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Slugger - Mark Goetsch

I come from a long line of proud family trees. Hidden from electronic eyes, urban jungle predators look the other way, evidence inbeds my surface features, broken glass on nails shank my core, these wounds fail to invest even its owner. The feel of snow in the air petrifys. My body dragged, reaching pavement, the sound of matchsticks on sandpaper. Up ahead, old maples shake their branches, the ground below tells of their loss, accumulating snow clean sheets. Slugger says that snow is nature’s sound proofing, our signal to play ball. Urban streets give way to Suburban sycamores. The matchsticks go silent.

You should know, they carved my father into Beethoven's last piano.

Since the first sapling sprouted in Eden, our use found violent purpose. Clubs, bats, paddles, switches…crucifixes. The land straddling northern Pennsylvania and southern New York is known as the Hardwood Belt. Roots like mine ply organic loam, 116 redwoods away from the Mason-Dixon line. It’s where we’re harvested.

Slugger says a trunk full of brass nails pierced around the base of any oak, hickory, elm, or aspen will fell it within a month. He says it drains the tree's soul. We reach a patch of forest floor which is littered white except where his kind step, accessibility by attrition. We’re headed back toward my pegboard hook. A two-story complex, renamed each time we “crush one”. Like most all in one utility, I’m kept close to the nightstand, that smells of stale sap and pine tar. Barking wind whiffs me down to my splinters. At the front door, Slugger uses my handle to knock two times.

You should know, craftsmen sanded my mother into the driver’s side front wheel, original production Model T.

Lap belt buckles, broken double pane glass on rusted nails, razor blades, battery acid, every time Slugger "crushed one" he would modify me. Ancients grew us to make grand ships, violins, canopies, thrones, the first airplane, the last carriage, you could age them based on rings, ruin them with too much heat or precipitation, but never by purpose. Once milled in Kentucky, they mortised, lathed, and holed me. Our first shared memory, Slugger used me to fend off pitches thrown by his father. Every time he "crushed one", father would ruffle his hair and say, "Way to go, Slugger!"

A third knock replies, softer, weaker. Slugger’s father cracks open the front door. My final use in daylight is to scare the varmints away from greasy cardboard boxes. A new smell, paint solvent and nail polish remover sticks to me. It must be coming from the attic. Slugger says crawl spaces are just underutilized coffins that he lives between. Mom is kept in the attic for the occasional waterboarding. Artificial light snaps off by the flick of a switch.

You should know, my Uncle was milled into the largest wooden airplane fuselage, the H-4 Hercules.

My uses haven't always been decided by Slugger, only separated by his ancestor's via opposable thumbs. After batting practice, my grain stained with Slugger syrupem, Slugger meat, Slugger teeth, Slugger hair.

Alpine snow sprinkles the roof overhead in uniform. It's now the witching hour, spotlights interrupt pockets of shadow. Stalking through the soundproofing, it's time to play ball. In the darkness, Slugger drags me through a gravel parking lot in between cars, some hoods still steaming. The pockets of gravel make us sound like a rattlesnake coiled tightly before striking. An underage shape looms ahead, Slugger lifts me and chokes up, taking a few more steps.

You should know my Aunt likes to say they treened her, George Washington’s dentures, but any stump with fifty rings will tell you that’s sawdust.

Coring through my insides, termites feast each time Slugger chokes up on my handle. Other than thumb’s, his only quality now is his medieval cruelty. Have you ever tenderized a chicken breast? Slugger uses me to pulverize humanity, globs of syrupem soaked meat hunks fleck off me after every back swing. Steam rises off fresh blood and tissues around melted snow.

“Way to Go, Slugger!” my owner babbles, ruffling the pulpy shredded scalp of our latest victim.

I come from a long line of proud family tree's.


Mark Goetsch - This piece was workshopped in an exclusive fiction lab led by Chuck Palahniuk and Chelsea Cain, multiple NYT bestselling listed authors. The extremely competitive ten-week workshop was limited to only twenty participants selected from hundreds of applicants worldwide. Mark Goetsch was also selected by Palahniuk and Cain to attend a second fiction lab.

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