The announcer’s voice crackled over the PA of the dusty, rural Nebraskan ballpark.
“Good afternoon cats and kittens. This is Ty Tyson speaking to you for KFAB eleven-ten Omaha news. We’re out here this side of Douglas County for the season nineteen thirty-four.
Just one more bite, one more swallow and that four-course Tiger dinner will be safely tucked away under the Lincoln Lynx’ belt. You know, we sort of missed out on the salad course yesterday but no matter who wins or loses the White Star Refining Company and its aligned Mobil Gas and Mobil Oil dealers are bringing you the game. And that’s something to remember; when the gauge on your car shows you need gasoline, just stop at the sign with the flying red horse and say ‘thanks’ to the Mobil gasman for the Lincoln Lynx broadcast. Make White Star stations your headquarters for your every motoring need: Expert lubrication, tires, batteries, polishes, waxes, and that famous insect killer ‘Bug-a-Boo!’
It’s been a mannerless afternoon here on Grady Field as the home crowd has not reserved their contempt of their long-standing rivals, the Baton Rouge Tigers. We now go back down to Homeplate at the bottom of this ninth inning where August ‘Hustlin’ Gus’ Whitney is suffering a two-two count.”
“Steeeerrriiiiiiike three!” the umpire howled to the delighted jeering of the sweaty masses.
“Goddamit Gus!” Lumpkin scolded as the lanky batter returned to the dugout. “Not one swing?! Not one damn swing?!” The short, fat manager continued to berate the man while chewing the soggy end of an equally squat and stinky cigar. “The only thing worse than bussing all the way up here with you losers will be having to ride with you again all the way back to Louisiana!”
Lumpkin eyed up the row of forlorn and dejected players along the bench breathing angrily through his nose. “Murphy! You’re up!” Adelaide looked up from the end of the bench while picking at a clay clump in her cleat. “Let’s go, you lazy mick!” Lumpkin ordered rapidly clapping his hands. “Act like they’re tossin’ you a potato out there!” Addie rose grudgingly and exited the dugout fixing a helmet on her head and taking a wooden bat. “And for God’s sake,” the manager continued delivering an inappropriate, hard slap on her rump as she climbed the stairs, “if you don’t make good on that pathetic contract of yours you’re walking home!”
“A change in line-up, ladies and gentlemen.” The PA announced, “Pinch-hitting for the Tigers, the Southern south-paw, Adelaide ‘Lefty’ Murphy!”
All in the crowd immediately resumed booing and heckling. Walking to the plate Addie was showered by popcorn flung from the stands above. She wrenched her neck upwards with a glare meeting the eyes of a portly spectator in a pork-pie hat. “Yer a bum! -A bum, I tell ya’!” He pointed a heavy finger at her. Addie answered by brushing the back of her hand underneath her chin in a flicking motion.
Arriving at the plate the catcher shook his head. “-a dame ballplayer.” he huffed derisively. Addie looked back at him, snorted, and hocked a loogie dead center on Homeplate before taking up her stance. The towering pitcher nodded at the hidden signal, wound up and sent a curveball. Breaking too early, the pitch curved high outside.
“Ball one.” The umpire confirmed.
“What’s the matter, meat?” Addie yelled at the mound. “Never done this before?!”
The crowd intensified their ridicule and protest at the call. Once again, the pitcher began his wind-up tossing a slider that bounced into the catcher’s glove at his feet.
“Steeeriiiike!” the ump yelled pumping a fist across his chest. The cacophony from the crowd continued pleasingly.
“Strike?!” Addie yelled stepping out of the box.
“There’s a lower zone for skirts!” the umpire shouted back.
“Lower zone!” Addie protested kicking dirt on the umpire’s shoes. “That nearly bounced on the plate!”
Suddenly a thin brown liquid splashed the back of Addie’s neck from the stands behind her. She spun around and scanned the seething faces of the angry crowd. Wiping her hand on the back of her neck she looked at the sticky substance. She couldn’t discern if it was the swill from a tobacco spit-cup or a poor man’s sour mash. “Corn-fed honkies prob’ly wouldn’t know the difference.” she muttered spitefully.
“Come on, batter!” the umpire ordered. “Play ball!”
Addie returned to the box taking a slow practice swing and readying her stance. “Come on, meat!” she shouted at the pitcher. “Bring that weak shit!”
The pitcher almost smirked before checking the runner on second. He began his wind-up. Like a human trebuchet, the lanky pitcher fired a bullet directly at Addie barely affording her the time to turn her shoulders away as the scorching bean stuck her directly in the kidney.
The crowd erupted in the first positive cheering raucous they’d made all afternoon. Addie whipped around in fury and shot at full speed toward the mound leaving the bat hanging in midair of a dust cloud. Her helmet blew off her head by the force of her raging wind-sprint. Immediately the catcher popped up tossing his mask upward and giving chase. Both benches cleared.
The pitcher froze in consternation as Addie leapt into the air a few yards before him, her arms and legs forward like a spider monkey. She allided into him above his waist raising him off the ground and landing atop of him behind the mound. Grabbing the collar of his uniform in her right hand, she cocked her left elbow back above him with a clenched fist. Just as she was to deliver the catcher tackled her from behind knocking her clear and began pummeling her on the infield. At this point the two charging teams met over the mound colliding violently like the forward lines of a medieval battle. Players began grabbing and flailing blindly in the scrum. The crowd roared feeding off the primal rage.
Lumpkin had met the umpire halfway up to the mound. The two stood nose to nose, red faces screaming at each other and punctuating their cusses with alternating fat-gut belly-checks. Men in the crowd began swinging punches at each other shouting expletives. “No one talks to my husband that way!” a homely hick woman yelled to another.
All the rage, stupidity, rejection, and embarrassment-
On the mound the players continued kicking, punching, and gouging on the entangled dogpile. Sounds of beer bottles breaking the thuds of violence resonated across the farm town ballpark.
All the pain, regret, shame, and self-doubt- culminated into a twisting knot; an imploding star reducing in on itself under such unfathomable pressure that it can only end when….
“Computer! End program!” Ensign Valu yelled.
The hot, dustbowl afternoon dissipated and faded away. Addie lay on her back spreadeagle in the center of the holodeck motionless except for her heaving chest taking fast, thick, panting breaths.
After a few moments Ensign Valu approached, stopping at Addie’s feet and placing a hand on her hip.
Addie raised her head from the floor. “Anetthi?” She smiled a fat lip, wet nose, and swollen eye. “What are you doing here?”
Ensign Valu blinked and sighed through her nose. “I was going to surprise you for lunch. -thought we might catch up. Rollins in ops said you were down here.”
“Lunch.” Addie considered between fast breaths. “Oh right.”
Ensign Valu surveyed Addie toe to tip with a discriminating gaze. “I thought,” she continued, “we could try that creole sushi place you mentioned to me.”
Addie lowered her head back onto the holodeck floor and closed her eyes as she steadied her breathing. “Nobody ever goes there anymore — it’s too crowded.”(*)
(* -Yogi Berra)