Some flash fiction-comedy follows.
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“Metaphors was as rare for me as things I can’t find anywhere.”—Pop Hinks.
Pop was describing a time when he was stretching, reaching, striving for an easy analogy, a way to convey the idea that one thing led him to thinking about another, second, thing. It eluded his thinking brain like a bird that had flown away from his grasp, though. The whole thing was a moment and a bird and Pop himself. Just those three things and they were themselves complete and entirely themselves.
The bird alighted and then flew away just past his gripping fingers, but it was still close enough for him to catch a thought about a moment in which he could envision, or so he said, a time when he caught that bird. A starling, he said he thought he was going to say it was.
Metaphors, analogies, similes could be similarly elusive but in a literal sense. “Slippy eels,” Pop Hinks took to calling them. Whenever three things were lined up like three runners on base, “three separate bases,” he would remind us, he wanted to drive his point home like a home run would.
Pop Hinks was a blues player, one of the greatest slide guitarists on the north side of Kansas City, but on the Kansas side, where there were no blues players. It was long a terrible source of frustration for him that he regularly was ranked the third-greatest slide player on the Kansas side of the north side of Kansas City, even though he was the only one. He did not play with a slide, which he speculated may have presented him with most of his trouble.
Pop Hinks also played professional baseball in that far-long-ago era of the 1930s. He starred in a semipro league that was an imitation of the Negro Leagues, but one that starred white players only. [See Note Below.]
His baseball days were filled with long nights of transcendent sadness spent daydreaming on the bench about playing baseball, and sometimes his daydreams approximately coincided with the game he was watching but not participating in. His blues nights were spent waiting in the backrooms of the seedless bars he did not play in, waiting eagerly to hear the one name he most wanted to hear called to the stage: his own. He never heard it and it was even more rarely called.
He could never find, not till his dying day, which has not yet come, he could never find the analogy that would match his baseball love with his blues love. One song, “A Grand-Slam,” he never played, but this was only partly because he never wrote it. Another, “The Walk Off,” was never requested. Yet another, “The One-Four-Five,” describing a little-seen play in which a pitcher fields a hit and inexplicably throws to an out-of-position second baseman who throws to third to catch a confused runner off base, was never written, although I am debuting it below.
It is difficult, Pop Hinks would tell us, long before morning—really, it was morning already and we were having breakfast—it is so very hard to find a metaphor that covers all analogies, communicates something about real-life situations like love and baseball and the blues that may fit most listeners and their situations in life and in metaphor. There are few walk-off homers in life or art or in the blues.
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The Magnificent Glass Pelican (MGP) is a live half-hour radio comedy show that my friends and I have written, produced, and acted in for over two decades. Lately, it has been an improvised half-hour, produced by us and scripted live on-air with our mouths.
“Pop Hinks” is a monologue I wrote 15-20 years or so ago, when I had not yet started thinking. Sean Marrinan plays Pop Hinks, and that is Sean with the impressive beard on his face. John Burdick plays the guitar.
“The One Four Five,” is a song that John Burdick wrote in the voice of blues singer Pop Hinks:
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[Historical note: Before the Brooklyn Dodgers brought Jackie Robinson to the major leagues, white team owners created and maintained a ban on playing black baseball players, so the black community built its own a professional baseball league. It was called the Negro Leagues, and it existed from the late 1800s till the 1950s, when Major League baseball started to integrate. I hate explaining jokes, but there might be readers who may not know this, who might think something called the Negro Leagues was a weird joke. In reality, it was not a joke, which is a sad fact for America. In the joke, which I have now killed utterly dead, I am picturing a world in which white America, upon seeing the success of the Negro Leagues, would create a baseball league to steal black America’s thunder, even while professional baseball was in fact all-white.]
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