“Hey, dad,” said Kevin Costner. “You wanna have a catch?”
“I’d like that,” said his dad.
They played catch.
Annie turned on the floodlights.
That’s better, thought Kevin Costner, this is a pivotal moment in my life, playing catch with my dead father. It’s good to be able to see the ball properly.
Kevin Costner heard a car. The car parked next to the baseball field. Then another. And another. Kevin Costner could see car headlights all the way up Dyersville East Road. There must’ve been over a hundred cars on the road.
“Hold on a moment, dad,” said Kevin Costner.
A middle-aged man in a Chicago White Sox hat got out of the first car.
“I have come,” said the man.
“What?” said Kevin Costner.
“You built it, buddy! I have come.”
“Oh, er, right, yes, of course.” said Kevin Costner.
“So, where these ballplayers at?”
“Er, well, they went back into the corn. It’s just me and my dad right now.”
“Okay. So, when will the White Sox be coming back?”
“Tomorrow, I guess.” said Kevin Costner.
“Hmm, damn,” said the man. “Is there a hotel around here?”
“Yes, I’m sorry. Back in the town, there’s a couple.”
“I’ll be honest, buddy,” the man rambled uninterestingly, “we came all the way from Chicago, and we’d really like a chance to see Joe Jackson and the others.”
“I understand. Sorry. Tomorrow.”
The man got back into his car. Another car had pulled up behind him. He leaned out of the window and asked the other guy to move. While this was going on, Kevin Costner was explaining the situation to another couple of men. The first guy drove away. He didn’t say anything to anyone in the one hundred or so cars all lined up to visit Kevin Costner’s baseball field; he was more interested in getting to the hotel before it was fully booked.
More and more people arrived. They parked their cars on the road and wandered towards the field. By this time, Kevin Costner had repeated the same thing several times. Annie, too, was telling different groups of visitors the same thing.
After half an hour, the local sheriff arrived. He, to this English author, was a complete stereotype of what American sheriffs are/were like. Essentially, the guy off The Dukes of Hazzard. He waddled from his car and spat tobacco juice on the dirt.
“What’s the problem here, Kevin Costner?” he said.
Kevin Costner explained.
The sheriff told everyone, in a sheriff-y manner, to disperse, and drove back up Dyersville East Road, telling other people the same thing. Most of these visitors would not find a hotel room in Dyersville that night. They would be annoyed.
Kevin Costner was tired. He sat on the pitcher’s mound and chatted with his father. They didn’t really have a huge amount to say to each other, in that way conversations can be a bit stilted when you’ve not seen someone for quite a while.
“So, er, who won the World Series last year? said Kevin Costner’s dad.
“The Dodgers,” said Kevin Costner. “They beat the A’s.”
For comic relief, they talked about the Cubs still not having won the World Series since forever. It was a nice moment between father and son.
The next morning Annie went into town to buy wieners, hot dog buns, onions, relish, mustard, ketchup, lemons, popcorn, and some toilet paper. When she drove back to the farm, and saw that the same people with talking parts the night before had turned up to see some baseball. Some of them were getting theatrically impatient and then suddenly, they fell silent. Emerging from the corn field, the players emerged from the corn field emergingly. The gathered crowd applauded. “There’s Shoeless Joe!” yelled one. “There’s Buck Weaver!” yelled another. “There’s Eddie Chi-cotty… Cy-cott, however the heck it’s pronounced,” yelled someone else. “I’ve been waiting 15 minutes for a hot dog, I’d like to talk to your supervisor,” yelled a sour-faced woman at Kevin Costner’s daughter, Karin.
The game was great. Chick Gandil hit three doubles and a home run. His wRC+ was the best in the league. But, y’know, small sample size. And, y’know, small league, for that matter. One of the teams scored more runs, but none of the spectators really cared who won. Standing in the cornfield behind left field, nine African American players wondered if they could play or if this future baseball world was still full of racist fuck-knuckles. Standing in the cornfield behind right field, two fat men smoked cigars and dabbed sweat from their foreheads.
“These are my players,” said Fatty McOwner.
“They’re under contract,” said Tubby O’Greedy.
“We’ll see about this, Kevin Costner!” said Fatty.
The Wicked Witch of the West flew over the corn field and cackled.
Despite a few teething problems, life was pretty rosy for Kevin Costner and his family. The players loved to play baseball. Even the Negro Leaguers got to play. Many many people came to watch. They felt warm nostalgic, slightly-syrupy feelings. They bought $20 tickets. They enjoyed Annie’s hot dogs. They enjoyed Karin’s lemonade. And Kevin Costner got to play catch with his dad every night after everyone else had gone. The villagers who’d predicted that Kevin Costner would lose his farm or said that he was crazy held their hands up and admitted they were wrong. Even the Nazi Cow started reading saucy books and diddling herself. Dyersville was peachy. Swell, in fact.
Until one morning, when the players didn’t come. The bleachers were full. The people were content with their refreshments, but slowly they began to wonder why they had come, and impatience started to take over. Kevin Costner mumbled an apology, and jogged out to the corn field and peeked through to see if he could see anything.
“Pssst! Shoeless Joe! Pssst!” pssst-ed Kevin Costner.
No reply. Kevin Costner pssst-ed again. Fatty and Tubby appeared in front of Kevin Costner.
“Shoeless Joe ain’t comin’, boy,” said Fatty.
“Y’see, Kevin Costner, those players are our players,” said Tubby. “They don’t play nowhere without our say so.”
“And it seems you and your purty wife and daughter have been making a lot of money off of our property.”
Fatty and Tubby had spoken to city officials in nearby Cascade who were willing to use public finances to build a 20,000 seater stadium in a cornfield on the outskirts of the city, which, for the sake of this story, was constructed within a couple of days of that very discussion.
“So, y’see,” said Fatty, “your Field of Dreams is about to turn into–and I feel somewhat corny saying this–your Field of Nightmares!”
Kevin Costner turned and walked away. His mind raced. He up-nodded to Annie who walked over and they chatted quietly near first base. Kevin Costner went into the house while Annie told the gathered crowd and handed out refunds. After the last of the spectators had left, Annie returned to the house and found Kevin Costner sat at the kitchen table, crying.
Kevin Costner’s Field of Dreams was an empty place without the players. Kevin Costner’s father would still come by every night to play catch. But the debts were piling up and the same old problems were rearing their heads. The ginger guy off Thirtysomething would still come around and be a dick every now and then. And when winter came, his father stopped coming to play catch.
It was a long winter. Kevin Costner thought about that Rogers Hornsby quote, and sat by the window, waiting for spring. But he sat by the window waiting for spring holding a bottle of scotch. Kevin Costner and Annie started having problems. They argued. Karin cried a lot. And inevitably, they lost the farm.
Annie took Karin and went to live with her mother. Kevin Costner stayed in a motel for a while to “give each other a bit of space.” When money was running out, he slept in his Volkswagen bus. He drove to Boston to see Terence Mann again. But Terence Mann was a fictional character in a movie and did not exist, and Kevin Costner did not know J.D. Salinger’s address. When Kevin Costner’s bus broke down, he had no money to repair it. It was towed.
Kevin Costner had no money. Kevin Costner had no transport. Kevin Costner had nowhere to sleep. Kevin Costner was cold. Kevin Costner got a cough. And you know what that means in a story, right?
Kevin Costner was found unconscious in a park. Kevin Costner was taken to a hospital. Kevin Costner died of pneumonia.
Craig Robinson is not a Child, a God, a Pilgrim, a Rock, the Forest, the Resurrection, the Cosmos, the Law, or Damo Suzuki. Nor is he trying to break your heart. He does have a Web site, though. It's called Flip Flop Flyin'.