Joe just wants to save his car-detailing/ticker brokerage business from Gene's mountain of debt, crime and craziness. (Winning a game of Madden NFGL against his ex-girlfriend's twelve-year-old son would also be a relief.) But first, he must confront the ghosts of his past - namely, his murdered uncle and his mentally unstable mother. He must also deal with the present, navigating the space between the two women he cares about. And finally, he must face the future, every man's least favorite obstacle.
Dallas Hudgens, the acclaimed author of Drive Like Hell, blends Guatemalan chicken, online pharmaceuticals, and unforgettable characters in a raucous but moving story of love and baseball. Season of Gene is a wild ride of a novel about a troubled man, the troubled women who love him and a legendary baseball bat that could either save their lives or get them killed.
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About the Author
Dallas Hudgens is a native of Georgia. He is the author of the novel Drive Like Hell and has contributed to The Washington Post and online at FANZINE (www.thefanzine.com). He lives in Virginia with his wife and two sons. For more information, visit www.drivelikehell.com
Read an Excerpt
I had always been fond of the bat man's wife. That's not to say she couldn't be somewhat difficult at times. As was the case on the opening night of the Metro D.C. Men's Recreational Baseball League's fall season. There she was, standing in the bat man's driveway, beside the bat man's gold Navigator, busting his stones when the bat man didn't need this sort of distraction, not on game day. And so I politely tapped my car horn in hopes of speeding up the process.
The bat man's wife, Joy, gave me the finger.
"Fuck you, Joe Rice."
I turned off the radio and hopped out of my 'Vette. Thing was, I had responsibilities to attend to. As manager and catcher for the Whip Spa Yankees (the Spa being my car detailing business), I needed to be at the field thirty minutes before game time in order to fill out the lineup card and still have a chance to warm up my starting pitcher. I clattered up the driveway of the new split-level in my Adidas cleats and offered Joy a smile.
"Do you fucking mind?" she asked. "I'm trying to have a conversation with Gene here."
"You think maybe Geno could call you from the car on his cell?"
She looked at Gene and nodded. "Do you see what I mean? You're like a couple of twelve-year-olds. You're a grown man with a kid of your own, and you insist on acting like an inconsiderate asshole."
"And you." She turned in my direction. "Of all Gene's friends, I would expect better from you. I thought you were different."
Geno offered me an apologetic look. He was standing there in his Yankees uniform: gray pants and the navy blue BP jersey (number 9 like Geno's boyhood hero, Graig Nettles). Big as he was, Gene was tilting to one side because of his bat bag, the Louisville Slugger Deluxe Locker model, a marvel of modern luggage that held four bats (a fraction of the bat man's total collection), a helmet, batting and fielding gloves, cleats, practice balls, two Gatorade bottles, a couple cans of Red Bull, compartments for wet and dry clothes, and still room for a box of baby wipes and half a bird from El Pollo Rico, Gene's sixth-inning nourishment before Joy put him on a low-fat diet and started cramming omega oils down his throat back in the spring when his cholesterol swelled to 360 (and eclipsed his batting average by a hundred points).
Gene tried to be reasonable with Joy. "It's the first game of the season. We can see these people any fucking day of the week."
This was one of the neighborhood clubhouse parties Gene had talked about. Gene usually referred to them as "those fucking snoozefests."
He turned to me. "They got a fucking dance instructor coming in."
"What kind of dance?" I asked.
"That's a very sensual dance," I said. "When you tango with a woman, she should feel like she's in the arms of God."
Joy snorted. "What the fuck do you know about tango?"
"Hey, I saw Scent of a Woman."
"That figures. How else would you know about anything? It would have to either be in a movie or a fucking video game."
She'd never gone after me like this before. In fact, she was usually quite the charmer, touching my forearm when we talked, smiling like we shared a secret. I can't deny that I enjoyed the attention. She had the darkest eyes I'd ever seen. They were like carbon monoxide: powerful, but in a way that you didn't notice until after they'd made you light-headed.
"Look it," Gene said, "I told you, I just don't like married people. That's who I fucking am. I'd rather be doing something, not just standing around talking. These people, they've got nothing to say that I want to hear."
Gene had actually heard me say something to this effect in regard to my own marital history. I was full of shit, of course. It was just something to say, as I preferred not to talk about those three long-ago months when I was married. Gene, though, had taken it as some kind of divine wisdom.
"All they do is drink that fucking wine," Gene said. "Two-buck Jack, or whatever the fuck it is."
"You are so fucking ignorant," Joy said.
I went for a positive spin. "This might be fun, Geno. You know, the tango thing. At least you're doing something. You don't have to spend all your time talking to people, because there's an activity involved."
I turned my attention to Joy. "How about I promise you the bat man will there by nine o'clock. Game starts at six, so it should be over by eight-thirty. I'll get Ramon to pick up the equipment so we can leave as soon as it's done. I'll drive your boy straight home, he can take a shower, and you can be in the arms of God by nine o'clock."
She gritted her teeth and looked me straight in the eye. "Fuck you, Rice."
Now I realized the situation was beyond repair, at least by my hands.
Joy crossed her arms and started sniffling.
"Just go." She looked at Gene. "Just fucking go. I don't even care anymore."
Seeing the tears, Gene set his bag down on the driveway. "Aw, come on, Joy. You know I tried. I went to those parties and shit. I did it all for you, but I need a break sometimes. I need to do my thing. That's how I fucking roll."
He took a step toward her, but she fired him a look. It had the effect of a well-timed brushback pitch. The bat man stepped off.
"All that time we lived in a shitty apartment," she said, "this is what I wanted. To be in a real neighborhood, to have friends and to feel a part of something. And now you've fucked it up."
"Nothing's fucked up."
"The fuck it's not. In case you haven't noticed, we're the fucked-up family on the street. Everybody knows it. You're never home, and little Gene bites every kid he's around. Nobody will even have a fucking play date with him anymore."
"What have I fucked up?" Gene sounded totally innocent.
"Don't play stupid," she said. "You know I find your receipts. You're too fucking stupid to throw them away. Paying for your little hand jobs with the Visa and the Ridge Front Bible Church Visa at that. You don't think that shit hurts?"
She turned to me. I was already backing up with my hands in the air. "I'll just wait in the car and let you two discuss this in private."
"No," she said. "I want you to hear what else he did. He fucking gave me genital warts when I was pregnant. Did he tell you about that? Little Gene could've been deformed. He could've been born with twelve fingers or something."
I knew all about the bat man's propensity for happy endings. I'd never condoned it, but then again I'd also never pointed out to him that Joy might disagree with his belief that hand jobs did not constitute adultery. It bothered me that I'd never said as much, especially now that all this shit was coming between me and opening night.
"Hey, I'm the one who fucking put you in this house," Gene said. "Don't forget that. It's my hard work, not your fucking money from selling that scrapbook shit. And you don't have to go busting my balls about it either."
"What hard work?" she asked. "I never know what you're doing, where you are, who you're with. You come home with your nose broken and some crazy story about being robbed at work. Do you think I believe that shit?"
The broken nose story was pretty fishy. Even I wanted to know the truth about that one. Gene never could lie worth a shit, so I knew I'd eventually get it out of him. For the time being, I'd just be patient. After all, it was his personal business until it affected my business or the baseball team.
There were no trees in the subdivision to soften the early-September heat; just scalped earth, patchy sod, and a few saplings. We were damn near in West Virginia, despite the fact that Gene and I worked five minutes outside Washington, D.C. Gene had been telling me I should put my money into a mortgage instead of throwing it away on rent, and move out here where there were fewer hassles, less crime. But I just couldn't see it. First off, the traffic was shit, two lanes leading to a string of four subdivisions, including Shenandoah Springs, where Gene lived. No fucking turning lanes, so you get stuck behind people making a left into the CVS or the Food Warehouse, and it takes you twenty minutes to go a single mile and you're still nearly living in goddamn West Virginia, no offense intended.
To the west, out at the edge of the Shenandoahs, a band of storms was stirring, getting ready to roll our way. Half the games had been rained out during the spring season. They were against weak teams, too. We could've had a better playoff seed if it hadn't been for all the rain.
"Come on," Geno said. "Let's go play some fucking ball."
He stomped away from Joy and tossed his bat bag into my car. I stood there long enough to give Joy an apologetic look.
"I'll get him home by nine. I promise."
She just stared at me, squinting into the sun, eyes glistening with tears, arms crossed. They really could have used some bigger trees in that subdivision. I felt vulnerable there, wide open, like somebody could take a shot at me from any direction.
Joy didn't say anything. Another tear streaked down her cheek. A splotch of red shone on her long neck.
"Try to take some deep breaths," I said. "That always helps me out when I'm feeling uptight."
She looked at me like she hadn't heard a word. Her eyes were hazy and sad, all the anger gone from them. "What am I gonna do, Joe? I'm so fucking miserable."
The way she'd asked, it was like she actually believed I might have an answer. But I didn't.
"I'm so fucking miserable," she said again.
She turned to go back inside the new house, and Gene tapped the horn, and there I was standing in the middle, the team manager who had no idea what the fuck he was doing.
Copyright © 2007 by Dallas Hudgens