“Take Me Out to the Ballgame …”
-- by Anne
I intend for this little bit of writing to eventually become the opening scenes for a full-length fan fiction, but since I have about four stories going at once right about now, it may be awhile before this one gets finished! Rather than make everyone wait months until that happens, I decided to post what I have so far as a Fan Fic 100 vignette.
Jessica and Seth’s chess game moves are from the Scotch Gambit, as outlined on the website ChessOps – A Basic Guide to Chess Openings (http://www.eudesign.com/chessops/ch-clear.htm)
I don’t own any of the characters, I’m not trying to maliciously step on anybody’s copyright, and I’m certainly not making any money from writing this.
The fist-sized piece of granite, worn to egg-like smoothness by centuries of tumbling in the ocean waves at the margin of the world, sailed through the air and hit the crest of the wave that rose to meet it with a satisfying kerplunk. The froth of the wavecrest was momentarily disturbed as it swallowed the rock, but quickly recovered itself as it continued to slide towards shore, where it finally expended itself upon the beach with a sigh.
An answering sigh came from the auburn-haired young woman who had thrown the rock into the sea. She gazed out at the choppy waves, and tried to let her thoughts drift like a bit of seaweed floating upon them, but it was no use: the more she attempted to force herself to relax, the more she found herself dwelling upon what a miserable week it had been so far.
First there was Champ, the eight-year-old Rhodesian ridgeback who came in with what his owner assumed was a simple limp from playing too hard at fetch, but who left with a diagnosis of bone cancer and a prognosis of six months to live, or less.
Then there was Maizy, the thirteen-year-old Persian cat. For three years her diabetes had been manageable with careful attention to her diet, blood sugar, and insulin levels. But over the weekend something had upset that delicate balance; two days later, despite their best efforts, she was gone.
Worst of all had been Gus. The gentle giant of a Labrador had survived being hit by a car, an anaphylactic reaction to a bee sting and even Addison’s Disease before chronic arthritis from hip dysplasia left him hobbled and unable to walk even short distances. There was no question that it was his time, but even so there hadn’t been a dry eye in the room when she had given Gus the lethal injection of euthanasia solution that ended his suffering. And then, just before he died, Gus had lifted his enormous head and licked her face, as if thanking her for opening the door for him so that he could pass from this world to the next …
And so on this mild spring late afternoon Tipper had come here, to a rocky beach on the outskirts of Cabot Cove, to seek solace in the peaceful rhythm of the ocean waves. She often came to this place when she was feeling troubled or sad because it was quiet, relatively secluded, and provided an endless supply of rocks for her to take her frustrations out upon.
She picked up another rock and hurled it into the water and then another, trying to see how far she could throw it. She was so intent upon this that she didn’t hear the footsteps as someone approached her.
Tipper paused in mid-windup, just about to let another rock fly, and turned to see Jessica standing next to her, regarding her with an expression of concern.
“Oh,” she said, surprised that she had company. “Uh, hi, Jessica.”
Jessica watched as Tipper threw the rock, following its path until it hit the water with a splash. “Good throw,” she said.
“Yeah, well, I’ve been practicing.” Another rock flew through the air and vanished beneath the waves.
“So I see,” said Jessica. “Tipper, is everything all right?”
“All right? I s’pose so,” Tipper replied without enthusiasm. When Jessica’s eyes continued to bore into her, she relented and added, “It’s just been a rough week, that’s all.”
“At the clinic?”
“Yeah.” She chose another rock – this one a delicate shade of pink flecked with quartz – and threw it into the sea. “Everything’s sick, nothing’s getting better …” She shook her head sadly and forced a smile. “So. What brings you to this part of the cove at this hour?”
“I was out for a walk,” Jessica replied, “and saw you relocating the beach to the ocean floor with more than just casual force.”
This time Tipper’s grin was genuine. “It’s stress relief,” she confessed.
Jessica smiled back. “That’s what I assumed. Do you want to go someplace – maybe get a cup of coffee or something – and talk about it?”
Tipper looked over her shoulder at the sun sinking lower in the west. “No, I really should be getting home,” she said. “Thanks anyway, Jessica.”
“If you change your mind …”
The veterinarian nodded tightly as she stuck her hands into the pockets of her jacket. “I know where to find you.”
Jessica watched Tipper trudge back up the beach towards town before continuing on her own way, arriving back at her house just in time to meet Seth, who was coming over for dinner and a game of chess. Throughout the preparation and the meal she seemed distant and distracted, and Seth could clearly tell that her thoughts were elsewhere.
“All right, Jessica, give,” he finally said as she set up the chessboard for their traditional after-dinner match. “What’s bothering you?”
“I came upon Tipper hurling rocks into the ocean this afternoon, during my walk,” Jessica told him. “She was clearly upset – I guess it’s been a difficult week at the practice – but she also seemed worn down, which is not like her at all.”
“Burn out?” Seth suggested. “It can
happen to vets just as easily as it happens to physicians.”
“I know,” she said. “I suppose that’s what I’m afraid of.”
“I’m sure it’s just a phase,” Seth said as he advanced his king’s pawn for the first move of the game. “She’s young; she can handle it. She’ll be just fine.”
Having seen Tipper for herself Jessica was not so sure, but didn’t say so. Instead she matched Seth’s move with her own king’s pawn, and the battle began in earnest.
“Say, I had an interesting thing happen to me today,” Seth said as he moved his king’s knight toward the center of the board to attack Jessica’s pawn. “And old acquaintance of mine, Matt Huston, called me up out of the blue.”
“Is he a doctor?” Jessica asked, defending her pawn by moving one of her own knights into play.
went to medical school together. Haven’t heard from him in
years.” Seth went on the attack, moving his queen’s pawn forward to join
the first and putting Jessica’s own king’s pawn into double jeopardy. “He’s got a thriving practice down in
“I know,” said Jessica. Forced into a pawn exchange by Seth’s ambitious move, she captured his queen pawn and waited to see what he was going to do next.
“Anyway, apparently he’s got some ties with the Red Sox medical staff, consulting or some such thing.” Seth’s answering move was to bring his king’s bishop into the fray, moving it diagonally to occupy the space next to Jessica’s pawn.
“How exciting,” Jessica said as she copied Seth’s move and advanced her own king’s bishop three spaces diagonally. “Is he a baseball fan?”
“Never known him to be,” said Seth. He brought his queen’s bishop’s pawn forward a single space, hoping to lure Jessica into ceding what little control she had of the center of the board. “Anyway, one of the perks of working with the team is that they give him free tickets from time to time. He’s got four for the game this coming Saturday night – good seats, too – and he offered me three of them.”
“Three?” said Jessica, eying Seth’s pawn with deep suspicion and trying to guess what he planned to do in advance. “That’s quite a generous offer. Did you accept?”
Seth guffawed – not at Jessica’s
expected acceptance of his gambit, a capturing of the offending bishop’s pawn
with her own queen’s pawn, but at her question. “Turn down the chance to see a
Red Sox game at
“What team will they be playing against?”
“Who cares? It’s the Sox. It’s Fenway. That’s all that matters.”
“Who are you going to offer the other two tickets to?” Jessica asked casually as she moved her queen’s pawn forward one rank, thus freeing her queen’s bishop from the rearguard.
“Well,” Seth said slowly as he studied the board, “I thought I’d invite you.”
Jessica laughed. “Oh, Seth,” she said, “you know I’m not much of a baseball fan.”
“I know, I know,” said Seth as he attacked Jessica’s king’s bishop’s pawn with his queen. “But I think you’d enjoy the experience anyway. You don’t have to just watch the game, you could watch the fans. Lots of good character material there. Maybe you could even set your next book in a baseball stadium.”
“Maybe,” Jessica answered vaguely as she moved her own queen forward one space to defend her beleaguered pawn. “So who do you plan to invite along to use the third ticket?”
“I haven’t decided yet,” said Seth. He moved his queen’s knight a second time.
Jessica answered his move by advancing her own king’s knight into position to threaten both Seth’s knight and his king’s pawn. “You know, Tipper’s an ardent Red Sox fan,” she said. “Maybe you could offer the third ticket to her.”
“Tipper? Well, I …”
“I think it would be just the thing to lift her spirits,” Jessica continued, working quickly to overwhelm Seth’s innate reluctance. “She really needs a weekend away, Seth – something to take her mind completely off of her work for awhile.”
“I don’t know …” Forced to choose between loosing his knight and losing his pawn, Seth picked the less painful option, moving his knight to safety while abandoning the pawn to the wolves.
“I know she’d appreciate the gesture,” said Jessica. “And really, it will be much more fun for you if you have someone along who can talk about the game on the same level as you … something I have no hope of doing.”
In his distraction and haste to get his knight to higher ground, Seth had carelessly placed it in the direct line of fire of Jessica’s king’s bishop. She now pounced, capturing the knight with one swift motion and setting it to the side of the board with an infuriatingly self-satisfied grin.
“Fine,” he growled through gritted teeth. “I’ll call the vet clinic first thing tomorrow and ask her if she wants to come along.”
Two days later Jessica came home from running some errands just as Seth was removing a steaming casserole from her oven.
“That smells delicious,” she said as she dropped her purse on the kitchen counter and hung her coat on its peg. “What is it?”
“Tuna casserole, Hazlitt style,” Seth announced proudly as he set the casserole dish down on a trivet to cool. “This is unlike any tuna casserole you have ever experienced, Jessica, thanks to my secret ingredient …”
“White wine,” Jessica finished for him.
“White wine,” Seth sighed. “And how, pray tell, did you know that?”
ingredient is always white wine,” Jessica replied with a shrug. “So, is Tipper
There was a long, uncomfortable pause as Seth tried to come up with some sort of face-saving answer. “Um, ahh, about that …”
Jessica, her hand on her hip, fixed Seth with a stern glare. “You forgot to call her, didn’t you.”
“Well, I didn’t exactly forget, I, erm …”
“Seth, it’s Friday night already! What if she’s already made plans for the weekend? What if she’s been asked to work?” Without waiting for an answer, Jessica took a picnic basket from the closet and a box of aluminum foil from a drawer.
“What are you doing?” Seth asked her.
“We’re wrapping this up and taking it over to Tipper’s house,” Jessica said firmly as she tore off a sheet of foil and deftly covered the top of Seth’s tuna casserole, Hazlitt style with it.
“Now, Jess, I don’t think we need to …”
Jessica leveled Seth with another glare, cutting short the doctor’s protest. Thinking better of what he had been about to say, he took a step back, straightened himself up, and said, “I suppose I should be putting the tossed salad into a tupperware container or something.”
“I think that would be an excellent idea,” Jessica agreed.
After stopping by the bakery at Jessica’s insistence to get some fresh rolls to go with their dinner, Jessica and Seth pulled up in front of Tipper’s little grey house and went up the walk to the front porch. Seth knocked on the door, and after a few moments Tipper padded downstairs in her stockingfeet and answered it.
“Jessica!” she exclaimed in surprise. “Seth! Please – come in.”
“Sorry to drop in like this without calling first, Tipper,” Jessica said as she herded Seth across the threshold. “We thought that as hard as you’ve been working this week, you’d appreciate a home-cooked meal that you didn’t have to prepare yourself.”
“Would I ever!” Tipper’s eyes were drawn to the picnic basket that Jessica carried. “What are we having?”
“Tuna casserole – Hazlitt style – tossed green salad, and fresh rolls,” Jessica said.
“What makes it ‘Hazlitt style’?” Tipper asked. “White wine?”
Seth pursed his lips and followed Jessica into the kitchen.
Jessica’s observant eyes didn’t miss the fact that Tipper’s house looked a little more disheveled than she knew the veterinarian preferred to keep it. For that matter, Tipper looked more disheveled than usual as well, as if she hadn’t been sleeping well or sleeping long enough. Seth noticed this as well – the dark circles under her eyes and the pallor to her face were testimony enough.
“Where shall I set this?” Jessica asked, gesturing to the basket.
Tipper looked around, feeling sudden embarrassment at the stack of unwashed dishes in her sink and the empty cans of soup lined up on her countertop. “Um, let me clear off the kitchen table,” she said, hastily gathering the medical journals, bills, and junk mail that littered it into a single pile that she could hide on the seat of one of the chairs.
Jessica found a pair of mismatched candles in a drawer and lit them, setting them on a placemat in the center of the table. This done, they sat down to dinner in the cozy kitchen, Seth serving the ladies first before scooping a generous portion of his casserole on to a plate for himself. Tipper took a bite and nodded in approval.
“This is terrific,” she told Seth. “Best tuna casserole I’ve ever had. How do you get the top so crispy without burning it?”
“I leave it covered until about ten minutes before it’s ready,” Seth replied with a touch of pride. “Then, right before it’s time to take it out, I set it under the broiler for two minutes - no more, no less.”
“I’ll have to remember that.”
“Any plans for the weekend, Tipper?” asked Jessica as casually as she could while keeping a close eye on Seth’s reaction.
Tipper said, reaching for a roll. “I haven’t had much time to think about the
weekend, to tell the truth. Maybe I’ll take a drive up the coast – go to
Seth under the table, which made him jump – fortunately, Tipper was intent upon
enjoying her home-cooked meal, and didn’t notice. “Um, ah, Jessica and I are
“Really? That sounds like fun,” Tipper said.
“It will be, I’m sure,” said Jessica. “Seth has tickets to the Red Sox game tomorrow night.”
“The Red Sox? Really?” A spark of real enthusiasm – the first Jessica had seen all evening – kindled in Tipper’s eyes. “How did you manage to score tickets to the game?”
“A friend of mine is part of the medical staff for the team,” said Seth, “and they gave him some tickets, which he then offered to me.”
“Lucky,” Tipper sighed as she popped the last bit of her buttered roll into her mouth. “I’d kill for a chance to see a Sox game.” Realizing what she had just said, she glanced uneasily at Jessica: “Sorry, Jessica.”
“Well, as it so happens,” Jessica said, “Seth was considering asking if you would like to go with us – weren’t you, Seth?”
“Ah, yes,” Seth said quickly, hoping to avoid a second kick from Jessica’s direction. “I was given a trio of tickets – I don’t suppose you’d like to take the third?”
“Would I!” Tipper almost shouted. “That would be great! Thank you, Seth!”
Seth and Jessica exchanged a smile: the color was already returning to Tipper’s cheeks.
“Well then,” Seth said as he passed around the salad, “all that remains is to decide what time we leave.”