Archie Smith: Boy Wonder
by Scott Lake
Inspired by the title and caption of the illustration of the same name in the book, “The Mysteris of Harris Burdick” by Chris Van Allsburg
“Yes mom, I finished it!” yelled Archie just as he was stuffing his notebook into his backpack. It's too bad he didn't take more care in clipping the homework into all 3 rings, instead of just 2, since it got torn as he stuffed it in. He'll have to redo the work over the weekend, and take an A minus instead of the A, because it's going to be late. But that's coming on Monday and Archie's world is going to be much different then than it is now.
“OK honey, then come on out here and have some supper.” Archie's mom didn't have time to cook anything tonight but she did stop by Boston Chicken and got a ½ chicken, mashed potatoes, rolls and a tossed salad, that she will split with Archie since she never finishes it anyways. She's been concerned about his eating habits ever since Steve passed away, but tonight, Archie seems to be devouring it all, cucumbers included. Her choice of foods hasn't been the greatest, in all reality. So instead of the typical Mac n Cheese, tonight they would both have a balanced meal for once.
“Now Archie, you need to get upstairs, and brush your teeth. Since it's Friday night, you can stay up until 9:00.” Archie's mom said as she saw the bathroom light switch on and heard the water come on. “Wow, I wonder what has gotten into him?” “Mom, I'm tired. Can I go to bed early?” “Archie, is everything o.k.?” “Yeah mom, I just feel tired and I was wondering if I could get to bed now instead of later.” “Sure, Archie – no problem. You are kind of scaring me; eating cucumbers, going to bed early. What's next?” “Maybe he is finally coming to grips with Steve's death. I wish that I could. I miss him so much.”
When Archie got into his room, he grabbed his box containing his baseball card collection, his flashlight and his portable radio and headed for bed. He popped off the light switch with a well placed nerf basketball shot and a “Smith sinks a trey at the buzzer, baby!” shout mimicking Dick Vitale, his favorite basketball announcer. As the light from the bulb faded it was replaced by a pink hue from the setting sun. He made a tent out of his bedcover; his head serving as the pole, switched on the radio and flipped through his cards. He had to take them out of alphabetical order and started to sort them by number of home runs. As the game took a break for the weekend weather report “Sunny skies and highs in the low '70's all weekend folks” that one page of cards that he got after his dad passed away caught his eye. He didn't keep these in the stack where they would get all worn with the others. These were too special. Mays, Ruth, Gehringer, Clemente, and a few newer guys; Rose, Ryan, Carew. These were the greats of baseball's rich history and Archie wondered what it must have been like to be one of them.
Ernie Harwell serenaded Archie and about 127,000 other people listening to the game. His soothing voice always made Archie feel like he was home and soon the tent pole he had made was drooping over. Soon Archie was dreaming of images of the Bambino pointing to the right field stands, an over-the-shoulder miracle by Willie Mays (find out nickname), and a first base head-first slide by Charlie Hustle. Funny thing was, it wasn't Babe's or Willie's or Pete's faces that he saw on the apparitions, but his own. As he dreamed of the bottom of a TV screen showing “Smith's last pitch clocked at 97 mph” he finally succumbed to a deep sleep.
“OK, Meson, do you have the latest scouting report on all the boys in town.” asked Hadron while they all were gathered in the grass at the edge of the swings in the park near Elmwood's downtown. Downtown is actually a very generous term for this sprawling metropolis of exactly 829 people. It was at it's center nevertheless, so this team usually used it as a rendezvous point on their missions.
Meson spoke up “Yes sir, I have the report. Tonight we have 4 boys to consider. We have Joey McPherson, Ian Wilson, Archie Smith, and David Wallace. All have been monitored at various points during the last several weeks by Muon, Lepton, Quark, Baryon and myself. It's very difficult to choose between them sir. They all have exemplified character worth considering, well, except for David Wallace. David has found the joys of armpit flatulence, and has disturbed class this week more than once with his antics. We've already decided that David is out of this weeks consideration. Lepton has his work cut out for him. So, starting our list of contenders with Joey McPherson – here is the latest.
Joey has been treating his younger sister very nicely, with none of the characteristic teasing and harassing that he exhibited about this time last year. It could be due to the fact that his sister MaryAnn slugged him with a perfectly placed roundhouse left and gave him a shiner that took several weeks to completely disappear. When Baryon came back with the initial incident memo, we all had to go and check it out. We never guessed there were so many shades between green and purple! Anyhow, he really has shaped up and is getting along very well with MaryAnn these days.
Then we have Ian Wilson. Ian has certainly picked up his grades after seeing that report on PBS about the United States falling behind other countries in Mathematics and Science. That really was a stroke of genius, Quark, getting the local station programming director to run that. Quark picked up on Ian's patriotism when he saw the 'Proud to be an American' bumper sticker that Ian had very carefully put on the back of his wagon.
Next is Archie Smith. As you are aware sir, Archie's father passed away last fall. Archie seems to have handled it pretty well, but lately he has taken a turn for the worse. Archie has been my assignment, and it's my opinion sir, that Archie needs some direct intervention. He has let his schoolwork slip, his eating habits barely give him enough energy to get out of bed in the morning, and he has struck out 11 of the last 15 times he has been up to bat. My vote is for Archie.”
“Well, do we have agreement amongst the rest of the team?” asked Hadron. “Let's see it by a show of your beacons.” Instantly, Muon, Meson, Lepton, Baryon and Quark gave signal. “OK, that settles it. Archie is the target this week. We have to move fast. Our window of opportunity is this Saturday – just 2 nights between now and then. This is a pretty routine assignment, but we have to get it right and it's going to take the whole team to pull it off.
Hadron showed why he had been chosen leader for this sector as he barked out assignments. “Meson, you need to take care of the nutritional situation. Whatever it takes, make sure Archie gets at least one good meal in his stomach before Saturday. Quark, I need you to make sure his mind and concentration are sharp. No staying up late watching the late movie this Friday. And whatever might distract him from the coming week, we need your help clearing that. Muon, you've always been the best at encouragement. I need you to think of something creative here. We've been given special privilege to mess a little with the laws of physics in this sector for this task, so think about how you can use that tidbit. I'm sure you'll knock out something with a quick glance around his room. Meson, make sure that Muon gets a good look around. In fact, I might need all of you to take a spin over to Archie's to give enough light to give Muon a chance to see whatever might be helpful for Saturday. Baryon, you get the weather this weekend. The task is outdoors, so weather is critical this time around. Lepton, you've got the opposition this time. I know it's a dirty assignment, but somebody has to do it. I'll waive opposition for you for the next few rounds if you pull this one off. So, let's get out there and get it done. Oh, I almost forgot to introduce our intern, who will be observing the task this week. Guys, meet Neutrino. Neutrino was on assignment once before over in White Lake, but this will be his first time observing the whole task. Why don't you take him over to Archie's as well, the more beacons the better.”
The team followed Meson's lead over to 317 Magnolia and fortunately Archie's window was open. They hated assignments where they had to use pet doors, dirty chimneys, or the delay of making someone forget to open a window. That always meant an extra day on the assignment. Neutrino kept quiet the whole time on the way over, but stayed right by Meson's side. When they got there, they were surprised when a tiny voice asked, “Is he the one?”. Well, it was now apparent why Neutrino had been quiet the whole time. Let's just say that he hadn't quite gotten over his youthful voice. Also, asking such a ridiculous question tipped them off that Neutrino was new to the working world. Well, they would have to show him how it's done so he wouldn't embarrass himself in the future. Two nights was not much time to get all of the preparation done. Once they gave Muon a good look around he shouted “I've got it!”
Archie awoke Saturday and leapt out of bed. He had the strangest dreams overnight. Must be the game today. Lately, he had been dreading his games and wanted to quit the team. But for whatever reason, he was looking forward to the game today. As he was looking in the mirror checking his muscles with his best Charles Atlas impression, he thought that his biceps looked a little bigger than usual. His stomach gave a complaint as the aroma of freshly fried bacon greeted him on the way out of the bathroom.
“Archie, I've decided to treat you to a full cooked breakfast today.” called Archie's mom from downstairs. Archie wasted no time getting to the table nor polishing off the last of the pancakes and the O.J. He didn't even care that the juice tasted extra bitter after the syrup, or that mom messed up and got the 'Extra Pulp' version. He slugged down 3 glasses in a flash.
Archie knew what it meant. Bottom of the 9th, the team down by one run and runners on 1st and 3rd and 1 out. He was on deck. Archie dreamed what could happen and instead of asking to be replaced by a pinch batter, in his mind he heard Ernie Harwell say “Smith swings for the fence. And that one is LOOOOooong gone!”
Three minutes later it was all over. All over except for the goosebumps, the high fives, his mom beaming, and the distinct memory of a tiny voice saying “Man that was fun! Now I know why you guys stay up late to do this.”