Tuesday, July 7, 2015


Hooray! Today MacFinster II: MacFinster's Folly has been released electronically at the following locales:

For the Kindle and Kindle software, go here!

For Google Play, go here!

For the Nook... should be later today. Will update ASAP.

UPDATE: For the Nook, go here!

For iPad... well, you'll have to wait. I'm sorry, it's out of my control---at least, my editor has not responded to any of my slobbery outbursts. Should be soon.

But lest you get too crazy with eagerness, I'm happy to include a sample chapter for you. Enjoy!


Chapter Five

Why Darmo Does Not Get Brilliant Ideas More Often

I had to wait until my next day off—Wednesday—to put my brilliant idea into action. And even then my father almost ruined my day.

But it started off really nice. I had stopped trying to call Erin, for one thing. Not that I wasn’t sore, and I did miss her, but I’d resigned myself to letting her be and just hoping she’d come around. It was a beautiful spring morning, more like summer, and I actually went to the store and bought some food. We were getting low on crackers and peanut butter. The only other things in the house to eat were a dead rubber plant and, inexplicably, a can of water chestnuts. Once the larder was full, I brought the truck around to the back of the house and got to work.

I don’t know a lot about engines, but I have to say this monster was the biggest lawn-mower engine I had ever seen. But that was good; I wanted a challenge. First I had to get it working, which turned out to be easier than I’d thought. It just needed a good cleaning, especially the fuel line, and the replacement of some minor components—primarily the battery. I did have to remount the gas tank to get it out of the way of the other attachments I was planning to put on there, but once I gassed it up it kicked right over.

When I turned the engine off and could hear again, I realized someone was shouting my name. I turned to see my old man in the upstairs window next door. Retired, you know.

“What are you doing, George?” he yelled.

“Building a pitching machine,” I said.


“I’m building a machine to pitch baseballs.”


“Because my talentless father never taught me how to hit them!”

“I’ll be down shortly.”

Knowing Dad, that shortly could take a long time. I got back to work. At the store I and the other guys had used big blocks of wood to level the engine into the truck bed, so I just mounted the engine to the wood. Of course, getting it back out of the truck was going to be harder, but we great ideas men don’t worry about details.

My great idea was to attach a wheelbarrow tire to the axle, which would take a ball from the feeder I had constructed Tuesday night out of PVC pipe, and shoot it forward through a mounted pipe that I hoped would cut down the spin. My assumption was that firing a ball with one tire might put a lot of spin on that sucker. I used some enormous bolts and clamps to get that in place, and was just putting on the feeder when Dad showed up with his camera and microphone.

If you don’t know my dad, let’s just say that he’s where I get it from. Since Dad retired he’s taken to running an Internet-based news report for the town of Measleyville out of my old bedroom, called WYCZ. He scurries all over town in his suit with the camera, filming remotes on whatever story comes along (which around here is not much), or doing man-on-the-street interviews, and runs back to the “studio” to film himself introducing himself as the roving reporter. Fires, retirements, pet adoption clinics, ribbon-cuttings, high school football, opening day for the Snails, local elections—you name it, Ralph Darmowycz is covering it. He’s always desperate for news.

You’d probably be surprised at how many regular viewers he gets on his site. I think it’s in the high tens. Maybe more. Probably a lot of his old students.

I’ve been interviewed by him more than enough times (Christmas last year was particularly rough) and I was not in the mood now. Ah, but when Scoop Darmowycz sniffs out a story, nothing can stop the old newshound. He’s made Mom even crazier than she was before. He spent a week ripping up my old bedroom for a news “studio” but she can’t get him to fix the sink. He dropped a pile of dough on a secret buttonhole camera with some sort of wireless uplink for his undercover investigations (number of undercover investigations he has initiated: 0). He tried to talk Mom into getting a van, painted with the WYCZ logo that he had designed on the laptop. Mom shakes her head a lot.

I was having trouble connecting the feeder tube when he came out. The sun had gone warm, and now was directly overhead, and I was getting sweaty and irritated as I tried to bolt the clamps into the holes I had drilled. And here comes Measleyville’s own Edward R. Murrow, setting up his camera and aiming it right at me.

“Dad, I’m not in the mood,” I said.

Dad was in his suit and tie, and had removed his usual glasses. While I was aligning metal I heard him go into it. “Three… two… one. This is Ralph Darmowycz of WYCZ, reporting live in the backyard of one of Measleyville’s many hardworking entrepreneurs.”

“I work in a garden center!” I shouted from behind the engine.

“We’re hoping we can get an interview with George, who has been developing a new pitching machine to train prospective young baseball players.”

“Whose fathers suck at baseball!”

“Let’s see if George will talk to us. George, do you have a moment? This is Ralph Darmowycz, WYCZ News.”

“We’ve met.” The clamp went into position, probably because the adrenaline from my annoyance with my father gave me the strength to twist the metal with my bare hand, and I zipped the bolt in with my power screwdriver.

“This looks like quite an invention you’re working on here.”

“I didn’t invent it.”

“You’re working hard to make this machine a success.”

“I got some ideas off the Internet. I just modified them to fit the junk I had. Hey, stop dragging me in to your fantasy world here, Dad!”

“I’m sure your own plucky young tykes will look forward to hitting the ol’ horsehide, thanks to this machine.”

I shoved some balls much too angrily in the feeder. “You know” thud “I have no kids” thud “and if I did” thud “I couldn’t teach them” thud “a thing about baseball” thud “because my own father” thud “was completely useless” thud “at sports!”

“No children? Well, that must be disappointing to your parents.”

“You’re a scream, Dad.”

“So, then, you’re probably making this machine to help the local Little League? Or perhaps you’re making it for the new ownership of the Measleyville Snails? I hear that Measleyites are quite civic-minded.”

“No! No, Dad, I am not making it for anyone. Why don’t you go annoy Mom for a while? Or better yet, go down to the psychiatric clinic and see if they’ve got any openings.”

Ever the professional, Dad just gazed on impassively. “I’m looking at your design here, sir, and it seems like there’s a lot of horsepower for a machine to throw baseballs. Frankly, I’ll be surprised if it functions properly.”

“Like our family.”

“Can you tell us a little about it? Like, how you not take off someone’s head?”

“Care to stand in front and see?” And with that, I made my biggest error of the season. Hoping to drown out any further stupid questions, I turned the ignition on the engine.

Well, I hate to admit that I’d forgotten that I had loaded seven baseballs into the hopper, but before we go any further I just want you to note that my machine was a total success on the first try. Yes, the tire spun like crazy, and the jostling from the machine starting tilted it forward enough to feed baseballs into it. Somehow it didn’t occur to me that since I had not set up the spacer on the feeder, the balls would fire one after the other like big white bullets—thump thump thump thump thump thump thump, is how I’d best describe that sound. When they rocketed out of the tube and hit the back wall of the Carmichael house, that sound was like hammer blows—and so was the effect. They all struck the same spot with explosive power.

Now, if there had been four baseballs it might have been all right. The damage to the wooden siding might have been restricted to one plank. The fifth ball, though, stuck right in the wall, and the sixth ball whacked it hard, and both balls fell back out, sprinkled with splinters. The seventh ball disappeared into the hole, taking out the drywall in the kitchen.

How do I know so well what happened? Because it became my father’s most watched clip ever, jumping to other sites and garnishing something like fifty thousand views within five days. Usually with links like “Idiot Builds Pitching Cannon.”

But that was yet to come.

I turned off the engine. We looked at the hole. We looked at each other. Then he looked at the camera.

“I do not know this man. This is Ralph Darmowycz, WYCZ, signing off.”

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