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FICTION

The Declaration of Asterisks
By Joshua Ewing Weber

 

My name is Walter Johnson*.

Almost two hundred years ago, I was a pitcher for an old baseball team called the Washington Senators. And a pretty good one, too. Between 1907 and 1927, I won over four hundred games, second only to my good friend, the great Cy Young. But he pitched in a lot more games than I did, and for a much better team, so there you go. They used to say—those who saw me—that I was maybe the greatest pitcher who ever lived, and that no one ever threw faster or was harder to hit. People like Babe Ruth said those things about me.

And some people still swear it's true. Even after all these years, people argue over what my fastball might've been clocked at or how I might've done against a Willie Mays or a George Brett or a Josh Gibson. In fact, I owe my life to these arguments; it's the reason they brought me back.

The way they write my name now is Walter Johnson*. They write it this way because I am not the actual Walter Johnson, but rather a cloned replica of the original, and the asterisk is there to clarify this distinction. I asked them once why I needed the asterisk, considering the original Walter Johnson had been dead for over a century and there was no chance anyone was getting us confused, but they ignored me. In my opinion, their decision to write my name this way has more to do with their asterisk obsession than it does with any common sense. Numbers and asterisks—you'd think that's all they cared about. You should see their Library of Statistical Encyclopedias!

The way they say my name is Walterjohnson, without a pause, as if it were one long word instead of two. No one has ever called me Walter, or Walt.

Oh yeah. The "they" I keep referring to are the Members of the Historical Baseball Society, whom we just call "the Members." It was the Members who, under the supervision of the federal government, exhumed the grave of Walter Johnson and replicated his DNA in order to create me, Walter Johnson*. They are the people who raised me, training me my whole life in the art of pitching, helping me to recreate that legendary sidearm delivery that my previous self possessed.

I'm the only Walter Johnson* and it would be illegal for them to produce more. When the president approved the funding for this project, he did so under the regulated guidelines of the Solitary Player Act, which states that there cannot be more than one of any reproduced player living concurrently. That's why it was imperative that I develop into an accurate sample, to make good on their tremendous investment of money and time. That's why they kept me apart from the rest of society, down in an enormous underground bunker apartment with my four roommates: Jackie Robinson*, Roberto Clemente*, Pete Rose*, and of course, the great Cy Young*. And that's why they made us take the oath: "To live selflessly, in service to America and in gratitude to the Members of the Historical Baseball Society."

That's how it was until my twenty-third year. Until the revolution, when we stopped giving oaths.

To read the rest of this story, click here to order a copy of the Winter 2005 issue.

—EFQ

 

JOSHUA EWING WEBER is a recent graduate of Southern Methodist University, where he received several awards for his fiction and was named a "Hot Literary Newcomer" in 2003 by Dallas's Arts and Letters Live series. An avid Texas Rangers fan, Joshua is certain this is the year they will win it all. And although he said that last year, and the year before, and the year before that—this year he means it. October beware.

© 2005 Joshua Ewing Weber

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