Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Streak - 69

Without Kyle in the two-hole, Bosworth put in a topsy-turvy lineup. What the hell, he seemed to be saying. Except he wasn't saying anything. He did not deliver his customary pregame address, neither pep talk nor rant. He sat quietly in the dugout, not even breathing a word to his right-hand man O'Rourke. When it came time to go to the bullpen he let pitching coach Romeo Silva approach him and ask what he wanted to do. When Romeo named the correct pitcher he gave a curt nod and let the coach get on the phone. No one had heard him utter a word since the last of his garish profanities that morning in the clubhouse. The 13-2 assbeating that his team eventually endured that hot afternoon in Oakland didn't elicit from him so much as a groan. By the time everyone boarded the plane back home there were whispers that something had broken inside his mind.

Evan had worries of his own. As he walked with the others toward the security gate at the airport he found two young arms thrust his way, one clutching a pen and one a ball for him to sign. Evan obliged without thinking. He pulled the cap off the Sharpie and applied the nib to the smooth, white cowhide. And then he froze. He did not know what to write. He glanced briefly into the eyes of the towheaded boy, who reflected the startled fear on Evan's face. Evan looked back down at the ball, now marked by a single black dot where the pen had rested. He knew he had to do something. He knew there was a thing called a signature, and his duty at this very moment was to write his upon this curved surface. But he couldn't.

"Do you want to know my name?" the boy asked helpfully.

Desperately, Evan scribbled a tight patch of lines and loops on the ball. Something that he thought might pass for a signature. God knows if it looked like his. It was incomprehensible – but lots of signatures are, right? His brow sweating, he handed the ball and pen back to the puzzled kid.

On the plane, he tried to put it out of his mind. Stress, depression. Some momentary freakout. Chances were everything'd be OK. He took a sip of ginger ale.

"You think I still have to play the All-Star Game?" Kyle asked, staring out the window.

"On account of being suspended?"

"Yeah."

"Yeah. It's not a Yankee game."

Kyle looked at Evan. "I'm thinking of whadaya call it. Malapropriating."

"Malingering?"

"Yeah, yeah. Malingering. I feel a twitch in the ol' neck coming on."

"I thought you were all about visualizing the future now."

Kyle chuckled darkly. "Right now this motherfucker sees blackjack in his future."

"Vegas?"

Kyle nodded.

"I wish I could join you, bro," Evan said.

"You can."

"How's it gonna look if we both do it?"

Kyle rolled his eyes and turned to look back out the window.

"I guess I do owe you a dollar," Evan said, taking his wallet out of his pocket. He slapped the bill on Kyle's tray table. "Win a hand for me."

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