Friday, 18 December 2015

Becky's Kiss Tour

"It could not be worse for ninth grader Becky Michigan on her first day at a new school, sitting in beet juice and staining her white jeans in a classroom about to fill up with students. In the nick of time, a gorgeous blonde boy named Danny comes in and offers his over-sized baseball jersey so she can cover up, get to the office, and change. By the time she pulls the shirt over her head, however, he has mysteriously disappeared.

Becky scours the school in search of her dream-athlete and wonders why after contact with him she has magically gained the ability to throw a fastball ninety miles per hour! Instead of finding the answer, however, Becky's new skill pits her against the school bully and the entire varsity baseball team.

That night, after her exciting showdown in front of the entire school, Danny shows up at her bedroom window. If she will agree to meet him behind Rutledge High at midnight on the ball field at the edge of the woods, he promises to reveal a secret meant to alter the past and change her life forever."

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Nicholas Fisher is a college professor and a sports enthusiast. He writes adult horror under another name, but thought of the idea for Becky’s Kiss while coaching his son’s baseball team. Since the story involved high school drama he decided to write his first young adult piece. When not writing or teaching, Nicholas Fisher enjoys pizza, reality television, and playing the banjo. He lives in Pennsylvania with his wife and his son goes to Arizona State University.

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Excerpt from Becky’s Kiss. Becky is called down to the Principal’s office because she threw an orange across the cafeteria at a bully named Cody Hatcher, and knocked him out cold with it.

“I’m Dr. Edward McGovern, the Principal here,” he said.  He glanced at a couple of things in the file, closed it and leaned back, hands webbed behind the head, elbows out, face no less serious.  “Twenty minutes ago there was an incident in the cafeteria.  Can you explain it?”
Becky was pinching at the skin of her forearm and she made herself stop.  Her voice sounded small.
“I…I was sitting with Joey.”
“Yes, Joey Chen,” Horseshoe-head interrupted. “An excellent student, advanced in the sciences…”  His voice trailed off because Principal McGovern and Rent-a-Cop were staring at him.  “Sorry,” he muttered, getting out a pair of bifocals and a pocket-sized spiral notebook to study.  Becky gave a little cough and went on.
“Cody Hatcher was bullying us. I’ve got witnesses, but nobody likes me…well, not until today…but I mean before, like when Cody hit Joey with an eraser and put his dirty foot on my chair, and…”  Now she faded off.  She was making no sense whatsoever, and she closed her eyes to concentrate.
“Miss Michigan,” Principal McGovern said.  She opened her eyes and saw that everyone at the table was looking at each other rather uncomfortably.  “I don’t think you really realize why you’re here, and that in itself is a surprise to us.  I’m probably going to get a call from Cody Hatcher’s father tonight and an email from his lawyer.  I am going to have to set up a meeting with a member of the board, a union representative for each teacher patrolling the lunch room, a disinterested third party, and a stenographer.  Do you know why I am going to have to go to those extremes?”
“Because I threw the orange?” Becky whispered.  This was a nightmare, a cold nightmare.  How was her mother going to handle this?  Her father would never speak to her again.  She would wind up going to one of those special juvi schools, where sections were overcrowded with kids that had police records, and the classes were monitored by uniformed security guards with weapons.
“Threw an orange,” Horseshoe-head said reflectively.  He was smiling slightly, and again, Principal McGovern and Rent-a-Cop looked over at him.  He went back to his notes and starting writing stuff furiously.  Principal McGovern breathed hard through his nose, sat forward, folded his hands, and spoke at them.
“Gerry, run the clip.”
Mr. Ladd went over to a control panel over by the bookcase and hit a few buttons.  A Sony flatscreen mounted in the corner flashed on, and twenty or so small squares came visible.  Video monitors. Becky recognized the image by the front entrance and another outside the gym where there was the water fountain and the stairwell, though the angles were overhead from their ceiling mounts and slightly tilted.
“Hit number twelve,” Principal McGovern said.  The image flickered, and one camera shot filled the screen.  It was a black and white film of the cafeteria, just above where Becky and Joey had been sitting, the Frederick Douglass poster there, his cheek ripped a bit from the Tic-Tac.  The room was vacant.
“Rewind,” Principal McGovern said.  Ladd clicked away, and on the screen, the room filled with kids walking backwards, coming to rest in their seats, then Becky being seemingly escorted back in and half-circling down into a seat without looking.
Good hair day, she thought crazily.
Then her new friends threaded off one at a time in backward mimics of their timid approaches, and the grainy black and white image of herself was suddenly displaced into the aisle, bent over in the follow-through position, and then across and down to the right the orange exploded back into itself and shot in return to her hand.  There was the ‘wind-up’ that looked all herky-jerky backward and sped up, and then she popped back over to the chair across from Joey Chen.
“Stop,” McGovern said.  “And play it in live time.”
The soundless tape played out, Becky sitting across from Joey Chen, her face hidden by the positioning of the camera above and behind her.  To the right, Cody Hatcher was punching his friend in the arm, eating grapes, and spitting one or two across the table at his other friend, a burly boy in a dark tee-shirt who seemed to be threatening that he was going to knock Hatcher’s tray off the table if he didn’t cut it out.  Then, Hatcher seemed to spy Becky across the room, next tapping and elbowing, like Look here, guys.’  He picked off a grape, pushed up to a half-squat, and whipped it.  Across the space, it was evident that it hit Becky, because her hair moved.  Hatcher sat back down hard, and looked around, all innocent, as his friends bent in fits of laughter.  He picked off a couple more grapes and hurled them in a similar manner.
“He’s quite a shot himself,” Horseshoe head muttered.
“Wait for it,” Principal McGovern said.
Suddenly the screen seemed to explode into motion, and some of it was so quick that it blurred.  One moment Becky was sitting there, shoulders slightly slumped, familiar in that odd displaced way that video tended to portray people, and then she was a snap of motion.  She grabbed the orange and leapt into the throwing lane.  Then there was the wind up and the pitch, and suddenly Becky didn’t look like herself.  She seemed to grow taller, and everything about her motion and mechanics looked…professional, for lack of a better word.  And she didn’t “throw like a girl.”  She didn’t even throw like the typical boy.  The exchange was a rhythmic flurry of knees and elbows and hips and backbone, fierce and balletic, vicious and beautiful, and the orange shot out of her hand like a dark messenger on a rope.  There was a moment that it disappeared behind the concrete pillar obstructing the view, and then it resurfaced on the far side, a streak shooting and exploding in Cody Hatcher’s face.  The Rent-a-Cop shifted in his seat and spoke for the first time, voice soft.
“Chills you right to the marrow, doesn’t it?”
Horseshoe head was still scratching away in his note book, and Principal McGovern addressed him.
“Paul, how far is Hatcher sitting away from her?”
“Sixty-one feet, give or take six inches or so.”  He smiled wide enough to show his fillings.  “My students would get a kick out of this.  You simply approximate…”
Principal McGovern interrupted him by putting up his hand.
“Mike, what’s the distance between home plate and the pitching rubber on a standard baseball field, high school or pro?”
Rent-a-Cop didn’t miss a beat.
“Sixty feet.”
“And what’s the weight of a big league hard ball?
“Five and an eighth ounces.”
Principal McGovern turned to Horseshoe head.
“How much does a Florida Sunkist weigh?”
“Well, first you have to consider…”
“To the point.”
Horseshoe adjusted his position, ankle up on the knee.  “Right,” he said.  “The average orange would be around seven ounces.”  He nodded his head then, all smiles and squinting eyes.  “I know, I know.  Yes, even with the differential, you have a basic match.  The common orange is slightly bigger than a baseball in terms of circumference, and this one, by appearance is of the smaller variety…”
“Oh, it’s a match all right,” Rent-a-Cop said.  “Lock, stock, and barrel.”
Becky’s heart sank and she looked down.  Why couldn’t there be ‘differential,’ or whatever, just this once?  Gosh. Daddy was going to kill her!
“Miss Michigan.”  Becky raised her head and felt her bottom lip trembling.  Principal McGovern still had his hands folded, his eyes hard and his expression entirely flat.
“Have you ever done something like this before?”
“No!” Becky pleaded.  “I swear!  I never picked up a baseball, let alone an orange in my entire life!  Well, I’m sorry, I’m sure I’ve eaten an orange or two, but I don’t even like them really—“
Principal McGovern had his ‘shush’ hand up again.  He gently closed his eyes.
“Just how fast did she throw that thing, please?”
            Horseshoe said, “Yes, considering the approximate weight of the projectile and the distance, compared with the visual I would estimate…mmm…eighty miles per hour or so.”
            Rent-a-cop was stroking his goatee.
            “I’m not really a betting man, but I’d wager Paul is being too conservative here.  I’ve seen plenty in this life, but I’d swear she hit eighty-seven, eighty-eight, even.”
            Principal McGovern shook his head in wonder or disgust, it was difficult to tell.
            “Eighty-eight miles per hour.  In my lunch room, right under our noses.”  He looked around the table and said, to no one really, “And where do they pretty much set the bar for major league pitching, please?”
            “Ninety,” Becky said, unable to stop herself from talking ‘MLB’ with the rest of them.  “But there’s no way I could have hit eighty-eight.  It’s impossible.”
  Principal McGovern sat back and folded his hands at his gut.
            “What kind of pitch did you throw back there?  Tell the truth, now.”
            “A four seam fastball.”
            “What did you aim for?”
            “His nose.”
            “You hit his forehead.”
            “I’m in sneakers and the floor is polished.  I slipped an inch or two on the follow-through, and there was no mound slope to let me come downhill.”
            Her hand flew up to her mouth.  It was all true, she knew, but how could she be so sure of this stuff when she’d never been on an actual mound in the first place?
            “How many pitches do you have, Miss Michigan?”
            None!  Becky’s mind screamed.  I have none, and this is a weird fluke, and I never meant to break any laws!
            “Eight,” she admitted, looking down and shrugging.  “But I don’t know where they came from, I swear.  I mean, the police can’t arrest me for what I dream, can they?”
            “The police?” Principal McGovern said.  Becky tilted up her chin and nodded over toward Rent-a-Cop.  Dr. McGovern gave a short laugh.
            “Mr. Rivers isn’t a policeman, Miss Michigan.  He teaches shop and wears a radio so he can call in injuries faster.  Liabilities and such.”
            “So he’s not a cop?” Becky repeated back stupidly.
            “No.  He works here and coaches my varsity baseball team.  You interested?”

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