Tuesday, May 17, 2011

National Pastime - Novel Excerpt

The following is an excerpt from Chapter 8 of Fred Sottile's latest novel
National Pastime
published by Outskirts Press and also available on Kindle.
Click on the book cover for more information.

National Pastime (Chapter Eight)
by Fred Sottile

    Azy moves to LA. They’re the power struggle of the century, Azy and Charlie. Neither willing to admit their love, both competitive, both jealous and both totally devoted. The relationship is so complicated that they themselves never even try to define it. They both just know the rules and right now, for the first time, it’s all about Charlie.
    Azy knows what she has to do. It’s instinctive. Charlie has serious business here and Azy has to make sure that when it pays off big, that she can take some credit. She doesn’t mind sponging off of a scam. She is supposed to. A scam is nothing but a scam. Take advantage is the rule. This is different.
    National Pastime is a new idea, a whole new kind of TV. We had shows in the past that we thought were all there were. News, comedy, drama, kids shows, game shows, sports shows, etc and all of a sudden we had reality shows. Reality shows were a whole new genre of TV shows. This is like that. National Pastime is not just another “throw the dice” game show. It is not some scripted reality show. It is not a sport that only professional athletes can play. National Pastime is PARTICIPATION TV. You actually participate actively. You can prepare. You can predict when you will be on and you can develop yourself for success at the show because it is not a onetime thing. National Pastime will become a way of life for the people who play. You play over and over almost as an American right. You participate in something that is basically yours because you are a citizen. Baseball is an American phenomenon that becomes part of every young man who wants a chance. National Pastime can become a show that never ends. Truly for the young American man it was designed for, NP becomes the true national pastime including all the recognition and prosperity.
    Azy sees the visionary aspect and realizes that to get investors, she needs to bring that vision to the complacent rich.
    The tricky part is that it is Gregory Meola who is the salesman. Not only does Azy have to sell National Pastime to a bunch of strangers, she has to sell herself to Gregory Meola. Without his embrace of her doing the work, she becomes the “Yoko” of the whole deal. That is not going to work. Her first step is to go straight to her best ally in the endeavor, Greg’s wife Millie.
    Millie and Azy always had a kind of “there but for the grace of God go I” relationship. Outwardly, they had nothing in common and though there was no kind of competition between them, their relationship had an element of respect that comes from both fear of, and attraction to, the unknown. Both women wondered if it wasn’t the other that was on the right path but both realized that there was no way in hell that either one of them would ever find out. Azy could never be Millie and Millie Meola could never ever have been Azy Heflin.
    Azy tells Millie that she wants to work on finding investors and she wants Millie to help smooth the possible resistance from Greg. Millie goes along with Azy and thinks Azy can be helpful. She and Azy both have always stayed way out of the boys business but Millie feels that since she helped with the original interviews for players that Azy should have a chance to play too.
    The other hurdle for Azy was Charlie’s family. Oy Vey ist Mir. The mother, the brothers and all that Yiddish. Azy was not what you would call orthodox and neither was Charlie for that matter but the High Holy Days are the High Holy Days and when you are asking for money. Sometimes it pays to be part of the twelve tribes of Israel.
    It was quite a meeting, Azy and Charlie, Gregory, Buddy and Antonette, all together discussing how Azy would fit in to the process of gathering investors. It was cordial, it was respectful, it was bullshit. Finally Greg told Azy that he wanted to talk to her alone.

     “Azy, have you looked at the contracts?”

     “Yes, I’ve read them.”

     “Do you understand that they are not negotiable?
     “This is really a serious and complex agreement. There is a lot on the line here. There is no room for error or carelessness. I’m going to watch you in a way that is going to make you uncomfortable. I know you have a thick skin but I have worked with Charlie all these years without any breach of trust. No matter how we communicate we always ultimately trust each other. We always have. You and I cannot have a power struggle. It can’t happen. This is not a game. I just want you to be ready for distasteful questions and questions that you might think are accusations or an insult to your intelligence. I know you can operate Azy. That is not a question, but you are going to have to accept me as your boss. I will have no hard feelings if you tell me to fuck myself and quit. I will have hard feelings if you make a mess that I have to, or cannot clean up.”

     “Look Greg, I know that it is you and Charlie who are the partners here. I want to help you. If you are uncomfortable than I too will leave with no hard feelings but until you are, let me have my shot. I want to make Charlie proud. I’ve always taken advantage of him without hurting him. I did it because not much matters to me and I knew that what I did didn’t matter much to Charlie. Now Charlie has something that does seem to matter to him and because of that it matters to me. Charlie has been the best “good sport” I ever met. I think you know that too. We’re lucky. Under that stone cold exterior is the kindest man I’ve ever known. He lives in a world that he feels would eat him alive if he let his guard down for a minute and all he wants in life is a place to let his guard down. Even his own family hammers him, in of course, the nicest possible way.  Anyway, I just couldn’t live with myself if I allowed my trivialization of everything else he’s ever done to be the standard for what he is doing now. I am ready to give him my blood.” 

     “Alright then Azy, you’re in. By the way, going to Millie was a good idea. The last thing I need is for her to wonder. With you around, it’s almost like she has an eye on me and that’s a good thing. We have been living too far apart for too long and that is not the way we are. We’ve never been more than a couple of hours away from each other and I don’t dig it like this. I know she misses me too and is giving me this latitude because she is the most understanding woman ever. The last thing I want her to do is worry that my fire for her is cooling off. The phone is always there and the trips home are like magic but we are not dating, we’re married in the real old school way. The time missed with my boys is another story, but Millie has got to know where my heart is and it wouldn’t be bad if you let her know once in a while. Be her friend. The boys know how their dad feels and I can make up the time with them. I just want to make sure that my girl knows that the ring on her finger is connected to the ring on mine.” 

     “Jesus Guido, don’t get this mushy with me, I’m still a little jet lagged. Never thought I’d say it, but, I’ll try to be there for you. Jeeez, so, anyway, do we have a prospect list?”

© Fred Sottile

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