Monday, November 20, 2006

Chapter 5 part 1

I'll be posting much more frequently now that things seem to be flowing - at least once a day, maybe more...

The city was engulfed in red that September, the electricity in the air evident with every breath. This had been a long time coming, playoffs in Cincinnati, the birthplace of professional baseball. Cincy had fallen in love with its team once again, and the team fed on that enthusiasm, playing like it wanted a championship, like it had discovered its soul. Casey was at every game and first in line for playoff tickets. The world outside the Cincinnati Reds did not exist.

Across the ocean, the war raged on – his war. New widows were created everyday and new orphans roamed the streets of Babylon. Bodies missed limbs or minds or became food for dogs and rats. Humanity was dying, respect for life fading from existence. Men Casey had once known, men too brave or too stupid to get out, suffered through the war on their souls while the pretty people in the expensive clothes and the fans in red caps and the human potatoes wallowing on their couches let it happen. These thoughts came to Casey often; he pushed them away by turning up the sound of the games or by dusting his baseballs or by ordering another beer. He occupied his physical desires with Sophia or talked numbers with Nathan in the office or spent his time reading about the game wherever words about the game were strung together. But he never, ever picked up a newspaper to inform him about the exploding real world.

He stopped predicting things for Sidney, as there was the potential for the friendship to turn sour over money, as many a friendship has over the course of human history. Thing was, he had come to be able to predict things in every game, sometimes on every pitch. He purposely told Sidney incorrect predictions so he would leave him alone about it, and after a few times, Sidney was convinced Casey had just gotten lucky on his correct guesses.

Work became oppressive. His boss left and a new one was hired, an incompetent one who did not know the first thing about management. To the horror of everyone under his supervision, he began to rely on Peter. Never think your job cannot get worse – there is no end to the misery that can be bestowed upon a sinner in corporate hell.

Peter endeavored to make the office resemble hell as much as possible. To save money for the company, he set the thermostat to 80 degrees, though the September temperatures were still consistently in the 90s. He passed out assignments like data entry that should have been done by an assistant or a temp, further burdening an already overworked staff. Employees were expected to work overtime, and once Peter wrote Casey up for leaving “early,” which was actually an hour and a half late.

Sidney, I gotta ask you something,” he said while they were at the ballpark.


“How much money could be made by someone who could actually predict the outcome of games?”

“Guy’d never have to work again.”

“What if I told you I lied about some of the predictions I gave you that were incorrect so you would leave me alone about it.”

“I’d think you were lying about lying.”

“But I’m not. Look, I’m desperate to get out of my job. It’s hell; I can’t take it anymore.”

It was the last week of the season, and the Reds had already clinched the division. The night was light jacket cool with an occasional chill brought by an eerie breeze off the river, and Casey made a couple of grand that night on his predictions. He quit his job the next day, making sure to call Peter a jackass before informing him of his departure. He was still concerned that the thing with Sidney would not work out, especially considering he had never been able to predict Reds baseball in October since there had not been any since he had become cognizant of the world. He had effectively linked his life to the outcome of baseball games with that resignation, recalling with anxiety how long it had taken him to get a job when he was discharged from the Army. He had Anne back then to help him get through it. Now he was on his own.

In the language of Crayola, “midnight blue” is the name for a dark October sky, one that compliments the incandescent glow of the stadium lights. Crayola took the liberty to name the light of the world; Casey had created his own names – diamond green, incandescent white, Cincinnati red, groundball brown, stolen base ivory, foul ball yellow…To him, gold was the color of numbers on a scoreboard, silver was a hot dog wrapper, and bronze was summer skin, colored by countless day games, cooking under a Cincinnati sun. There was purple Rockies majesty, amber waves of beer, nuclear orange nacho cheese, and Arizona teal (though they had blasphemously changed their colors to red and black). The devil wears black pinstripes. Glory to the boys in red socks, pants pulled up to the knees, black spikes, not white – white is for new baseballs, not feet. White ash, too, beautiful wood, stronger than splintering, shattering maple. Nothing so pure as a white ash bat, not black, not red, but white as wood can be, white like paper. Save paper, buy bats. Pink betting slips.

A week later, Casey experienced Reds October in person for the first time. A hit, another, another, 1-0, second inning. 1-1. 3-1. 3-2, sixth inning. Atmosphere like lighting – Salvador Dali should have been a baseball fan. Melting scoreboards block out the war. Bats instead of bullets, baseballs suspended in cloudless skies and trees, fans like ants marching thorough misshapen randomness. Baseball has no meaning – it is a contradiction, a trivial thing of beauty, or not so trivial. It means everything. Art is not trivial but a true representation of being, a reflection of a human soul. War ravished Dali’s soul, melted the clocks. It ravished the souls of Hemingway, of John Lennon, of J.D. Salinger. And the soul of Casey. His love for baseball was his art – it produced manifestations of healing. But when art becomes commodity, when art ceases to be art…

The ninth ended with the score knotted at three, on to extras. Division Series, Game 1, every mistake counted as much as twenty regular season mistakes. Or fifty. An underserved hope ran through the thundering crowd, connected to the power like an obsolete cable car, riding the rails for as far as the team would carry them. Casey felt like he was running next to them, faster than the traffic could carry them, all of the stops, the getting on, getting off, subsidized fares on his tax dollars, his sacrifice, his service. Mixing real life and baseball, confusing the two, blaming the fair-weather fans, the frontrunners, loathing them for their inability to care about their surroundings, their team, their country, the world. They’d stop at a loss here, a loss there, a losing season, a slump, a strikeout, but he’d keep running. Yeah, he’d keep running all the way to that cornfield in Iowa. He needed that cornfield – war was interfering with his baseball. Or guilt about his new occupation. Maybe he’d pay the cable car fare with his winnings, give himself a bit of a rest, stop running, just enjoy the ride. A Phillips hit, one grand. A dead rally, another grand. Tenth inning, eleventh, the clock strikes thirteen. Another hit, another grand, another strike, cash on demand.

Sidney, this is it, this is the big one, this is Game 1!” Casey screamed as Griffey strode to the plate with that broken strut and what if bat he carried with him. And that sweet swing, oh that perfect arc, the symmetry, the synchronicity of the laws of physics, the beauty that brings a tear to the eye, a symphony of joy exploding into the luminous night, a glowing white sphere like a shooting star, landing in a sea of red. Oh that joy can be so sweet, so satisfying, so high. Victory!

One game down. Two months pay.

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