scene: november 2010. a dingy, ill-lit basement, hung with faded tapestries, and aging posters, ranging from carnival-related to vaguely occult in tone and subject. seated at a table covered in an ornate, dusty weaving, is madame mischka. she is no longer young, but otherwise of indeterminate age, most of her hidden beneath heavy wraps and shawls.
through grimy windows set high in the wall, one can see vague shapes of the urban landscape outside, and the stairwell leading down from street level to the exterior door.
a figure is seen descending the stairs. a knock sounds.
madame mischka: come in.
the door opens. kyle lohse enters.
lohse: um . . . hello? (squinting into the darkness) the sign said "fortunes told."
mischka: yes. yes. come, sit down.
lohse takes a seat across from her at the table.
mischka: tell madame. tell. what do you want to know.
lohse: i . . . uh. tony wants me to pitch in the spring. i've been hurt so long, i just want to know if i can pitch so albert will stop looking at me when i can't pitch like the way he does when i argue with aj over who gets the last otter pop.
mischka: yes. show me your palm. (lohse puts out his arm. she examines his palm, and then his forearm.) you have a scar.
lohse: that's the surgery scar. the doctors explained, my arm . . . i can never remember. they had to cut it open. something about motocross riding. although i'm not a motocross rider. i did ride a segway once in disney world. did that make my arm hurt?
mischka: you want to be a good pitcher again?
lohse: yes, i want to help my team. i want to be great so that the guys at the ten-millionaires club will stop picking on me.
mischka: mischka said "good" not "great."
lohse: can you really help me?
mischka: there is a rite. the tattoo of power. it is very difficult. it requires great sacrifice.
lohse: like what kind of sacrifice? not a human or animal sacrifice? 'cause i get sick when i see blood. i always ask for my cheeseburgers to be well done.
mischka: no. you said something about ten millionaires club.
lohse: oh yes. money. well, i kind of have my money tied up in investments. skee-ball tokens, mostly.
mischka: oh. well, then you must sacrifice something of great value. what do you have of great value? or, since we are helping your team, what does your team have of great value?
lohse: well, i don't know. the team has the stadium, but it's not paid off. other than that, it's just the players and their skills. you know, adam's arm, albert's bat.
mischka: done. put your arm out.
lohse: (putting his arm forward) what do you mean, "done"? ow! ow ow ow ow ow ow! (mischka has leaned forward with a sharp-looking, exotic needle)
lohse winces as mischka continues. the lights flicker. minutes pass as mischka works.
mischka: there. all done. you will find you will pitch as well as you ever have, as when you are at your best. i cannot make you better than you were, but as good as you were. you won't be in pain. you'll find each pitch will respond when you throw it.
lohse: you mean it?
mischka: now, you can go.
lohse: okay. (lohse hesitates.)
mischka: what? what is it?
lohse: can you draw something cool on the tattoo? like a dragon or a big wing?
mischka: okay, but quickly. then, you go.
mischka takes kyle's arm and returns to work on it. after a few minutes, she finishes.
lohse: thank you, madame mischka. i just know i'm going to have my best year ever.
lohse rises, exits through the exterior door, and mounts the stairs. after a few moments:
dave duncan emerges from a tapestry covered doorway to an interior room.
duncan: he certainly seemed to buy it. i think it might take. chris carpenter bought into that line so much he's got tattoos everywhere now. the power of suggestion works well on some of these guys.
mischka: he was a lot more trusting that others. that man with the funny name. he could not believe that i could make him better.
mischka: and the dirty, fat man. he only wanted me to get hims something to help him "score with chicks." he did not care about pitching at all.
duncan: ponson. joel, though, he bought your whole "one-seam fastball" hypnosis act. he took it hook line and sinker. no, you got a good style, madame. i like your tricks.
mischka: mister duncan, i practice the arts my mother taught me. they are not tricks.
duncan: right. well, i'll just be waiting for adam's arm to fall off and albert to stop hitting then pleasure doing business with you. i'll send payment the usual way?
mischka does not answer, going into a seeming trance. duncan waits awkwardly, then leaves the basement by the stairwell, leaving mischka alone.