Building a business

Man stands in an emp­ty ball field at home plate. It’s night, half a moon, maybe less. A few clouds scud across the sky. A dull glow on the hori­zon, some dis­tant city. Enough light to see, but bare­ly. The wind moans through the bat­ting cages. Lone­ly.

The man holds an old, well loved wood­en bat in his right hand. Work boots, well worn jeans, untucked shirt, fore­arms scratched with many cuts, t-shirt flecked with dark sliv­ers of glass. Stub­ble, un-combed hair. Skin creased. Eyes intense.

Behind him an enor­mous pile of light­bulbs. All the way behind him to the fence, twice as high as he is, they flow down to his feet, per­fect in their man­u­fac­ture. The ground direct­ly around him cov­ered with shat­tered white glass and the met­al screw bot­toms of bro­ken bulbs. Thou­sands.

Hold­ing the bat loose­ly, he turns and steps back. Shoes crunch­ing on bro­ken glass in the qui­et. He leans and reach­es for the pile of bulbs, picks one up. Steps back to the plate, faces the mound. Turn­ing the bulb in his hand, he inspects it. White glass, per­fect­ly com­plete. Flip­ping it in his hand, he catch­es it by the bulb. In one smooth motion, he light­ly toss­es it up, brings the bat to his shoul­der and swings might­i­ly.

The bat catch­es the bulb per­fect­ly. In slow motion the bulb shat­ters, fil­a­ment giv­ing off the briefest small spark that dies in the night. The met­al screw bot­tom flies crazi­ly into the black­ness. A slight stag­ger as he fol­lows through the swing. Glass crunch­es again. He paus­es, breathes, wipes his mouth. Turns, and selects anoth­er bulb.

Repeats process. This time a tiny sliv­er catch­es him under the eye. It bleeds, but not much. Pulls out the sliv­er, smears blood. Wipes his fin­gers on his jeans. Turns, selects anoth­er bulb.

The stars swing ‘round over­head. The mound of bulbs shrinks and moves and grows like a breath­ing being. The man swings again and again. Glass shat­ters, screw bot­toms veer unsteady into the night. The moon begins to set. The bro­ken glass around him ever deep­er.

Over and over, they break, unable to stand up to real­i­ty. Over and over, he swings.

The lights of the city sput­ter in the dis­tance. Light is not unavail­able to him, but it is his own light that he seeks.

The man swings, the bulb explodes, again and again. A thou­sand times. Ten thou­sand. Ten thou­sand and more.

He turns again to the pile, selects a bulb. Holds it, inspect­ing. Per­fect white bulb, per­fect screw bot­tom met­al. He spins it in his hand, hold­ing the bulb. Paus­es, breathes in. In one smooth motion, he light­ly toss­es it up, brings the bat to his shoul­der, and swings might­i­ly.

The bat catch­es the screw met­al bot­tom per­fect­ly. Sharp, grunt­ing exhale at con­tact. The con­nec­tion, the angle, the pow­er, all in align­ment. Slow motion, the bulb shiv­ers but holds, arc­ing away, rac­ing off toward the fences. The man watch­es, mouth open, hop­ing. Intense silent prayer fol­lows the arc. As it flies, the bulb tum­bles, the screw bot­tom met­al now lead­ing the way. The screws catch the air and it begins to spi­ral, to spin.

We see its des­ti­na­tion now, in the dis­tance but clos­ing rapid­ly. A row of black poles, sen­tinels at the far edge of the field. A sock­et looms on some far lamp post. The bulb flies clos­er and clos­er, rid­ing the curve of its arc, drop­ping out of the sky toward the sock­et, slid­ing through a per­fect tra­jec­to­ry.

Still spin­ning, it clos­es through space to the sock­et, halv­ing the dis­tance infi­nite­ly. At 1,000 frames per sec­ond we see the puff ring of dust pushed out of the sock­et as the bulb enters it. The spi­ral motion forces it to seat itself, the bot­tom makes con­tact. The bulb blazes bril­liant­ly, reflects off the cloud of dust motes shak­en loose by impact.

Tem­po­rary vic­to­ry, her­ald­ed only by the scream­ing lone­ly night. The far off seething city knows noth­ing.

To the left and right of the blaz­ing light stand more sock­et­ed and bulb-less posts, black in the night. They stretch all the way around the ball field, to the edge of the world, each emp­ty.

Back to the man. He sees the light in the far dis­tance, his pupils widen then con­strict back down. He smiles crooked­ly, rais­es a hand to his eyes to shade them.

Turns back to the pile, selects a bulb.

Trust me kid, you’ll nev­er run out of bulbs. Just don’t run out of game.

NFH

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