MLB opens today.
With the game on my mind, I revisit how a small deformity of mine became an asset in fiction for the narrator—an all star pitcher—of my first published story.
My thumb, badly slashed on New Years Eve by the broken neck of a champagne bottle, never healed properly. After surgery to reconnect the tendon and a few months tied down with a rubber band on the cast, the digit developed a permanent crook. The knuckle won’t straighten.
A thumbs up from me looks like a sort of mockery, a sardonic comment on a likely swell performance.
Don’t take it personally.
The publisher of Guts, choosing to focus on the narrator’s relationship with his infant son, ran it with the image of a milk bottle. This was the right thing to do.
But he might equally have run it as a political story: the narrator’s wife is an ex-Hill staffer completely disgusted by what she sees in congress. It also might have come out as a story about bullying, or steroids.
And I would have been happy if it ran with a focus on baseball. I invented a heroic origin for my thumb’s condition and made it play to the narrator’s strengths. He injures it saving a buddy from some playground bullies, and leverages it in life as a pitcher with an unpredictable curveball and an unhittable slider.
However you read it, Guts is a story about parenthood, standing up for what’s right, and baseball.