Inside Baseball

Another Exciting Adventure in … THE GRIND
(Act I: All Wounds)
(Act II: The Status Quo)
(Act III: Covet thy Neighbor)

***

previously…

“Stand clear of the closing doors, please!”

The night I just had at work, everyone in New York needed to leave me the fuck alone. This wasn’t helped by the crowds shoving their way through me, trying to dislodge me from the pole I clung to. Nor was it helped by the taunting, passive-aggressive cheer of the MTA.

“The next stop is… Fifty-ninth Street; Columbus Circle!”

I seethed for quite a while, but when the buzz of my cell phone cracked open my shell of grouchiness, my eyes shot open.

“You get reception down here?” a random passenger gasped.

I replied, “I get reception down here?” To the phone, I said, “Yeah?”

Sean McCoy‘s voice asked, “Do you have any intention of gracing the International Bar with your presence this evening?”

The International Bar perched between a pair of single-digit street numbers on First Avenue, so the amount of trouble it would take to get there outweighed even the certainty that Sean, who was rich, would buy all of the rounds that night. I told him, “No.”

“I recommend it.”

“I’m northbound, leaving Eighty-sixth Street,” I told him, “and nothing is getting between me and my mattress.”

“I urge you to reverse course.”

“I urge you to hang up.”

“There is a man in a gorilla suit situated near me.”

I considered this and replied, “No, there isn’t.”

“I assure you there is.”

“Your assurances mean nothing.”

“I swear to you on my mother’s grave,” he told me, “that I am gazing upon a man in a gorilla suit.”

I’ll be right there.”

I hopped off at the next stop, took a series of trains downtown, strolled the multitude of blocks from the station to the bar, sat beside my friend, ordered a beer, and took a sip. “You know,” I said, “when you told me there was a guy wearing a gorilla suit sitting in the International Bar, you meant there was a guy wearing a gorilla suit sitting in the International Bar.”

Dan the bartender shook his head and chuckled, “Silly gorilla-suit guy.”

Sean replied, “I find it a little disconcerting that you believe for even one moment that I would dishonor my mother’s spirit in such a way.”

“I’m sorry.”

“I’m Japanese, for God’s sake!” The volume of his voice had crept up to uncomfortable levels.

“I said I was sorry!”

His tirade ground to a sudden, skidding halt, as if someone had engaged his emergency brake. “Upon reflection,” he muttered, “the presence of a man wearing a gorilla suit is a tad farfetched.”

I took the mood-shift in stride and squinted over to the corner, where the costumed man sat with a pint glass full of stout. “Is he drinking beer out of a straw?” I asked.

Alcohol hasn’t passed my lips in years,” Sean replied, “and even I understand that idea is ill-conceived.”

“Even more ill-conceived than wearing a gorilla suit to a bar?” I clarified.

Dan the bartender shook his head and chuckled, “Silly gorilla-suit guy.”

I shrugged. “It is the Village.”

My friend shrugged right back. After a moment, he cleared his throat. “Simian-attired individual aside,” he said cautiously, “I had coincidentally planned on inviting you here this evening to discuss a proposition.”

My attention still in the corner, I said, “Shoot.”

“I am curious as to your opinion on the Knights.”

“I like the nights,” I replied. “Way more than the days. It’s tough to justify drinking when the sun’s up.”

He huffed. “I am, of course, referring to the New York Knights.”

“I don’t put a lot of thought into baseball,” I told him. “Why do you ask?”

“My mother and I share season tickets.”

I frowned. “Didn’t you tell me your mother was dead?”

He froze. “No,” he stated after the long moments it took him to think of a response.

“Yes, you did! Just now! You swore on your mother’s grave that there was a guy in a gorilla suit in this bar!”

Dan the bartender shook his head and chuckled, “Silly gorilla-suit guy.”

“Merely a hypothetical,” my friend insisted. “I’d been imploring you to put your faith in the facts I’d been communicating to you, utilizing as collateral the reverence I feel for the burial plot that my mother will occupy at some point–preferably a distant point–in the future.”

“There’s no trust in this relationship,” I replied.

“There is a man in a gorilla suit,” he reminded me.

I nodded reluctantly and took a swig of beer.

“Resuming our discussion of the New York Knights,” he continued, “there’s a home game Friday, and it’s a bit of an event on account of the competition being against Pittsburgh.”

“Why’s that a big deal?”

“Because, after the Yankees and the Red Sox, this is widely considered to be the most contentious baseball rivalry in the country.”

“New York has a lot of rivalries,” I observed.

“New Yorkers are, by in large, assholes.”

He had a point.

“Also,” he added, “my father lives in Philadelphia.”

“So you’re making the entire state of Pennsylvania pay for his sins?”

Mother is.”

The animosity there eluded me, but that was because my parents were still together, and as far as I knew, still very much in love.

He continued, “Mother has to be out of town for a deposition, the details of which bore me. The end result is that I am in possession of two tickets, and I have no intention of going alone.”

“You’re inviting me?”

“I am.”

I frowned. “Don’t you have friends who care more about baseball than I do?”

“Absolutely,” he replied, “but I’d rather spend a Friday evening in the ballpark in your company.”

I blinked. That had to be the kindest thing anybody’s said to me in months. I wanted to bask in the moment as long as I could.

It didn’t turn out to be very long at all, because he immediately began to stammer, “Oh, God, that was inappropriate, wasn’t it? I apologize; I my intention wasn’t to come across as creepy, but…”

I grabbed hold of his bicep and squeezed until he shut up. “It would mean a lot to me to go watch the game with you.”

“And that didn’t strike you at all as creepy?”

“No,” I replied, “it makes me feel good to know that there’s someone who actually enjoys my company in a non-professional…”

“Max,” he interrupted, “as you are doubtlessly aware, my attitude toward gender identity leans toward laissez faire, but the innate homophobia installed in me by Western culture finds this particular portion of this exchange threatening to my heterosexuality.”

“Understood.”

“Perhaps this awkward moment will pass if we focus our attention on the man in the corner wearing the gorilla suit.”

Dan the bartender shook his head and chuckled, “Silly gorilla-suit guy.”

to be continued…

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