I am quite sure if a snail in Buenos Aires set out now it would reach me here in Minneapolis before February 24, which is further away and not exactly rushing toward me. I’m not quite sure what to say in the meantime except that a very nice review will be published in Booklist in March, one which declares Mudville “a gift from the baseball gods” for young sports fans, which I will only quote and not comment on because I know that the baseball gods are fickle and might be angered by my own boasting.
Anyway, here is a bit of the long view. Somewhere in the spring of 2004 I got the idea for a story about a baseball game with a very long rain delay. I’d already been worrying at baseball stories for well over a year and even had a character named Sturgis Nye who wanted a story to live in.
At first the rain delay was hundreds of years, the characters lived in a futuristic domed city, and I think there was cloning in it — but fortunately I reined that in, so to speak. But by August I’d set the story in a town called Moundville and in the present day, and completed a very rough draft of what would become Mudville later that year (I didn’t have that title until 2006, although some early drafts began with the words, “The outlook wasn’t brilliant,” which makes me wonder why I didn’t think of it sooner.)
Here are the first few paragraphs of that effort:
It was raining hard, as it always did, so I ran up the path to the house and banged the door behind me.
“I’m home!” I hollered. “I won two trophies!” I dropped my bags by the door and used my hand to squeegee the water off my head.
I expected big hugs and whoops of joy, but there was no response. I stepped out of the foyer, into the living room, and stopped.
There was this strange kid stretched out on the couch, reading a book. He was about 14 years old, the same age as me. I don’t just mean he was a stranger. I mean he was flat-out strange. The main thing was his face, which was covered on one side with scar tissue. He was also missing his ear on that side. He had a pink plastic ear in its place. I wondered if he’d been in a car wreck, or maybe had a pot of boiling water tipped on his head when he was a baby. He had long, oily brown hair that was nearly black. His clothes didn’t look too clean, either.
He looked at me over the top of his book. It was a thick paperback, a bit tattered, and had a dragon or something on the cover. It liked one of those novels with wizards and knights and endless battle scenes.
“Is it still raining?” he asked, seeing how wet I was.
“It’s always raining,” I said. “It’s been raining for over twenty years.”
“I know,” he said. “I was kidding.”
I live in a town where it always rains. I don’t mean it rains a lot, like they say it does in Seattle. I mean it always rains, every day and every night. It’s been raining for over twenty years, long before I was born. You might think that’s impossible, but it’s true. It’s only the third longest rainfall on record. There’s somewhere in Africa where it rained from 1889 to 1950, and there’s a part of South America where it’s been raining for at least forty years, and they don’t know when it started.
You might wonder why folks would go on living in a town where it keeps raining, day in and day out. Well, I guess it’s not too much different from the people in Chicago who keep rooting for the Cubs. Every spring, they think that maybe this is their year. People here wake up every morning thinking, today it might stop raining.
Not me, but the way. I don’t root for the Cubs, and if it was up to me we’d moved away a long time ago.
You might do the math and see that Mudville was five years in the making and think about how patient writers have to be and think that ten more days won’t kill me. But I am not patient at all. I’ve been fretting and anxious for almost all of it, especially since the summer of 2006 when I finally got the manuscript spit-shined enough to start querying agents and everything since. I’m pretty sure the next ten days will be the — Just a second, there’s someone at the door.
What do you know, it’s a gastropod wearing an Argentinean soccer jersey.