There were red rashes on his shins, fresh ones from scraping his socks, had to be pulled up to the knee caps. Good thing Skitzer didn’t wear cowboy boots or them rashes would a been gashes.
He wore a wool cap and squeezed into two hoodies and a feathered overcoat. Didn’t matter what season. Skitzer said swimming through hot apple sauce was necessary in preparation for the more humid days bound to come.
He escaped the friendship circles, anarchist lectures and free love going on as a child. He took a number in the meat line among his many siblings and waited his turn to enter the hay room. It was Father O’Frenics attempt to simulate farm life.
Skitzer huddled up there beside a transistor radio; tuned to baseball games from St. Louis, Chicago, Milwaukee and on clear nights, sometimes as far away as Houston. It wasn’t so much the games as it was the voices. Bob Uecker and Del Crandal didn’t speak with Ivory Tower vocabularies like Father O’Frencic did. They told stories about painting porches and grilling brats, simple things without all the rhetoric.
A funny thing then done happened. Skitzer started looking up, saw birds in flocks, circles, and swarms and maybe more importantly, spotted a few flapping away; drifters. The birds faded, but the memory marinated and Skitzer mustered up the courage to one day cross the Mackenzie bridge, and kept right on walking.
First time he ever been downtown too. He liked it there. “Everyone talking to themselves on walkie-talkies looking like anonymous refugees” he said. “People be sitting in public and eating alone. My kind of joint.” This eating alone and doing whatever one wants was very important to Skitzer O’Frenic after spending so many years in that large family where he had all dem big ideas of continuity generations and community stuffed in his ears.
Skitzer spotted his first elevator and climbed aboard.
“Expecting the apocalypse today?”
Skitzer took the nervous sarcasm from strangers as an opportunity to play ping-pong. He spun some yarns for he was relieved. No one was making subtle innuendos of “together we stand” or some other famous quotation like they did all them years with Father O’Frenic. They just ignored him. Sweet Jesus, musta been the greatest moment in Skitzer’s life.
“eye in the skyscraper” is what people started calling him because Skitzer never did get off that first elevator. Most passengers only caught a whiff of a tale for their floors came quicker than the ends of stories.
“Write a word on a piece of paper” Skitzer would say “and we’ll see where we stray.”
Skitzer would glance at the word, close his eyes and then begin a story; sometimes true, sometimes not. Some entertained. Some not.
A man handed Skitzer a pill one day and shot Skitzer an evil eye before exiting on the 7th floor. Skitzer tossed the pill down the shaft between the elevator and the floor. The man didn’t see him.
“Now where was we?” Skitzer closed his eyes. “Ah, yes. Doc” Medich. Now don’t be confused by the cute name. True as a fork under a dishwasher’s nail. George Francis Medich performed double duty; studying medicine at Pittsburgh University in winter and pitching for the New York Yankees come spring and summer.
Pitched on seven different teams. Didn’t reach the World Series until 1982 as a Milwaukee Brewer. Went on to become an orthopedic surgeon, even opened up a clinic in his home state of Pennsylvania, but got busted writing fake prescriptions; using patient’s names to feed his pain-killer addiction-nine months probation.
But who can forget April, 1976 Veterans Stadium-City of Brotherly love? “I can,” says Skitzer. “I wasn’t even born and so can Joseph Corbett of Newport, Delaware for he was dead. Corbett was soaking up batting practice; second row lower box when Ka Ka Kaboom! he suffered the fourth heart attack of his 73 year career. Medich was a Pittsburgh Pirate at the time and he done leaped over the rail and revived the old man with CPR. The bugger died later that same day in the hospital
But two years later as a Texas Ranger, Medich crossed over again; into them seats that is, reviving another heart attack victim and that one not only survived. He lived a few more years. And who says Saves are not a worthy statistic?”
Skitzer never did pay no attention to night or day. That elevator kept going up and then coming down; one story after another. He mighta stayed there until the small hill overlooking the city erupted as a volcano and no one expected that to ever happen, but then again Skitzer never expected a lady holding a briefcase to teach him about horizontal elevators.
She called them subways and by George, she stuck here sweet hairless forearm around Skitzer’s waist and escorted him down into the city’s belly where she promised there were more people and the humidity was even higher.