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Issue number six




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I Feel My Temperature Risin'
by Greg Jenkins

First Commentator: So whadaya think, Phil? You've been around this game a heckuva long time. Have you ever . . . ?

Second Commentator: No, I . . .

First Commentator: Bottom of the seventh, two gone, runners at the corners, Sox up by a pair. And Lefty Donlon's out there on the mound just kinda . . .

Second Commentator: Almost like he's in a trance or something, Del. Been staring off toward first base for a full minute, I guess. Is he looking into the dugout? Or into the stands? I can't . . .

He had tried to suppress the memory, and had largely succeeded, until this odd moment deep in summer's warm and breezy clutch. Finally it had felt right to surrender himself to the rush of curious images and roily feelings that comprised the Episode. The beam of intense white light had lifted him out of his bed--leaving behind the nude, sleeping young woman he knew only as "Candy”--and up into the early morning sky. He felt as if an army of ants made of ice were crawling over his bare skin.

Once inside the disc-shaped craft, he found himself in a softly lit cabin of sorts, the cushioned chair beneath him rather comfortable, and a big round window at his side. He was naked, but that didn't seem to matter, either to him or to the man seated across from him, who was gazing idly out his own round window. The man was of course none other than Elvis, his hair gone white but still splendidly thick, his plump face weathered with the passage of time, his upper lip still curling rebelliously. He was wearing exotic pink shades and--unaccountably--a blue, checked flannel shirt and patched dungarees. As much as anything, the King's lowly attire puzzled Lefty.

The craft moved swiftly and lightly; g-forces seemed to have no place here. Out the window passed a kaleidoscopic view of America--towering buildings, gaping canyons, twisting rivers, rich green pastures. In one such pasture he noted a Jersey cow, somewhat removed from her companions, steadily ruminating--and ruminating not just in a bovine sense, he understood, but in a human sense as well. He somehow realized that the cow, who thought of herself as "Guinevere," had concerns, nagging anxieties, much as people do. She even had a vague awareness of her own pending mortality. Briefly, she glanced up at Lefty, her brown eyes meeting his, as he shot silently across the cerulean sky.

He fully expected that at some point a party of small gray beings would encircle him, their enormous black eyes keen and unblinking, and subject him to an invasive medical exam. But no alien beings ever appeared. There was only America beneath him and an aged and humbly dressed Elvis to his side--Elvis, who, inclining his famous head in Lefty's direction, was about to speak at last. Lefty waited, full of anticipation.

"Hunka hunka," Elvis said simply, his voice as resonant as ever. Lefty recognized the phrase at once as a fragment from Elvis's hit "Burning Love," circa 1970. He hoped that Elvis would say something more--offer some clarification--but the great man had turned away to stare once again out his window. Clearly the terse message meant something important. But what? Something about love, its pain and its glory, the self-immolation it demands of us all? Or was the remark a subtle caveat? A reference to global warming perhaps? To the simmering hostilities around the world, which, after all, was tinier than any of us could dream? The words "hunka hunka" obviously held the key to comprehending the whole Episode, and perhaps all of life, but even now, weeks later, high atop the mound in this crucial interleague game, Lefty groped in vain for their meaning; it seemed to vibrate in the distance like fading music.

First Commentator: Well, now, here comes home plate umpire Stan Beluski; he wants to find out just what's . . .

Second Commentator: Like a statue out there, you know? It's . . .

First Commentator: Phil, you think maybe he hurt himself? An injury? He was rotating that left shoulder a while ago, kinda stretching it out. . . .

Second Commentator: Here comes the skipper, Del, and I'll bet he's thinking along those very same lines.

First Commentator: We didn't see anything unusual from up here in the booth, but it's a funny doggone game, I'll guarantee you.

An English professor, Greg Jenkins lives in Maryland. His stories have appeared in such journals as South Dakota Review, American Literary Review, Sou'wester and Red Rock Review. He is the author of two books: Stanley Kubrick and the Art of Adaptation and Night Game: Stories.

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