There’s a kid; no more than 16. He doesn’t know the word death; doesn’t need to. He wanders snow peaks and sings instead. He sees a lady pushing a cart. She’s mumbling yesterday words and wearing a whistle round her neck.
“Psssst,” the kid says; loud enough because he wants her to hear and she does and she waves her hand; not out of disgust. It’s a come-on-down sort of greeting, but he needs friction so he says, “What if our ancestors weren’t reincarnated into land or sea creatures?”
She waves both hands now like a drunk air traffic controller. The kid kicks a chunk of snow and points his finger as if magically guiding the chunk down hill. It lands close to her cart; a ceremonial first pitch.
The lady revs the cart’s handlebars and makes a sound; turns the kid’s innards into electric guitar strings melting out of tune. He slides down the hill. She walks ahead. He follows her to the Last Straw Saloon where men gather round a 9-ball table and exercise their clever and wit. The lady watches from a bean bag.
“A bottle of Thunderbird,” requests the kid towards anyone willing to serve.
“Rot gut it is,” says the server reaching for a 3 liter jug with a dime sized handle built round the neck.
“You’ll need Aaron wrist action to tilt this sucker” the server says while handing over the future.
The kid knows nothing of Aaron, but he does know that Donnie Mitchtow smokes filter less pall malls and out runs every 16-year old in the 440 yard dash and the reminder feels like a blessing in ruin. He hops cock sure onto the 9 ball table and sings for the lady.
“What’s the word?”
“Thunderbird,” he says; answering his own question.
“What’s the price?
Twice as nice
What’s the reaction?
“Roy Partlow” says an old man wearing a near beautiful belly; a robin’s barrel chested bell.
“Partlow,” repeats another while shaking his head. “Now that man could drink.”
“Maybe Baseball’s greatest Wino,” says the barrel chested man.
A role call of legendary baseball drunks follows and then a debate over whether or not Partlow qualifies; him being a prolific pitcher and all; but he played in the Quebec Provincial Leagues and for the Homestead Grays and down in Veracruz, but never in the majors.
The kid lets out a King Curtis Air Blast; tapping his fingers up and down an imaginary sax neck and blowing air through bubble cheeks. That feeling of drunk comes on so quickly with the sun still shining. The lady is laughing and the old men put their minds down and listen to the kid’s rendition.
There’s cockadoooodle in the server’s step when the kid asks for eggs and ketchup and more laughter from the lady when the server comes through like an after hours party. The kid slumps to the corner beside her; on the bean bag, but still moving with purpose; like a surgeon or an ant; shaking ketchup free from the bottle into a river of sunny side eggs quickly becoming orange.
“Astro Orange again!” the kid yells. The lady laughs even louder. The men wave their arms and get back to thinking. The intermission is over, but the kid carries on like a believer in the throws of a 3rd street Baptist heat.
“Asher Wojciechowski made the Astros opening day roster; 2nd longest last name in baseball history; right behind Saltalamacchia. Woj and cie and chow and ski in hup 2,3,4 formation. Woj and cie and chow and ski and Woj and cie and chow and ski.” The kid tries to stand, but swerves and falls to the bean bag floor. The lady laughs.
An old man grabs a cue and another racks a 9 ball formation and there is a break and the balls scatter.