Ray Bradbury Gets Hit by a Baseball Bat

From Here There Be Tygers:

They left a guard at the ship and they walked away over fields and meadows, over small hills and into little valleys. Like a bunch of boys out hiking on the finest day of the best summer in the most beautiful year in history, walking in the croquet weather where if you listened you could hear the whisper of the wooden ball across grass, the click through the hoop, the gentle undulations of voices, a sudden high drift of women’s laughter from some ivy-shaded porch, the tinkle of ice in the summer tea-pitcher.

“Hey,” said Driscoll, one of the younger crewmen, sniffing the air. “I brought a baseball and bat; we’ll have a game later. What a diamond!”

The men laughed quietly in the baseball season, in the good quiet wind for tennis, in the weather for bicycling and picking wild grapes.

“How’d you like the job of mowing all this?” asked Driscoll.

The men stopped.

“I knew there was something wrong!” cried Chatterton. “This grass; it’s freshly cut!”

“Probably a species of dichondra, always short.”

Chatterton spat on the green grass and rubbed it in with his boot. “I don’t like it, I don’t like it.”

I met Ray Bradbury when I was 12, maybe 13 years old, in Fresno, California. He had just given some lecture to some literary society and I had used my big puppydog eyes to full-effect to charm my way in to the event, though I didn’t have a ticket.

It was after the event and he had been ushered off-stage (it was a theater, I remember, maybe at the university?), but I had sneaked my way behind the curtain.

He had a drink in his hand, of what, I don’t know. I introduced myself. I would like to be a novelist someday, too, I said.

When he was about my age, he began, young Ray Bradbury dreamed of someday meeting WC Fields. He was WC Fields’ biggest fan. As fate would have it, Bradbury didn’t live too far from the studios in Hollywood where Fields worked.

So one day the kid decided to sneak onto the lot. He did, he got caught, he implored the guard to let him meet Fields and finally – after employing his own puppydog eyes, no doubt – Bradbury won the recalcitrant guard to his side. But upon meeting Fields, the boy was overwhelmed. I’m your biggest fan, Ray told him. WC Fields took a long look at the boy.

After a silence, Fields said to young Bradbury: “Get outta here ya little shit, ya bother me.”

In my hand I held a paper flier for the event. Bradbury took it from me and signed it with a scribble. In a moment after a silence, he looked at this star-struck young would-be sci-fi novelist and said: “Now get outta here ya little shit, ya bother me.”

True story.

RIP Ray Bradbury 1920-2012

“My life has always been writing. I love libraries, I love bookstores. I love writing and I can’t stop. So until God hits me with a baseball bat, I won’t lie down.