Waylon Keys could never afford to sit on a psychiatrist’s couch, so he sought counsel from palm readers, poets, and fortune tellers. They provided a contrived destiny and a bunch of fancy phrases that fizzled away. This January morning at precisely 11:11 AM was different. An envelope slipped under Waylon’s apartment door.
He pauses to reflect on seeing the first hand written address in months, maybe years. The stamps have been carefully selected and arranged in a pyramid shape; Amelia Earhart, Ferguson Jenkins, Buckminster Fuller and an assortment of one cent birds to form the base.
There is no letter inside, just a gift certificate to be redeemed at Lumbard County Hospital, Pavillon 4-West; the psychiatric ward. The fine print says; “This document entitles you to one 45 minute session with Dr. Tangentia Woo.”
Waylon initially feels insulted, but quickly shifts into detective mode; who done it and do Psychiatric certificates even exist?
Waylon’s home address was something he guarded with great secrecy. 6061 Ashcroft Way was a place to sit in one’s underpants and watch baseball without interruption. It was a temple of cobwebs and heat ducts.The only institution in possession of his home address was the local band Foul Weather, a jaded trio unlikely to be so cute as to choose specific stamps for an envelope. A typical Foul Weather newsletter came smeared in potato grease and vomit.
Waylon had become completely anonymous, thanks to a $50 a month P.O. Box. This made no sense. He scratches his head and bumps a main acupuncture vain in the process. The wondering stops and thoughts of what bus number to Lumbard hospital replace it. The anticipation rustles Waylon off the sofa, into a pair of pants and out the door.
Dr. Woo has straight black bangs and a diagonal flat jaw. Hard to tell if she wears a smile or a scowl, but that’s what the life-sized portrait of her portrays. A long skinny index finger points towards a manila envelope. It appears to be part of the sketch, but it dangles from a fishing line; camouflaged within the portrait. Waylon Keys is written on the envelope.
Waylon paces back and forth for a good 30 minutes and when Dr. Woo never shows in the flesh, he considers removing what was addressed to him anyway. He looks east, then west, then up and down. There is no one. The fishing line feels more like a razor’s edge, nearly slices his index finger. Waylon bends down on one knee, inserts his pinkie finger, slides right to left. A single sheet of paper slips into the air, floats like a feather, back and forth, rock a bye-ing to the dirty oval-shaped carpet; earth.
It’s an invitation to the annual “First Chance Saloon” in Bupilda, Maryland and stapled to its backside is a plane ticket from Milwaukee to Baltimore. Waylon doesn’t hesitate, has nothing to lose. He grabs some coins and makes a b-line for the airport 747 city bus express.
The conference is in a Motel 6 northeast of Baltimore. A plastic chandelier hangs down from the main hallway. Wind gushes in from the open window clacking the imitation crystal shapes together. There are 29 others waiting for a speaker, an announcement, anything to explain why in the hell they are there.
They wait and wait and drank their fill of Natty Boh stale beer, only it isn’t stale, just bad, but beer is beer and conventions aren’t always free. They’re good and drunk when the curtains no one knows are there slowly begin to open. A screen drops down and a reel to reel projector revs its engine from somewhere behind the wall. A mound of dirt begins to lower in time lapsed photography. Mug shots of baseball pitchers swirl and swarm in mosquito circles round the mound. Their noses, teeth, ears, and cheeks begin to be eaten. They slowly disappear. All that remains is a considerably lonelier and much lower mound.
There is a pause followed by numbers flashing spastic in the vanishing point of the screen and then slowing down to barely a blink. The precise shape of 1969 is clear to all. The end. The curtains close.
The conversation among the 30 invitees revolves around Denny McLain, Bob Gibson and Neil Armstrong, the lowering of the pitcher’s mound and man landing on the moon in July of the same year; 1969, The New York miracle Mets.
A Seattle fan ponders the Mariners moving in the home run fence last season and how it will remain where it is in 2013. Houston chimes in with “we’re considering the same.” All 30 team reps gush about changes made this off-season, most of them barely a budge on the franchise compass.
There were no edicts of facial hair or fire sale final solutions and in some cases like Milwaukee, just a rule V draft pick and a harmless trade bringing in a few southpaws.
Randlolph Keys exits the motel like the other 29 fans; completely alone. He turns left instead of right; postponing the return trip home. Randolph is drawn to the Susquehanna river behind the Motel. So is everyone else. It’s frozen. The shore is lined with insignificant pebbles waiting to be skipped. Randolph anticipates the river’s fast flow of pitchers and catchers reporting, grapefruit marathons, opening day pageantry and Milwaukee solving its first base issue. He knows why he is here. Everyone does.