Season 2 Episode 1 of Wiffle Ball The Show.
Part 5 of the Hockey House Wiffle Ball League. Team Faith plays a night game and tries to figure out who’s the toughest guy in the league.
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Another wiffle ball extravaganza. This week it’s an offensive barrage.
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Joe gives up 6 home runs to Team Faith. And Ross takes off his shirt…again.
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It’s the beginning of Spring Training for The Hockey House Wiffle Ball League:
I wanted to tell Cash about Fadi, about Italian soccer, and how when the rain fell in slants I thought of him, but he had hit a homerun that afternoon and I knew he’d want to talk about that. How he was down in the count, how he should have been looking fastball, but anticipated slider away and hit it to the opposite field.
He would say, “I talked to my agent today.”
I’d ask him about his mother.
He’d say, “I can’t wait to see you. I have to go to bed.”
“ Cash, I don’t want to do this anymore.”
And he’d say, “Don’t worry baby. I’ll be home in a few days. At the end of the season I’ll have a new contract. You can live with me in Oakland or Baltimore, maybe even Boston.”
I’d say, “Cash, I don’t want to.”
• • •
I lived above the garage of a widow whose only son was killed in Afghanistan. She said I could call her Gigi. She said that’s what he grandchildren would have called her. She was rarely home. I believed she had a lover and didn’t bring him here. Here, where there was no dishwasher, no washer or dryer. She offered to take my clothes with her to the Laundromat. I declined. She left milk in the refrigerator. She said it was because her son loved milk. Drank three large glasses a day, not including with cereal. I gave it to the cat in a little bowl.
Our street was a gravel road with potholes full of mud and water. There was a black family whose children raced plastic boats in the puddles. One time the smallest boy was sat in the road with a toy fishing pole.
“Catch anything?” I asked.
“Damn things won’t bite,” he said not looking up. A handful of worms crawled at his side.
Next door lived a Hispanic family with low riding Lincolns in the driveway. Sometimes at night they would play music out of them with the doors open. It helped me fall asleep. The children walked to school holding hands, except for the two oldest boys who led the way.
I used to think I lived in the neighborhood because it reminded me of home. Reminded me of the walks I took with my mom and dad. It carried the same smell of coming rain, of charcoal barbecues and marijuana, of thick dust and freshly cut grass, of rotting apples and cherries. But I no longer believed that was why I lived there.
• • •
I watched traffic from the conference room on the thirteenth floor that was never used after a secretary found human excrement covering the table, the walls, the ceiling. They said it was a disgruntled former employee and that the smell never left. I was usually alone as I looked out the window over the city, except for today. I noticed someone from the corner of my eyes.
He said, “I can tell a lot about a man the way he looks out these windows.”
I said, “It’s a good thing I’m a woman then.”
Carlos smiled. He wore brown loafers, black slacks, and a blue oxford. “Maddy, I need to warn you, not as your editor, but as your friend. They’re doing an article on Cashmere once the Senate report is released. Fadi is said to have a source who helped purchase Cash’s steroids. Danny is ready to nail him and I can’t stop it now that it’s rolling.”
“You mean you don’t want to.”
“I just wanted to warn you.”
I grabbed my purse and walked to the door.
Carlos said, “Some people watch is close, either to see it fail or to figure out how to fix it. That’s how I Can tell.” I opened the door. “Why don’t you want to fix it Maddy?”
I turned and looked at him. He had his back to me and was watching the clouds creep across the sky like old men in a hurry.
I said, “It smells like shit in here Carlos.”
• • •
I parked my car next to the curb and Fadi dashed across his yard and pulled me out by the arm.
He said, “We’re late. We have to run.”
“Why don’t we drive? And you said seven.”
“There is no parking and the game starts at seven.”
I jogged behind him trying to zip up my jacket. He took my hand and told me to hurry.
He said, “Your hands are cold, take my gloves.”
He gave me yellow mittens.
I said, “You knit these yourself?”
The bar was packed with groups of men sweating, smoking, smiling, and growling. Hands and fists hammer the air. Many wear black and blue striped jerseys. Chants mingled with the smoke rolling and climbing to the rafters. Fadi took my jacket and put his hand on my back leading me through the throng. At a table sat four men staring at a television fixed from the ceiling. A lone woman smiled at Fadi. We sat and he introduced them. Abdul, Jalal, Sadd, and Nabih. They didn’t look down. The woman’s name I couldn’t make out over the crowd, but I smiled and mouthed an exaggerated, “Nice to meet you.” She reached her hand across the table and pulled me close to her.
She said, “What the fuck are you doing with Fadi?”
I pulled my arm back and knocked over a glass of beer. No one noticed. The men were fixed on the game. A man with an apron emerged from the crowd and wiped the table down and set a fresh glass in front of me. I drank it all then stood up and pushed my way through the crowd to the restroom. I stood at the sink and half expected the woman to follow me. I press my head into the mirror.
I sank back into the throng of men and grabbed another beer at the table. Fadi winked. I headed for the big screen television where the men pushed and shoved.
They chanted, “Inter—nazu—ale! Inter—nazu—ale! Inter—nazu—ale!”
We shook our fists and spilled our drinks. Thunder clapped and my ears rang. Men leapt into the air. I looked at the game. Nothing happened.
I yelled, “We didn’t even score!” They looked at me laughing. “Nothing happened. Stop celebrating when we miss a shot, when we make a pass.” Someone shoved another beer into my hand.
We sang. We screamed. We celebrated. The men shrieked and kissed cheeks. We danced. It was all a dance. The way the athletes on the television moved, passed, ran. And we moved and flinched and yelled in synch. Back and forth, side to side, up and down. The world laughed and bellowed. And I was just a little girl running down the street. All I wanted to do was dance.
My face was in the toilet and my toes curled against the cold tile. I searched for my purse. I walked down a street.
“Fadi, where’s my jacket, I’m cold?”
“You’re wearing it.”
“Fadi, we scored.” I threw my arms in the air. Fadi stood me up straight.
“Stand Maddy. Stand up.”
We were at the passenger side of my car. Fadi searched through my purse.
“Maddy, where are your keys?”
I said, “Take me inside.”
This is part 2 of my fictional story “When Now is Gone”. Read part 1 here.
My father taught math and typing in high school. I never witnessed him using a computer. The school knew about his college career as a four-sport athlete, but mother was sick and it wasn’t until after she died that he began coaching the baseball and football teams.
Growing up I played every sport. I swam, ran track, played basketball and volleyball. Once, I came home from school kicking a soccer ball. My father picked it up, turned it over in his hand, then went to the kitchen, pulled a knife from the drawer, and cut it into a few pieces of plastic. I played baseball until the Babe Ruth president knocked on our door one evening. My father told me to go to my room and do my homework. It was summer. I slammed my door. After that I played softball. I played in the outfield because from the fence I’d hit the catcher in the throat with a flick of my wrist. My father went to every game.
He would ask, “Did you have fun? How did you feel?”
I’d slam my door, open it back up and yell, “The ball is too big,” and slam it again.
When I was a freshman in high school I showed up for the first day of football practice. The morning before I cut my hair short. I streaked eye black across my cheeks and muddied my face. I stuffed as many large pads as I could fit into my pants. I threw the ball farther than any freshmen. It was raining and the field was muddy and a boy had thrown up. We ran lines, my father with a whistle in his mouth, a wet camp pulled over his head.
Afterwards I ran home. But he saw me caked in mud. He parked his truck along the road and ran after me. I tried to outrun him. To show him I could do it better than any boy, even if it was him. When I stopped I turned and hit him, wrenched my fists into his chest and stomach. He curled me into his arms, walked me home in the rain as I cried and struggled. In the morning the pads and helmet were gone and after school I made fun of the soccer team as they practiced.
• • •
On that rainy day at the ballpark as Danny drilled Cash with questions about his steroid use, he kept looking at me and smiling. And then I asked my question I wasn’t supposed to ask. And then Danny started asking more questions.
Cash said, “Can I take you out to dinner?” I was busy avoiding Danny’s eyes when he elbowed me and nodded toward Cash. I looked up and saw him smiling and he asked again.
He took me to a steak restaurant where the lights are dim and the tables and chairs and walls a deep maroon, where the waiters walk with a stick up their ass. He told me about his mother and the different cities he’d lived in, the high school he attended.
He said, “At the park I couldn’t keep my eyes off you”
I said, “I only accepted your offer so I could write an article about you.”
He tried to smile. He asked the waiter for the check and then said, “Well Madeleine, it’s been a pleasure.” He stood up. I followed him to the door
I said, “Can we go back to your place.”
• • •
I told Fadi about the endangered mountain gorillas whose national park in the Congo had been overrun by militia rebels. He watched me while tearing off a piece of his baklava. A park ranger was shot and killed.
“And the gorillas?” He asked.
“Some are missing.” I watched a drop of rain fall into my coffee. I looked up at the sky. “What I was wondering was who I would give my money too?” I looked back down and Fadi chewed slowly. Someone at another table dropped a mug and it shattered on the cement. Someone laughed. “If I had one hundred dollars who would I give it to?”
“You mean you want to donate your money to the gorillas?”
“Well the national park that takes care of them. Or I could donate my money to the park ranger’s widow.” I looked back up at the sky. “Who would you donate your money to?”
Somewhere above me moisture was forming, gathering. It hung there, suspended in the sky, pausing for an instant. It’s an that moment before gravity pulls the elements into their place, balancing the world on its finely tuned edge, that I said, “Now.”
Mountain gorilla live in families where an alpha male mates with up to five females. If the alpha male dies and an offspring doesn’t replace it, alpha male from another family will assume position, often killing the young ones and taking the females. I was afraid that right “now” rebels were killing the gorillas, unbalancing the social structures and causing infanticide among the gorillas’ fractured families. But I don’t think about the widow whose husband was shot in the stomach when he heard a suspicious noise in the bush and went out to investigate. I do not worry that other males will kill her children or make her their wife.
Fadi said, “I would not give my money to either the widow or the gorillas.” He had finished his baklava and sat up straight. I didn’t want to leave. I didn’t want the rain to fall. I wanted to fix the broken pieces on the cement. But it started to rain and “now” was over.
I was encouraged by a few people to share some of my fiction. I don’t know if people read fiction on blogs. This will be in four or five parts.
I sat next to him and noticed a sudden serenity on his face as he asked for a light. The cold made it difficult to pull from my jacket and I looked away from his eyes. When I turned back, on that park bench, in that brisk morning, while the river slid shamelessly and the leaves slipped through the fog, the man died.
I woke to mornings like that. Where the languid fog floated, brooded through the oaks like a hearth’s lulling heat. I bristled next to it, smiled and said hello, passed it with indifference. That was morning to me. The park rolled in mist and the trees still in slumber as the birds bounced like excited children. The river rolled at its unguarded pace. A breath. I turned as the moisture caressed my skin. Then it was gone.
• • •
I said, “Are you in Albuquerque?”
I knew where he was. I knew he’d be there for a five game series, catch a flight on Monday, land in Colorado Springs until Thursday. Then Tacoma. Then back in Portland for a homestead.
He said, “I’m seeing the ball well.” But he struck out twice on Wednesday. By Friday he’ll have a double.
He said, “I can’t wait to see you, Maddy.”
I know he’ll be released in September when the team’s previous year top draft pick is called up from double A. I know because my father would know. He’d know that Cash was a liability with his knee. That no team needed a left fielder who couldn’t run or be converted to first base, whose only thirty homerun season came before the steroid crackdown.
He said, “I talked to my agent.”
I said, “He dropped you two months ago.” I said it the way I told him I bought shoes. “They were pink.”
He said, “You look good in pink.”
• • •
Cash is short for Cashmere. His mother was an Olympic high jumper from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. She ran away from her father’s dairy farm after high school. Met a charming law-breaker in Montreal who sent her poetry written in French from prison. She didn’t read French, but she kept every letter in a shoebox on a shelf in her living room in Seattle. The poet dropped out of the picture somewhere. Cash was drafted out of high school. I met him last season during media day at the ballpark.
Danny Bourne, the Portland Post’s sports editor, had an equivocal smile as he drilled Cash about his waning career.
“After a thirty homer season, when the league commissioner begins adding harsher penalties for steroid use, you drop twenty pounds, go out with an injury for half the season, and now you’re no longer in the majors. Is this just a case of bad luck?”
Cash said, “It’s just a slump.”
“What about the upcoming Senate report on steroid use in professional baseball. There are rumors it will name names. Are you worried?”
In my head I saw Cash smile. He doesn’t. But I see him smile and I can’t put it all together; his baseball cap sitting high on his shaved head, an obnoxious wrinkle in his brow. It had rained that morning and the turf was wet and the balls during batting practice threw off sparks of water rolling across the carpet.
I asked, “Do you like living in the Northwest?” I asked that because I was not supposed to, because I’m only tagging along, because I’m just a staff writer in the world news department. Danny threw me a wry smile.
“Yes. I like the smell.”
And that was Cash. Country-boyish simple and he never lived on a farm. Before high school he hopped with is mother from Baltimore, Kansas City, Dallas, Houston, Spokane. High school ended and he became a professional. A professional at hitting and throwing. He was paid money for that. At one time lots of it. And that’s why his mother enjoys a view of the Puget Sound from her two-bedroom loft.
• • •
Being a staff writer meant I knew a little about everything in the world. What I didn’t know I read or asked Fadi, the assistant sports editor. I asked him to buy me coffee. He bought baklava, either because he liked it or because he knew I didn’t. We sat in metal chairs, our table rocked from an uneven leg. People walked by in shorts and white legs. It was the first warm week in April. I asked Fadi to tell me what he loved. He offered a cigarette while he thought. His black hair was slicked back with a coconut smelling gel. He folded one leg over the other and slouched in his chair, but still appeared tall. His olive eyes floated behind his glasses, almost outside of him, like he could see in all directions, through thoughts. But it was unassuming and warm. His pupils shrank.
“I love Inter Milan.” He saw my blank expression. “Football club.”
My father said soccer was boring so I say it’s excruciating. Fadi told me Inter Milas had won the Italian football league championship the past two seasons. One year because Juventus and other teams cheated, bullied managers, paid of referees.
I said, “Are you Italian?”
“No,” he laughed. He didn’t say what he was. I didn’t ask.
But I did ask about the Italian mafia. He shrugged. I knew about the Calabrian ‘Ndrangheta and how they controlled the futbol clubs’ money flow. Where families in the southern province of Italy killed each other over minor misunderstandings and clear understandings. Wives were shot pointblank in the streets of Rome. Sons and cousins gunned down in pizza parlors in Germany. Hot it’s all connected to the cocaine floating across the Mediterranean from Columbia, unloaded in Sicilian ports overcrowded with immigrants from Sudan, Ghana, Morocco. Tunisian fishermen arrested for saving groups of drowning Ethiopians. Desperate Romanian women selling themselves to Italians driving Audis. They’re found in an alleyway. An Eritrean’s neck is cut open with a broken wine bottle. It’s said to be accidental.
A woman walked by in thick heels, pounding the sidewalk, announcing to the pedestrians three blocks away that she was coming through. I blew smoke in her path. Fadi’s pupils grew.
I don’t know where he was from and I didn’t ask. I was afraid to ask. I knew he was an editor at a local Arabic newspaper. That he went under heat for an anti-Semitic article. I knew this because Danny told me.
Danny said, “I don’t trust him. But we need him. Need him like the others.” He said this looking at the secretary. I thought he was saying this because she was young and beautiful and that we needed more young and beautiful people with new ideas and new energy in the newsroom. But the secretary was black and that was why he said it. He was saying it because the Editor in Chief, Carlos Gutierrez, was Hispanic. And the Post did an article about the Mexicans waiting for work along Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. and the city tortilla factory that occasionally didn’t pay their employees.
Fadi said, “Men go through my trash at night.”
“No,” he said. His eyes grew.
To read part 2 click here.
If you missed Ichiro’s over the shoulder catch off of Varitek on Monday here’s footage below. If you want to see a better video click here. I was at the game so you can see me in the stands. Well I’m a little dot in right-center, but I’m there.