It’s just a game. I keep telling myself that because I know it’s true.

Dear Atlanta Braves,

Beloved team. I love you. My eyes light up whenever someone mentions your name. It doesn’t matter where I am. When someone says “Braves,” I get excited and fall into a heated discussion about the importance of relief pitching, even if I happen to be, for example, taking communion.

But it’s only a game, I know this. I really do.

It’s a silly sport played by grown men swinging hickory sticks at five-ounce balls. There’s no real meaning to it. It’s not important in the large scheme of life. In fact, it’s ridiculous when you think about it.

I mean if alien visitors came to earth and saw thousands of crazed fans at a championship playoff, hollering and screaming as though the fate of the Free World depended on a lefty-lefty matchup, the aliens would be rolling on the floor, peeing their space-pants with laughter. Then they would zap us all with their electromagnetic death rays and turn Yankee Field into a huge septic tank for their spaceships.

I would enjoy that.

I was a toddler when my father taught me the rules of the sport. We were in the backyard. I had a glove. He had a glove. He pitched underhand. I missed the ball and got a bloody lip.

My mother became so upset with him that she used a stream of four-letter words not found in the Bible. Then she threatened to lodge the baseball in a place of my father’s body that I won’t name here.

But he wasn’t sorry. Because he couldn’t wait to teach me to play. To him, glove control was as important as learning to feed myself, respecting my elders, or successfully opening a beer bottle using a vehicle door handle.

When I finally caught the ball, my father got so excited that he swung me around and said, “Wasn’t that fun?” Then, if memory serves me correctly, I…

I meet some tourists on the way back to my room. Selma attracts a lot of tourists because of its role in history.

SELMA—I am watching the sun come up over the downtown skyline. I see the Edmund Pettus Bridge in the distance, arching over the mighty Alabama River.

They say that Selma is the Butterfly Capital of Alabama, I’m not sure why. Though I am told that if you see a black-and-yellow tiger swallowtail butterfly, it’s good luck.

I look for these butterflies, but I don’t find any. All I ever seem to see are various pigeons using my windshield for a public restroom.

Today, I am speaking in schools. This is not something I do very often. Mainly, because kids either like me or they don’t. There is no middle ground with children.

Besides, America’s youth could do a lot better than me, that’s for sure. I don’t have anything special to say. And even if I did have something profound to share, it wouldn’t matter because kids can only maintain focus on the adult monotone voice for 0.008 milliseconds before going slack-jawed and falling into paralyzing REM sleep.

The first place I speak is a

school library. I’m not exactly a success, but luck smiles on me. These kids treat me like I’m the greatest guy they have ever met. They laugh at my jokes. They applaud often. I get many hugs.

One fifth-grader tells me he is interested in being my manager. He gives me his business card and tells me to keep in touch.

Between gigs, we drive across Selma’s historic downtown which has been here since the early 1800s. French Colonial architecture mixes with Antebellum homes to make one big enchilada of colors and shapes, topped with Spanish moss.

I see the historic Baptist church on Lauderdale Street. It’s not like any Baptist church I ever saw. It is made of stone, with gargoyles shooting from the eves. These gargoyles have big, dragon-like, ugly faces. The same kinds of facial expressions Baptists often wear when someone sneaks…

The producer gives us the count down: “Aaaannnd we’re on in five, four, three, two...”

I am on a radio show. I’m sitting in a studio, waiting to talk about my new book, like real authors do. I am wearing headphones. There is a microphone in front of me. The producer gives us the count down:

“Aaaannnd we’re on in five, four, three, two...”

He points.


RADIO HOST: Hi, you’re listening to WKXPRHZBXC, your home for soft rock favorites and non-stop continuous Michael Bolton ballads. I’m your highly caffeinated morning-show host, Morning Man Larry, and I’m crazy! With a capital K! Our guest today is author Shane Deeters. Shane, thanks for being with us.

ME: My name’s actually Sean Dietrich. But thank you for having me, Larry.

HOST: Don’t mention it. Now, I’m holding a copy of my guest’s newest book, and I wanna tell you, folks, this looks exactly like a real book. It has an actual spine and a dust cover and pages and everything. Trust me. I have seen some books in my day, but this is definitely one of them. You can trust Morning Man

Larry because I am now talking in a low, serious voice to convey the idea that I am a close personal friend. Please, tell our listeners a little bit about your book, Shane.

ME: Well, my name is Sean, and the book is a story about my—

HOST: How long did it take to write this particular book?

ME: I was trying to answer your first question...

HOST: And how many years, approximately, have you been writing books? How many books do you have? When did you first fall in love? What’s your middle name? Where is Fiji? What is a granivorous ornithologist?

ME: I’m sorry, which question am I supposed to be answering?

HOST: Anyway, you know what I think? I think writing is a very noble process. Don’t you agree, Shane? Can I call you Shane?

ME: I…

I am taking the MARTA bus today. I figured, why not? The weather is nice. Fall is here.

ATLANTA—I am in the big city today, covering the arrival of fall. I am sitting on a bench, reading an Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper. I am a longtime admirer of this paper. I’ve been reading it since boyhood, back when we would visit family here in Atlanta.

When I hold this newspaper, I still remember my first pangs of literary ambition. I was a kid who wanted to be a writer. A columnist, even. I dreamed of a thrilling life in journalism, filled with rewarding work, the machine-gun sound of newsroom typewriters, grumpy editors in suspenders, and above all, an expense account.

But some things are never meant to be. I didn’t even start writing until I was a grown man who had barely finished community college.

I am taking the MARTA bus today. I figured, why not? The weather is nice. Fall is here. And most importantly, I hate Atlanta traffic.

When I was a kid we lived here for a hot minute. To live in this city means spending half your

life stuck on Interstate 285, physically abusing your steering wheel during gridlock.

Riding the MARTA bus is a more mellow experience. The bus takes me through town while I read the sports section.

The bus arrives at an upscale shopping area. I visit a few stores. A strange lady sprays cologne on me against my will. One man in a kiosk begs me to buy a timeshare. I get a three-dollar massage in a coin-operated recliner. You can’t beat it.

For lunch, I eat at a taco joint. Atlanta is full of taco joints.

“Tacos are huge in Atlanta,” one taco employee tells me. “We cater tons of weddings, everyone wants tacos at their wedding.”

I believe it. A few months ago, I attended a friend’s wedding. It was a fancy event with porta-potties and an outdoor tent. A dance band played “Mustang Sally” for country club members…

I wish I knew what town, but I didn’t see the town sign coming in.

SOMEWHERE IN GEORGIA—We are driving two-lane highways that are draped in scenery from the Old South. My wife rolls the window down. It’s perfect morning weather in Georgia.

I’m having a good hair day. This doesn’t happen often, so let us pause and give thanks. I was born with curly hair. I haven’t had a good hair day since the mid 1980s.

We enter a small town. There isn’t much going on here. I wish I knew which town, but I didn’t see the town sign coming in.

You know the sign I’m talking about. The Welcome To Our Little Town sign with all the service-club shields—Rotary Club, Lions Club, Kiwanis, Freemasons.

And don’t forget the church signs. We pass a million of those. They litter the old highways, just in case any degenerate sinners are looking for a Freewill Baptist church.

There are a lot of denominations to choose from today. We pass a hundred Baptist churches (those who believe in full-immersion baptism), a few hundred Methodist churches (wet-your-hair baptism), a few Presbyterian churches (former Baptists

who drink beer), one Church of Christ (we don’t need no stinkin’ piano), Episcopal churches (former Presbyterians who drink Crown Royal), and a Church of God (hairspray).

We ride through tiny towns with churches on each street corner. In one place, I count nine steeples peppering the skyline above the trees. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think Norman Rockwell was mayor.

The towns keep coming. I see a small downtown area that looks frozen in time. There is even a deputy walking the sidewalk—and I am not kidding about this—twirling a long keychain around his fingers.

In another town, I see children playing hopscotch in a driveway. I pass a few kids riding bikes that have baseball cards attached to their spokes.

We finally pull over at a cafe. My wife and I are overdue for a stop. We have been…

But stories are important. They can keep us going when life sucks.


Will you come to one of my games? I have no dad anymore but I read your stories because you are like him is what my mom and I say. You like baseball and I just started to learn it. I should be playing center filled if you come to it next summer when we are playing. I am a redhead like you are. Thank you.



Nebraska is a long way from me. Seven states away, actually. That’s practically another world. If I drove the whole way, it would probably take me—factoring in the slow speed I travel; the number of pit stops I take due to my teacup-sized bladder; and all the roadside cafes I will have to visit to meet my daily quota of bacon—ten years to reach Nebraska.

So to answer your question: Yes. I will try to come.

Firstly, because I believe in baseball. Also, because I am flattered that you read my writing. You could read anything you want, but you choose to read my few hundred

words. Which raises the question: Are you nuts?

But then, maybe it has something to do with the color of our hair. We redheads are a dying breed you know.

Experts claim that long ago, during caveman times, redheads ruled the earth. In those days, the mythical ginger was often an important leader of a powerful tribe. Sometimes we were even worshiped.

Historians also tell us that redheads were mankind’s first poets, philosophers, and discovered many important medical breakthroughs such as tinctures, compounds, tonics, and out-of-pocket copay deductibles.

But somewhere along the way, the number of redheads decreased. We dwindled to two percent of the world’s population—which is a true statistic.

It was hard growing up as a two-percenter. In my childhood, people didn’t see us as tribal leaders, and they certainly didn’t worship us. They sort of saw us as weirdos.


WEEKI WACHEE—I am walking into the Mermaid Theater in Weeki Wachee Springs State Park to see the mermaids. Ten minutes until showtime.

This is your quintessential old-time Florida tourist attraction. In the small underground aquatic theater are young and old people seated on benches, waiting to get their money’s worth.

Sitting beside me is little girl wearing a Disney T-shirt. “Are we gonna see muh-mays, Mama?” she says.

“Just be patient,” says her mother.

The theater has been here since 1947. It is a memory from an era when Florida tourists used to pack the family into a four-door Ford Country Squire station wagon and hit the road for vacation.

The elderly couple on my other side is from Upstate New York. “Yeah, I’ve seen the mermaids several times,” the lady says. “Came when I was a kid. The training the mermaids go through is really difficult, I admire them.”

Her husband winks at me. “I admire them, too.”

A cheesy trumpet fanfare comes over the loudspeaker. We are all watching the glass windows which display

underwater views of Weeki Wachee’s natural springs. The room has a bluish, underwater hue to it. Sort of like floating at the bottom of a public pool—only without Johnny Cooper yelling, “Marco!” every two seconds.

The worst game ever invented was Marco Polo, wherein in a child closes his eyes and wanders around a swimming pool trying to find his friends by shouting “Marco!”

Theoretically, if his friends are Christians, they will answer “Polo!” But if his friends are, for instance, Satan worshippers, they will say nothing. Whereupon the boy searches for thirty minutes with his eyes closed until he realizes something is wrong.

Finally the lifeguard, who has been watching the whole thing, has enough mercy to say, “Open your eyes, kid, they’ve all gone home.”

Friends don’t let friends play Marco Polo. Remember that.

The mermaids make their appearance. The theater applauds.…

I stop every few miles to get things like boiled peanuts and pecan rolls. I also buy a crate of oranges for eleven bucks. You can’t beat it.

My wife and I are leaving for Weeki Wachee, Florida, on a sunny morning. It’s supposed to be fall, but the joke is on us. It is still 320 degrees Fahrenheit outside even though it’s October.

This morning, for example, after packing the car I had to change clothes because I was sweating worse than a chubby kid doing Zumba in the attic.

We’re traveling to Weeki Wachee, of course, because of mermaids. Real mermaids. They are legendary mermaids who have been performing underwater shows since Harry Truman was in office. They swim. They do backflips. They blow kisses to lucky schmucks in the audience. I am hoping to be one such schmuck.

All my life I have wanted to see these Floridian mermaids swim underwater from the famous 450-seat aquarium theater.

Once when I was a child, we got all the way to Hernando County and actually stood outside the attraction gates, but the doors were locked and the place was closed. So we ended up eating at a rundown buffet

and buying a bunch of lacquered gator heads as Christmas presents for family members.

The ride to Middle Florida is a fairly uneventful one. My wife and I take turns driving. When she drives, I nap. When I drive, she gives me instructions on how to drive because I am male and therefore not smart enough to pull up my own underpants let alone pilot an automobile.

She shouts things like: “PUT ON YOUR BLINKER, DUMMY!”



But there is nothing like a Floridian drive to put you in a good mood. Today, the scenery is unbeatable. We see open fields and fat oaks laden with moss.

Pretty soon, we are in the middle of nowhere and we lose cell-phone reception. I get a little excited about…

I learned to type on a manual typewriter in a classroom with eight other kids. Our teacher was an elderly woman with a beehive hairdo and five-inch-thick stockings.

I remember the first time I ever put hands on a computer. My cousin Billy had one. It was the size of a Buick Roadmaster and it smelled funny. He would play this glorified game of slow-motion ping-pong as though it were a matter of national security.

His mother, my aunt Eulah, worried about using computers. She believed they were invented by the Devil. But then, Aunt Eulah worried about everything. She was the same woman who, whenever she heard ambulance sirens, called her entire family to make sure they weren’t dead.

During childhood we would receive random calls from Aunt Eulah wherein she would shout, “I heard an ambulance, I had to make sure you weren’t bleeding to death!”

We would always answer the same way: “Aunt Eulah, have you been drinking again?”

And she’d get so mad.

Anyway, when I was a kid, only rich people owned computers. Or doctors. Or people who worked for the government. We didn’t have them in school.

I learned to type on a manual typewriter in a

classroom with eight other kids. Our teacher was an elderly woman with a beehive hairdo and five-inch-thick stockings. We practiced typing sentences like: “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.”

Or: “Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their party.”

I timed myself while typing those words just now. It took thirteen seconds, not counting the quotation marks.

I’m not a fast typist, never was. But I still own my old typewriter, and I use it. I wrote most of my first novel on it. And I completed ten books with it.

It’s a workhorse. It has fallen down stairs, tumbled out of my car, dropped into a puddle, and on one occasion it was dropkicked by a man named Marvin Lloyd.

I adore typewriters. But I have a love-hate relationship with computers. Sure, they’re okay,…

Hi, thank you for waiting. Your call is hugely important. And we mean hugely. We are working hard to answer your important call in the order received. If you would like to hold without music, press the pound sign, which is otherwise known as the ”hashtag,” depending on the year you graduated high school. Thank you.

My blog website is down. And I am calling customer service to get it taken care of. There are few things I hate worse than customer service. Except for maybe eating congealed salad. I hate that stuff.

I dial the toll-free number.

And I wait.


CUSTOMER SERVICE ANSWERING MACHINE: Thank you for calling customer service. Your call is extremely important to us. Your wait time is approximately forty-three minutes. Please enjoy this music.


MACHINE: Thank you for holding. Your call is super-duper important to us. Our representatives are assisting other important customers, but we want you to know that they are all chomping at the bit to answer your important call in the order it was received. Thank you.


MACHINE: Hi, thank you for waiting. Your call is hugely important. And we mean hugely. We are working hard to answer your important call in the order received. If you would like to hold without music, press the pound sign, which is otherwise

known as the ”hashtag,” depending on the year you graduated high school. Thank you.

ME: (Presses pound sign.)

MACHINE: Thank you, you have chosen to hold without music.


MACHINE: Hi, remember us? Thank you for your continued patience. Our representatives are busy. But your important call is the reason we get up in the morning and face this cold world. We truly can’t wait to assist you. If you would prefer to hold without music, please press the pound sign, also known as the “tic-tac-toe symbol” to complete idiots. Thank you for your patience.

ME: (Pressing pound sign repeatedly.)


MACHINE: Hi. Your call is über, stinking important to us. We are looking forward to helping you. In fact, many of us pray for you at our own personal dinner…