Hey there, you, the corpulent gentleman! Yeah, you with the Argyle sweater and the pants that don’t match. Don’t point your finger at yourself like you wish to tell someone behind the glass you are the guilty one in the lineup. Waddle that wide load over here and take a seat at the bar. Sure, I’ll get you a free drink. What will it be? Oh no, Tub of Lard, I must confess that is a woman’s drink. Whiskey it is then. Right, here you go sir. It’s on me. Why did I call you over? That’s a silly question. Why did you come over? Now that’s a question that begs an answer. I’m saving you from embarrassing yourself, and we both know you were headed to a corner to drink alone. A gentleman in his, what, mid-forties, shoddily dressed, scuffs on his shoes, did not come to meet friends nor to mingle with the opposite sex. You came for the drowning. I shall expiate both your weaknesses for the next twenty or thirty minutes. You shall not leave a fool and your wallet will leave as full as it is. No, I don’t think you are rich. Comfortable, perhaps. I would say you identify with this lot only in that you wish to forget about today and hope tomorrow’s headache doesn’t impede you from productive work for mediocre wages. I know. Bartenders have a keen eye. You don’t think we just pour drinks do you. We do, after all, represent a large percentage of the caretakers of humanity.
What shall I say? Why, of course it will be worth your while to listen. It is a manifold tale that I will judiciously mend into one tale. A moral. Why seek after a moral. Digest the story and see for yourself. Morals too often sum up large quantities and leave the particles to be swept under the rug. I prefer particles. You like overviews, I see. I wager you are an economist, perhaps in marketing. Not far off, you say. Well I know because I make it my business to know these things; there’s your moral—never underestimate a strangers’ first impression. Nine out of ten times they catch your flaws before you have even spoken. It’s human nature. Keeps us one up on the competition, and in this modern world isn’t everything a competition of some sort. Now let us leave these generalities behind and I shall tell you a story and get you inebriated on more than pure drink.
Two gentleman, retired, have frequented this establishment for thirteen years. No, let us not worry about the zodiac. Thirteen is a fine number is it not? It falls between twelve and fourteen and perhaps you work on the…ah, you do work on the thirteenth floor. And no lack of prosperity has come from the move I see. Started on the first. A regular cutthroat climber you are. Well these retirees took a young lad under their wing. A friendship based solely on baseball and an avuncular, no call it a grandvuncular sentiment on their part. They love the Tigers. Each day the boy, no older than twenty two, grass still green sort of temperament, would sit with them and they would discuss the Tigers. They held high hopes when Ordonez hit the homerun to send the Tigers to the World Series, but after losing to the Cardinals in five, they all blamed the layoff. Said the Tigers got rusty or else they would have won it all. They talked a lot about Lou Whitaker. Lou Whitaker was the boy’s favorite player. Sweet Lou, they called him, and he and what’s the fellows name…Trammell. You do know baseball then. They were the longest double-play combo to ever play the game. They pissed on Tinkers to Evers to Chance. Well they got into lengthy discussions about the recent Tigers: Verlander’s arm, Granderson’s speed, Cabrera’s hitting. You name it they knew it frontwards and backwards, like they studied the baseball cards before coming to the bar.
No it’s not all baseball. Be patient. Let me get you another whiskey. So one day, this boy comes in as distraught as a second baseman that lost his good glove. What’s the matter boy, the two grandpas ask? I’ve had it, the boy says. Every year the Tigers break my heart. Baseball is supposed to be the great pastime, and I feel more broken hearted each year. My love for the Tigers causes no end to my suffering. It’s a life lesson says one of the retirees. The more pain they cause, the greater the love, and remember boy, next year always brings the promise of the pennant.
The damn Twins and White Sox cause no end to my suffering. I want a love that lasts. What you talking about, asks the other retiree.
I want a woman, I think, says the boy. Someone who will be there. They try to dissuade the boy, illustrate the plus and minus scale of loving a team and loving a woman. They can’t convince the boy and he tells them he is going to ask out this girl he has been watching and conversing with at a coffee shop. The two old men feel the rebuke, first of the woman and second that the boy pays patronage to a coffee shop. They are perplexed as the boy orders a beer, drinks it solemnly, and then says, Maybe I’ll see you fellows around sometime. He leaves by saying the Tigers won’t keep Granderson, adding salt to a festering wound in both the men’s heart. He’s too good.
So long as he doesn’t end up a Yankee the retirees say in unison as the boy walks out.
Of his love affair, it can only be guessed at what happened. No I don’t think the old men corresponded with him during his absence, so there is no way to tell how it all went down except for two and a half years later, the boy, now showing some manly qualities; suffering will do that to you, enters the bar and sits down at the table with the two retirees like nothing had happened in his absence. He loosens his tie and orders two whiskeys and a beer. So, says one of the grandpa’s did you find out about the hurt of love of flesh.
I found out plenty says the boy.
You here to stay?
I think so, says the boy.
Struck out, the other retiree prods.
It was destined to happen, says the boy.
We lost Granderson, one of the retirees points out. And to the damn Yankees.
It’s not easy is it? the boy says. Sometimes you find yourself still cheering for him.
It happens in baseball. It’s a business like everything else in the end.
Yeah, but did they have to take Granderson? We loved him.
It hurts. It feels like he betrayed us, doesn’t it, said a retiree, but we still love him, just not when he plays our team. We struck out on that deal. Got Damon for a year and lost him to the Rays.
The old men and the boy looked at their glasses, depressed, somber, until the boy said, Well we still got Verlander.
Yeah, we got him. I’ll drink to that. They raised their glasses and drank.
What, yes that is where the story ends. Lost loves come and go, baseball is no different, but you keep your head; you remember that at least you aint a Cubs fan. And two strike outs to one hit is still a good percentage. You should know that. Let me pour us one last whiskey. Drink up fatty, it’s on me.
Hey Joe, the waitress yells at the bartender. Bars been closed for an hour. Quit taking double shots and quit talking like someone was there. What you talking about anyways? The girl you lost or the Tigers? Does it matter, Joe, the bartender, says and begins putting the empty glasses away. Way I see it, it’s all the same. You, oh yeah, you can go now. Thanks for listening, and hey, that was a hell of a lot better than your corner wasn’t it. Oh yeah, I’m here every night. Right here. I never leave. Granderson, he left.