you’d think a walk-off home run woulda sent the young fan to his knees, especially since it was Easter Sunday, but it didn’t. Wily Barrel stood up so he could see the blast but after the winning run crossed the plate, he sat back down, frozen, lost in the impossibility of it all – a team, the Hillsborough Haymakers trailing 5-2 in the bottom of the ninth, two outs, two strikes, and then two hit-by-pitches, a pitching change and a three run blast into the teeth of a 37 mph spring breeze to tie the game followed by a four pitch walk and another blast to win it extending the team’s winning streak to eleven game in a row!
Wily Barrel never forgot that day, that game, that ending. you could say it doomed him. It was just a home run, “a kid’s game,” pleaded the shrinks – “get over it,” but he couldn’t and years and decades passed and like anyone else, Wily slipped into a routine, imprisoned by a pattern he couldn’t control, – at the rail every night, at the end of the bar rail sipping one beer after another, chin in hand, feeling like he’d spent most of his life trying to recapture that feeling, that being present during those home runs, that walk-off, the smell of bratwursts and beer suddenly so present as well as the body odor of fellow fans, that cold spring breeze massaging his face and the colors; everything seemed brighter…. he had never felt so tapped into reality and even those wide-eyed baby newborns had nothing on his heightened perception that day and so there was booze, lots of it, and LSD and cocaine, all kinds of drugs and religions and meditations to recapture that feeling, but nothing worked, only the pining remained and it was this pining that led him to pangea.
Wily woke up one drunk morning and the word was on his mind, this pangea and he had no idea how it got there. He repeated it a few times and as he did, he remembered a definition from some old world book encyclopedia browse or a national geographic magazine, this pangea, a super continent, the idea that all of earth’s landmasses were once one giant blob, but maybe it was more than an idea; maybe it was a fact? Wily wasn’t sure. he wasn’t there when it happened, paleolithic, neatropic, demontrific. Were there humans back then?
He kept this thought of pangea in his mind, tucked it like a good luck rabbit’s foot in his noggin, over and over he said the word like the mantras he had learned about in his study of one of the religious isms. And like his grandpa Clint told him – to think it, see it, and you’ll find it and sure enough he found himself at Henry the coke dealer’s river west apartment and there was an album on the floor……Pangea by Miles Davis.
Henry the coke dealer knew his music. He attended shows and played a few instruments too. He was the kind of man who had sympathy for paranoiacs. He skipped subtleties and spoke direct and Wily appreciated this. Henry the coke dealer wasn’t much of a baseball fan, but he was interested in everything and he knew Wily was a fan so they talked about the Haymakers and foul poles and balks and there were all kinds of questions and this made Wily feel like he had an identity, that he was a someone, a baseball fan. Wily picked up the album Pangea and as he did, he didn’t exactly feel one with universe, but he realized how different him and Henry were and yet, they had come together through a discussion of baseball and the connection was getting bigger and bigger as they talked about going to a game.
It would be the first game Wily had been to since The Walk-Off Game so many years earlier and they did go to a game and Wily did more than smell bratwursts; he bought one and then another for his friend Henry the coke dealer. He bought a program too. The two of them sat, in pangea togetherness, as Wily explained to Henry how to keep score. The 6-4-3 scribbles. It was like riding a bike….after so many years, Wily still had it.