I looked up suddenly, convinced I had heard the crack of a bat, but it wasn’t the season. The hash milled around despondently, Millimeter Peter glaring every few seconds towards the bay as if he could will the winds to rise. Fleshlight and Golden Snowball bounced nervously in unison, elevated heartbeats synchronized as they hustled the crowd together. Muff Daddy chewed on some stale popcorn.
For once not even Just Doesn’t Get It was raring to take off, but we dashed into the smokey fog adding to the intimidating darkness of night. We rounded upon the check, and I lifted my head as a roar of a crowd resounded through my ears. “What was that?” I panted, lifting my mask, but no one else had stopped in response. I watched as Five Angry Inches dashed one way, Worst Bottom Ever the other, and I listened and dared to pant a few deep breaths to call out, “Are you?”
But it wasn’t their replies I heard, but the wheedling pitch of a man selling popcorn, of all things, along with people laughing and talking, then cheering. I looked around, but there was no one but hashers to be seen. “Are you okay?” Just Doesn’t Get It grabbed me by the shoulder, and I could only open my mouth wordlessly. He moved on, running into the night, leaving me to rationalize to myself what I had heard.
Cum Test Dummy paced alongside me, and I asked her, “No one’s playing baseball tonight, right?”
“Yeah,” she panted, slowing a little, the smoke making any excess motion a pain. “Season’s over until the spring.”
“I thought I heard…” I couldn’t describe it, because I’ve watched sports on television, and despite the wonders of technology it’s still not the same as the real thing. And the real thing… the roar of a truly inspired crowd… that was what had echoed in my ears. “Nevermind.”
I went on, a rare step sounding just like a thud of foot into bag, the creak of a fence buoyed by the additional grunt of a player leaping just as a ball tipped off the edge of the glove.
We passed a bottle back and forth, everyone welcoming for once for the respite from the trail. Blowqueen drew a long swig, exhaling thoroughly. The music from the grandstands echoed in my ears. Can’t Eat Pussy held out a hand to help finish the bottle, and Cream Throat Willy dashed off after he swallowed the last drop.
Darting through UCSF campus, Wee Wee making a half hearted effort to hide her face, we found Golden Snowball lurking with more drinks. “Does anyone ever do baseball reenactments?” I found myself asking her. “You know, like they do for the Civil War, but less racist?”
She screwed her nose up. “I don’t know what you all do out here. But that might be cool to watch?”
I nodded, as I watched Tuna on Top bounding across the playground that trail ran through next. “It’s just… I’m hearing things. As if there was a game going on.”
“Oh,” Golden Snowball said. “Might wanna get that checked.” And she ran off to sweep the rest of trail.
Nothing much more remarkable happened, including CPA’s interpretation of the package check, and I found the beer van a pleasant relief as I wondered what damage had been done to my lungs. The damage in my mind, I thought, had been accomplished a long time ago.
Tonya Hardon waved at me from a very comfortable looking coat, while Dick First Ass Up snapped a picture. I took a deep swig of beer and started to walk back towards the bright lights of AT&T Park. It lit up the entire area, a beacon to home towards.
“Remember when trail went by during the World Series?” Masterbaster remarked. “I think we won that one.”
I nodded. “And we got busted – then let off - by the cops back at the park. Not a bad night.”
“And what about this one?” asked Fuck Norris.
“Stranger than most,” I told her. Good Shit handed me some salty nuts in solidarity. “You guys haven’t heard anything odd?” Gloryhole, dropping in for a handful of chips, shook his head, but as we circled up he clapped a reassuring hand on my shoulder.
Jacuzzi Douchme and Dolly Barter provided entertainment, although it should be noted that Jacuzzi Douchme did the brunt of the heavy lifting. Cockamole duly reminded the group of Snoball, while The Perfect Woman reassured them that the remembering would stop if they attended Snoball.
“I’d like to say a few words,” Hand Pump made his way to the front, pausing and blinking at the bright lights of the field. He gestured slightly to the statue to his right, William McCovey finishing a drive of a ball towards the bay after unloading all his weight behind the bat. He told us of how he’d seen the man play, and as he spoke, his words faded out, and all I could hear was the growing cheers of an anxious crowd, the sharp clap of ball against bat, a hard smack of a glove and the silence that followed.
If that was all, it would have broken my heart, but of course there was hit after hit, roar after roar, coalescing into a cacophony of sound around me, stomping feet steady, rhythmic clapping ringing until that one final game winning hit.
And we sang, albeit with slightly different words, alongside countless delighted crowds.
Take me out to the ball game...
We stood for a while, Pepe Le Poop darting back to the keg for one last beer. Mary Tyler Whore threw back her head and laughed with Hello Titties as they emptied the last of the chips.
“You look sad,” Backside Banger’s voice lifted into a question.
“It’s just been an odd night. I keep hearing these weird sounds… like there’s a game going on. Like someone’s just hit a home run.” His 500th, I didn’t want to add.
Udder Moron leaned over. “That’s probably the inversion layer.” When I looked at him blankly, he continued, “You know, what’s keeping all the smoke gagging us day in and day out. There’s all this warm air hanging over us, trapping the air below so it doesn’t move. Probably makes sound resonate oddly to boot.”
I couldn’t quite give him an answer, not wanting to believe that I was just imagining the echoes of days gone by because of an air mass, but also not wanting to deny that he was probably right. Udder Moron nodded goodnight. I turned to take one last look at the park, Hand Pump standing beside me.
Castillo sets up and it’s 1-1 to Mac, annnd he hit it up the alley into right center field, a base hit with the ball into the wall. Rennie’s turning around third, he’s coming home. With Billie North’s low throw, the ball game is over! McCovey with a double and a batter in, and the Giants have won it!
My eyes jerked over, and we looked at each other for a long second.
“Good night, times like these,” Hand Pump closed his eyes. “As if you can hear for miles.”
Note: The preceding is a take on Connie Willis’s “The Winds of Marble Arch.”