Miss Masquerade downed two shots of Bourbon and looked over at Love Triangle Lou. He was busy at the board, rolling Strat-O-Matic dice. There was pageantry in the colorful scarves hanging from the bar’s ceiling, but not for any holiday or dedication, only the regular season, day-after-day, serving the population their liquid relief.
It was the bottom of the 8th in strat-o land, Dontrelle Willis on the mound, a no-hitter in the making. Love Triangle Lou held the dice in his cupped hands and shook them, a ritual of many moons to inspire an OUT of any kind. Willis had already walked four and hit one batter in the shin.
The sound of those dice, of those plastic cubes bumping into each other like a whisky on the rocks, ice cubes clanking; that sound flipped the switch of the bartender’s mind. He knew he was part of something big. He moved closer and looked over Love Triangle’s shoulder. He didn’t believe in god, but he clenched his fist and stood still, focused each breath on Willis, to elevate the southpaw’s arm speed and control. This could be the first and only no-hitter in four years of strat-o play!
The bartender went by the name Slippery Sam. He motioned to Love Triangle, hand to mouth, a sign, a catcher to a pitcher, that it was OK to smoke and so he did and the smoke rose in swirls to the x-shaped ceiling fan and spread all around. A small crowd of drinkers began to pace for every batter, back and forth, their steps more like stomps across the shag carpet. Dust flew up and with it a memory hit Slippery Sam, of play-by-play on the AM dial. He offered Love Triangle the karaoke microphone and cleared a space on the rail. Love Triangle grabbed the microphone and stood up. He hadn’t been that high since a secondary school Spelling Bee stage and podium.
Then he crouched down to roll. The dice hit a few empty glasses and then came to a stop. The red dice was 4 meaning it was on the pitcher Willis’s card. The two green dice added up to 10. Love Triangle regained his upright position and matched the dice result with the card. But he didn’t reveal the outcome.
“Here we are in the bottom of the eight,” he announced. “Willis still on the mound, still hasn’t given up a hit. The Phillies Shane Victorino takes his practice swings and now steps to the plate. He takes the first pitch outside, ball one. He waves his bat a little quicker. His back foot digs in like an Olympic runner ready to burst. Here’s the pitch. He hits a slow roller to third, a swinging bunt. Miguel Cabrera steps onto the grass, runs toward the ball, scoops it up bare-handed, and throws to first.”
Drinkers approached the rail and stared at Love Triangle Lou.
“It’s gonna be a close play. Victorino can run. He’s changing gears. He’s now in full out sprint mode. He stretches out his front leg and steps on the sac. The first baseman does the same with his mitt. He stretches his glove hand and…and….and he is…..he is. It’s hard to tell. It’s a bang bang play and he is….SAFE. Oh no! He is safe and can you hear that collective exhale across the stadium as all that tension and excitement must be exiting but wait! What’s that? People are standing, cheering for Willis. The D-train, the 2003 Rookie of the Year. He came oh so close.”
The bar patrons exhaled and cheered too. Drinks were had all around, on the house, thanks to Slippery Sam. They shared all the what ifs and almosts in their lives. They drank and danced well past bar time.