DEATH AND BASEBALL
By Red Rollins
He parked at the subway station and took the train to Union. The southbound train was filled with blue jerseys—couples, gangs of women, gangly men with turkey hats, punks, and Eastern European skinheads. He got out and flown with the crowd along the high concrete wall to the entrances. Surrounded by the self-absorbed crowds in their jerseys, hats and phones—“I’m here. Yeah. I don’t see you. Yeah. Yeah. I’m here. What? I can’t hear. Where are you …” He backed to the wall. The concrete surrounded them. The city of concrete, steel and glass, walls, pavements and overpasses. It was the efficient, affordable and economic Stone Age for the 21st century. He looked around and pulled out red, blue and white pill. He threw back the pills and drank them down with the Jefferson. This was the final hurrah before he got back on the horse. Life was fun, frustrating and hard for a sensitive and intelligent man with an addictive personality and wrong peer group. Every now and then he dove deep and then recovered. He abused like a dolphin leaped for air. He inhaled. The night was coming. He listened for the scalpers. ALDS—he didn’t even know what it stood for—Game 5. There was electricity in the crowd. The destitute with a hope. Somehow the winning meant everything to the people when they came together. It was war. Chants of clustered cancer cells rose and dove. He rooted for the Rangers. He wanted to rip the game out of his life. It was a disease. He followed a scalper’s voice.
“Tickets. Get your tickets,” shouted a small dark man looking up the street in a deep voice. He faced the incoming crowd and scanned the blue faces. When his eyes blinked, his whole face shrunk in a twitch. “Tickets. Get your tickets.”
A short, fat man in a white jersey, glasses and Tintin hairstyle approached him. They turned away and conversed. Fat man’s hands articulated a point. Then he pointed into the crowd.
“Get out of here,” scalper waived him off.
“Come on! I’m just trying to make a deal. Come on!”
The scalper waved him off. Amos saw the fat man exhale and he put his hands on his hips while his gut jiggled below his scrotum. He looked around. Amos waved at him.
“You want tickets?”
“Yes. That would be great.”
“My buddy didn’t turned up, so I only got one,” Amos felt his voice resonating within his inner ear again.
“That’s no good. I need three,” fat man turned up weepy eyes. He had nice eyes and he used them when he didn’t get his way. A giant toddler, smart, privileged, sensitive and immature with no regard for others.
“Sorry. … The game is about to start,” pushed Amos as the fat man walked away—the silhouette of a small head over arched back and a single curvature of fat that merged his arms and shoulders.
Amos saw him walking up to a blonde with a kid. She was ugly and tried very hard to cover it—high heels, tight leatherette pants, biker jacket and platinum hair falling over her pressed up breasts. Makeup, Botox and silicone. If she were alone Police would question her on her intents. Whore. The kid could have been 11, a faceless tween in a hoodie, skater sneakers and $10 jeans. They all looked in his direction. Fat man’s hand pointed at the watch. The woman listened and nodded. The kid lowered his voice. Fat man pointed at the kid. She resolutely shook her head, and the fat man spread his arms in question. Conversation continued. The scalper was gone. Fat man turned back.
“I’ll take the ticket.”
Fat man froze, “No way.”
“It is what it is.”
“Where are the seats?”
“I don’t know. Somewhere in the 500s.”
“Let me see it.” Amos showed him the tickets. The fat man pulled out a large phone and started typing. “I just want to see the view. What is it? Right field…”
“I don’t fucking know. I got to go. Take it or leave it,” Amos started walking.
“Wait! … Wait, wait, wait,” fat man followed. “I’ll take it.”
“Those are the worst seats in the house. The floodlights fixture obscures the 3rd base. Did you know that?”
“…and you are paying for beer.”
“You gonna bitch or you gonna pay?”
The fat man paid. His eyes were full of sorrow, eyelashes flapping. Amos handed him the ticket.
“I’ll see you inside … don’t forget the beer.”
The fat man walked up to the L.A. whore and the kid with the air of disappointment and said his goodbyes.
Fat man was right. A large, steel floodlight construction obstructed the 3rd base. Surrounded by 50,000 people, the floor beneath his feet shook. His knees were about to nudge the head in the seat below him.
“Excuse me,” said a voice and Amos caught a white Jersey in the corner of his eye. The fat man held a tray of nachos with a hot dog on his stomach.
“It’s you,” Mack tucked sideways and the fat man passed, sat, exhaled and splurged his fat generously over the armrests. No wonder airlines want to charge an extra seat to the fat.
“Great crowd, huh,” said the fat man and bit the hot dog.
“God, these are shitty seats.”
“What happened to your buddy?”
“He couldn’t make it. Where are your wife and kid?”
“Couldn’t afford three tickets—sorry, couldn’t get three tickets—so I have sent them to the movies. We drove down here from King’s Cross. I’m Gabriel.” Chewing, he extended his arm over the nachos.”
“Nice to meet you,” Gabriel worked the hot dog.
“What about that beer?”
“Huh. Didn’t occurred to me that you were serious.”
“Ok,” Gabriel scanned the crowd. “Wait for the concessions to come through.”
Amos noted a Rolex and a thick golden chain and a cross at the end of it around Gabriel’s thick neck.
“Yeah. How could you tell?”
“I got a gift.”
“… Yeah. My parents are from Uruguay. I grew up here, though,” he chewed.
Someone threw the first pitch. The crowd roared.
“Alright, let’s go! Time to bag it! We are going all the way!” People got off their seats and those who didn’t stretch their necks. A sea of blue t-shirts and white towels. Amos pulled out the iced tea and drank. Gabriel judged.
“Here. This bottle cost more than your picket,” Gabriel took the bottle. He smelled it and carefully placed it to his lips. His face cringed and then opened.
“That’s some nice stuff you got there. That’s amazing. What is that,” he looked at the iced tea bottle and passed it back licking his lips.
“Oh—oh I have had Jefferson before. It was at my buddy’s bachelor party in Vegas. Some party. What’s the best thing you ever drank?”
“Mhh. For me it would have to be … Macallan 25. That’s a nice, nice whiskey,”
The fat man couldn’t help himself. A child, egocentric and insecure at the same time, a fat bastard designed for the 21st century, he needed to keep scores in his favor and brag about your assumed worldly experience —better, faster, stronger, pricier, smarter, the liquor he drank, the cars he drove, the women he fucked, the deals he got, the arguments he won, and Star Wars conventions he attended—the measure of life was the non-life in others.
“Still, I’m more of a vine guy.”
The fat man pulled out a large phone, took a picture of himself, and posted a social update, “chilling at the #game5 w/ friends, sipping Jefferson’s #classy #bluejays #cometogether”.
Amos checked his phone. He missed a call from Berlin and an unknown number with 2 messages.
“Hello Mr. Mack. This is Inspector Peter Grabowsky. There has been an incident involving Mr. James Ford and we are looking for people Mr. Ford has been in contact over the past several days. Please give me a call at 9053691165. Thank you—Next Message—Amey. Police came to our house looking for you. Something has happened to Ford. They looked very concerned. Are you ok? Have you seen Ford? I’m so scared and confused. Baby. Please call me, baby. Please. Come home. I miss you. I’m not well.”
Amos stood up and walked to the Exit sign. He felt seven feet tall, broad shouldered. The stadium vibrated, his mind was steady as an anvil but his body was diluted. He found a quiet place and called 9053691165.
“This is Amos Mack.”
“Hello Mr. Mack. This is Inspector Grabowsky. Thank you for calling me back.”
“Well, Mr. Ford has been involved in an incident and we want to speak with everyone that may know what has happened.”
“Is he ok?”
“I’m afraid not. Mr. Mack, do you mind coming to our office as soon as possible? We are just trying to piece together the events of the day together.”
“What happened to him?”
“I would rather discuss that in person. Can you come?”
“Sure. Is tomorrow ok?”
“We would prefer immediately.”
“I’m sorry but I’m tied up in the city at the moment, and the game is on, so it may take several hours.”
“Ok, then. I’m in the office but tomorrow morning will do. We are at the intersection of Main and 9th.”
“Ok. I’ll be there.”
“Thank you, Mr. Mack.”
Amos dialed home.
“Amey! Thanks God.”
“Hey, don’t worry. Something happened to Ford. The cops just want to ask some questions about him. Everything’s fine.”
“I’m so scared.”
“Don’t worry. I’m ok. Everything’s ok. It has nothing to do with me.”
“But I’m scared. Can you come home please?”
“I’m at the game. It’s the 3rd inning.”
“I don’t know what that means. Please come home.”
“That means that the game just started. It’s ok. Everything’s ok. This is the biggest game in two decades. I’ll be home soon.”
“I don’t care about the game. Why don’t you care about me? I’m not feeling well. I have bruises all over. Why are you being so selfish? Can you come early?”
“Why can’t you just come. You are so selfish. How did I deserve this? What did I do?”
“Can you please drop it? I’ll come, but let me finish the game.”
“Fuck you. Fuck your game. You are such a nasty person. I hate you. Don’t come, then. Don’t come home at all. I don’t want to see you again.” The line went silent.
His mind was centered, his body was melting away, and his rage was quite palpable. Heavy and burning like tar, erupting into space like bands of plasma from the surface of the sun. Pointless and uncontrollable, the red rage blistered his face as he walked through the dark corridor. The dragons danced, spun one over the other as a nest of vipers. He sat. Gabriel’s nachos were gone and he was holding a beer. The players were lesser than ants. 2-1, and someone at the bat. Electrifying, roaring crowd, ground shaking, ankle-deep in garbage of wrappers, carton, popcorn, and paper cups. The crowd roared. Towels spun. The steel beams shook like an earthquake.
“Where is my beer?”
“You were gone, so I didn’t get you one. Let me know when you see a vendor.”
Amos looked around. A vendor in bright yellow t-shirt walked just a row away. Amos waved. The vendor approached.
“Two beers.” He passed one to Gabriel.
“Hold on,” Gabriel reluctantly scrambled for his valet and paid.
“Thank you,” said the vendor and walked away.
“Helluwa game. Rangers are tough, thou. I hate that little what’s-his-face rookie. He has no sense and it’s working out for him. I hate it.”
“Yeah. Is baseball big in Paraguay?”
“Not at all. It’s all soccer,” Gabriel shook his head. “So what do you do?” Gabriel initiated the conversation where he would ultimately get to talk about himself last, getting the one-up.
“I’m a writer.”
“Oh a writer,” Gabriel’s face had the very common expression of surprise and amused respect. “What do you write?”
“Cookbooks, flyers, articles, press releases … .”
“Anything I could have heard off?”
“I have a blog with The Star.”
“That’s impressive. Does it pay?”
“Tons. I just bought myself a new BMW. One of those X-5 SUVs.”
“Nice,” Gabriel’s eyes went blank as he digested the jealousy. “I find most writers are pretentious pricks. They toil in obscurity, but once they hit it big, they go all out, buying fedoras, turtlenecks and silk scarfs. You are ok though.”
“I’m a designer. Good money, too. Digital—everyone loves digital these days. The web is a gold mine. They all think it will change their business, so that’s what I sell them. Last year I cleared 6 figures, working with the big dogs, McDonald’s, Starbucks, … that kind of clients.” He leaned over, “I also get to skim off the top on projects. Cash. Makes for a very nice bonus,” he laughed proudly and pulled out a bag of gummy bears. Amos finished the beer, dropped the cup on the ground, looked around, and waved at the vendor. Gabriel’s face hardened.
“My friend is a rich guy, so we are celebrating—two beers.” The vendor handed over the drinks and collected the money. Amos’ rage was subsiding and shaping into a heavy black mass behind his eyes, a tumor fed by the fat man’s words, his pretense, his ego, his greedy drooling mind and his disgusting physique. Fat, greasy fingers struggled with the gummy bears’ package. Amos pulled out the knife and slit the bag open.
“Easy there, killer.”
Amos pulled out the Jefferson, had a long drink and handed the bottle over. The greedy lips sucked, and Amos saw the backwash. The crowd came off to a rising, deafening roar, people stood to their feet, arms up and out, and white towels spinning. Amos got hit at the back of the head. He stood up. 2-2. Nauseous, he tried to unravel what has happened. He forgot about the wound, and now the back of his head throbbed again. Gabriel was high-fiving a stranger. Amos sat back down. The roar carried on.
An hour later, the argument on the field was over.
Gabriel was reading off his phone, “The catcher threw the ball back to the mount, and hit the bat in the process. That means the ball was live, so the player on 3rd was allowed to score. So it’s 3-2.” He had no feeling about the game. It was a social pose. The game was too important not to protest so Amos was forced to watch the endless mute conversation of blue, gray and black insects at the field shouting and pointing. Amos checked the phone. Message read “Why are you such a nasty person?” The black mass behind his eyes swelled up. He got up. “Are you going to the toilet? I’ll come with you. This game is really stretching up,” said Gabriel. Black mass swelled further. Amos was nauseous.
The hallways were empty. They followed the signs. “It’s an amazing game. I can’t believe I’m here. I have to message my wife.”
Amos walked into a stall and vomited.
“Ho-hoo, you ok, buddy?”
“Yeah.” Amos heard the fat man passing gas over the bowl and then splashing. His phone keyboard chimed. Amos vomited some more, walked out of the stall, and washed his hands and face. Jacket price labels stuck up at the back of the collar. He dried his hands. Dizzy, his mind was nearly out, just a glowing wick in the darkness of the rage. Deep silence surrounded him as if his ears were waxed and he was submerged in crude. The madness was calm but ready to spring. He took off his jacket, snapped the knife open and cut the string that held the label. He put the jacket back on and the label into his pocket. Berlin kept all the price labels until they decided to keep the product for sure. He stared at himself in the mirror with the blade in his hand. Snap—Snap—Snap submerged in crude.
Suddenly, the whole building shook in violence and with a beastly roar the stall door jerked open behind him and the fat man jumped forward. “Grand Slam!”
Shocked and surprised, Amos turned and thrust the black blade in the center of the fat man’s chest. He felt the blade turn as it made way between the ribs and further through the softness of the left lung and into the heart. Amos let go of the knife. They both stood in shock and silence looking down at the handle in Gabriel’s chest. Gabriel released a soft chuckle from his twisted, oily face. Blood seeped around the handle and the fat man tried hopelessly hold on to the walls, and then dropped his phone, and fell backwards, hitting the unflushed toilet. He landed sideways, left arm broken underneath the weight of the body, legs apart, right arm twisted atop, and head nearly under the wall of the stall. He gasped for air and gargled. His pants were still half way down his white, hairy ass. Amos stepped over him. Unable to move and breathless, Gabriel’s wide eyes watched Amos and his arm tried to reach out. Amos looked down. He was terrified and amused by his indifference and hate. “This is what you get when you don’t wipe your ass and don’t wash your hands.” Amos pulled Gabriel’s valet and put it in his pocket. He pulled up his sleeves and yanked the knife out of Gabriel’s chest. The blood spilled over the white t-shirt. He pushed Gabriel’s gurgling head back and against the tile under the toilet bowl and slit his jugular. The last of the blood pressure sprayed blood upwards onto the toilet wall and bowl. Amos folded Gabriel’s legs into the stall, closed the door, washed his hands and the knife, pulled the baseball cap into his face, zipped up the jacket and walked out.
He stopped in the dark underpass and turned his jacket and baseball cap inside out. Now he just looked even more like a baseball fan. He disposed of the rest of the pills—red, blue and white—in a homeless man’s paper cup.
Sitting in the subway, the pharmaceuticals wore off, and his mind was lucid and clear. The dolphin was back in the ocean, cells oxygenated and free to move forward. He realized that killing a complete stranger in an empty toilet at a sporting event of the decade was likely the best way to get away with it. They would likely catch him in any other situation, but this one was perfect. He never touched the door handle, kicking the doors open; the toilet flush, soap and paper towels were all hands-free, and he always used a paper towel to open the door. The only better way would be using the disabled toilet, but that would mean sharing, and no stranger would agree to it unless he or she was a wife, husband or a whore. And people who found him likely stomped all over the place to see and destroy any and all evidence. It was quite elegant. The only thing behind was a dead stranger, a kid, and a whore of a widow. The death should flattened the face fillers and show natural hair color at the root for a while. All the anger, solitude and resentment—fat man’s kid would grow to be real human being, damaged, frightened and fighting to death, always fighting like a beast at its last rope. The Absurd had its sweet spots.
About the Author:
Michael Majernik chose the pseudonym Red Rollins* for this story, which has been adapted into short form from his novella The Mechanical Bull (yet to be published). He published a collection of short stories Alibist (Life Rattle Press, 2009), possesses a degree in English Literature, Communications, and Professional Writing, and for the past decade worked in journalism, communications, and public relations. His writing style integrates elements of transgressional fiction, magical realism, and creative non-fiction. His new fictional work (in development), Heal, aims to incorporate storytelling a form of spiritual medicine and maximize the healing aspect of storytelling for reader’s benefit—in other words, he’s working on a “book that heals.”