Letter From a Place That Shall Not Be Named

Mom. And whoever. The food here is gross. Geriatrically challenged, if you see what I mean. Often over-peppered. Which is absolutely a thing, Ma. You never admitted that, did you? You always believed pepper to be so innocent. So mild and harmless. As for salt, we both know how undeniably biased you are against salt, Ma — its texture, its nature, its very existence even. As if a gang of sodium crystal ninjas murdered your goldfish or something. What was the name of that gold-colored fish you owned? Lawrence Goldfishburne per chance? He died of natural causes, Ma. No one poisoned him with table salt. That would be like me claiming my breath stinks because the tooth-fairy coats my tongue with garlic every night. The logistics just aren’t trustworthy, Ma. Anyway, the food here reminds one of dirty socks — the kind cross-country runners willingly admit must not be recommissioned. The kind you’d be mortified to keep in plain sight. The people here are nice, though, but only in that motivated-by-a-paycheck sort of way. You know, the way waiters never spit on your pickle because they’d rather pay rent than watch you eat a saliva-flavored dill slice. Ma? Do the Callahans across the street still mow their lawn once every four days? I miss that. They’re big on routine here too. Like if I don’t chew my au-rotten potatoes exactly 16 times the sky will topple our heads. Only it won’t be the sky as we’d always conceived it; it’ll be lava-hot and turn our skin to oil and our bones to a brittle dust that smells of iron. This is how they operate here, like life matters way more than it actually does, more than any halfway sane person whose lived long enough could possibly concede. More than cinnamon matters to hot gooey buns. More than the color red matters to nesting robins. More than a coat matters to a lost Inuit. More than cold water matters to the desert traveler. More than icing matters to the birthday cake. More than nails matter to a safely constructed shelter. The people here, they’re nice, they are. But they’re exceedingly normal human beings, Ma, which, for the purposes of this home-bound diatribe, means they cannot help holding themselves as superior to the folks they care for. And it hangs on them like a thick perfume clings to the sticky-wrinkled skin of an ancient geezer. And it contradicts their supposed primary aims, the recovery of a psychological-center and all that mush. But Ma, do the Callahans still have dinner parties once a month? Do they still not invite you? Do they still shower you with slanted gazes when’er you pass? Sorry for that. Sorry from me for them. Are the Callahans possibly right, though, when they claim you leave your yard unkempt just to spite them?  Probably in an effort to prove some point –appropriate neighborly relations viz. minding one’s business perhaps — the intricacies of which only YOU could possibly understand to a degree that makes the act actually worthy of execution? One thing I’ve learned here is that empathy is a finite resource, Ma. There’s, like, a set amount of it floating through the universe. And that means that the kind of good some of us would hope to see done can’t reasonably be expected. It’d be like if I wanted to make origami-ducklings for you, Joseph, Serena, Serena’s kid (whose name escapes me at this moment), Gary, Wayne, and Skinny Ray, but only had enough paper for two of you. And that, in my opinion, Ma, pretty much explains the appalling surplus of suffering in the world. Although it doesn’t explain why this place insists on making me eat spaghetti that has the consistency of a gravel road, or broccoli-cheese soup that has a slightly purple hue to it. Ma, do you ever wonder what Grandpa would think about the advent of the DVR? Remember how angry he’d get when he missed an episode of All in the Family? Like he was capable of ripping a phone book in half or chewing through the kitchen sink. I wish there was a way I could DVR Grandpa’s favorite shows and then present them all to him, in a nice digitized list, like a surprise birthday party, him going all gooey at the gesture. Remember those ties he used to wear, Ma? The skinny brown ones made, I think literally, of recycled shag carpet. He wore the avocado one to my high school graduation and damn near ruined the whole ceremony. Remember Principal Graves and Vice-Principal Marconi couldn’t stop dry heaving at the sight of such an awful tie. And Grandpa just sat there grinning proudly, cracking his thumbs and humming Elvis songs. Ma, did Grandpa really do what that bald prosecutor said he did? Because if so, I’d probably have to reconfigure my settings in terms of how much I love, respect, and cherish the man. That’s the kind of thing that lands one in a place like this. One second you’re corralling a few pigs into your truck, humming “Love Me Tender,” the next you’re moving your tongue in the greatest overall radius it can stretch in order to prove you swallowed what they gave you. The point I’m trying to make here, Ma, is that maybe, just maybe, this whole thing for me was predestined. Written with little splotches of chromosomal ink, stained onto my lifeline with hard blots of molecular material. Grandpa told me once that he shit into a box and mailed it anonymously to an old boss he had who’d fired him for taking one too many bathroom breaks. It was when Grandpa worked for the railroad, when the only thing he talked about was hard hats and unions. I guess what I’m saying is that some people are lucky to live when they do, Ma. As in, like, before the advent of digital recording devices, when society pretty much let you do whatever you want with your own livestock. But others aren’t so lucky, like their birth itself is a form of cosmic entrapment. Like the second they’re secreted they’ve already got white slippers on. Actually I have to tell you, Ma, the slippers they give you here are easily the best thing about this place. Your feet have never been so comfortable. Your feet have never been so looked-after, Ma. Even now, as I spell this out, my feet are in a state of solace so exquisite it eludes my meager skills of description: warm, but not too; secure, but not squeezed. I wish all the people I’ve ever loved could walk a mile in my slippers. Ma, do you think it’s possible you owe the Callahans an apology? And don’t act for one second like you don’t know the trampled hydrangeas to which I refer. Let us play no games here, Ma, not with Vanilla Strawberries on the line. You destroyed life that day, Ma. This is what I fear you don’t understand. You decided that your personal vendettas were more important than, say, the Frazier family’s small children being able to enjoy the perceptual extravaganza that is a multi-colored and well-tended front-garden. Ma, do you think for one second I wouldn’t break out of this place if I could? Do you really believe I’m just, like, cooling it at the spa? There’s a man here named Bruce who resembles a redwood. He blinks and the glassware rumbles. He burps and locked doors bust open. If he dares move the rest of us have to take cover like it’s a goddamn air-raid. Ma, the point here is that this is no Sunday brunch. It’s, like, grueling in a way. Like the way you’re never alone, even when you’ve got a room to yourself. There are windows on the doors, Ma. Windows. On doors. So they can look in, Ma. And believe me they’re looking. The windows don’t go, like, under-utilized or anything. There’s always someone breathing down your nape, or studying your eyes, like if you roll them counterclockwise instead of clockwise it signifies some deeply-entrenched psychological despair that might wreck your life if it isn’t properly work-shopped. But I’ve got to go now, Ma. Pet Randall for me, under his neck like he likes. And Ma, apologize to the Callahans. Not because you think you should, or because you’ve rethought your opinion of their unrelenting snobbery. Do it for me, Ma. Do it for your boy. Do it for the Frazier kids too. The red-headed one has a rough go ahead, we both know that. Bring him comfort now before it’s too late. Let him see the pretty flowers, Ma. Let him pet the hydrangeas. Until next.

Your son,

Abram

Oven Cat

The oven cat was at it again. This time I’d turned the knob to 450 to prepare for the entry of pepperoni pizza bagels, which are a fine delicacy in certain parts of Italy and most of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I’d considered outing oven cat to the media, but there’s no way any self-respecting journo would believe such a fantastic tale. Which, speaking of, the oven cat’s tail had begun to fray at its end, in burnt little splays of fire-orange follicles, but that was the only sign of the creature’s dastardly habit of jumping into the oven while it was on.

The first time it happened, some three months ago, Wife and I were cooking a green bean casserole, salivating over the prospect and barely containing our joy for recipes handed down through generations of die-hard aficionados, the kind of people for whom no dish was considered outside the bounds of the casserole form. Indeed, we’d joined the Clark County Casserole Club not a week earlier and were, in the Wife’s own slightly inebriated words, “prime and toot-shootin’ ready” to present our first effort as official club members.

When we slid the dish in it was perfect, took on that ready-to-be-sacrificed-for-the-greater-good condition, basically grinned up at us in the vogue of an extremely green private in the U.S. Army circa 1968. Within 15 minutes, though, oven cat was sitting atop our GBC, swirling his tail through the barely-cooked beans and the goopey sludge of the cream of mushroom, tossing fried onion rings with every wag, a CATsserole Terrorist if you might, treating our probable artesanal masterpiece like a kitty-pool, dunking his hairy ears into the slop and grinning wide as green goo dripped through his whiskers and onto his half-furled tongue.

I proposed that we still present the now disheveled dish to the Cass. Club — Mr. Yamamoto, the group’s president, being such a sweet man that even if the dish looked like someone had used it for a bathtub, he’d probably still’ve encouraged the group to give it a good round of applause and, once consumed, any constructive criticism that members felt could be responsibly delivered and received  — but Wife wouldn’t have it, thought it would make us look like total amateurs, a couple of casserole con men even, if our very first project was covered in matted clumps of orange cat hair (an ingredient most cultures considered not to be a delicacy).

When oven cat emerged without a single burn, Wife and I thought we’d slipped into some kind of worm-hole that zipped folks to a galaxy wherein cat’s flesh was not just fully fire-proof, but seemingly immune to even the type of follicle snafu that might reasonably plague the head of a man walking through a moderately windy day. We then considered — in a mostly ad hoc effort to be the kind of people who, when faced with situations that were entirely alien and therefore made them queasy on a deep sort of intestinal-type-level, cautiously deliberated any and all possible plans of action — that it was the oven that was weird and was, perhaps (because who really knew?), morally opposed to harming small animals; and that it had, through the mechanism of its reality-warping-magics, shielded our favorite feline from the scorching walls of its friendly confines.

Wife turned the knob to 375 and made me touch the back of my hand to the black-grimed oven rack. Unsanctioned human experimentation. The rub was this: If my flesh remained unscathed we’d know that it was the oven that was special, and that it should probably (quickly, but also in a non-panicked way as not to attract attention from the Dinksons, our nosy neighbors to the immediate east) be taken to CIA headquarters down at Langley, VA, or at least to the execs at Extreme Channel HD, who’d most certainly be interested in an oven that cooked only food and could, in a rather beautiful representation of the art of self-policing, turn itself off when it detected life within its bowels.

However, and unfortunately, the experiment failed when the skin on my hand dissipated like butter on a hot skillet and I had to be rushed to St. Ann’s Hospital for a highly intensive skin-grafting surgery that I’m still not sure I consented to, let alone recovered from (especially given the noxious tic I’ve developed, that which seems to manifest itself at the least opportune times (when I’m, e.g., attempting to sink a crucial put, or when I’m, as further e.g., in the third hour of giving Wife a back massage).

The second time it happened we were preheating the oven for some Kroger-bought chicken nuggets (our love of casseroles fading hard after Mr. Yamamoto called our zucchini pizza casserole “the worst thing to ever happen to the human taste-bud,” and being replaced by a passion for precooked meat that could be bought cheap at popular grocery chains). When I dropped the oven door to slide in the Pan O’ Nugs, I noticed oven cat in the apparatus’s far left corner performing a perfect Wounded Peacock, which you might think was a shocking scene to witness but at that point I was pretty sure oven cat was the second coming of Jesus Christ Our Lord and Savior, and so nothing the little bugger did –yogic or otherwise — surprised me in the least.

I tried to shoo the oven cat from the sweltering climate of my 5.4 cubic feet, self-cleaning electric range stainless steel Kenmore oven (bought for $75 under the original asking price of $579.99 from the Sears Hometown Store on Ratcliffe Rd.), but he hissed so loud it woke the Dinksons (who, had they known what we were dealing with viz. the physical, mental, and emotional stresses of a once-docile-housepet gone not just rogue but altogether out of whack with the physical constraints of a reality we’d spent entire lives growing used to, would not have beckoned a SWAT team that took approximately four and a half hours to convince that everything was fine and no cats and/or wives were being savagely beaten and/or molested). Luckily Wife said she no longer wanted the C-Nugs anyway, but was in the mood for a strawberry and coconut (?) milkshake.

It happened again last week. Only this time we didn’t even turn the contraption on. Oven cat had apparently figured out how to push-twist the knob himself (a development so crushing to our marital psyche that we signed up for couple’s therapy and soon-after found ourselves weeping in [and being physically removed from] the office of one Dr. Angelo K. Rogsetti).

It was like an addict learning how to cook the meth for himself, breaking free of the subservient and downtrodden reality that was Reliance On a Professional Dealer.  Wife was distraught. She started whispering to herself little haikus of pain and loss, 17 syllables of suffering at a time. What little hair remained on my depilated head began to fall  out in clumps as intricate as origami. We considered taking oven cat to the Clark County animal shelter, but heard eight or nine puppies had recently been decapitated by a rogue shelter-worker –a boy who, it would be later reported, had been the victim of an intense and at times (if all the rumors are to be believed) sodomy-encompassing campaign of bullying at the obscenely large hands of the local high school’s offensive line  — so we decided that oven cat should remain in our custody despite any disturbing propensities he happened to possess.

And so but now here I am, in the bizarre and stressful midst of a Mexican standoff with my own cat, attempting to rid him once and for all from the inside of the oven so that I may torch a half a bag a P-Bages. Clark County, I was horrified to hear,  does not have a Pizza Bagel Club, but the neighboring Sherman County does, so I’m secretly contemplating a) a family move or, in the event Wife finally takes herself up on any number of threats lodged regularly at my head then b) a more solo type relocation. Dreams, after all, must be followed.

“Shoo, you wretched beast, shoo! The oven is no place for felines.” I try my best to channel the sort of energy pictorialized by Jack Nicholson’s performance in The Shining, but since I’m the kind of guy who looks twice before he crosses the hall it comes off rather like an inflexible man attempting to do ballet and oven cat doesn’t budge an inch.

Instead, he digs rapacious claws into the grime-spindled middle-rack and glares out at me with a determination so intimidating — mostly for the anthropomorphic dynamic it entails, but also because oven cat has grown meaner-than-ever since giving up yoga — that it makes me urinate down the inside of both my thighs.

“Pizza Bagels nooowWWWWwww!” the Wife demands from the upstairs bathroom — where she takes all her meals and most of her back massages — in a tone I’d come to learn meant that if food wasn’t delivered in twenty minutes or less a transformation that made Jeff Goldblum’s deal in The Fly look like children shooting marbles was on the proverbial horizon.

“Shoo, you blasted oven cat, shoo!” I go on, and at this the oven cat relaxes and seems even to grin, which creates in me the feeling that this has all been a very nightmarish dream. With thumb and pointer, like a self-aware crustacean, I pinch myself in the forearm-fat and pop awake instantly.

Milo, the seven year old bengal we found panhandling outside the United Skates of America skating rink several Fourths of July ago, is dragging his scratchy tongue across the mounds of my interred eyeballs and Wife is calling excitedly from the kitchen.

When I arrive on scene, the oven is off, humming with the percussive subtlety of a recently obsoleted household item, and golden-brown pancakes sit on the table patiently waiting my consumption. I sock-slide through the room and slide a folded flapjack down the syrup-river of my throat. Everything is fine in the world. Everything is — “What’s wrong with Milo’s tail, hon?” my beautiful Wife asks. “It looks . . . burnt.”

1977 LA Times Article About My Uncle Bryce, War Hero and American Legend

‘THE SCHEDULE IS EASIER IN WESTWOOD’ BY SCOTT OSTLER, LA TIMES, AUG. 30, 1977 — You’ll have to excuse UCLA’s Bryce Adkins if he doesn’t appear to be working himself into football’s customary foam-at-the-mouth frenzy for games and workouts. It’s not that Adkins, candidate for a starting guard spot, isn’t serious or enthusiastic. It’s just that, at age 27, he’s five years older than any other Bruin and nine years older than some.

And after you’ve spent a couple years blowing up bridges and bunkers in Vietnam, you learn to prepare yourself for battle in quieter ways. “I get up for the games,” he said. “I’m all for that [rah-rah] stuff, but when you’re older it’s a little harder to run around and jump up and down. You know how young people are when they get out of high school. I’m a little more reserved. There are others on the team who don’t run and jump around. But they can get up when they have to.”

On this particular day, Adkins was down. With the season opener (Houston, Sept. 12) less than three weeks away, he had pulled a calf muscle. A reserve and special teams member last year, Bryce was listed as the starting left guard this year.

“Now I’ll have to work my way back up,” he said glumly. It’s times like this when the guy they call Grandpa must be asking himself what he’s doing playing with these kids. “Sometimes I think that I should be doing something else, maybe, like working,” said the senior kinesiology major. “I’m at the age that I’ve got to make a decision on a career. But once I’m on the field, nothing else matters. I play football because I like the game.”

When the hurly-burly’s done, When the battle’s lost and won.

He played high school ball in Columbus, Ohio. But Ohio State coach Woody Hayes wasn’t shopping for 175-pound linemen. Nobody was. The Navy looked good. A recruiter talked Adkins into signing up for the Navy’s Underwater Demolition Team (UDT) training.

“They never told me how hard it was going to be,” Adkins said with a smile. UDT training is considered perhaps the toughest type of military training. In Adkins’ class there were 150 hand-picked men. Five weeks into the 20-week training, 124 had dropped out.

“The first four weeks is all physical training,” said Adkins. “You work up to a 16-mile run, on the beach in full combat uniform, and a five-mile swim.” Then comes Hell Week. “By then we were down to 50 guys. It was five days and five nights with no sleep. You were running, swimming or paddling all the time. It’s all harassment. They try to make you quit. I almost quit a couple days into Hell Week. By the third day, you’re in a trance. You don’t even know what’s going on.”

Adkins’ active duty included two stops in Vietnam. “We went out on patrols. We blew up bunkers, bridges, canals, things like that. We were under fire a few times, but it’s not like going into a firefight. We’d rocket an area first to get the North Vietnamese out, then go in and clean out the ammo and supplies and blow the bunkers up.”

Back in the States, Adkins played two years of Special Services football, bulking up his 6-1 frame to 210 pounds (he’s 235 now). He left the Navy and played two seasons at Golden West College, where he was a JC All-American in ’74 and drew offers from UCLA, Cal and Nebraska.

Ohio State also expressed interest, but too late. Adkins red-shirted a year at UCLA, then played last year. He saw a lot of action against Ohio State in Columbus (a 10-10 tie). He said he is not considered a traitor back home. “My family and friends are just glad I’m playing.”

Adkins may be an old-timer and a war veteran, but the game means a lot to him. “I take football seriously,” he said. “At this level you have to take it seriously. I’m really worried about trying to come back [from the injury] for the Houston game. But no matter what happens, I’ll play this year. And no matter what, I’ve had a good time playing football. I’ve got a lot more out of it than most people have.”

Terry Francona Lost That Series Before It Began

When Indians manager Terry Francona started trying second-baseman Jason Kipnis out in center field in the final weeks of the regular season I thought it was a precautionary act — i.e. in the event that Kipnis is needed as an outfield sub it will be beneficial that he log some time in a position he hasn’t played since his rookie season way back in 2009.

As it turned out, that was completely wrong. Tito wasn’t getting Kipnis reps in center in the event that Austin Jackson or Lonnie Chisenhall or Brandon Guyer or Jay Bruce or Tyler Naquin weren’t healthy or weren’t performing; he was getting him reps because he planned on Kipnis being the starting center fielder for every playoff game the Indians would play.

With this in mind, here’s a quick recap of Kipnis’s less than stellar 2017 season.

Kipnis first went on the DL with a bad hamstring way back on July 9th and wasn’t reactivated until almost a month later on August 6th. Kipnis was removed from a game against the Rays on August 10th with “hamstring tightness” and was listed as day-to-day. He was back in the lineup on August 14th.

Eight days later, during an August 22nd game against Boston, Kipnis reaggravated the hamstring and was placed back on the DL the following day. He wasn’t reactivated again until September 17th when he got the start in center against Kansas City. At this point, and with just two weeks left in the season, Kipnis was hitting .228 on the year with just 11 home runs and 30 RBIs.

So to summarize: From July 9th to September 17th, more than two months time, Kipnis was healthy and active for all of 12 days.

Several days before Kipnis returned for good on Sept. 17, when the news broke that Kipnis would be getting playing time in center rather than at second, Terry Francona told reporters, “We have a good thing going in the infield” and that he didn’t want to disrupt that.

Fair enough, but why would this rationale not extend to the outfield? Did the Indians not have “a good thing going” there as well? Was there not equal potential for disruption? In fact, couldn’t it be argued that there was more potential for disruption considering Kipnis would now be playing a position he hadn’t played seriously since college?

Now let’s take a closer look at the Indians historic 22 game win streak. The streak began with a win against Boston on August 24th and ended with a loss to Kansas City on September 15th.  Let me repeat that: the streak was from August 24-September 15. Now recall that Kipnis was on the DL from August 22-September 17. That’s right. Kipnis goes onto the DL two days before the streak starts and returns from the DL two days after the streak ends.

And Terry Francona decides that Kipnis and his blistering .228 BA merited almost immediate return to the lineup, and ultimately five straight starts in the ALDS at a position he hasn’t played since he was chasing sorority girls at Arizona State.

The question now becomes this: What did this inexplicable and unforgivable move do to the Indians wonderful team chemistry? The team chemistry that resulted in 102 wins, most of which Jason Kipnis had absolutely nothing to do with. How did Austin Jackson — who finished the season hitting .318! — feel about the decision to start Kipnis in Game 1 against the Yankees over him? Jackson ends up getting 14 ABs against the Yankees to Kipnis’s 22. Kipnis went 4-22 for the series. That’s a .182 average.

How is Lonnie Chisenhall supposed to feel about the move? He hit .288 on the season and, more importantly, HE’S A FUCKING OUTFIELDER.  He was arguably the Indian’s second or third best hitter in the first half of the season. He ends up getting 5 ABs against the Yankees.

Just for comparison, Tyler Naquin hit .216 on the year, just 8 points behind The Great Jason Kipnis. And, again, Naquin plays center field for a living. Think about how offensive this move is to these guys and what it might have done to the locker room. So you’re going to start a career second baseman who’s been injured all year and is currently hitting .228 over me, Austin Jackson, who’s hitting .318 and made what was probably the single best catch of the entire MLB season?

And you’re going to start the guy who had absolutely nothing to do with our historic run to the playoffs over me, Lonnie Chisenhall, one of your best natural hitters in a series where you need all the offense you can get? The stupidity of this simply cannot be overstated.

Now obviously Kipnis being thrust into the lineup isn’t the only factor here. Edwin Encarnacion getting injured stands out. So does Kluber, Ramirez and Lindor, our three best players, pulling a goddamn David Copperfield disappearing act. But those things can’t really be helped. They are what you might call force majeure, or “acts of God.” But deciding to start a .228 hitting second baseman in center field is a man-made mistake that, as far as I can tell, has no legitimate rationale whatsoever.

If Francona was so hellbent on having Kipnis in the lineup, why not put him back at second, and move Ramirez back to third, where he played all of last year and all this season before Kipnis was injured. Is it because you just cannot do without the defense of Giovanny Urshela? With Kipnis in the lineup this year, the Indians were an average ball club. With Kipnis out of the lineup, they were downright special. Too bad no one told Terry Francona.

Other Events Donald Trump Forced Mike Pence to Walk Out On

A Nevada gun-show after one of the vendors refused to sell a semi-automatic rifle to a blind 4 year old.

A wreath-laying ceremony at the Korean War Veterans Memorial after South Korean President Moon Jae-in failed to tell those in attendance that North Korea was about to become Donald Trump’s bitch.

A gay wedding ceremony after Groom 1 failed to spit in the face of Groom 2, call him a “degenerate”, and reveal that he was faking it the whole time.

A Cinco de Mayo party after the host, a Mexican-born woman named Mariana, failed to condemn her mother-country for rounding up all its rapists, putting them in buses and helicopters, and dropping them in San Antonio.

A kindergarten class read-along after the teacher failed to tell her students that The Art of the Deal is the only book that matters.

A 9/11 memorial ceremony after the officiant leading the prayers failed to tell those in attendance that “Jesus could easily kick Mohammad’s ass — unless, of course, they were engaged in a Best Warlord Competition.”

A meeting of the Joint Chiefs after top military brass failed to call transgenders “the worst thing to happen to the U.S. military since Pearl Harbor.”

A Focus on the Family anniversary dinner after the key-note speaker failed to call abortion doctors “bigger killers than all 20th century dictators combined.”

A NATO security conference after European leaders failed to support the Trump administration’s proposal to rename AIDS ‘OBAMAS.’

A clean-up effort at a vandalized Jewish cemetery after members of the community refused to convert to Christianity.

A Gridiron Club dinner after a group of journalists performed a skit where “Donald Trump” gives a shirtless “Vladimir Putin” a piggy back ride through the White House.

The swearing-in of Seema Verma after the new administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid failed to call recipients of government assistance “blood-sucking leeches.”

The Laura Ingraham Show after an anonymous caller told the following joke: “What’s the difference between Donald Trump and an OBGYN? The OBGYN asks for permission before grabbing your pussy.”

The American Ireland Fund’s 25th Silver Anniversary National Gala after a member named Patrick said he “wouldn’t support Trump for all the ale in Dublin.”

A meeting of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee after it refused to anoint Jared Kushner ‘King of Israel, From Now To Perpetuity.’

The Senate’s confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch after Democrats failed to help Republicans perform “the wave.”

Reconstructed Transcript of Mr. Donald J. Trump’s Marriage Proposal to Melania Knauss, April 26, 2004

“So. What do you think? Should we close this deal er what?”

“I tink I need more time to tink eet over.”

“I can tell you this: It’s now or never. I call that an ultimatum. Have you heard this term before? I invented it. Ul-ti-matum. Beautiful word.”

“Go over terms vun more time?”

“Sex: no less than five times a month. I won’t settle for less. Trump’s libido is the best libido.”

“Vee change thees. Vee make four instead?”

“No. I’m firm at five, Melania. For me, it’s non-negotiable. You know this term, yes? I’ve gotta have it. If I don’t I’m libel to just grab you by the pussy. Is that what you want, Melania? No? Then five it is. Once a week, plus a bonus session once per month. It’s too easy. Too easy. OK?”

“And vut in return I geet?”

“For starters? You get this15 carat diamond ring, 1.5 million. Top of the line. Can’t be beaten. Jeweler’s a great friend of mine. I helped him dispose of a hooker’s body back in the 90s. He’ll come to the wedding. You’ll tell him what else you need. It’s gonna be great. I will be the greatest husband God ever created. I can tell you that.”

“Vut else I geet?”

“Hey, come on. I’m really rich. Like really rich. After this audit is through you’ll see for yourself. Total net worth of 8 billion. Net worth, Melania. Not assets. Not liabilities. Net worth.”

“I geet all za money I vant?”

“That’s right, Melania. You’re a Trump now. And you get a husband who wrote The Art of the Deal. Have you read The Art of the Deal, Melania? Nobody will be a better husband than Trump. Believe me. Believe me.”

“Vut else I geet?”

“Wait till you see this apartment we’re gonna be living in. You’re gonna drop your panties so fast your head will spin. Believe me. You might want to screw more than five times a month, but I won’t say that. I’m not gonna say you’ll want to screw more than five times a month.”

“Vellll, OK. I say yes to you.”

“Bing bing bing. Boom boom boom. We’re hitched.”

The One by Dolce & Gabbana

Carl had never seen the point in wearing cologne. Thought it made a man smell, well, not like a man. Thought maybe it was perfectly natural and even healthy to smell like a block of moldy cheese once in a while. When he was a kid, Carl swiped the deodorant four times under each pit and called it a day. Always found this routine to be more than adequate to keep him dry and of a neutral odor. Plus Carl had always been slightly allergic to ambergris, that stuff they put in cologne to make it smell nice and musty.

So when his Aunt Christine, the one with the lazy eye and the goiter, bought Carl a 1.6 oz. bottle of The One by Dolce & Gabbana for Christmas, Carl was less than excited, made that stupid face people make when they’re trying to pretend they like the crappy present they’ve just unwrapped. But Carl had already been forced into making The Stupid Christmas Face several times before opening Aunt Christine’s gift — the orange socks from his brother, Calvin, the clearly re-gifted blender from his old man, and the Cincinnati Reds key chain from Grandma Elsa, who couldn’t remember that Carl was an Indians fan if her social security check had depended on it — so the performance on this particular instance of present-giving-and-receiving was hardly convincing, a bit more like Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2 than Linda Hamilton in Terminator 1.

“Don’t you like Dolce & Gabbana?” Aunt Christine asked while pulling at her neck and staring out the window to Carl’s left. Carl lifted his drooping smile a little more and told Aunt Christine how much he appreciated the gesture and that he could hardly wait to start smelling like spicy tobacco all the time.

Carl was never planning on actually using the cologne until one day, while sitting in the doctor’s office a few weeks after Christmas, he saw an article in Men’s Health on how much certain interviewed women liked it when their man spritzed a little cologne below his belt. Carl just so happened to have a date lined up for a few nights later, with Belinda, who’d he’d met while perusing the washers and dryers at Best Buy, so he thought, What the hay can’t hurt, and gave himself two healthy sprays before stepping out the door.

The date was entirely uneventful, but for the fact that Carl and Belinda kept getting little wafts of The One throughout the night, which was just a slight annoyance during the movie but downright nauseating as they sat trying to eat their pasta and bread at Tony’s Pizzeria on Market Street. At first Belinda thought it was the spices on her linguine — “Is that…basil?” she wondered — but the embarrassed look on Carl’s face revealed that he’d clearly put on too much perfume. When Carl rang Belinda up a few days later and asked if she was free Friday night she told him she’d be busy washing her hair.

Two weeks later, Carl was sitting at his favorite diner, Elroy’s, enjoying a BLT, when he detected that same spicy/fruity scent emanating from his lap. The slight hint of grapefruit pervaded his nostrils and made his nose twitch. He looked around the diner to see if anyone else was detecting the spicy/fruity aroma of his genitalia. Mostly he saw the faces of slightly obese white folks slamming bacon into their mouths like a breaking news story had just hit informing America that pigs had suddenly gone extinct. Just before he left Carl heard the elderly woman at the table behind him ask the waiter if they had any fresh grapefruit in stock.

A month after that Carl was typing away at work one afternoon, pounding out the final touches on his Incident Reports and itching to beat the traffic, when he started smelling coriander. Surely it wasn’t still the Dolce & Gabanna, he thought. Carl had been scrubbing himself nearly to the bone every morning for a month. He went into the kitchen hoping like hell to find someone whisking up a meal made of cilantro, but to his great disappointment found only Gary, the accountant, stuffing handfuls of Doritos into his mustache.

Carl ducked into a stall in the bathroom and tried his best to give himself a sniff, craning his stiff neck toward his crotch. And sure enough, there it was: The One still lightly wafting off his one, and also his two . . . his three really. As he sat on the toilet cursing the name of wacky Aunt Christine, Carl wondered if he’d ever be free of this detestable menace. Just then Gary, the cheese-faced accountant, walked into the bathroom and said, “Everything OK in there, pal?”

A full year later, Carl found himself at the Power Shack hitting the treadmill like he was a Nairobi-born distance-runner when he detected the odd amalgam of sweat (Carl’s deodorant had run low and so he was only able to perform two swipes per pit) and ginger. There are few smells on God’s green Earth that Carl would have an easier time detecting. Growing up, Carl would help Grandma Elsa grow ginger plants in her backyard. She’d spent more than a decade living in India where she developed a deep fondness for the herbaceous perennial, as Carl knew ginger to be. But he never thought, in all that time he’d spent tending to the tall ginger stalks in his grandma’s glowing-green yard, that his testicles would one day be permanently stained with the aroma.

Another six months down the road, Carl was enjoying a beer with some buddies when he discerned the spicy fragrance of cedarwood from somewhere in Patti’s Pub. “Who’s the Nancy that smells like a perfumery?” Carl’s friend, Emmett, asked. “More like a tobacco farm, I’d say,” Carl’s friend, Bob said, flaring his fat nostrils through the air as he pulled a pack of smokes from his shirt pocket. “Smells like cardamom to me,” Carl’s buddy, Ozzie, added curiously. “Is smelling like cardamom worse than knowing how cardamom smells?” Carl said, deciding to fight back. Carl’s friends just stared at him dumbly.

“It’s Dolce and Gabbana,” Carl said, feeling like he was admitting to a serious drug problem.

“Dolce and Ga-what-a?” Bob said.

“It was a Christmas gift, OK?” Carl said, gripping anxiously into his Budweiser.

“Smells more like a Christmas curse to me,” Ozzie said.

“You don’t understand. I’ve tried everything. I took a bath in paint thinner the other night,” Carl protested. “How the FDA ever approved this shit I’ll never know.”

Just then a tall skinny woman of about 45 bounced up to the bar, smiling directly at Carl. “Excuse me,” she said, “Sorry to bother you and all. You’re going to think I’m crazy. But is that The One by Dolce and Gabbana you’re wearing?”

Carl’s mouth hung slightly ajar as he stared back in silence. Emmett stuck an elbow hard into Carl’s love handle. “Uh, yes, yes it is,” he finally said.

“I thought so!” the woman said. “My name’s Darlene.”

“Carl,” Carl said.

“Can I buy you a drink?” Darlene said. “Or are you fellas having a boy’s night?”

Now whenever Carl hits the town he gives himself three sprays of The One by Dolce & Gabbana, and he’s been meaning for months to write Aunt Christine a thank-you card.

The Surprisingly Serious Consequences of Violating Bowling Etiquette

It was by pure chance that Reginald found himself in the lane directly to the right of a man so large and solid he’d much more accurately be described as a machine. When the man let go of a ball it was like a crane digging gravel from the earth and swinging it through the air. Reginald had been bowling a grand total of four times in his life, two of which came before the age of 12. But this half-man half-machine — telling by his beautiful flowing form and snapping wrist and back foot which slid gracefully across the floor — had clearly been bowling for his entire adult life.

The first thing Reginald thought upon seeing this hulking construction-looking man was that he seemed better suited for a game of rugby, or maybe some kind of Running Man-type competition. The force with which he hurled the ball reminded Reginald, who had studied his share of history, of the ancient Scots tossing boulders to prove their manhood. When the ball skidded down the lane and crashed into the pins Reginald was surprised they didn’t burst into tiny bits, was impressed by whichever company produced such durable products.

So when Reginald stood up for his turn in the fifth frame — having by then imbibed three Bud Lights and a shot of Seagram’s whiskey that his four friends had basically forced down his throat — he was entirely unaware that he was about to commit the cardinal sin of bowling etiquette. Months later, once Reginald had finally started to recover from his injuries, he would chew-out these four so-called friends of his for failing to properly educate him on the finer nuances of bowling etiquette: namely that one is never, under any circumstances, to take his turn at the exact time a person next to him is already in the act of taking his own turn. Especially when that person happens to resemble a NASA rocket ship and takes the game of bowling about as serious as most folks take things like tax day and the funerals of close relatives.

When Reginald stood drunkenly for his fifth turn it just so happened that the machine-man in the lane next to him was about to throw his final frame and was currently sitting at the impressive score of 254, just 7 pins short of a personal best. The machine-man was standing calm, cradling his ball like it was some sort of weapon and scoping the lane in front of him as a sniper would survey the path of a bullet he was preparing to end a man’s life with.

Just as the machine-man fell out of his contemplative pre-throw pose and started into his downright artistic motion, here came skin-and-bones Reginald sloppily tossing his (pink) ball down the lane — hoping, rather optimistically, to hit five or six pins — just as the machine-man let go of his own ball, the color of pure black, a color that, if one were thinking metaphorically, might have been the perfect representation of the dark cloud of pain and misfortune that was about to smother Reginald completely.

The machine-man’s ball stayed stuck to his fingers a split second too long, causing its trajectory to be wholly distorted and, within a second of contacting the ground, sent the black globe spinning awkwardly into the gutter where it bounced more than rolled down the lane and out of sight. And poor inebriated Reginald didn’t even notice what happened in the lane to his left because, at this point in the evening, he had finally relaxed enough to start enjoying himself and had surrendered to the intoxicating effects of the draft beer his friends had so kindly and persistently provided.

As for the machine-man, he took approximately four seconds to lament his errant throw — and the fact that his personal best would now elude him — before erecting himself fully and turning his now black eyes toward jolly old Reginald. Witnesses would say later that it all happened as if in slow motion, with Reginald retreating to his friends and preparing for celebratory high-fives after successfully dropping seven whole pins and the machine-man taking a lumbersome stride over the ball-rack apparatus at which point he suddenly and forcefully came into Reginald’s periphery.

But poor Reginald couldn’t have mounted any real defense if he had been given a month’s notice so his face sort of spoiled into a look of abject terror that resembled a fawn the instant before it gets liquefied by a mack truck at 80 miles an hour. The machine-man swung his clenched-fist — an object no smaller than a grapefruit — directly into Reginald’s right-jaw and the sound of the crack reverberated throughout the bowling alley and caused every single occupant of the building to either shriek or gasp or, in the case of one diminutive and wrinkled old man, to lose control of his bladder and start shaking uncontrollably, as if in the midst of a panic attack.

Reginald’s entire body crumbled as if it had been exhumed of all its bone and muscle. The front of his face smacked the lacquer-shined floor and at least three of his teeth were ejected forcefully from his mouth. But the machine-man wasn’t done, seeing as how he considered Reginald’s faux-pas to be entirely unforgivable, the kind of mistake that merited a swift and consequential justice that he (the machine-man) was more than willing to administer.

He straddled Reginald’s limp body and went to work on his face like a lumberjack hacking at logs. Reginald’s nose broke after the first blow, his jaw bone shattered after the third, and his eye socket erupted after the fifth. It took not only Reginald’s four semi-drunk buddies, but an extra three strangers who had rushed over from the surrounding lanes, to pull the machine-man off Reginald, whose body had gone completely limp as his face leaked dark red blood from seven different holes in his head.

From his new position on his knees, being corralled by seven full-grown men, the machine-man growled obscenities as if he’d been programmed to speak only in four-letter words. It would be said later, by an unidentified hospital worker, that Reginald was mighty fortunate that the right type of blood was so readily and sufficiently available. The machine-man was hauled away by a SWAT team and a bulldozer. Reginald was carefully carted off by three first-responders who treated his blood-soaked head and neck as delicately as they possibly could.

It was determined later that seventeen (17) children witnessed the event to varying degrees of specificity, five of whom would require therapy and were determined to suffer from a mild form of PTSD. It was further determined that machine-man’s final score of 254 would have won the brute a free game, had he not been too incarcerated to redeem it.

It was also decided, by the owners of the bowling alley, that from then on all bowlers would be given an educational pamphlet detailing the finer points of bowling etiquette, which many in the community saw as a sort of victim-blaming, as if Reginald asked (and deserved) to have his teeth and eye removed for failing to let the man in the lane to his left bowl first.

Reginald told those closest to him, excepting two of his four bowling-buddies who he no longer considered friends for reasons both obvious and unknown, that he will never go bowling again, not if they offered him all the clits in Orange County.

Leonard on the Bench

If coach would just put me in the game I’d give it infinity percent. Why these jokers always say 110 I’ll never know. Is that really all they’ve got? One-hundred and ten percent is, like, barely even trying in my opinion.

I may not have height (5’7″), or talent (once missed twelve wide-open layups in a row during practice), or hand-eye coordination (ball has, on more than several occasions, smacked me directly in the snout during chest-passing drills), or natural athleticism (little sister nicknamed me ‘Leaping Leonard’ after I tried to jump over her Barbie house and instead tripped myself and ended up needing nine stitches on my knee cap), but I’ve got a true surplus in the heart department (didn’t even mind taking the last pair of shorts at the start of the season, which are slightly less yellow than every other pair and which hug my nuts real tight and look like something they might’ve worn in the 1970s).

I understand coach’s hesitancy, though, given the last time he put me in I accidentally clocked Tina Meyers with an errant pass and she ended up on the ground and unconscious for most of the third quarter.

But what? nobody believes in second chances anymore? It’s not like Tina had to stay overnight in the hospital. They sent her home after scanning her cat and finding it all negative, which is actually a good thing in doctor-speak I learned that day.

Not that I’d understand any of it, having flunked biology last semester pretty hard and all.

Sometimes I get to thinking coach is holding a grudge on me, maybe from that day in the locker room after practice when I told some of the fellas how I caught him picking his nose while they were running suicides and I was on the sideline with a really sore foot.

But we’re beating Shreveport 44-19 right now so you’d think it would be the ideal time to give me another shot, so to speak. Not that I’d do any actual shooting; I’m more than willing to just set killer picks and play hard-nosed defense and chase down loose balls with the feral tenacity of a wild animal that’s been unable to find a meal for six or seven days.

I’ve never been picky about my role on the team. Thinking here of the time I mopped up sweat for an entire practice when Greg Reggie, our team manager, came down with the flu.

Also there was the time last season I helped the cheer squad make signs for senior-night, though I should probably admit I did end up spelling Tony Spiknee’s name wrong, which resulted in the other team’s fans chanting ‘Spank Me!’ at him the entire night, and causing not a small amount of embarrassment for his family who’d flown in from as far as Tallahassee to see Tony’s last game as a Hawk.

Point is: I’m down to do whatever it takes to help the team win, which you’d think would be enough to get a guy on the court once in awhile, but it feels like forever since I last saw some action.

I’ve noticed coach never looks to this end of the bench, like maybe he thinks if he locks eyes with me my sad and desperate psychic-energy will somehow compel him to finally make a substitution.

The other thing about this ordeal — that is, my sitting on this damn bench so long I’m afraid hemorrhoids have become a distinct possibility — is that Chuckie and Will, our power-forward and center respectively, are always getting tired and moving up and down the court like they’re wearing sneakers made of cement.

And I’m always over here thinking — but never sharing, of course, because I learned my lesson about opening my mouth with the whole nose-pick incident — that if we would just play small and fast every now and again maybe we’d win more than six games a year.

But apparently coach was this big-time center in his playing days (circa 1964 if I’m going by that goofy ass haircut of his) and he personally treasures the old-fashioned strategy of dumping the ball down to your biggest guy and clearing everyone a mile out (im talking guys standing at the other free throw line) so the big man can press his ass into the defender’s chest and beef himself down until he gets so close to the rim he can just drop the ball into the hoop and the other guy’s chest is beat to dust.

Which of course means a guy like me (135 lbs. after a meal and a swim) has no chance whatsoever of being utilized with any regularity.

It’s also hard not to daydream when you’ve been sitting in a place for so long, even if that place happens to be in extremely close proximity to some fairly entertaining amateur athletics.

The things that creep into my mind sometimes even I can’t believe. Like, for example, early in the first quarter of tonight’s game when I started thinking about Miss Stanley, the Chemistry teacher with the long red hair, and specifically about how she always wore the color pink on Fridays and how the clash of colors on the top half of her body is so goddamn distracting that it’s impossible to focus on covalent bonds or whatever it is she’s droning on about. As if learning chemistry isn’t hard enough, now you’ve got to sit there and try to ignore this blatant disregard for basic color-coordination.

Or how, in the second quarter of tonight’s game, I all of a sudden started thinking about that time in the fourth grade when Mrs. Yoder unexpectedly chose me to be the lead in the class play, the one about the space mission to Mars where I played the gregarious ship captain, and how maybe, just maybe, I should have joined the drama club instead of going out for basketball.

But the thing about that is there are no cheerleaders for the drama club. No killer cuties making big glittery signs for you on senior night. Pretty sure, in fact, there is no senior night for drama club, which actually, now that I consider it, seems really unfair to kids who like to sing and dance rather than shoot and dribble.

Sometimes I think there should be a rule that says every kid, no matter how short or skinny or gaseous or acne-covered he is, should get to play at least a few minutes a game. Maybe they could designate one quarter, doesn’t matter which, as the bench warmer’s quarter, during which both teams would send in their least talented players.

That way no team would suffer because the opponent would be playing their Dweeby Dans as well, see? I could start some kind of petition, but I’m sure coach would know it was me. Even though he never looks in my direction, he’s always got an eye on me after I exposed him as the nose-picker he is.

Lucky for him I was interrupted before I could tell the fellas that he also consumed what he picked that day. Pretty sure then he would’ve been fired, so lucky him I was cut off when I was. Don’t think they let guys who eat their own boogs coach high school sports. Pretty sure I heard they fired the cross-country coach for that very thing.

Once I had a chance to think it over I realized I threw away a truly golden opportunity there with the whole witnessing a consumed boog incident.

What I should have done was gone to coach straight away and told him how I saw him digging like a 49er during practice that day the rest of the team was doing suicides while I nurtured my swollen foot, and sort of blackmailed him with it for more PT.

But once I just blurted it out like I did I’d basically thrown my golden ticket straight down the dirty shower drain.

Sometimes a tactic I’ll use is I’ll start making odd noises at the end of the bench in an effort to get coach to look my way. So, you know, I’ll sort of squawk or bark or sometimes I’ll whistle a bit just to see if coach will instinctively turn his head trying to pinpoint the animal noises ringing out in the middle of a high school basketball game.

But the guy is like one of those goddamn Queen’s Guards outside of Buckingham Palace because he never even budges, not one single centimeter, no matter how fully I commit to my toucan impersonation.

He just stays focused on the action of the game, watching his favorite fat/tall players try to make easy layups.

The kind of luck I have is one day after practice, once everyone left the gym, I started hoisting three point shots and made three or four (was only trying for 20 minutes too), which I’d totally be willing to swear to under oath, but if I told anyone on the team they’d probably just laugh me out of the building.

The kind of luck I have is Tina Meyers isn’t just the most popular cheerleader in the school, but the daughter of the single loudest woman on planet Earth who made a pretty big stink about my further participation in a sport I so clearly suck at once I’d hospitalized her little angel with the chest-pass from hell.

One of my favorite bench-warming activities is to create little background stories about the referees while I watch. Take this big oaf who just called a blocking foul on Wyatt, our shooting-guard. His favorite food is, undoubtedly, blueberry pie. I’m thinking he even competes in the occasional pie-eating contest when he’s not making totally horrendous calls for a living (Wyatt was clearly established in a legal defensive position when that jerk from Shreveport crashed into him).

I imagine him as divorced and sharing custody of three severely obese children who love it when dad squeezes the fat of his stomach together and makes it talk — the Tummy Monster he (probably) calls it.

But the thing that really gripes me, the thing that really burns my guts as I sit here watching other kids play the sport I love, is that my grandma never misses a game.

Even though her grandson has almost 0% chance of actual participation she sits there every Friday tossing handfuls of stale popcorn down her gullet and cheering on the squad with as much gusto as people half her age.

Shouldn’t there at least be a discount for elderly family members of kids who never play, but instead just sit on the bench daydreaming about setting bone-crushing screens and chasing down loose balls and diving on them with little to no regard for personal health and safety?

Is it really necessary to make my sweet Grandma Jean pay the normal $7 to get in the gym, to then stare at the back of her grandson’s ratty head as he sits making bird noises on the bench for two hours straight?

Does this strike no one else as a clear injustice? A violation of the very spirit of the game? A sort of metaphorical dump dropped right at half-court? A kind of symbolic middle finger in the face of the game’s greatest ambassadors? Are MJ and Barkley and rest really OK with this? This lack of a Grandmothers-of-Benchwarmers-Discount?

What I’m gonna do is as soon as this game ends I’m gonna write an anonymous, and strongly-worded, letter and send it in to Principal Nash and ask her to make an exception for grandmas and grandpas who are so damn loyal it never even crosses their mind to miss a game.

Yes, that’s what I’ll do.

Go Hawks! Or whatever.

The Baseball Celebration Gone Bad

After 162 games, the Chicago White Sox had finally clinched the division. They were American League Central champs, heading to the playoffs for the first time in 37 years, with the grand hopes of winning a World Series. When they walked off the field and into the locker room, a treasure chest of champagne, liquor, and beer awaited them. Each player strapped on a pair of goggles and grabbed a bottle of bubbly.

Brock Wilson, the club’s ace starting pitcher, forced the cork from his bottle and it rocketed across the locker room like one of his killer fastballs, smacking Adrien Sandoval, the team’s catcher, directly in the eye. Adrien had been having trouble fitting his goggles around his absurdly large noggin and was left vulnerable. He yelped in agony, cursing in both Spanish and English.

The celebration paused momentarily and then picked back up when the team manager, Rod Venson, reminded his players that the season wasn’t over and to be more careful. But just then, another player — Andre Smith, the starting left-fielder — cried out. He’d been jumping up and down when he landed on a runaway bat and twisted his ankle. “I think it’s broken!” he screamed.

The team trainer, a burly man named Todd, raced toward Andre to offer his aid when he tripped on the boombox that had been mistakenly left in the direct center of the locker room. He barrelled into a group of players — the team’s middle-infielders in fact — and landed directly on the star shortstop’s knee. Jose Sanchez, who led the league in triples and stolen bases, screamed so loud it shook the stadium.

Instantly infuriated and blaming Todd, the club’s nifty second-baseman, Wesley Meechum, grabbed the trainer by the neck and pulled him off his buddy Jose. But his heroics backfired when Todd’s fat gut simply rolled onto Wesley’s wrist, which snapped with a sickening shriek.

“Everyone freeze!” the pitching coach, Gabe “Grizzly Bear” Gates, yelled. The reverberations of his voice were so heavy that a ceiling lamp shattered and rained down a pool of glass onto the head and neck of Jake Tatum, the power-hitting first baseman. At the sight of the spurting blood, the veteran third-baseman, Alex Diaz, vomited directly into the champagne-soaked face of Ryan Palmer, the club’s right-fielder and RBI-leader.

At this point, Rod Venson, who had been thrice divorced and was certain his bad luck had finally caught up to the team, started weeping uncontrollably. “Pull yourself together, Skip!” shouted Marquis Broadbent, the club’s center-fielder, hitting .322 on the season with 45 homers. Venson, who had always despised Broadbent’s showboating, spun around and threw a clenched fist at the center-fielder’s head. Broadbent blacked out instantly and crashed to the floor, his face settling in a foamy puddle of lukewarm Budweiser.

“It is total mayhem here in the White Sox locker room!” announced Cindy Winthrop, the sharp-tongued ESPN personality, directly into a live camera. “A blind catcher, a left-fielder with a broken ankle, a shortstop with a torn ACL, a second-baseman with a sprained wrist, a first-baseman in need of at least a dozen stitches, a vomiting third-baseman, a vomit-covered right-fielder, an unconscious center-fielder, and a manager who has lost all control of his club. Things have really unraveled here for the Chicago White Sox, AL Central Champs!”

As the camera spun away from Winthrop and spanned slowly across the locker room, it caught nine men smiling wide goofy smiles in the center of the chaos. It was the back-up shortstop, the back-up second-basemen, the back-up first-basemen, the back-up third-baseman, the back-up catcher, the back-up outfielders, and the bench coach, Chet Crayfield, who had been hoping to become the manager of a major league club for his entire life.

The White Sox will face the New York Yankees in the ALDS, Tuesday night on Fox.