bell, and maybe even this conversation. I’ll concentrate on it later, when it’s already too late. I don’t mean I’m not interested, I just – hell, I have no idea what I mean.”

   Dobbs sensed he was making things worse, so he shut up. The blonde held out her hand.

   “My name is Wanda.”

   “Dobbs. Nice to meet you.”

   “If you’re interested in me or another one of the girls, just check the box on the back of your card.”

   Dobbs flipped his card over. Sure enough, there were little pictures of each of the women. There was a pen in his other hand. Where had that come from? Maybe the plump woman with the clipboard? Dobbs worried that he might have a brain tumor.

   “So Dobbs, what do you do?”

   “I’m a professional baseball player.”

   “Really? Are you any good?”

   “I make the league minimum.” It was an old joke, but it was true.

   “What team do you play for?”

   “The Milwaukee Brewers.”

   Wanda smirked and scrunched up her face like she was trying to think.

   “Is that a real team?”

   “At this point, it’s debatable.”

   Wanda paused to examine him.

   “So I’ll ask the obvious question. What’s a guy like you doing here?”

   Dobbs had been wondering the same thing.

   “I’m not good at meeting people. I feel awkward while it’s happening, but I still feel compelled to do it. To meet new people. Sometimes.” Dobbs felt like a big, dumb jock. Wanda probably thought so, too.

   “So what do you do?” asked Dobbs.

   “It’s really not that interesting.”

   “Less interesting than baseball?”

   “How can you say that? I mean, people dream of playing baseball or being an astronaut or whatever, and it never comes true. Your dream came true! You should be happy.”

   Playing for the New York Yankees, that would be a dream come true. Playing for the Milwaukee Brewers, that was like having a wet dream about your wife.

   “I’m sure your job is more important,” said Dobbs. If she asked him one more question about baseball he wouldn’t check her box.

   “I’m a heart surgeon.” said Wanda.

   “How the hell is that boring? I could never do that.” Dobbs tried to imagine it. It was a nightmare to him. Wanda blushed and looked down at the table.

   “It’s really nothing.”

   The bell rang. Dobbs sat staring at Wanda. A man walked up to the table and stood next to him, waiting.

   “Oh,” said Wanda, “you’re supposed to stand up and move to the next booth, booth three.”

   “Nice to meet you, Wanda.”

   “See ya around, meat.” She winked at him. Had she really said that?

   A pretty brunette in glasses was sitting in booth three. She stood up and shook his hand.

   “Melissa.”

   “Dobbs.”

   They sat down.

   “So how’s life treating you, Dobbs?”

   “Alright I suppose.” Dobbs felt weird. He felt like he was cheating on Wanda. He shouldn’t have been staring at that girl in the stands. The league minimum seemed like an enormous amount of money to him. Nearly $500,000.00 a year to mostly just sit around and try not to fall asleep. Relief pitchers were allowed to fall asleep. The announcers said that they had nerves of steel, being able to sleep like that when they could be called in to pitch at any moment. He wondered how he had made the 24 man roster, then remembered. Injuries. Lots of injuries. Injuries to every person who was better than him, which was a lot of people.

   Melissa cleared her throat.

   “I’m sorry. I guess I’m kind of out of it,” said Dobbs.

   “That’s okay. These things are kind of weird,” said Melissa.

   The bell rang. Dobbs felt like an idiot.

   “I’m sorry Melissa. I’m going to check your box so we can talk again later if you want to. If you don’t want to check my box, I can’t blame you.”

   Melissa smiled at him. She flipped her card over and checked off a box with her pen. He couldn’t see if it was his box. The same man from booth two was already hovering at his side. He was short and slightly overweight and looked extremely depressed.  

   “Nice to meet you, Melissa.”

   “A pleasure.”

   An earthy looking brunette was waiting for him in booth four. Freckles and glasses. Dobbs thought that she was pretty. He thought that just about all women were pretty. He wondered again if he might have a brain tumor. He didn’t seem to know as many words as most people. A voice in his head told him to concentrate goddammit! Dobbs put his hand out and shook the earthy brunette’s hand as he sat down.

   “Dobbs.”

   “Lilly. You look familiar, Mr. Dobbs.”

   Dobbs wondered if it might be because he played for the Milwaukee Brewers. He decided probably not. He was barely ever on the field.

   “I play baseball for the Milwaukee Brewers.”

   “Really? That doesn’t make any sense.”

   “I know.”

   “No, I mean I don’t watch baseball, I don’t think I know anyone in baseball except for Derek Jeter. Have you ever met Derek Jeter?”

   “I met him once,” Dobbs remembered. He had been put on second base to pinch run for some behemoth on his team. Most of them were behemoths. C.C. Sabathia, the Yankees ace behemoth at the time, was in the middle of some pointless discussion with his coach, so Derek Jeter had moseyed over to make small talk.

   “Hello. My name is Derek Jeter. What’s your name?”

   “Hello. My name is Dobbs.”

   They shook hands.

   “Nice to meet you, Dobbs. And I like your outfit, but you really shouldn’t be out here.”

   Jeter was smiling for the cameras like he always did.

   “I get it. You’re fucking with me because I’m a nobody.”

   “Really, no offense. Dobbs was it? But I have no idea who you are. Are you really a baseball player?”

   “Yes.”

   “Really?”

   Dobbs looked down at the dirt.

   “No.”

   “But you are on the roster? For the Brewers?”

   “Yes.”

   “You don’t look so sure. I think we’d better check.”

   Sabathia was on his way back to the mound. Jeter called a time out and waved him over. The entire infield congregated around second base.

   “Do any of you know this guy?” asked Jeter.

   They all shook their heads.

   “Come on, C.C.,” said Dobbs. C.C. Sabathia had been with him on the Brewers the previous year. C.C. Sabathia gave him a long searching look. It was like looking into the eyes of a drugged bear.

   “Yeah. I remember him. Hobbs.”

   “Dobbs.” said Dobbs.

   “Dobbs.” said C.C.

   “Sorry, Dobbs,” said Jeter, “I get a little paranoid out here sometimes.”

   Dobbs was wondering whether Derek Jeter was just a big jerk or crazy or both when he was picked off. Now that he thought about it, he seemed to get picked off a lot.

   “Hello, Dobbs?”

   “Sorry. I kind of phased out for a second there.”

   “That was a little longer than a second. Maybe you should get an MRI.”

   Dobbs’ face dropped.

   “Oh my God I’m sorry, I was just kidding. You don’t – ?”

   “No, not that I know of. I think I’ve just been distracted lately.”

   “Whew.” Lilly pretended to wipe sweat from her forehead. “So what’s on your mind? What’s been distracting you?”

   The bell rang.

   “Sorry Lilly. I’m going to check your box, so we can talk later if you want. I’m really bad at this.”

   “It’s okay.”

    The same man was waiting at his side. He looked haggard.

   “How much more of this?” asked Dobbs. He looked from the man to Lilly, asking them both.

   “12 more.” said Lilly.

   “Jesus Christ.” said the man.

   “I know a place around the corner,” said Dobbs, “want to get a beer?”

   “Sure.” said the man. They started to leave. Dobbs turned back to Lilly.

   “You want to come?” asked Dobbs.

   “I think I’ll stick around and keep going.”

   “Nice to meet you Lilly. And you too, Melissa. And Wanda? See ya around, meat.”

   Dobbs checked off their boxes and handed his card to the plump woman with the clipboard. She told him he could keep the pen.

H. Seitz

H. Seitz

H. Seitz is the author of the Sci-fi novella "Iron Manimal" and a contributing writer at The Skull Island Times.
H. Seitz

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