brewers baseball and things


Davillo removes the curse

there was mold on the bathroom wall. the kitchen clock was broken. severe weather sirens echoed at noon every day. Cliff Longhouse called it “the great decline,” said it started when his mom and dad drove him home from the “miracle” maternity ward and continued through the years, but it was something other than tombstones he thought about as a teenager that had him putting a book down before finishing a page.

light poured in through his bedroom blinds….shadows too and together, side by side, light and dark, they reminded Cliff of prison bars. He could have moved out, found an apartment on one of the other sides of town, joined a church choir, clipped coupons and flirted with a dreamy looking cashier at the local grocery store, but he couldn’t and he knew why. it was because of the curse a middle-aged Danish lady once put on him. She didn’t wave a wand, but she promised that he would grow old and lonely and scatter brained, be unable to focus on anything, not even during Do Something Different Day, the most cherished day in Hankerville.

The day was announced on both AM and FM radio, spontaneously, sometimes three times in the same month and other times, only once per year. The rules were simple – do something different. walk to work up or down a never before street. Drive around in a rented hearse. Wear a red hat. Walk with a hippity-hop in your step. Sing out loud. something, anything different.

no one knew who or where the judges were, but they were there because friday night, at sun down, the winners were announced and rewarded with 10 tickets to Tubman’s Movie House. Most winners waited till the first of the month, when the new movie came out, to use their tickets. That gave them something to look forward to for 10 months. Cut the town’s suicide rate down by five percent.

there was one memorable Do Something Different Day that came when leaves had already turned yellow and red, broke free from branch home, and begun their wild see saw sway to the ground. And as they did their death ritual, a voice came, at first undecipherable, but once out on the street, all ears turned towards the place where no one had previously looked – megaphones sandwiched between tree branches and light poles… a voice with a southern drawl….

“Two boats been discovered at the bottom of lake makeawish.”

mothers and fathers made a bread line rush for the lake in search of something new – a Kansas City Athletics hat, a Montreal Expos t-shirt, a pliers, an anonymous family photo. kids left their bikes behind….everyone under a spell – the sudden need for something different, everyone ready to dive and discover.

And Cliff? he heard the words too, but they slipped in one ear and out the other, that damn scatter brain curse, his mind switching to thoughts of beer, to Hedwigs Pub and so that’s where he went. he sat in a booth beside Bobcat, Train Track Tom, Vandy the vampire and The poet, as always, lingered at the end of the rail, sipping from his customary pitcher of Blatz, no glass needed, reading from his latest poetry publication – “Hagar’s Kin.” he stopped in mid-poem and said – “Cliff, turn yourself into a pretzel, become solstitial,” the poet clearly under the effects of Do Something Different Day……the poet suddenly an alchemist.

Solstitial, thought Cliff, as in solstices, as in two polars, as in change, as in lack of focus, as in up and down, as in happy and sad, an all over the place way of being. Cliff laughed, an out of his mind laugh, so long and loud that he thought he had replaced his old mind with a new mind, a laughing mind, that maybe he’d been saved, but then he stopped laughing and thought about rivets and erector sets, his mind still operating like a baggage carrousel on the move.

“I’ll call my old friend Rilo Davillo,” said the poet. “He’ll be home and he never turns down a beer, not on Do Something Different Day day and don’t you worry Cliff, he’ll bring a bag of balls. And a bat? Look no further than our family doctor, the bartender, Hector. He always keeps one beside the grey goose vodka in case one of those punks high on energy drinks jumps the rail in search of a freebee.”

Rilo arrived in less than an hour and he was a beer drinker. it was in his DNA, stretched back to the beer baron ancestor days on his father’s side, but this was Do Something Different Day so he dangled a flask of Jamesons Whisky in front of Cliff and led him outside, up 4th avenue, to the Food Emporium parking lot where the lights stayed on all night.

“Take the bat and stand by the wall,” instructed Rilo.

“Give me that flask and I will.”

Rilo handed him the flask and counted off 60 feet six inches.

Cliff took a nice healthy swig, swiped his feet on the cement, spit on his hands and waved that bat like carney lansford and on the first pitch, he took a wild swing, low and outside, way out of the strike zone, and on the second pitch, he tried to check his swing, but couldn’t, inside, almost hit him. amazing that he was even able to swing, more than enough fodder to inspire Rilo, typically quiet and humble to offer advice.

“You got a lay off the useless, wild ones; they do you no good? Like those thoughts of yours, that distraction-itis. The poet told me all about it.

“I hate Do Something Different Day,” screamed Cliff, “Turns a poet and his friend into a buddhist Tony Robbins. I’m going back to the bar.”

Cliff drank beer all the way until 2 AM bar time, and that’s when he closed his eyes, took a deep breath and studied the room like a weather vane studies the wind, to know if there were an after hours party to attend. there wasn’t so he asked the bartender Hector for a bag of peanuts and Hector, on the Do Something Different Day frequency, handed Cliff a bag, no charge, and added two cans of miller beer. Cliff, already drunk, stumbled a while, but his GPS guided him up 5th avenue, then down 5th avenue, then across the Green tree bridge and sliding down the hillside.

He sat under that Green Tree Bridge, beside the water, and the sound of Lake Makeawish came to him. He forgot all about the peanuts and beer. Instead, he thought about the two boats at the bottom of the Lake and then his mind, his ears, turned towards that sound of water. he listened to it and for a change, he had no other thoughts except that sound.



aluminum baseball paradise

to a toddler it didn’t matter. His mom collected cans for a living and so he learned to collect cans and love the activity too, like one would learn to catch fish or gut a buffalo and offer thanks through song.

he liked the locomotion of walking around town, digging through recycle bins and scoring treasures as he called them …….the father was no where to be found. Took off with first whispers of an embryo so it was mom who had dibs on what to name him and she never hesitated. Called him Tundra to honor the short growing season regions, a reminder to seize opportunities which in can collecting parlance translated to knowing where to find cans – outside the local university fraternity houses, back alleys of bars, and houses with heavy beer drinkers. Tundra’s mom knew them places like an angler knows rivers.

Momma held Tundra up at the grocery store so he could stuff one aluminum can after another into the machine and he loved the crunch sound. He held the printout in his hand and he exchanged it for some magic coins. Tundra smiled and so did the cashier, mom too, a secret ritual paradise born.

but the world is cruel and as Tundra grew, kids at school found out that he lived in a shelter and that he and his mom collected cans and they taunted Tundra and doubt creeped into the boy’s mouldable mind. Tundra’s back slouched. His gait slowed, but he endured and became a teen and one summer day, he and his mom waited outside a bar, for cans, like they did at most bars because bartenders were much kinder than Tundra’s classmates. And this particular bartender made it vocal that he respected can collecting. He likened it to 49ers searching for gold, as legit as any other employment and in a way, even better, choosing your own hours.

The bartender invited them in for a complimentary beer and the fates were kind, because it was an old man’s bar and the drinkers knew about life being a “tough row to hoe.” One of the men, wearing a green, John Deere hat, pointed to a tv hoisted above the tapper, but he didn’t really need to point because Tundra got sucked in from the moment he walked into the bar, sucked into this game of bat and ball being played. No one said a word either, only the bartender, an invite to come and see more games whenever “momma says it would be alright.”

They were there every Saturday and Tundra took his new love into the week, to the library, where he read up on the game and along the information way, he stumbled on pictures of statues, baseball statues, Hartland baseball statues, nothing more than plastic figurines, but the players, he soon discovered were old, from the late 1950’s, long before Tundra’ time. And he liked the history of it, of him being part of a larger family and his gratitude worked like a charm, unleashing ideas in the young boy’s mind, to create aluminum figurines of his favorite players and to sit outside after school and sell them. His mom, initially rejected the idea as blasphemy, ruining a good can and losing 5 cents and in some locations 10 cents! But Tundra begged and momma surrendered at one point, “But only two cans,” she insisted.

Tundra spent the rest of the day cutting, twisting, and curling the can, very carefully so as to not suffer an injury and he modeled his first player after his favorite Hartland Statue – Warren Spahn – his glove and throwing hand high above his head. Then he made an Ichiro, bat head aimed towards third base, the beginnings of an inevitable, opposite field double down the line.

It wasn’t easy to part ways with his aluminum statues, but Tundra wanted to pay respects to his mother and so he sold the two statues, made some more, and gave the money to his mom. She admitted she was wrong and felt a surge of pride as a can collecting mother. And the boys at school? Well, they switched sides like a fickle fashion and wanted to be Tundra’s friend.


baseball tongues

it wasn’t clear what he longed for more – a little tail on his fastball or something, anything to arouse a sensitivity to the miracle – the gravity holding our body parts together…blood pumping our hearts alive.

he was putting on the years and day after month after year, he never noticed a stranger’s flirtation or figured they were eyeing his over-sized ear lobes.

All he had left was a name, Merbata, a name his father gave him, a reminder of an older people, his people, a south of the Sahara nomadic tribe who relied on the stars to know.

every day at 1:30 PM, he set up a telescope and aimed it at the horizon to see McGibbons the mailman appear and then he watched as he got bigger and bigger, closer and closer and when it was true, when McGibbons entered his apartment complex and jingled keys and opened the mailboxes, Merbata put the telescope away and waited and when McGibbons was gone, he peered into his mail slot and it didn’t matter what might be there…. coupons, jesus christ solicitations, local barber shop openings, warnings of lead in the water. he loved it all…reminders of passenger pigeons and emotions shared and he enjoyed an ember of hope that there might be some more of those emotions, but he never found any and yet, he knew about crocus plants sprouting above genocidal tombs and this thought of ‘maybe again’ danced through his daze and hope bred hope because one day there was a ball of yarn in his mail slot and along side it, birch bark, curled at the ends with scribbles on it, maybe letters? he wasn’t sure.

The town Merbata called home had more than one traffic light, a local community college too; been there for over a hundred years, back when the town was called Intanka which meant sky momma. the school was a Mennonite affair with pictures of carriages and butter churning machines lining the hallways. A Professor Shmoolie taught linguistics there, he, a fourth generation preserver of languages, new and old so Merbata grabbed the birch bark and hoofed it over to the house of learning and Professor Shmoolie, not accustomed to visitors, welcomed Merbata with a cup of green tea, a veritable hookah of hospitality he was and after some talk of traffic lights and local saloons, he got right down to it, dissecting and deciphering the codes on the birch bark and it became immediately clear that there were details mentioned of some old game and more specifically, ways of tossing balls, “hoop-hat pitches,” they were called, appearing as clear and visible as cave paintings, initially anyway, but then gone like spectres, impossible to hit and the breasts and bulge behind such pitches were christened as hermaphrodite deities.

“and are there instructions as to how to toss one?” asked Merbata excitedly.

Professor Shmoolie reached behind himself, to a bookshelf of dusty Harvard Classics and removed a red stitched ball and said, “Follow me” and off they sauntered to the courtyard, between Cummins Hall and the Sanctuary and Professor Shmoolie explained more of what was written on the birch bark. Merbata grabbed the ball and backtracked sixty feet-six inches or thereabouts and a catch ensued and Merbata never knew he had it in him, but there it was….that ball appearing and disappearing and indy league call ups followed and 60 scoreless innings and a major league contract and a minor league assignment…

but then he awoke and realized all was a dream and for reasons of leaky faucets and dead end jobs, he went to church and Professor Schmoolie was there too and they sat together and the professor closed his eyes and whispered in tongues, an acapella of confusion to Merbata and when the professor’s trance mellowed and his eyes opened, he explained that his speaking in tongues was ancient, as old as a redwood, and that his scholar, erudite buddies called it glossolalia, and that it was bursting with symbols.

Merbata smiled out of one corner of his mouth, a happy to learn something new smile, this glossolalia and on the other side of his mouth, a brother gut feeling formed, a reminder of Derek Deitrich, his catcher friend.

he took a small breath and told the professor that his baseball buddies knew symbols too and that “we call them a catcher dropping signs for his pitcher and that it was also ancient, Darrel Porter ancient.”

Merbata didn’t feel so numb anymore. tears came to life in his eyes. he looked at Professor Schmoolie… “You wanna go for a drink?”


4th row Moe

it was like any other night game….lights and muzak and that damn sign near the dugouts insisting “no pepper allowed.”

mystic perverts hosting the smoking caskets. game 2 of a four game series and in that the moon was 75 percent full, the bar was open, no charge….beers all game long, shots from the seventh inning on.

all fans able to skip a pebble nine times across the makeshift sea in the third base concourse received a full sized photo of Morris Spitfire, the home town ace for the perverts, him and his elephant sized change-up, yes, the inimitable Morris Spitfire.

Morris had a problem…..good looks – auburn-colored hair……Caribbean blue eyes. he stuck one hand in his front pocket and leaned and that drove the ladies wild. Morris Spitfire. Moe for short, no relation to Three Stooges’ Moe, but that’s not to say Morris Spitfire was afraid to jab a buddy. He pried open every hood and poked around, sparked near dead embers, hair pulling and cheek slaps too.

he could never hit a lick at the local diamond. never played little league or high school ball, but that didn’t stop him. he put ads across the internet, on craigs list, billys list, amandas list, on every list he could find.

“If you can pitch a ball 70 mph and follow it up with a hoodwinking slow ball drop, call 456-9871 and don’t think i’m a jesus freak looking for charity either. i got green. I deliver the morning gazette. i do it every dying day.”

Moe was maybe a bit too old to be delivering newspapers. He was 29, still living at home, but in the basement, with his own private entrance. He never had to lure girls with sweet whispers or tall umbrella drinks. It was that stare of his, off into the i don’t give a damn if you like me or not space. He had no car, only looks and experience, of attaching pickle buckets to wood logs, making a raft, inviting strangers at bar time to join him on a drift down and up the Katawasky River, no direction, no reason, to simply drift and sing songs, not knowing the time or year….the port wine mushroom whisky fueling nights.

he received responses to his ad and learned that slow hoodwink pitch and it went well with the 70 mph blazer he’d cultivated thanks to his powdered jug of creatin. he signed on with semi pro teams, then played indy ball, from corpus cristi to places he’d never known in arkansas and idahooooo….there were backpacks, waffles doused with brandy-flavored syrup. He studied the history of throwing, from early hunting and gathering societies, the tossing of spears and rocks to maim a mastodon.

on to the mystic perverts.

it was against the smoking coffins, the night of the photo giveaway, where he ran into a nice destiny….that 4th row of ladies looking at Moe. he knew the codes in their eyes, come-ons, and kisses followed, dances under the bleachers too and wherever else the three quarter moon might take them and when the manager got wind of these physical contortions, he sang acapella with his coaches, old crooner numbers and love spread throughout the stadium and well, the world felt a little looser.


end of times bloom

they called him the splinter cause he got into you, dreams mostly. he was always in them, as a tall man or a small one, the physical-ness didn’t matter. it was the sound of his voice. high pitched and clear and not necessarily advice or magic incantation formulas. they were simple discussions or monologues, about utilitarian things – staplers, hole punchers, saws…..and yet, upon waking you always felt right and moved without ever looking back, moved like a three-headed monster was chasing after you, seeking a fourth head. in fact, you didn’t move at all. you sprinted as you put on your socks and shoes. you did it like you were crossing a river to freedom. you cherished your decisions too, like quitting the real estate gig in St. Louis and moving to Tulsa to wash dishes at Clem’s diner.

“why Clem’s?” sounded the voice and vice of doubt. “Why over 300 miles away? Couldn’t you find a diner in good old st. louieeeeee, stay closer to home, near mom and dad? they were getting old after all.”

you wore shutters over your ears…shutters that were closed. and you moved on.

it was the dreams that did it, the dreams the splinter provoked, they were so clear and so specific, to not only relocate to tulsa but to find Clem’s and who could resist destiny dropped down in front of you like a billboard….but minimum wage? yes, the bare minimum, the lowest common denominator because this wasn’t about money; this was about dreams and when you said yes to the turnkey motel with a mini fridge and hot plate place, you knew once again, it was right. didn’t know the specifics, but you believed in time, that all would be clear and sure enough, with dawn and sun and life coming back into objects, colors appearing, you looked to the other side and there was ONEOK field, home of the Tulsa Drillers and yeh, they were the AA affiliate of the blue dream Dodgers, the team of Fernando and Rafael Landestoy, but it didn’t matter, none of that major league chatter mattered, only the game did and AA or whiffle ball did the trick, took one’s mind off the panic of being alive.

and there were other splinter dreams that came true, mostly in the meeting of strangers and the clues they slipped your way, subtle ones, through seemingly inconsequential talk about the colorful spinning of clothes in a dryer and the way he looked at your hands fighting for a safe place to hide and how you leaned against a brick wall.

it was these seemingly innocuous words and looks that reminded you of a gift you were given at birth, of being left-handed, of being a southpaw and as luck and destiny and splinter dreams would have it, there was a parking lot at ONEOK Field and it was a place where not only cars parked but fans played soft toss and someone caught sight of you side-winding against a wall and he slipped you a business card and you instantly remembered the golden ticket in your previous night’s dream. you watched the Drillers win that night, a shutout, a 1-0 game that contradicted the team name, the Drillers, but you knew, all is never the same in baseball.

You called the number on the business card the next morning and it was decided right away, to meet at Caeser’s Gym that same day, early afternoon, “first pitch time,” said the man. He said not to worry, that there was plenty of open space, in the back, behind all the bar bells, bikes, and bench presses.

You had no idea how to pitch, not with control, but your ball moved and that’s what attracted the man with the business card. And before he could speak, you remembered another Splinter dream, of a being trapped inside a racquetball court filled with colorful butterflies…..and that first pitch you threw in the presence of the man, that first pitch, you dug your fingernails into the ball without any prior knowledge of a knuckleball, only that southpaw Wilbur Wood threw one and your ball drunk driving its way to the plastic tarp with a square on the middle, hitting just below the lower line, a tad out of the strike zone, but effective bait, no doubt a swing and miss and you were signed right then and there and you suddenly remembered about impossible dreams at the end of times and you knew it was always the end of times.


second base salvation…

he never said where he came from, but we knew he was a refugee from some war-torn land. we could see it in his eyes, not from tears and sobs, but the way he stared off into some private space, one we would never reach – massive appreciation. he often hopped on two feet, a here and now dance. he rubbed his hands together, ready for whatever might come his way…

and we followed him….to roam around Shennigan’s park in search of a reported limestone cliff, to jump into the water, splash and swim swim swim and when he returned to land, he’d walk and talk about all kinds of subjects, from the Khazar empire to the euphoria of staring into a sparkler to rigging up a hooverville shanty, (how he knew about hoovervilles – a mystery to us) “to love a shelter, a look out, a fort, a home” he’d say.

he had the gift of gratitude, of grace in the way he walked, not sturdy and strict like some repressed soldier, but casual and fun as if he knew all was a dream, one he would never wake up from.

We inquired often about what he might have endured – land mines, lashings, and amputations of friends and family? blown up buildings, beheadings, aerial assaults….but he kept the course, kept quiet, choosing instead, that forever motion, always one step ahead of recycled misery, striving for the new, trespassing into private pools late at night, “pool hopping” he called it, rummaging through the dumpster behind “Ye Old” pharmacy and scoring expired candy bars, and his favorite of all activities – sipping stolen beer beside St. Cabrini’s rectory.

we wore replica detroit tigers jerseys with our names ironed on the back, the tigers, a consensus choice because of our collective love for a pitcher our fathers told us about – Mark Fidrych and the way he talked to himself on the mound. it ushered in gang thought, a brotherhood. We looked after each other. we offered him a jersey. he just whispered,

“never need my name to be seen…”

that’s not to say he didn’t like his name. in fact, he always introduced himself with his first, middle, and last – Javier Lee Torpedo, a South Korean mother and a Spanish father…

he was “proud to come from the split,” as he called it, always including his mother’s family name, to not cut her short because she had walked the 1500 miles to freedom with him, his father and two sisters..”adventures” as he called them…strange to refer to them as adventures, as opposed to torment, but so it was….

we weren’t so sure about his ethnic origins, not too many refugees from South Korea or Spain. We chalked it up as more disguise… to not leak his woe. it didn’t matter. The split, any split, struck us as an omen, a Yu Darvish, part Iranian, part Japanese….and what a success he’s turned out to be and that walking…a sure bet OB% supreme….inspired Harry Hanker to grab Javier by the arm and escort him to Shennigan Park’s baseball diamond, “to see what he’d make of it,” to hit shag flies, take grounders, play pepper and if enough kids loitered, to pick teams, dig in the dirt and enjoy a few innings of paradise.

Javier needed a briefing on the basics…that being on base was a safe haven, but one couldn’t rest on their laurels, one had to advance from one ivory sack to another and ultimately reach home and score a run and with that Javier ran out to second base and started laughing. He rolled his fingers towards himself, a signal for us to join him out there and obediently and eager, we did.

He looked back towards first at “all I’ve lost,” he announced.”

then he looked towards third and “all the joy that lay ahead,.”

“but this second base,” he continued, ….”somewhere in between, will always be home.”

it was Val Smirnoff who stepped up and told Javier about Tris Speaker – the all-time leader in doubles with 792 and Pete Rose second at 746 and the names quickly mushroomed into a forest fire of legend, tales, trivia, and Javier had to know, just had to know the starting lineup of every major league team, especially second sackers, from Kolten Wong to Ozzie Albies….


stirring the potage

The lowly Handoogle…lowly, not because of some intrinsic flaw in his spirit or personality (he could raise a brew and bow to the void) lowly because of his stature, Freddie Patek-ish small…couldn’t touch a chin up bar or grab an apple from a tree at old Hammerstein’s Orchard. But what mattered most were his ancestors, cave people, those happy with a rock roof over their heads. it was dna, reminding him that any roof would do, a basement apartment roof, an 8-room house roof, a mini van roof, warehouse pallets nailed together roof, a cardboard hanging from branches roof, tent roof and so on.

The Handoogle shooed away the eyes zeroed in on his smallness…their loss, he thought, of them missing out on the pit crew speed and efficiency of garbage collectors, the way they stormed onto a scene and furiously gathered trash bins and emptied them into the compactor and how they hung onto the truck like they were desperate and determined to flee a slave infested land.

Handoogle moved molasses slow, head always down, in search of dirt and worms, to be aligned with his future and there was also the occasional pile of leaves that had somehow fallen from mid-summer tree and what a treasure it was for he sensed some ancient pact had been broken, that the leaves were forever banned from branches, free to swirl in clusters, spinning around in circles like laundry tumbling in a dryer, a public one, for all to see, round and round and round, far from any linear trajectory, a throw back scene to when seasons and cycles and masks and dances meant more than pi or an isosceles triangle.

When the coffee he scored from a local diner, compliments of the tall, skinny owner, took full effect, the Handoogle looked up, a quick glance at the blue sky and the the beautiful black beyond reminding him that earth is floating in outer space and that all of us humans are floating in outer space too….gravity only a ruse….a slap in the face of those astronaut looking creatures scribbled onto cave walls….

thoughts of outer space and planets inspired memories of a Russel Branyon blast against Miler Park’s center field wall and because of some drive for equilibrium, Handoogle wondered if Branyon ever bunted for a base hit?…the bomb and the bunt…a bi-polar baseball universe.

Thanks to the Handoogle’s slide show memory of Russel Branyon…my thoughts on this August 18, 2021 turn to the Brewers still in first place, a country mile ahead of second place Cincinnati or in numerical terms – 8.5 games, certainly something to boast about, but in no way erasing the ghosts of yesteryear’s demises…the 69 Cubs, 64 Phillies and more recently, the 2011 Red Sox…

there are rumblings already about the Brewers Willy Adames as MVP. i’m not really sure what a shaman is, but the way Adames has taken over the dugout social scene, high fiving coaches, removing helmets off the heads of runners who score, lifting the metaphorical hoods of the content, disrupting their “comfort zones” and his smile and non-stop chatter, endless enthusiasm…maybe that’s a shaman? his stats are good too.


the last lap moon time beer

Little Satch couldn’t a been older than 16 because no one’d ever seen him drive and his old man ran a decent carrot-potato-cabbage farm…lots of machinery and trucks and what not, but still, no one ever seen Satch behind a wheel cept for a shriner go-kart he stole from the antiques roadshow.

Satch had a habit of eating kraft american cheese slices, “a not so good habit” warned momma bacon because with every chew Satch’s eyes swelled up, but he was stubborn or brave or a little bit of both, because he shuffled his feet, a madman scarecrow in the ring, blues under each eye, a Cooney slow dance duking Larry Holmes to 12 rounds.

one night Satch waited till that cheese nearly made him blind…then he walked and with every step distanced himself further and further from his father’s wish for him to forfeit erectus and drop to his knees, for a little harvest action. he slipped into the darkness, all alone, moving nice and slow, feeling his way from tree to tree, beside Labreeze Lagoon and through Panners park, onto the avenue where he welcomed the unfamiliar city sounds…..the squeak of bus breaks, sewer grates rattling, undecipherable screams of back yard children and Herman Hellman aka “the man who mumbles in bus cabins.”

Herman had his own habits…..most notably – reading the farmers almanac every god damn day, the same one too, from 1973, “the year the universe became bi-polar” he insisted, “the year the DH was born and the american league established an identity and the soft core civil war ensued.” page after page he read….memorized weather patterns, moon shapes, and crop rotations and made up little ditties that he sang in a low voice to disguise his no harmony ways.

“plants dance” sang Herman, “and humans have no idea what they’re doing.”

this “humans having no idea” resonated with Satch cuz he often looked to the stars for answers, like some old mariner at sea or a Moor strolling the dunes, but he found no secrets, so he often turned to a genie bottle he had “borrowed” from a local country bazaar and though there were no magic plumes of smoke rising, he still got a smidgen of miracle tincture, of his flesh so perfect against his bones and veins and blood and heart pumping like some ancient jungle symphony and patterns on leaves and computer mother boards and how many sunsets a woman glowed before her baby was born? the industry and precision of it all.

Satch looked back at Herman and swears he saw him holding an old transistor radio and though it was blurry, Satch thinks he spotted a sticker on the back of the radio. it was the ball and glove shaped like an M and a B, the Brewers logo.

Satch retraced his steps, carefully, tree to tree….made it back home where as expected, his dad was sipping beer with a bunch more empty ones beside his chair, talking to himself, but as always, the tent was “open,” a welcome mat, inviting those interested, to sit down and listen to his monologue.

“There’s talk of watching Peralta’s innings,” he said as a sliver of moon shined in. “Keep him ready for October, a bit too early to prognosticate, but then again, never too early to prepare.”

Satch knew the Brewers were winning, but had no idea they were close to having the best record in baseball, not that it mattered, not with two wild cards and two other division winners and thus, so many chances to lose, but dad handed him a beer and the beer tasted good that night.


feeling Kirk Gibson

Back then, Frank Machetti made up his own alphabet with strange shaped letters, ancient ones that people understood. He strapped a frying pan, spatula, onion, harmonica, and rabbit trap on his back and rode a bike 17 miles per hour to where love couples waited for him to catch and cook a rabbit over a three log fire and play the seductive sound of a harmonica, blowing breezes into the endless starry night…….

But those days passed and he became like a mining town that ran out of precious minerals. His doors shut to the universe. He took fewer risks. He became a mummy, a ghost in his own life.

Frank Machetti took a job at a local print shop, a tad above minimum wage, enough to pay for a room at the local boarding house, 300 bucks a month. He tried walking to work a different way, but there was too much of the same. He was no longer sensitive to the miracle of trees.

Frank saw a butterfly get electrocuted by a bug zapper and that’s when he reached the end of all reason. How could a fluttering innocent beautiful butterfly get ruined, dead, and done! He air boxed, kicked, and then wandered, to the junkyard and sat in the front of a bulldozer.

He dreamed of being someone else, someone with the name Slip Mc-Fight-Again.

Frank imagined that this Slim Mc-Fight-Again fished on the Black Hawk River, casting a line from the Causeway Bridge and that sometimes he’d wander lower, under the bridge where water ran over rocks….a gurgle sound. That’s where he would meet Zeta Williams….amazing he would think,  so many times under the Causeway Bridge, so many years and all that time, he’d never seen a thing or he saw lots of things – dented beer cans, used condoms, roaches, beetles, grasshoppers, pigeons, hawks, even a snake, but never a human and now here would be Zeta Williams, the one people called – the Love Doctor.

They would talk about the vacant baseball field overgrown with weeds and all the players who previously played there, from Motorbike Martin and his ability to lay down a bunt to Potbelly Perry who couldn’t throw that fast, but had no trouble painting corners with finesse, a little like left-hander Mike Cuellar.

They would play bingo at the Veterans Hall…..smuggle in a bottle of Bacardi. They would never win, but after the last letters and numbers were called, they would stroll to Ditwood’s Cemetery, climb the wrought iron black fence, sit on tombstones and talk and that would be like winning because they would hold hands.

They would listen to Dave Brubeck records in her basement. They would be the same height. Zeta would have short black hair and be kind of skinny, but would have enough fat so when they would hug, it felt warm. Zeta would wrap a towel around her head after a shower, and look like an ancient goddess Frank had seen in Egyptian books. She would have no brothers. He would have no sisters.

They would somersault down dandy lion hill and enjoy walnut days when Zeta and Mc-Fight-Again would crack open the walnut shell and before eating the nutty meat, they’d look up at the stars and down at the worms and then quietly, they’d make their own wishes, but they would both know what the other was wishing… open road.

They would play ping pong at the Pinbrooke Community Center, go to movies, but never kiss or make love or have sex or anything like that. They would, however, sit on their backs, side by side on the grass and carry on back and forth conversations about insects taking over the world and how great it would be to wake up tomorrow morning and feel confident and happy. God, how they would love to talk.

Meanwhile, this he, this Frank Machetti imagining he was Slim Mc-Fight-Again  came back to reality and watched an old highlight reel of Kirk Gibson’s late 1980’s World Series home run. Frank limped around the room, impersonating Gibson, pumping his arm in and out, happy to know the universe created Zeta Williams, even if she wasn’t real…..not yet anyway.


becoming ben zobrist

Ender McFly knew there’d be Kit Kats. Been that way since he first landed on planet vending machine outside the local fire house. Four quarters was all it took to see one squiggle free from its metal bondage. He’d watch it through the plexiglass. Down it would go to that invisible pit. Push open the door. Grab it. Rip it open. Chew up and down the crunchy fretboard – Ender’s daily sweet escape.

Ender never lost a relative or a pair of shoes, but one day an empty Kit Kat row dropped him an “accept loss forever” misfortune and things got worse when he arrived home. The family was leaving their three-story Bellville paradise. No more sprawling red shag carpet bedroom, no more rows of baseball cards snaking like a train around the room. It was onward to a more urban setting – “Lower taxes and more opportunity to sell my crawl tub treasures,” promised his father, Dangit McFly. “No more restrictions on how high we grow our grass and don’t you worry, your mother will still make her Oxtail soup!”

Their were two kids – Ender and his older brother Mytopolis….Mighty, he with a chip on his shoulder, stood against the world for he felt he’d been spited as the first born, cursed, forced to learn “it” the hard way, to carve his own path, no older brother to hand down jeans and albums for him, no rolling that first marijuana cigarette, no buying beer. Mighty was on his own and he stayed that way, choosing to pay little, if any attention to his younger brother Ender.

Their new house was small, but featured a spiral staircase to a second floor. Ender had first dibs on bedrooms, him being the youngest. The family gathered in the kitchen. Ender took a deep breath and remembered that empty Kit Kat row. A tear fell from his eyes.

He picked the room at the top of the stairs across from mom and dad.

That left Mighty Mytopolis with the room all the way in the back, bigger than Ender’s’ and it had an outside porch too! Mytopolis could have explained the future to his younger brother, how he would one day want a big room and that escape route porch to freedom, but he didn’t care so he let Ender stay nice and tight beside mom and dad.

A few weeks later, Mighty slipped out to the porch as he always did. He slid down the gutter in search of trouble on his BMX bike, hockey stick at his side. Ender watched him from the front window and when he was out of sight, he went upstairs and tiptoed down the hall into Mytopolis’s new room. He smelled the sheets, tried on his big brother’s shirts and shorts, stared at the mirror and assumed Mighty’s tough guy pose. Then he perused the bookshelf and played the finger dive game – dropping his finger on random pages and passages and when that got boring he flopped on the bed and flapped his legs and arms – a snow angel equivalent. He did this for a while and then suddenly, felt stupid and sad so he stood up and raced to his own room

There, he closed his eyes and imagined roaming the new neighborhood, from 14th and Chestnut all the way out to 95th and Burnham, playing baseball at diamonds. He would meet Frankie Cheshire, a first baseman with an ear to ear smile, a Sean Casey disposition, friends with all, and then on to 47th and Keeper, he would meet Bullhead Bonders, a third baseman who would show him how to open a beer bottle with his right eye. A left fielder would follow, quiet as a lake, then a shortstop who would dance tango by himself, and then a right fielder who would go by the handle Tow and he would teach Ender how to switch hit.

Ender eventually drifted off to sleep and when he awoke the next morning, he had no thoughts of his brother. Instead, he clipped pictures from magazines he had under his bed. He found a Kit Kat advertisement and various trees and insects. He taped them on the walls.

Then he removed his deck of playing cards from his bedside drawer and glued them to the ceiling, in the shape of a baseball diamond, all nine positions, a designated hitter too. He lay flat on his back staring at the diamond. A smile came to his face.