She came from a place no one had ever heard, from Crapshoot, meaning “in memory of the risks we once took,” she explained in her native Crapshootian tongue.
The local geography maven, Spencer Guinness, sat at the rail every night. He rattled on about Siberian hills and Madagascar waves and small towns in Nebraska and parks and streets in their hometown of Springfield. Now Spencer stood up, pitcher of Blatz in his hand, and waxed on about Crapshoot, about its mountain peaks and views and tent town under the Steeltoe Bridge beside the Ruminate River. There were singers there, strummers and students too and retired insurance salesmen and folk who talked about the people with the long necks. Spencer liked to hear that name Crapshoot so he said it often and bought everyone beer too and this inspired them to learn more about the lady from Crapshoot….
…so tall and yet legs so short, arms so long, and her neck, jetting up like a giraffe’s causing people on Springfield’s east side, home of the local university, to talk about a hybrid birth – half human/half giraffe and this had geneticists and biologists and sociologists and all kinds of “ists” concluding that she came from lands where giraffes walk, that she was from Chad or Somalia so they named her Chadalia. It was all over the papers and the local bar patrons liked the name Chadalia too.
Chadalia didn’t know about bars and didn’t read the papers and yet, she swung her hips like she was playing Hula Hoop and she walked and walked and ran out of breath at the LastStraw Saloon’s front door so she went inside and talked with the nice bartender who was its owner too. His name was Jack. They talked about traffic lights, specifically why there were only three lights and not four and what color would the fourth be and what would it cause people to do. They talked about parking tickets and stop signs. Chadalia loved cars, especially ones from the the 1950’s. She never left the bar. She sat down, her long neck almost touching the X-shaped ceiling fan. She liked the dark so when the lights went on, she ducked her head and slipped downstairs, to sleep in a small room, compliments of Jack the bartender.
Jack hadn’t felt so excited since Grimpy the Drifter recited all that Irish poetry by heart. He announced a walk-off seance, a beer and booze binge fest to welcome the new Chadalia to town, for everyone to walk-off their jobs for a day or a night if they were graveyarders, to drink for free, to dance, sing, argue, fight…
“Like 5 cent beer nights,” exclaimed Jack the bartender.
Hank Cavanaugh knew about walk-offs, from “Small Mouth” Watson’s walk-off bunt in the pre-civil war game, back when it wasn’t even called baseball; he knew about Aaron Pinterest’s school yard walk-off walk at Sunday Church baseball in Boise, Idaho and he knew about the regular season not so memorable names who hit walk-off’s. There were even a couple of wild pitch walk-offs and of course he knew about Bill Mazeroski and Chris Chambliss and Joe Carter post season walk-off home runs. He’d never actually seen one in person, but he had a friends with old VHS tapes and he read about others from books, the way everyone enjoyed some collective euphoria and how sometimes stadiums actually swayed. Hank invented his own play-by-play calls. He never had a mother or father to read him bed time stories so he sang the walk-offs out loud at night like some roll call lullaby prayers to help him sleep, but he seldom slept. He was too excited.
Hank once stayed awake for 97 straight hours. He walked all over town and ultimately ran out of breath at the LastStraw Saloon’s front door, exactly like Chadalia had and he too went inside. And Jack’s bar wasn’t too big so Hank eventually met Chadalia. And Hank didn’t waste any time. He began reeling off one walk-off moment after another and this impressed Chadalia, the sing song, lilt in Hank’s voice.
“Walter Johnson was nicknamed “Big Train” and Rube Waddell liked his booze and once upon a time there were no batting helmets,” said Hank, causing everyone in the bar to whip their necks around and stare at Hank because he was no longer reciting walk-offs.”
“And Tony Phillips walked 132 times in 1993,” continued Hank and “Maury Wills played 165 games in 1962.” Hank couldn’t stop; he didn’t want to. There was baseball data that needed to be downloaded into Chadalia’s mind.
“Drafts are more than wind gusts sneaking under blankets,” said Hank. “And Pie Traynor helped Larry Doby get a footing in the outfield and Fernando Valenzuela’s eyes and Bill Buckner almost catching Hank Aaron’s 715th home run or at least climbing the wall and trying. Chadalia didn’t know a pitcher’s rubber from a fungo bat, but she knew a one track tornado and she asked Hank to dance. Hank had never danced before.
“Cocktails on the house,” sang Jack.
And with that, Hank stepped away from his stool and extended his arms and open hands and began to sing about “infield hits and suicide squeezes and he had more fuel in the tank. Chadalia grabbed his hands and spun young Hank around and Hank felt something old arouse inside him.
December 14, 2022 at 2:59 pm
How I wish there really was a Ruminate River where we all could gather and ponder and discuss your characters and their stories.
Here’s one Hank might appreciate: Leo Durocher bunted for a “home run” in the 1938 All-Star Game. After Frank McCormick led off the 7th with a single for the National League, Durocher was given the sign to sacrifice. He bunted toward third. Jimmie Foxx fielded the ball and threw it into right field. Joe DiMaggio retrieved it and sailed a throw over the head of catcher Bill Dickey. McCormick scored and so did Durocher, who circled the bases on his bunt.
December 14, 2022 at 3:22 pm
Sometimes I think all I have left is Ruminate River fantasy, escape and what not, but tomorrow is another day. I keep reminding myself of that. And learning about bunting for a home run is a great way to start over and begin again. Thanks Mark. The bunt for a homerun used to happen in little league with all the errors and what not. I liked it better than an out of the park homer. More exciting. All that expectation and then disgust over a bad throw and then the same thing happens as the runner rounds second and then again, around third and he scores, and even better in an all-star game from back when the AL and NL were their own leagues. Now, with inter-league play and universal DH, more uniqueness has been stolen from the MLB.
December 20, 2022 at 3:42 pm
Dean Stone was the winning pitcher in the 1954 All-Star game…and did not officially face a batter.
December 14, 2022 at 5:23 pm
Please invite me into these worlds Steve. Seems like a guy could get along just fine here. There’s a lot going on here, and I don’t understand it all, but it feels like a place I would fit into. A strange magical uniqueness. I read your comment above…and it got me thinking when the NHL changed it’s division names. From unique names like, Patrick, Adams, Norris and Smythe. To generic names like Northeast and Southeast…and the rest of the boring names. Just to reach a “larger” audience.
December 15, 2022 at 5:27 am
I got a little lost with this one. Sorry about any confusion. I think I was aiming for the main character to return to a previous time, when he took more risks and a long-necked lady inspired him to do even more – she got him to dance for the first time.
Anyway, I didn’t know about the hockey league name changes. But now that I do I agree with you. I prefer the old ones.. I wonder where they came up with names like Smythe and Norris and the others. Were they the names of old players?
December 15, 2022 at 8:42 am
I loved the story. I prefer a beautiful mess over a straight line plot. Yes, they are the names of old players. But I guess generic sells. Kinda depressing.