91. Ned’s Novel

“I think Ned’s gone a little crazy,” said Evergreen Holmes, smiling at Jimmy Williams.

“I haven’t seen him in years,” Jimmy said, visiting the porch on this hot evening. From the porch they could see the lights of the stadium.

“Just a little crazy,” Holmes said, drinking lemonade.

“Does he still sweat a lot?” Jimmy asked.

“Like a cold beer in Atlanta,” Holmes said. “Always has music in his ears and, yes, the novel in his hands. He always has the novel with him and he’s always reading it, even at the game right now.”

“The novel?” Jimmy let the dog’s tail thread through his palm. He had a lemonade in the other hand, which he shook so that he could listen to the ice.

From the stadium they heard cheering. Holmes and Jimmy heard the muffled throatiness of the loudspeaker.

Jimmy said, “But the novel’s not going to go on forever, unless it’s some sort of magic novel that goes on forever and is so good Ned takes it with him wherever he goes, work, the game, whatever. He sits even at the game reading his novel and sweating and listening to his music, whatever.”

Evergreen Holmes looked at Jimmy Williams and smiled again. He sipped the lemonade. He took a bottle out of the cooler, opened it, and poured some of its contents into his lemonade. Jimmy held out his glass and Holmes poured some into his, knowing Jimmy would be here a while.

Holmes said, “Well, that’s what Ned says. He does say it’s a magic novel. He says it goes on forever. He’s been reading it for years. He takes it to the game then puts the game on the radio so that he can experience two games at once, and then he opens the novel and reads the new novel that appears there after he’s finished the one before.”

“That’s crazy,” Jimmy said.

“”That’s what I’m saying,” Holmes said. “Ned’s a little crazy.”

“He doesn’t sound a little crazy. He sounds a lot crazy, whole or all crazy.”

“Well, that’s the funny thing about it,” Evergreen Holmes said. “He’s showed it to me and its true. We compared it and its true. True enough the first novel started just like this: ‘He sat in the stadium, the score 2 to 1 in the 9th. And that’s when it started to rain.’ and when he finished that novel the first line changed, read like this: ‘Edgar’s days at the plate were over.'”

“That’s impossible,” Jimmy said.

“Saw it with my own eyes,” Holmes confirmed.

“It’s impossible,” Jimmy said.

“You can see him now,” Holmes said, “somewhere above play, listening to the game on the radio, watching or not really watching the game on the field, and, yes, reading the novel, a damned novel Ned can’t hardly leave alone, even at the game.”

“Crazy,” Jimmy said, looking distressed at he nearby stadium.

“Damn right,” Evergreen Holmes said. “And you know what’s even crazier?”

“What could be crazier than that?” Jimmy asked.

Holmes said, “Everyone I tell that story to believes it.”

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