The Shivers — Baltimore

It occurred to me that I haven’t shaved in almost four days.

I’m usually pretty good about grooming. I like to have a fresh pair of drawers on everyday with a clean undershirt and socks. I’m okay wearing the same slacks or jeans the next day and if my collared shirt isn’t too dirty, I might try and wear it a couple of days in a row providing I don’t have to go to church or some place fancy. But when the flying saucer landed at the US Capitol building and started sucking members of Congress out with that big hose like a kid drinking a milkshake, I kind of forgot about getting in a shower.

It’s surprising what you can get used to if you have something to focus on. For me, I’m pretty darn focused on getting to Reno and finding my family.

I’m sure my wife will nag me about my appearance, but I’m so excited to see her that I’ll take a couple of lumps from her. Nita sure is a peach but she has a heck of a temper when she has to wait around for a while.

I guess the worst day was the first. I knew the world was filled with sharp corners and pointy sticks, but I had no idea there could be so much nasty things out there. I just assumed Jesus put aliens on other planets and the Devil like to keep busy making all kinds of horrible things to scare the dickens out of you, but who would have thought that Lucifer could be so busy? Four days ago, I was getting ready to suit up for a game against the Baltimore Orioles and next thing I knew, some giant creature made of burning bricks from Memorial Park would start throwing said bricks at my teammates and the Orioles? I once saw my father pull out a two-headed catfish from the creek once, but I figured that was just God telling me that somethings can be a little different from others. But when you see a brick monster eat Brooks Robinson, Boog Powell, and Jim Palmer and then shoot a piece of masonry through Frank Robinson, you got to figure something funny is happening.

I got to remember to write a letter to Frank’s wife and tell her he died peacefully—well, as peacefully as a fellow can die with a cider block taking off his head.

Sitting in the dugout watching the destruction unfold, I figured Johan Santana would have to wait a day to go for his third consecutive win. I was fixing to ask the skipper, Cookie Lavagetto, if I should hit the showers when something darn peculiar happened—Cookie’s eyeballs exploded in his head. But instead of taking a seat on the bench, he did something even more peculiar for somebody who’s eyeballs just exploded, a set of eagle wings grew out of his back and he started attacking, killing and eventually eating members of the Orioles grounds keeping crew. I went to nudge Del Unser and ask him if he ever saw anything like that when he got up and brained Ken McMullen with a bat.

That’s when I knew I should probably get out there.

As the brick monster continued to eat members of the Orioles and fans that were waiting for the first pitch, I saw most of my teammates had transformed into some lizard-like creatures and proceeded to kill with their bare hands. Now, I spend a good amount of time reading my Bible, but it took me a minute or so to figure out that this is probably the Apocalypse and I needed to hightail it out of there unless I wanted to be eaten alive by starting catcher, Paul Casanova.

People tell me all the time that things are only hard until you’ve done it before. I took no joy in crushing and killing our batting coach, but his hands had grown into bear-like paws with claws that could cut straight through concrete like a hot knife through butter. Even after I beat his head in with a bat, he still tried to eat me and that wasn’t something I was comfortable with. Running into the locker room, I only had a minute to grab my bag and get out of the stadium. I was lucky enough to jump in the back of a speeding sedan before the entire stadium collapsed in a horrific sound and I saw what looked like a lime green mist start percolating up from the ground. I’m no scientist, but it seemed like anybody who got in the way of that green mist transformed into one of those Shiver’s Walt Disney was talking about and started killing and destroying anything in their path.

I never got a chance to meet the drive of the car because he was teleported into outer space by some sort of death ray, forcing me to climb from the back and take control of the car. Who is to say if that sharp beam of light was actually a death ray but it sure did kill a bunch of people trying to run away from the destruction. I only got a brief look at what was shooting it and it was some sort spaceship with what looked like an octopus driving it. There were two of those tentacled beasts on the back shooting the death ray, but I guess I was pretty slick that day—I drove like a madman and got the heck out of there.

The next day was probably the worst.

I forgot the cream for my athlete’s foot and my dogs were itching. I always try to put on a fresh pair of socks, but listening to the radio underneath a railroad bridge with a group of refugees, we heard some of the worst news ever. The Golden Gate Bridge collapsed after walruses chomped through the pylons, the Empire State Building launched into space like a rocket, and Groucho Marx died from third-degree burns fighting off some sort of a swarm of fire ants that could use matches and gasoline. Lake Michigan emptied into Chicago killing everybody without a boat and brass bands in New Orleans formed an undead army that just killed everybody in earshot with subsonic notes. Worst of all, that green mist thing was still oozing out and it seemed like every “normal” person I came into contact with became a Shiver and started killing recklessly.

I tried to make a phone call to Nita, but the phone booth was like a Venus Fly Trap and I had to kick out the glass to escape before it filled with corrosive acid and eat me. Worst of all, it ate my nickel.

I try to be as Christian as possible with my fellow man, but I painfully realized that I needed take care of myself and get out to Reno to find my family. I took no joy in wielding an axe and mindlessly killing anybody who came into contact with me. Even folks who I thought were safe, I chopped right down the center because I couldn’t afford to take any chances.

It wasn’t until I reach Akron, Ohio did I meet a fellow who I thought I could trust. People tell me that Ernest Hemingway is a pretty decent writer, but I found out quickly that he is an excellent axe fighter. We must have sparred for 20-minutes before we decided to team up and get out West were it seemed like things were not so crazy. He had this great Datsun Z250 with racing strips and a cooler filled with beer and something called Benzedrine and Angel Dust. I’m not much of a drinker but I am a Christian and I sure did like that Angel Dust. Benzedrine was dirty but I felt like it was fighting the devil himself in my head when I smoked Angel Dust. With a couple of Coors Banquet Beers in me and a cigarette or two laced with Angel Dust, I can hardly remember getting from Akron to Salt Lake City.

Hemingway was a big, gregarious fellow who told me stories about killing rhinos and giraffes. I thought it was weird that he had to kill a giraffe considering there was so many elk and trout that needed to be taken out of God’s wilderness, but he just said they are just African elk. That made all of the sense in the world to me and I enjoyed hearing him get drunk as we drove across the country.

He said he won a couple of awards writing but I wasn’t too interested. It turns out when you start smoking Angel Dust, you’re much more interested in killing Shivers and avoiding monsters. It wasn’t until he got brained in a bar in Elko did it occur to me I should have found out more about this Ernest Hemingway fellow.

I definitely need to write his wife and tell him he died a pretty quick death—that’s not exactly true, but I don’t want his wife fretting over him.

Because Lyndon, Ernie and Walt were all gone, I was pretty lonely and a little depressed. I think not having anymore Angel Dust can do that for a fellow. In four days time, I saw more destruction and death than any ten men should every have to see in their lifetime. That’s probably why, against my better judgment, I decided to pickup that hitchhiker outside of Lovelock, Nevada.

He seemed like a normal enough guy walking down the road with his thumb out. He was carrying a shotgun, but so was I—didn’t feel like judging too hard.

I slowed down the truck and pulled ahead of him. I honked the horn twice, and I saw him jog up and jump in the front seat.

“Thanks for picking me up,” he said. “Oh, did you spill something on the front seat?”

I didn’t have the heart to tell him about the liquefied person I cleared out.

“You want a beer? Because I’m getting pretty tired and we still have a lot of driving to do before we get to Reno,” I asked him as I fished out a couple of longnecks from the cooler between us.

He greedily drank the beer as I pulled back into the freeway and continued west. I don’t think I have properly slept in three days, but I was so close to getting to Reno that I didn’t care. I just drank my beer and kept the accelerator pushed in as hard as possible. It was probably for the best if we were going to make any time.

“What’s you name, partner?” he asked as he grabbed a second longneck.

“It’s Harmon. What’s yours?”

“Stanley, but my friends call me Stan,” he said wiping his face while starting in on the second beer. “You can call me Stan mostly because I don’t think I have a friend left in this world.”

“All right, Stan, I think you and I can be friends. And when we get to Reno, you can meet my family and they can be your friends too,” I told him as I tried to get my opium pipe lit. “Where you headed to?”

“Los Angeles. I’m going to be a film director.”

“No fooling? I love going to movies. Heck, I used to be pals with Walt Disney.”

“No way! He’s the best. I love that Cinderella movie,” Stan said. “What happened to him?”

“He got stabbed through the head and died. It’s kind of sad.”

“I’d say,” Stan said finishing his second beer and motioning for a third. I nodded my head and he twisted the cap off and started to relax. “Yeah, I like the cartoons, but I want to do a movie about science fiction and mystery stuff.”

“I bet that’ll be real nice, Stan. You mind driving for a while? I think I have gotten a little too wobbly with everything that has happened the last couple of days.”

“No problem.”

Turns out it was a BIG problem.

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