Glen mentioned he liked the quirky stories I used to write. That made me feel both honoured and home sick for those stories. So I thought I’d give it another try to see what happens. I don’t know if this is quirky or good for that matter, but I had fun writing it.
There were side armers, subterranos, herky-jerks, clean dirt off a cleat with a popsicle stick typo types, Luis Tiant wield around dervishes…all sorts of motions, more flavours than the local ice cream shop….. all attempting to seduce scouts so they’d fix on eye on them, take a second look, get them thinking between sips that yeh this guy can get big league hitters out, one day, some way.
I met Waylon when he was tending bar. I forget the year, the month, the day. Forgive my lack of GPS but I was on a binge. Waylon was well-known around town as the quickest, most accurate drink maker in the west or at least in Saskatchewan which was saying a lot because Saskatchewaners liked to drink in a lowest common denominator sort of way, that is, if math does to your mind what pop rocks used to do to a mouth, one of those universal volcanic explosions….yes, drinking is habit and a pastiime enjoyed by most unless Allah rules your roost or Doctor so and so points his bad breath at you and says, “You Drink-You Die.”
Waylon tended an old man’s bar. Drinkers broke the rules of decency, ogling teenage girls and old grandmas alike, but they also showed ambition. They longed to see Waylon step out of the cinema of being a bartender and join the old men rascals..carouse a bit.. to do what cocaine dealers are encouraged never to do…..
DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES SNIFF THE MERCHANDISE.
Do not get high, hooked and screw up the entire operation. And so Waylon kept the course. He slid drinks with eight ball corner pocket accuracy across rail and table alike. He never needed a notepad to jot down the chicken wings and ginger whisky spritzer orders either. His mind was inside of a lawn mower sharp and when he wasn’t catering to sorry souls, he sat tucked away in the Jimmy Leyland corner chain-smoking and putting to memory what most people never even thought about.
But one hot sticky swimming through yogurt humid night, he fell from isolation chamber grace. He fell hard. At the time I was on my binge. I had no idea what caused him to look for answers in the bottle of a Jim Beam bottle but thank God or the Devil he did and thank God or the Devil I was there because somewhere between bar time and those lights going on and the last straggler falling to the floor, Waylon rolled up his sleeve. A rare event. He always wore long sleeves and pulled them down over his hands making it kind of impossible to prepare drinks, but he did it, somehow. If anyone asked, he said the cuffs were like wings to him. “Do you want your drink or not!”.
Rowdy Tellez is currently a first baseman for the Blue Jays. I swear on the beauty of Rowdy’s name that Waylon revealed a web for a hand that sticky and summery night. So there I was staring, ogling at an old man’s bar but not at some fleshy waitress or old man drooling cigar juice from his half-open, stroke induced jaw, but at Waylon Wipple’s web of a right hand, all the fingers and thumb joined together by flesh. The questions gushed through me. How did he tend bar, all those quick and accurate drinks and how in the Urban Shocker did he play baseball? He had mentioned being a pitcher and being pretty good at it too.
I couldn’t resist. I called scouts, knowing a webbed hand would make a Grizzly Adams beard or a side winder look Beaver Cleaver innocent. The scouts organized a gathering at the local field. They came like salmon spawning in spring or fall or whenever they lay their eggs and Waylon grew fast, tore up the league or tore it down with K’s galore. He held the ball in his webbed hand, not much of a grip and easy to detect, but by nature, by some freak of nature, his supposed handicap, that ball merged with the wind and curved and dropped and screwed in ways no one had ever seen before…fork ball, knuckle ball, screw ball, fast ball……it was time…..web ball.
I started to jog, mostly through wooded areas, a fertile place to wonder when some carny hand helper, a low squatting muscle man, one who wields a hammer and sends the puck skyward…..when would he switch professions and reach those fences and in doing so spark the seesaw of pitcher versus batter once again.