Starboy

Copyright 1956 by Carl L. Biemiller

Illustrated by Kathleen Voute

Chapter One Chapter Two Chapter Three Chapter Four Chapter Five
Chapter Six Chapter Seven Chapter Eight Chapter Ten Chapter Eleven
Starboy's Home C.L. Biemiller's Home

Chapter Nine

Mr. Murphy certainly was not angry. He was thoughtful at first, then gay. He had planned a trip to New York, an outing from the farm. He asked Remo and he said, "Sure." Johnny said, "Wow!" Mrs. Jenks said she would go if Mr. Murphy would buy her hot dogs and soda in case they went to a ball game. He asked George Jenks if he would like to come along too, but Johnny's father said he had to work and couldn't make it. He also asked old Mr. Applegate. He explained his invitation to Mr. Jenks.

"The old gentleman spends most of his time with the boys, anyhow," said Mr. Murphy. "And I'd rather have him with us than worry about him. He might fall into another swamp hole."

Mr. Murphy let the boys carry his invitation to old Mr. Applegate.

They found him in his woodshed. He was oiling his saw, and when he finished he reached up and squirted a few drops from the oilcan into the open hole of a mud dauber's clay nest. "Give 'em something to think about," he muttered.

Johnny and Remo heard him.

"What do you want them to think about?" asked Johnny softly.

"Well, now," mused old Mr. Applegate, smudging dirt across his forehead as he wiped the perspiration off, "they could think about something like what's oil doing in here when all we brought was mud?"

"No reason why wasps shouldn't think," said Remo gravely.

"Especially about why a man would squirt an oil can into a nest," interrupted Johnny.

Old Mr. Applegate chuckled. A rare and wonderfully warm bond was building among these three. They could share nonsense, savoring foolery for its own sake, and without the embarrassment of the vast difference in their ages. "I'm out of berry pie," said Mr. Applegate, "so there must be another reason you came to call."

"There is," said Remo. "We're going to New York tomorrow to see the sights and Mr. Murphy wants you to go with us. Johnny's mother is going too, and we'll have fun."

Mr. Applegate shook his head slowly. "There's a lot of work to do around here tomorrow. Corn needs cultivation. The hired men get lonesome without me. But you tell Mr. Murphy I'll give in and go with youÖ"

"Yeah," shouted Johnny and Remo. "We'll be early though. Isn't that neat?"

"I'll be out of bed at four in the morning," said old Mr. Applegate. "Now you let me oil my wasps. Go up to the house and tell my housekeeper that I said there was milk in the refrigerator and cookies in the big crock, ginger ones."

Johnny and Remo were so excited they couldn't sleep. They played the space-a-tron almost recklessly, hurling the little marsquartz ball around the dark room with flashing bursts of thought. Try as Johnny might, Remo beat him three games in a row before they quit. It was late and they crept out of bed and sat by the window.

Johnny could sense Remo's thinking; they were becoming something more than good friends, and as Johnny and Remo's father had done, they were able to talk to each other without words almost like the way people communicated on Remo's world. It might have been affection or constant practice with the space-a-tron or just the process of two people getting along well together, but they shared each other's thoughts. Right now Remo was thinking that he'd sure like to tell his mother or his father about seeing a great city. He was thinking that he'd like to see his familyÖ Johnny patted him on the shoulder.

"Look," whispered Remo, pointing above the dark treetops at a moon-struck bank of clouds in the starry sky.

"Oh boy!" breathed Johnny.

It was saucers. Three of the spinning ships were hung against the moon's face then they darted into the cloudbank and vanished. There was a flooding impression of booming voice in the room. It was Arcon's and it was cheery, gentle, and faintly teasing.

"It's past your bedtime boys," it said.

There was the littlest shine of tears in the corners of Remo's eyes.

They went to bed and they slept.

Old Mr. Applegate showed up at the Jenks' house before the boys were down for breakfast. He had a cup of coffee with George Jenks before Mr. Jenks had to leave for work. He had a piece of breakfast bun with Mrs. Jenks. He was still eating it when Remo and Johnny and Mr. Murphy came into the kitchen and his mouth was so full that he couldn't say "good morning" back to them.

Mr. Applegate looked very smart today, decided Johnny. He had on a pair of neatly creased flannel trousers, and they hugged his ankles. He wore a lemon-yellow shirt with a high collar and a brown bow necktie and he wore a brand-new sports jacket. The jacket was mostly brown plaids but there were other colors in it too.

When Mr. Murphy got a good look at Mr. Applegate he said, "Wow!" and he didn't look at him again until he had his coffee.

But finally breakfast was over. Mrs. Jenks washed the dishes. Mr. Murphy went upstairs for extra cigarettes. Mr. Applegate bit the end off a cigar and lighted it. Remo and Johnny just sort of jogged around inside with impatience. Then they all got into Mr. Murphy's big, open convertible and headed for New York and it was still early in the day. Mrs. Jenks rode up front with Mr. Murphy and Remo and Johnny sat in the back with Mr. Applegate who held his straw hat on his lap so it wouldn't blow away and they played a game of ďsee for points.Ē

Johnny got five points for seeing a brindled bull. Remo got ten for seeing a black cat in a window and Mr. Applegate got ten for seeing four identical numbers on a license plate. Pretty soon they whisked into a tunnel which burrowed under the Hudson River and then they were in New York.

Every boy and girl in the world ought to be able to take the experience of seeing New York City for the first time and wrap it all up in some special sort of box and keep it forever. That's because in all the world there is nothing like New York.

Mr. Murphy drove through the confusion of traffic to the corner of 34th Street and Fifth Avenue. He parked the car in a no-parking space and told the traffic policeman about it; he also showed him an array of special cards.

"We're going up to the top of the Empire State Building," he said, "the tallest building in the world."

Old Mr. Applegate grinned. He tried to see the top of the Empire State tower from the street and leaned over backward so far that he would have fallen if Mr. Murphy hadn't pushed him back.

The elevator which whooshed them to the top of the giant building went so fast that their ears popped. They had to yawn them back to normal. The view was worth it.

Mr. Applegate went somewhere and got a pocketful dimes so they could look through the swiveled telescopes. Johnny and Remo tried to find Yankee Stadium. Once in a while Mr. Murphy would look at Remo's face and try desperately to remember what being a boy felt like. And every now and then he said, "Anything like this at home, Remo?"

"No," answered Remo once, "but then there is no need for such cities."

Mr. Applegate worked out theories about pigeons. "If this building is 1,250 feet high and no pigeons are flying around the top, then pigeons can't fly 1, 250 feet high," he said.

"Why would they want to?" asked Johnny.

"Just to prove that they could," said Mr. Applegate.

"That's no reason for a pigeon," smiled Mrs. Jenks.

"If this building were part of a chain of mountains, and pigeons had to fly over it to find food, they'd fly this high," said Mr. Murphy.

"Remo said nothing at all . He couldn't get enough of the view. He knew that it was not a commonplace one, as the long lines of tourist visitors moving about the observation space proved. He mentioned as much to Mr. Murphy, who looked at him gravely.

"There were buildings like this or something like them a long time ago on my world," said Remo reflectively. "The metals were different and the stone was not the same, but the idea of vertical structures was much alike. Our people find them in the desert occasionally."

"Any reason why your folks stopped making such towers?" asked Mr. Murphy gravely.

Remo was silent a long moment. "I donít remember exactly," he said, "I think the idea of men living as beings in a hive had something to do with it. That, and the fact that there was room to spread out, room to be a oneness with oneís own family without jamming into such buildings. But I donít know and I may be saying it badly."

"No," said Mr. Murphy slowly. "I donít think so. These buildings would simply be out of date on your world. They are nearly so here in a way."

Mr. Applegate was jostling Mr. Murphyís arm. "How long are we going to be up here? What are we going to do next?"

"Weíre going to a ball game," grinned Mr. Murphy.

They drove across town to Park Avenue and headed north past the big hotels and apartment buildings and the poodles walking people, and the cracks in the street that jetted out steam which came from the trains that ran beneath the avenue surface. They crossed bridges, which ran across oily waters and then they were at Yankee Stadium, and Mr. Murphy parked the car in a gravelly space across the street.

Johnny could sense the excitement welling in Remo as they got out of the car and he felt like jumping himself. Yankee Stadium! It rose above them, a concrete embankment pierced with gates and tunnels, and where the top of the stadium jumped off into the blue sky there were flags flying, the flags of big-league baseball teams, and the workmen were still raising others.

Mr. Murphy smiled at an officer standing in the shade. He gave a pass to another man in the gate door, and the man wished them a good morning and waved them down a long tunnel. Their heels echoed on the walk. Not that the Stadium was empty but it seemed to be resting, only half-awake. Not until the crowds of the afternoon had streamed in to fill its banked seats would it fully come alive. And they were early; Mr. Murphy had planned to get them there for a practice workout.

Mr. Murphy led them to another door and they went into an office. There were pictures of players on the wall and a smiling man was seated behind a desk. He rose and shook hands with Mrs. Jenks and Mr. Applegate. He said hello to Johnny and Remo and he winked at old Mr. Applegate. "Weíre glad to have you with us," he said. "Everythingís ready for you and you go right down to the field. The teamís working out now, just loosening up, and the boys wonít be out long. Tough game this afternoon. Come on, Iíll go with you."

They walked through more tunnels and suddenly, there in the blazing morning sunlight, was the field. Remo gasped. It was bright blue. It was glowing green. It was blinding white. It was covered with baseball players. They were running. They were throwing. They were swinging bats and the air was full of balls. He could hear laughter and grunts and sharp cries and raised voices. Then a big, waddly man was shaking his hand and saying, "Glad to see you, boy." And the man with Mr. Murphy was pointing out a seat in the stands for Mrs. Jenks and saying, "Take Ďem down to meet some of the boys."

"Sure," said the waddly man, his seamed brown face one big wrinkled grin. He was the teamís manager.

They walked out on the field to home plate. There was a big cage made of chicken wire and pipes behind the plate. The players were stepping into it to practice hitting. Out on the pitcherís mound in the middle of the diamond a big man was throwing balls to them. He wheeled easily, brought his arm down, and the ball zipped toward the hitter. Just as easily the player swinging the bat stepped forward and cracked the ball back into the field. It arched high and soared into the outfield where still another player caught it.

Remo was having the time of his life. He was excited with the game and what he had learned about it from Johnny, television, Mr. Murphy, and everybody.

Old Mr. Applegate took off his gay sports coat and hung it over his arm. His lemon shirt blazed in the sun. He looked like a skinny bumblebee. A bee with a big smile.

"Boy, Iíd like to hit a few myself," he said.

"We can arrange that," smiled the manager. "You look like a natural slugger to me. Bring the boys over to the cage."

They walked over to the home plate area where the big, waddly man cupped his hands and yelled. "Knock off in there. We got a candidate for left field here and a couple of home run hitters."

Mr. Applegate beamed. Johnny couldnít keep from jiggling; he was so excited. But Remo looked thoughtful. He was excited, too, but he was remembering something. Donít let your differences show, he thought. Not after the bull, the broken bell at the fair, and especially after that accident. He would dearly love to bat a baseball but somehow he just didnít think heíd better. Remo was learning that when people are kind as the Jenks were kind, you did what was best for them and not best for yourself. He had a notion that Mr. Murphy might not like it if, by some chance, he should hit a baseball in any unusual manner.

Old Mr. Applegate had no such qualms. He hitched his sleeves up over his skinny elbows and threw his coat to Mr. Murphy. "Can I hit first?"

"Sure," grinned the manager. "Grab a bat."

A lot of the Yankee players crowded around the back of the cage to watch. They called greetings to Johnny and Remo. They yelled at Mr. Applegate. "Sock it, Granddad," they called.

Mr. Applegate strode to the plate. He wiggled his shoes into the dirt and he cocked the bat over his shoulder.

"Say," said the Yankee manager, "youíve held one of these before, I can tell."

Out on the pitcherís mound, the practice pitcher wound up and threw. The ball came in straight and easy.

Old Mr. Applegate reached his arms around, pivoted his hips, and stepped out to meet it. Crack went the bat, and the ball arched out over second base and soared into the outfield. "Easy pickinís, boys," he said.

The Yankee players cheered. "Belt it out of the park, Pappy!" they yelled.

"Pour it in here, son," screamed Mr. Applegate to the laughing pitcher, "then duck, boy! Iím a cannon gone wild when I use a bat!"

The Yankee players pounded each other on the back and roared. They love hitters in Yankee Stadium, even old, skinny hitters in lemon shirts and white flannels, and they love them more when they swing a bat with a smile the way Mr. Applegate was smiling.

The pitcher wound up again. He uncoiled his arm, tilted forward, and threw. The ball whistled toward the plate again, straight and blurred with speed. Mr. Applegate unwound, hitched the bat around in a flat, well-timed motion. The sound of the bat meeting the ball was solid.

The ball rose, flew higher and higher, and finally disappeared over the fence down the right-field line. It would have been a home run in a game!

Hurrah, yelled the Yankee players. They roared and laughed and cheered.

"Thatís the way we did it in the old Federal League," said Mr. Applegate.

"Well, Iíll be switched," grunted the Yankee manager.

"Do I get my uniform?" asked Mr. Applegate.

"Iíll stop at the toy store when we go home and buy you one," said Mr. Murphy.

Remo and Johnny stared wide-eyed at Mr. Applegate, then they too laughed.

One of the Yankee players gave Johnny a stick of gum. "How about you other boys?" he asked. "Ready to bat?"

"Can you show us how?" asked Johnny eagerly.

"Sure," said the player. He took the bat from Mr. Applegate, and smiled at Remo. "Now watch how I stand," he said. "Notice how the bat covers any part of the plate so it can reach any ball thrown over any part of it." He waggled the bat. "Always keep your swing level so it comes around on a flat arc. You can meet the ball better that way. Now try to imagine that your bat has to hit the ball before it comes to the plate. That way youíll always hit in front of yourself and youíll be stepping into the ball. Thatís where the power comes from. Now snap your wrists, and let the bat come all the way around to the end of a full swing. We call it the follow-through. Try it Buster."

He handed the bat to Johnny. He yelled at the pitcher. "Try it easy for this slugger."

Johnny looked exactly like the Yankee player as he stood up at the plate. The bat was a little awkward to handle. It was really too heavy for Johnny. But he held it just right. When the pitcher threw he swung and socked the ball squarely. It rolled out across the infield and a player fielded it and threw it back to the pitcher.

"Fine," said his teacher. "Try it again."

Johnny was all smiles. He stood up at the plate and hit two more.

"Gosh," he said, almost stuttering with pleasure and eager to share it . "You try it, Remo. Itís fun." He held out the bat.

For a long moment, and with his heart shining in his eyes, Remo looked at the bat. He wanted to hit that ball, to really swing a Yankee bat.

"No," said Remo. "I donít want to. I think Iím hungry. Can we eat?"

Mr. Murphy reached out a long arm and mussed Remoís bright hair. "Somehow, Remo boy," he said, "Iím proud of you. Letís go."

They said good-bye to the Yankee players, and old Mr. Applegate said he was sorry but that he couldnít play for them that afternoon. He said that he guessed that he was hungry too. "If it werenít for that," he chuckled, "Iíd stand here and hit balls over the fence all day."

They walked back to the stands and joined Mrs. Jenks in a box seat.

It was a dandy ball game. The Yankees won. They beat the Chicago White Sox by a score of 2 to 0. Mr. Applegate bought everybody hot dogs for lunch. Then he bought soda and ice cream. He was trying hard to buy frozen candy bars and popcorn when Mrs. Jenks said that they had enough to eat. Mr. Applegate also caught a foul ball, which tipped into the box seat. He took off his hat and waved it to the Yankee batter, holding the ball aloft with his other hand. The Yankee batter laughed so hard he had to call time out before he could continue to bat.

Remo and Johnny ate and cheered.

Only Mr. Murphy seemed quiet. He was thinking, and not for the first time, that it was difficult to have a boy from another world for a visitor and to keep that fact a secret for very long even though the government, the Jenks, and Remo himself were all very good at keeping secrets. Mr. Murphy could foresee trouble.

Chapter One Chapter Two Chapter Three Chapter Four Chapter Five
Chapter Six Chapter Seven Chapter Eight Chapter Ten Chapter Eleven
Starboy's Home C.L. Biemiller's Home