Fiction fit for the darkness of January
It was a bad night. Bob was up five times to pee — three or four more times to roll over because, for some unknown reason, he was uncomfortable.
He was sure it all had something to do with diabetes. Everything had to do with diabetes. It bloated his legs, his gut, his heart, his sense of doom. The biggest decision he had each day was whether to get up. Today, he would.
The sports metaphor would be: “He Answered the Bell” but there was no bell in his life anymore. There was no reason to get up at 6 to watch the news, at 7 to meet some nurse’s schedule or at 8 to be at the table for breakfast. All that was expected of him was that he would die soon, ending his own agony, the anxiety of his family and the hopes by nursing home personnel that he soon would free up another bed for a more profitable “self-pay” customer.
Besides, boxing terms don’t work for Bob. He’s a baseball guy. It would be better to say his problem had to do with extra innings, extra diet Cokes and extra helpings. They didn’t let him have popcorn anymore; it clogged up the plumbing.
His only goal today would be to get in enough nap time so he could stay awake for the all of tonight’s contest, Game Seven of the World Serious.
It was a struggle to get to the ninth inning. The Indians had a four-run lead at the end of six. It shrank to three when a left-handed reliever, their weakest pitcher on the Series roster, was allowed to face an equally mediocre right-handed hitter in the seventh. Those new gizmos on TV said the homer went 410 feet. For Bob, it didn’t matter how far it went after it got over the fence. Henry Aaron didn’t hit particularly long home runs, but he sure hit a lot of them. That’s what really mattered.
The Eighth was a struggle, too. The night was just getting too long. With all those damn commercials and a particularly indulgent National Anthem singer who seemed to take 10 minutes, the night was dragging slower than sermon on a hot July Sunday morning with a doubleheader coming that afternoon. It also didn’t help that a Cubs pitcher felt it was necessarily to throw to first base nine times in the third inning for fear that speedy Indians center fielder would steal. The runner was off on the 1oth pitch and got to second easily. He scored on a single.
But by the top of the eighth, the funereal pace was taking its toll on Bob’s concentration. He missed the third out in the top of the inning. That might seem like a pleasant way to fall asleep, but you don’t know Bob. Sleep made him vulnerable. He feared sleeping the rest of the game and awaking to that awful experience of being dazed and confused about whether it had been a good or a bad night. He also lived in fear some idiot would see he was asleep and wheel him back to the room before the game was over. He usually woke up when they bumped his chair against a door jam and made what few teeth he had left rattle him awake. Soon, he would be bitching about how he wanted to go back to the television as they rolled him back to room. They said he needed his rest.
What Bob really wanted was a better left-handed middle reliever. Sleep? He had an unlimited supply.
An Indians rally in the bottom of the eighth brought light back to Bob’s world. There was a single to left and then a double to right-center. He woke up in time to see the ball bounce off the wall at an angle to the right fielder. Then he saw the runner heading for third, looking at the third-base coach. It has been decades since Bob could do anything anywhere near running, but the timing of a baseball game was hard-wired in his brain. He knew that runner could score. The coach disagreed. The runner stayed at third. The next batter popped up. Another failure. The game would resume in the ninth inning, but only after an embarrassing series of erectile dysfunction and male incontinence ads. They were useless to Bob. Don’t ask why.
Bob was fully attentive in the ninth. He had always dreamed of an Indians Championship and this just might be his chance.
The hopes faded as the Closer showed his wild side. Pitchers like that used to be called Stoppers because their role was to stop a rally whenever one occurred. Now they were demanding to perform with a “clean start”, meaning they entered the game to start an inning. They didn’t want to clean up the mess caused by some other, less proficient or well-paid, pitcher. Bob knew there was no such thing as a “clean start.” We all bring a lifetime of baggage to every event as surly as every morning for Bob was influenced by the indiscretions of a lifetime. No, Bob reasoned, the prima donna pitchers wanted to be called Closers because of an ego-driven desire to cause their own messes. That’s exactly what the Indians Closer did tonight. Two walks and a single created just the right amount of drama required to keep the television audience from fleeing to the late-night talker shows. A double tied the score. The Indians fifth starter, now an emergency left-handed reliever, came in and “put out the fire.” On to the ninth inning. At least there was a clean finish.
And on to the tenth.
And the eleventh.
And the twelfth.
Nobody knows when Bob nodded off. There was an emergency down the hall that required every nurse’s attention. The fact that Bob was asleep in front of the World Serious with his beloved Indians was not an emergency. It was Game Seven and, as he so-often told them, the Tribe hadn’t won since 1948 and this might be his last chance.
So they let him maintain his peaceful sleep.
Hundreds of miles away, Bob’s son reached for his phone before the ball landed. There was no time to wait for that gizmo to say how far the ball went. He needed to share the Championship joy with his Dad.
A nurse saw the name flash on Bob’s phone and answered it.
“I know it’s late, but I need to talk to Dad.! The Indians won!”
“Yes, we heard. Uh, but, uh. We were waiting to call you to call in the morning…”