Online news articles, the gossip, and talk from my customers about planned closure of the baseball factory is constant in the rural community of Red Junction. This entity has been a main employer here since the early ’50s. Employees make the tees, base pads, baseballs, and gloves. Teams from the Little League to Major League obtain game equipment from the Red Junction factory. Mr. Ed Davis, founder and served as CEO, until his retirement in 2017. He still has a voice in factory operations, though.
I understand from others that his activities include ambling down to Red Junction Lounge and orders from the endless soup and salad buffet. He resolves world problems with the assembled think-tank.
This was the first Monday in October, and a public forum would be the agenda at the Red Junction City Council’s evening meeting. The question for public comment:
Public hearing: use of the baseball factory premises following closure.
This move was spurred on by environmental activists. They believe Red Junction should become rural in identity and increase activity reflecting that of a small country town.
Our town boasts a seasonal pickle factory, hardware, grain elevator, private daycares, clinic, lounge and garden nursery center. The Quick Trip market carries life’s basics and incidentals. Our town population in the last census was noted at 4,000 persons.
Our community is homogenous in make-up and lifestyle. Most weekend evenings, people relax. Some fun-loving adults visit the Red Junction Lounge for cold brews, burgers, bullshit, and bravado. Generally, after business hours, some of us from the shop walk the short distance to the Red Junction Lounge after close of business on Fridays. Generally, a small group of us play a couple games of darts. I’ve lived here all my life. Those who leave here do so because some misdeed results in them feeling judged and slighted.
I entered the meeting hall with several town-folk in the nearly filled 350-seat high school auditorium. Atmosphere reflected tension and chatter occurred before the meeting call to order. Behind me, two teenagers were occupied sending texts. Nearby, Mrs. Hensley kept humming a song to herself, Mr. Frye would intermittently yell out for peace and quiet, and Tara Footman paced the aisle.
After forever, Mayor Caldwell, dressed in a blazer with striped shirt and tie approached the podium. His neck tie didn’t match his shirt and suit jacket. He began, “Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the monthly session of the Red Junction City Council. Our meeting tonight is a public hearing. The baseball factory will be closing at the end of the year, and about 75 of our fine citizens will be affected. Of course, these persons will be fully eligible for unemployment, but temporarily. We are assembled to hear ideas for what should replace the factory.” His hand fumbled for a glass of water. He took a sip and proceeded.
“Your ideas will be discussed by Council next Monday; a scheduled referendum on the first Tuesday of November is slated. On the ballot, registered voters will choose between three possible choices. The top choice will be pursued. Who wants to go first?”
Tiffany Stock, short of stature, faded jeans, straight shoulder-length hair, approached the podium.
“Test, test.” She then tapped the microphone. “Oh it’s on, good.”
Nervous laughter ensued.
“Mr. Mayor, ladies and gentlemen – first, it’s too bad we are losing the ball factory. Furthermore, it was there, the factory, that we found out that Alan and Jordan, yes, Alan and Jordan, not only liked their jobs, but one another. I mean, they were alleged to be ‘an item.”
People turned and murmur resonated. I thought this was just like Tiffany. If she could find a captive audience, all the better for starting a rumor, propagating a hint or falsehood.
She added, “I mean – really. Let’s put in a public gym and later add an indoor pool. Of course, there would be an element who would use the facility for a hotbed of extreme pleasure.” Her remarks were met with boos and catcalls. The Mayor gaveled restoring order. Ms. Stock concluded returning to her seat.
Fred Stillwater, middle-aged, wearing a Boise State T-shirt, loafers, and jeans strolled to the podium. He began,
“Hi, I’m Fred Stillwater. I’ve worked at the ball factory my whole adult life. I have been there eighteen years and planned on a few more. Now, I’m being forced out, damn it!” Fred pounded the podium with the heel of his hand. Eyes narrowed and mouth turned down, he continued, “It makes me angry! I’m upset and pissed! Let’s just sell the property to the native Americans. And they can open a casino here. The rest of us might as well go on welfare! Thanks.” Fred glanced around the room before returning to his seat.
However, I was touched by his remarks and went up next.
“Hello folks. You know me as Shannon from the Hair Cuttery. If you don’t, you do now. We might all be sympathetic too, and angry along with most of the factory people who will be terminated from their jobs. We feel pissed, royally mad, and screwed like Fred. Who wouldn’t? These people have put in varying amounts ….” Just then, I noticed someone come rushing in through the side door. A burst of air could be heard as the door flung open. A collective gasp went up from the audience. It was Alan Noyce, whom Tiffany Stock had mentioned during her remarks.
“Alan, would you please take a seat?” directed Mayor Caldwell as he fingered his neck tie. “Alan, sit down.”
Alan did not sit down but quickly walked towards Tiffany Stock and tossed an open fruit pie in her face.
He shouted, “Tiffany, enjoy your dessert. I had the sense you would rub my reputation in the dirt, or try.” She uttered a few expletives at him before quickly leaving the auditorium. In quick strides, he rushed to the stage and threw a couple punches on the Mayor. Then, Alan began wrestling with the Mayor. The Mayor’s arms were flailing, words flying, but Alan appeared more the skilled fighter. He put him in a hold bringing the Mayor to the ground, pouncing on him.
Two police officers approached as the Mayor was in a headlock. Verbal commands directed to Alan urging him to cease failed. One officer grabbed Alan’s legs while the other worked to release Alan’s grip on the Mayor. The officers escorted Alan to the corner of the stage. There, he was placed under arrest for disturbing the peace.
Addressing the audience one of the officers stated,
“Ladies and gentlemen, we will continue this meeting after a ten-minute recess. I need to speak with Ms. Stock and the Mayor.”
Ms. Stock had scurried to the restroom, cleaned up as best she could, and then returned to the auditorium. One officer motioned her to come to the front where he then recorded her statement on video alongside the Mayor’s. Council-woman Estelle Warren announced,
“I will be filling in for Mayor Caldwell for the remainder of the evening. Shannon, do you wish to continue your remarks?”
“Thank you Ms. Warren. Alan demonstrated outwardly the angst many feel inwardly. That is what I am saying, though his behavior was uncalled for.” The response from the crowd were cheers mingled with applause.
“What do we do? I think a short-term industry that would lead to a robotics plant might work. We’d need help to guide the effort. Thanks for your time.”
“Who wishes to go next?” asked Ms. Warren. Janet Barrette approached the podium. She was casually dressed and worked as one of the high school teachers.
“Shannon has a good idea to establish a transition type industry. This could lead perhaps to something in robotics. I think the easiest and most doable would be a tutoring or learning center. It would employ some of the affected, but also hire others qualified to bring their talent to Red Junction. The center could run for nine months up to two years. It’s something affordable and worth considering.” Ms. Barrette gave a wink to the audience and then with head held high, walked to her seat. Ms. Warren smiled and in a calm voice stated,
“Ladies and gentlemen, we have heard a few opinions tonight about what to do about the baseball factory. These are good ideas. One person handed me a note with two suggestions that included a bed and breakfast or a movie theater. As Mayor Caldwell mentioned, Council is meeting next Monday to discuss the ideas and then the voters will decide in November, on the first Tuesday. Be sure to get out and vote. Our tomorrow will be brighter, but tonight, we are now dismissed.”
The next day, most of my customers discussed the council meeting and the antics by Alan Noyce. Many felt he acted like a jerk, exhibiting little tact, but voiced sympathy for him. He was single, bisexual, and considered a loner in our town. I had cut his hair on one occasion and found him to be polite and fairly ordinary. He did leave a nice tip. Jordan too was quiet and unassuming. He had moved to our town a couple years ago from the big city and was said to desire a quieter life. He had become a regular customer at the Hair Cuttery.
As the date for the referendum drew closer, patrons were more forthcoming about their choice for the factory property.
The Red Junction six-member City Council discussed each of the options and decided to place on the ballot: Creation of a movie theater, Temporary learning center leading to construction of a robotics plant, sell the property to native Americans for construction of a casino.
The general election occurred on the first Tuesday in November. The ball factory proposal was on the ballot. Once results were tabulated, the overall choice was for the temporary learning center with conversion to a robotics plant to occur within three years. I voted for this choice, the most convenient of the three proposals to make happen. Used furnishings could be moved to accommodate what would be needed for a temporary learning center while the robotics plant architecture would be drawn up. I donated our computer from the business, and my living room furniture to be used in the reception area. It was time for an upgrade.
By the following March, the learning center was up and running with a small staff and twenty students. Subjects tutored included spelling, basic math, and basic English. Fred, Tiffany and Jordan were hired as support staff. Tutors were either retired citizens or a couple new graduates from Boise State. I surmised from hearing and reading – that this plan may prove to be a good alternative in Red Junction.
Our town made the evening news on the closing day of the ball factory. Video showed the last day of operations. Mr. Davis, former CEO, dropped by and thanked several workers for their time of service. The owner of one of the MLB teams drove up in a 2010 jeep to the loading dock. Video behind narrative showed him and some employees loading base pads and tees into his vehicle. These would be used on opening day and throughout the forthcoming baseball season.
David Russell is a tenacious writer of short fiction, and general article content for a freelance service. He has had stories in micro-fiction anthologies, New Authors Journal, and on Spillwords.com. David lives with his wife, three turtles, and also plays piano professionally in lower Michigan, USA. Publications: 'Homecoming: A Memoir' (2018), Amazon; 'Waiting For Messiah' (Anthology - 2017), Smashwords.