AN EXCERPT FROM “The Shaman In Relief”


   Dust flew and loose stone crunched under the tires as Mathis pulled into the lot in front of the Route 62 Funplex.

    He parked beside a silver BMW convertible that seemed to glow in the sunshine. He killed the engine and pulled up the league website on his phone. Twelve days into May and the Cherokees were in the process of dropping their seventh in a row, digging a trench at the bottom of the NL Central. A triple play by the Mets had killed a fourth-inning, bases-loaded, nobody-out rally. Mathis expected Paulson was climbing the walls of the owner’s suite.

    Mathis pocketed the phone as he entered the Funplex. The teenaged girl at the ticket booth glanced over the top of a dog-eared copy of Us Weekly, sized him up with bored brown eyes, and pointed in the direction of the miniature golf course. “Eleventh hole,” she said.

    “Excuse me?”

    She sighed. “You’re the baseball man, right?”

    Mathis nodded.

    “Mister Raines’s office is next to the eleventh hole. The one with the Alamo.”

- o -

    “Baseball Man!” Raines called as if they were old friends. He stood up behind his desk and offered his hand. The man was tall and lean. His tan was deep. He looked like a vacationing executive, pink Abercrombie & Fitch polo, gray khaki shorts and flip-flops. “Roger Raines.”

    “Earl Mathis,” Mathis said.

    “Made it okay, huh? Good, good.”

    “This is an interesting set-up you’ve got,” Mathis said. “I was expecting you worked out of an office building.” Mathis had done his homework. Raines made a respectable living in amusements: three locations on the reservation, plus a couple off-site, go carts, mini golf, batting cages and arcades.

    “I like the sound of the kids having fun in the fresh air.” Raines said. “Occasionally, they knock one off the wall. It reminds me how I got where I am.”

    “I suppose that’s better than a go-cart crashing through the door.”

    “You don’t know how right you are.” Raines studied him. Mathis tried to be inscrutable. “My grandfather said I could bring you over when you arrived.”

    “Do you think he’ll accept our offer?”

    Raines laughed. “I’ve stopped trying to figure out what he’ll do next, Baseball Man.” Raines grabbed his keys from the desk. “But if he doesn’t put the whammy on you, you’re welcome to come back and play eighteen holes on me.”

    “You really think he’d curse me?”

    “Nah,” Raines said. “He’s only done it the one time.”