"Bradley. I need to see you in my office."
"Sure boss," Bradley said with a sigh. It had been another rough game. Oh-for-four with two K's. He was stuck in what was turning out to be the worst slump of his career. He'd tried everything, extra batting practice, no batting practice, stepless hitting, t-ball, slump busting with fatties, uggos, trollops, and hoes, not washing his socks, wearing women's panties, incense, voodoo, shaving his head, shaving something else, and even growing out his facial hair. None of it had worked. And now the manager wanted to see him. Bradley sighed again and pulled up his sweaty socks. He might as well get it over with.
The walk down to the manager's office was long and Bradley couldn't help but speculate as he padded down the corridor. Maybe he was being moved lower in the rotation again? Oh lord, please don't put me after Collins, he thought. It was embarrassing enough to be moved out of the three-hole, but batting after the catcher would be unbearable. Or maybe he'd be sitting out the next roadtrip. Triple A ball? Oh, please no.
Bradley reluctantly approached the manager's half-open door. He paused, and then knocked.
"Yeah, come on in," said a gruff voice.
The manager wasn't having a particularly good run either. The team had lost seven of the last nine and had effectively given up any shot at the division. It didn't help that his best hitter, the reigning NL batting champion, was mired in a hitting slump so bad that none of the other players would even look at him for fear of catching the bad vibes.
"Sit down Bradley," he said with wave of his hand.
"Thanks boss." Bradley had a hard time looking his manager in the eyes. His mind was still racing through the various nightmare scenarios.
"How's it going champ?" the manager said with a tight smile. His eyes were crinkled at the corners and he suddenly seemed old and tired.
"Oh you know - " Bradley trailed off, and then restarted, "- every game's a new game. Hanging in there. Just need to break this slump, then it'll be alright."
"Yes, well about that . . . we've ah, decided to have you tested for several substances."
"What?" Bradley sat up with shock. "You think I'm using performance enhancing drugs?!"
"No no," the manager said. "Nothing like that. We just want to make sure that everything's on the up and up. We're paying you eighteen mil a year, I think we're justified in taking certain steps to protect our investment."
"I don't understand," Bradley sputtered. "I'm not using steroids if that's what you think. My last test was like a month ago."
"This has nothing to do with roids Bradley. We're actually concerned about performance dehancing substances."
"I'm sorry, what?"
Suddenly, there was a soft knock at the door. The manager stood up slowly, his eyes still locked on his star hitter. "Come in," he said.
The door opened and Bradley turned around to see one of the trainers enter the room. He was holding several items in his hands. "It's positive sir."
The manager winced, "Are you sure?"
"I'm sure." The trainer walked across the room and dumped the items on the desk. It looked like a pile of trash.
"We found Carl's Jr. wrappers in his locker, a half-eaten Butterfinger and a pack of Skittles in his bag, and these -" the trainer reached into his pockets with both hands and pulled out two unopened Twinkies, "were in his SUV."
The trainer waved the Twinkies in the air in what he no doubt must have considered to be an accusatory manner but which more resembled the necessary movements to safely guide a passenger jet into the terminal.
Bradley jumped to his feet. "Now wait a minute!"
"Sit down Bradley," the manager commanded.
"No!" he shouted. "This isn't right. I mean, you went through my ride?!"
"Look at this crap Bradley! Carl's Jr.? Come on now!" The manager was red-faced and bellowing. "This evidence is pretty clear. Plus you never lock your Escalade. Everyone knows that."
Bradley stammered. It was hard to argue with the unwrapped Twinkies sitting before him. He just hoped the trainer hadn't found the remaining three boxes in the trunk. It was time for damage control.
"Boss," he said, "I don't know how those things got in my locker, but I promise to look into it. I'll talk to my nutritionist tomorrow." Bradley turned smoothly to the trainer, immediately realizing he didn't know the man's name. "Listen guy, are you certain it was my Escalade?"
"I'm certain," The trainer nodded firmly. He was still waving the Twinkies around like glow sticks at a trance club. "License plate said BORN2HIT, so I knew it was yours. Oh yeah, and I also found like a dozen Slim Jims in the back seat but I couldn't carry them in."
"Slim Jims?!" the manager exploded. He was hot now.
"Now just hold on guys." Bradley took a step back. "Slim Jims can be part of a nutritious breakfast. Let's not get crazy here. I'll tell you what, let's have a meeting tomorrow before the Tigers game and we'll talk about this some more when we've both calmed down."
The manager was twitching with anger behind his desk. "I can't believe this Bradley!" he exploded again. His voice was getting hoarse. "I thought maybe your uniform was a little dirty from the game today but now I'm beginning to think it might be CHOC-O-LATE!" He held on to the last word for emphasis.
"That isn't even rational," said Bradley, taking another step back.
"Oh it's not is it?" his manager snorted. "Slim Jims aren't rational! Not when you're hitting .118 for the month of AU-GUST."
Bradley shook his head. "I just really want to thank both of you for bringing this to my attention. It's really great to know that so many people are looking out for me. It makes this place feel like a family. Truly it does." He was at the door now.
Bradley paused to let the 'family' reference fully sink in. He was a master of charm, and even though he couldn't hit a grapefruit of a hanging slider, he hadn't lost his ability to capture an audience. "I won't forget this when my contract renegotiations come up. A family. I'm calling my agent right now."
And just like that, Bradley Anderson, former NL batting champ and all-around junk foodie, slipped out the door and headed quickly back down the hall. No benching and no triple A. It was the best he could have hoped for. He smiled and reached into his pocket for a Snickers bar. It was warm and melty and Bradley unconsciously wiped his chocolatey fingers on his uniform. Mmmm, peanuts and caramel. Maybe it wasn't that bad of a day after all.