Cabildo Quarterly. The pride of Belchertown MA. Issue number one. May 2012. All right! Flattened Pennies Make Good Jewelry by Wesley Scott McMasters I. Bob is a freegan. Freegans are a lot like vegans, but they don't pay for any of their food. The term is a combination of the words "frugal" and "vegan," at least according to Bob. They often find the food in a dumpster or through donations from people that might otherwise go throw the food away. For many freegans, their eating habits are based off of a desire to cleanse the earth and their bodies and to fight the capitalist machine. Others would normally only eat free food they find anyway, and rotting meat or spoiled animal based products are less than appealing. It's nice that there is finally a title for the lifestyle. Many freegans in both of these categories also subscribe to other very liberal movements like universal health care and increased public transportation. Bob doesn't fall into either of these freegan categories completely. It's more appropriate to say that he is a part of both of them. He says that he does desire to cleanse the earth and his body. He also says he doesn't like the capitalist machine so well. The capitalist machine hasn't been very good to him. It once took all of his money. The IRS men came and they took Bob's car, his old television, and even his scooter. That was okay, though. He never really drove the car. He took the scooter if he had to, but Bob preferred to take the bus. It was Bob's wife that was upset about the car. She was very upset and very vocal about her feelings. She didn't really need to drive anywhere, but she refused to walk anywhere she wanted to go. And she definitely wouldn't ride the bus with the weird people like Bob on it. The IRS men later came to take the house, too. Bob was okay with this, because his wife had their daughter and they had already found a place to stay. She was upset about the car and knew a gentleman down the street that would let her use his. She decided to stay with him for convenience. She eventually told Bob it was permanent. This upset Bob, but there wasn't much he could do. This was all fine and perfectly legal. That's what the lawyers told Bob. He did have to sign some papers, but that wasn't too much of an inconvenience. Bob is also part of the other category of freegans, since he doesn't have any way to buy food. He is homeless and without a job. These things don't really bother Bob anymore. They did when they happened. These were very difficult times for Bob. They began when the IRS men came to take the house and Bob's wife decided to live with another man. This was on a Wednesday that Bob remembers well. He was standing outside of the bus shelter waiting to for the bus to take him to the church. Bob was a preacher. Sometimes he still is, but he used to get paid for it. The sun was still slowly coming up and there was a chill in the air. It was just at the beginning of fall. People were only beginning to turn their heaters on at night, and they always had to shut them off during the day. The sun was always warm and made Bob's black suit jacket sleeves feel like a comfortable blanket. Bob wanted to go back and crawl into bed, but he knew that he couldn't. That’s what he said as he was walking out the door. He glanced at the sparsely scattered leaves over the soil that he was softly standing on, leaning back and forth, feeling the cushion of the ground. Bob's wife came up and didn't look very happy. "We're moving in with Chris. The house will be repossessed by tomorrow afternoon. You will have to sign the papers. I filed for a divorce. " Bob looked at her for a moment and looked sad, but then he continued pushing his shoes into the ground, starting with his heels and then rolling on his foot until his toes were pushing into the dirt instead. He then pushed starting with his toes and ending with his heel. While he did this he let his head hang low to where his hair drooped in front of his face to let the light shine through in straight lines. The lines of sunlight felt warm like his jacket sleeves, but not as comfortably. It was a nice reddish and yellow light, though. "Don't you have anything to say?" Bob didn't. The people at Bob's church didn't like that his wife left him or that he had spent the money he should have used to pay taxes. He gave it away to other people, but Bob didn’t tell his church that. Bob never told people when he did nice things. He said he didn’t think it was right for someone to brag about the nice things they do for others. The people from the church thought they wouldn't like to listen to a divorced man who couldn’t pay his taxes talk about God or Jesus or even Moses. This put Bob is a very bad position, and Bob never wanted to ask anyone for help. He decided to go for a very long walk the next day, and he didn't return from it. II. Bob still misses his wife and his daughter, but he is doing okay. At least he looks like he is doing okay, and when people walk by and ask how he is, he says that he is doing ok but he misses his family. Most people just keep walking after this. Bob has had some bad days and some good days. The good days for Bob are simple. One day he woke up very early underneath the overpass he liked to sleep under. He had a small pile of belongings that he had taken with him on his walk. There was a nice big blanket that he had put in the bottom of an old army backpack he inherited from his father. He had a nice frying pan in there and some clothes. There was also a nice big coat that Bob was saving until it got colder. Sometimes when Bob found canned goods outside of stores he would take them if nobody nearby wanted them. These fit well at the top of his bag. In the only side pouch of his bag he kept a picture of his daughter. In the picture she is four years old. This photo is about a year old now. Bob's daughter was a week from turning five on this particularly good day. It was getting colder every day, but this day was very warm in the sun. The sun had just started to come up as Bob got up and decided to walk down to the city area. He always liked 5th street and decided to sit there for a while and talk to some people. Bob didn't have very many friends since all of the unfortunate events, but Bob was okay with this. He never really liked talking every day, just some days. This day was one in which Bob wanted to talk. Bob walked to a place where he knew someone he used to talk to. He sat down on a smooth block of cement outside of a small barber shop owned by someone called Robert. That's what the sign seemed to suggest, anyway. He sat outside in spite of the angry looks he got from someone who was probably Robert. This man used to cut Bob’s hair but hadn’t for several weeks. He sat his big old army backpack next to him and leaned on it. The sun was getting higher in the sky and the leaves were starting to fall off of most of the trees that lined the streets. These leaves were not swept up yet, and Bob seemed to like the sound that they made as people walked on them. Bob sat in that spot for a very long time saying hi to the people who walked by. Sometimes they said hi back, but most often they did not. Bob was clearly not disappointed by this. People that look like Bob did on that day do not look like they are good people to talk to. The sun was directly above him when he noticed it. It was time for lunch. He stood up slowly and waved at the man who was Robert. This man came
outside and asked Bob if he needed help. Bob didn't. The man was bald. Bob stared at the bald head. The man didn’t recognize Bob. Bob needed food, and being a freegan, he headed towards the nearest alley, which started at the corner of 5th Street and Walnut, to look for a dumpster that might have something edible. While walking and searching for a good place to look for food, Bob heard a very loud train off in the distance. This was exciting for Bob. He really liked trains. He decided to find it. He continued walking down Walnut Street until he found the tracks. They were near the city limits, somewhere near 27th Street, although there are no signs nearby to tell for sure. The train had gone by some time ago since this walk took Bob a long time. He looked at the rails for a few minutes. When Bob was a child, he used to leave pennies on the rails so the train would flatten them. He would sometimes make jewelry out of them for the people he cared about. He always said that flattened pennies make good jewelry. Bob began to explore his new home. Ten minutes away from the track, Bob found a nice little diner. He sat outside of it to take a rest. There was a nice young girl that came out to talk to him. She wanted to buy him a hamburger. Bob, of course, couldn't accept her offer. He is, and was at that point, a freegan. She was very interested in Bob's new lifestyle choice. Freeganism is interesting to many people. She sat down to talk to Bob and offered him some of her coffee. That was something that Bob could accept, and he looked to be very grateful for it, since the sun was now beginning to hide behind the buildings and trees. The trees were more abundant in this new area. Bob always did like trees. Bob now knew where he could watch the trains go by. He started to walk back. He stopped after only a few blocks when he saw a nice place that looked cozier than the underpass. It was a set of steps that went down to a doorway that was boarded shut. The building that the steps belonged to was very large and made of brick. Many of the windows had bars over them, but the rest were boarded up. There was a sign on it that said "For Sale." This sign was not red anymore like most "For Sale" signs are. It was much closer to pink, which meant that the sun must shine down there for a good part of the day. Bob looked like he considered going inside, but that would have been breaking and entering. Bob was never much for breaking the law. He put all of his stuff down in the stairwell and tried to find a position in which he could sleep. It took him several tries, but he stayed in the last position for a long time. This young girl also liked trees, although she didn't look like someone who would like them. She was very tall and very skinny. Her jeans were very tight and her shirt was very small. This clothing looked like it might belong to someone else. Bob asked her about this, and she didn't quite understand. "What do you mean? The clothes are too small?" Bob looked worried that he might have offended this young girl and he hung his head. She laughed at him and asked what his name was. Bob told her. "Bob? I like that name. I have a good friend named Bob. He's very religious and likes to help people like you." Bob told her that he was also very religious and liked to help people like himself, also. The young girl laughed again. Bob told her that she had very nice earrings. This made up for his comment about her clothes. The earrings were nice. They were made of many hoops and were hanging down to her jaw. "Would you like a salad or something from inside?" Bob didn't want a salad. Bob told her about being a preacher instead of telling her why he said no to the salad. She offered Bob some money. Bob didn't want to take money. He explained that he would much rather live the way people like Jesus and his friends did. "That's neat. I'd like to talk to you some more. Will you be back here again?" Bob nodded. Bob told her that she might want to wear a sweater later since it was going to be cold. He also suggested that she take the ring out of her nose but keep the ones in her ears. He said that she would look much prettier without it. The young girl laughed again and shook her head from side to side, black hair falling down in front of her eyes. Her small hands reached up to pull the hair away from her face, showing her shimmering smile with slightly yellow teeth. Bob smiled at her and said that she was very pretty and that a sweater always helps young pretty girls attract young and smart men. The girl nodded and gave her very pretty smile and walked off. Bob went back to his new place and sat up for a very long time. When the sun was just beginning to come up, the train tracks began to squeak a few blocks down, and Bob could heard the giant whistle from the train. Bob put his head against the wall and fell asleep. Several days ended this way for Bob. Bob also talked to the young girl again a few different times. One time she gave him a nice fuzzy hat and some mittens. She told Bob that she made them herself. Bob smiled at her and she laughed with her slightly yellow and shimmering smile. It was a very pretty smile. "I don't want you to get a cold, Bob." Bob told her that he didn't want to get a cold. Not long after this, Bob had a very bad day. It was his daughter's birthday. He was sad that he wasn't able to get his daughter anything. This was very clear on his face. Bob took a very long walk to the street that his old house was on. Bob did not walk past his old house. He took a detour to avoid it. He went to the house that his wife was living in with their daughter. Bob began walking to the door when his wife came outside. She did not look very happy. "Where have you been? You didn't leave any contact information. You've been gone for weeks! I have divorce papers for you to sign! You haven't even been by to see your daughter! You look awful. Where have you been staying? Outside?" Bob explained that he was sad and that he wanted to see his daughter. He explained that he was ready to find a new job and get a new place to live and see his daughter. Bob's wife still did not look very happy. "There is no way. You will sign the papers and you will leave. She doesn't want to see you." Just then, Bob's daughter came running outside and hugged her mother's leg. "Go inside." The little girl did not go inside. Bob waved at his daughter and put his arms out for a hug. Bob's daughter did not respond. She put her face behind her mother's leg. Her mother then picked her up and took her inside. She told Bob to wait where he was. Bob did. He looked down at the ground and began to move his foot back and worth without picking it up, making a steady scraping noise. It sounded like a train. When Bob's wife came back outside, he signed the papers she handed to him. "Please leave, Bob. And leave us alone." Bob would not leave. He asked to see his daughter. He continued to ask for this while his new ex-wife continued to tell him no. She finally stopped saying no and she went inside. Bob looked hopeful. Ten minutes went by and Bob was still standing outside alone. It was late afternoon. Bob looked at the sun which indicated he had missed listening to the afternoon train. This was okay. Bob looked more concerned about seeing his
daughter. Bob decided to sit down when a cop car pulled up. The policemen told Bob that he was trespassing and someone had called with a complaint. They took Bob down to the police station and asked him some questions before they let him go. That was when Bob became an anarchist. III. Bob was sitting outside of the diner talking to the young girl again. It was lunchtime. She brought Bob some coffee and a small sandwich that Bob politely refused. He drank the coffee, though. That was still okay. They could hear the train go by, and Bob smiled. He explained to the young girl that he likes listening to the trains because they go someplace else. Someone is always going someplace other than here, he told her. The young girl was wearing a dark red lipstick and a sweater. The sweater was oversized and Bob had told her so. He told her that it looked good on her, though, even if she didn't really fit in it. He advised her to be more careful about sizes when she picked out clothes. He said she was very bad at paying attention to sizes. He looked at her earrings and her nose, which no longer had a ring it. The young girl smiled. “You were right. I don’t like the nose ring any more.” Bob and the young girl smiled at each other. This day, which was more like a good day for Bob then a bad day, was very chilly. Bob could see his breath in the air. This is sometimes good. It means that the leaves are going to change more rapidly. It also means that you can likely find apple cider from the orchards just outside of the city. Bob mentioned the apple cider to young girl, but she told Bob she was allergic to apples. Bob told her that he can also hear the trains go by at night. It's usually right before the sun comes up. "I would call that early morning, Bob, not night. It's going to be cold tonight. Do you want to stay someplace warm tonight?" Bob didn't. He wanted to hear the trains. That's what he told her. "I worry about you, Bob. It's going to keep getting colder." Bob smiled at her and looked very touched at her concern. Bob reminded her that she had given him gloves and a hat. Right now, though, Bob is not wearing his gloves or his hat. Bob is sitting wide awake, staring at the horizon that appears like it might begin to lighten up soon. Bob is still holding his coffee cup from when he met with the young girl earlier. Bob is getting up and strapping his backpack on. He sets the cup down and pulls the gloves and hat on. He is walking to the train tracks. The horizon is beginning to become a bit lighter, and it appears that the sun will come up soon. This is necessary, since the night has been very cold. The sun will be very nice during the day. Bob smiles at the gloves and pats the front pocket of his backpack. Bob looks at his breath in the air. He sets his things down in the grass next to the tracks and puts his head on the rail. The cold rail cannot make Bob's face cold through his recent beard. This is a good thing. Bob lifts his cheek from the rail and stretches his body along the inside of the rail and across five railroad ties. He faces the rail that is directly across from him but keeps his head on the inside of the other one. The one he is looking at is old and rusty. There is a penny on top of it directly across from him. When Bob was a child, he used to leave pennies on the rails so the train would flatten them. Flattened pennies make good jewelry. They might make good earrings. Bob is very tired.
Wesley Scott McMasters is an editor of Jumping Blue Gods, an online journal. Check it out at jumpingbluegods.com
It Isn’t Working Anymore By Mike Faloon Here’s the way I heard it. A bunch of players were getting together at this barbeque place. Closing time was supposed to be one o’clock. This was Bradenton, ’79, spring training. It was early on. They hadn’t made cuts yet, so everyone was feeling pretty good and a bunch of the veterans arranged to keep the place open after hours. It was walking distance from the hotel but the rookies had an early curfew— lights out at midnight and the owner was strict. He had a guy posted at the hotel entrance. He was checking on the rookies and Donny came up with this idea. He had a breakout year in ’78 so his spot on the roster was secure, not that he wouldn’t have acted any differently. Anyway, he told the rookies to go back to their rooms, tie together some bedsheets, scale down the wall, and come back to the bar. They were on the second floor. No big deal. So they went back to their rooms and tied together a bunch bedsheets and snuck out, and they got away with it. They stayed out all night and made it back into their rooms without getting caught. The next day the team was taking the bus to the ballpark and the owner decided to take the bus, too. They passed the hotel and the bedsheets were still hanging out the window. The owner spotted them, put two and two together and started freaking out. He was yelling at everyone. Then he made eye contact with one of the rookies. Of course it happened to be his room but the owner didn’t know that. It was just dumb luck but the kid was blushing and he was about to confess when Donny spoke up. He said it was his room. A year before he might have been cut or fined but like I said, Donny’s spot was locked up, the team needed him in the bullpen, so the owner just said don’t let it happen again. Donny would probably still be alive if he’d done more things like that. Though maybe the Illiterate Assassin would still have come after him. It’s a wonder Donny lived as long as he did. I’d been on Donny duty for a week when he called me. It was late on a Saturday morning. He was scheduled to appear at the Greater Central New York Boat Show, “a personal watercraft extravaganza.” He called early and asked me to drive him. He was antsy. “Get your ass over here toot sweet,” was the phrase he used. I was still rolling to a stop when he approached my car. Sunglasses, flip flops, tattered Ocean Pacific shorts that might have been cool five years earlier. More beach bum than former all-star. “Slide over, hoss. And screen my calls.” He tossed me a cell phone. This was the summer of ’93, so the thing was the size of shoebox. “Call the dentist.” “Dentist?” “I’ve got a twelve o’clock appointment. Tell ‘im I’m running late.” I looked at my watch to verify that this wasn’t true. “Don’t answer if a guy named Lou calls.” He handed me a list of phone numbers and money for expenses. “There’s more if I get to ballpark on time.” The “if” made me nervous. The game wasn’t for hours and the stadium was only five minutes away. Donny Blackstone was a legend, even if a fading one. He’d first come through Syra-
cuse in the mid ‘70s, making his way up through the Yankee system. He went to Pittsburgh in the Goose Gossage trade. He was a mainstay of the Pirates’ bullpen during their Papa Stargell/“We Are Family” era. He spent the early eighties with the Cardinals setting up Bruce Sutter. Four trips to the Series. Two rings. The guy had been around a lot of success. Donny was back in Syracuse to work on a new pitch. His pitching coach in Toronto didn’t think Donny could rely on his fastball anymore. He wanted Donny to work on a change up. The Jays’ GM agreed. The plan was to have Donny make a few successful appearances before returning to the Blue Jays for the stretch drive. His first games didn’t go well, so his stay was extended. Hitters knew what was coming and where it would be. The illusion was gone. They were on to Donny but he didn’t seem to appreciate the gravity of his situation. He was showing up late to team meetings. Dozing off in the bullpen. Refusing to work on a change up. The rap on Donny had always been that his million-dollar arm was attached to a ten-cent brain, and neither of them was getting any younger. My job was to make myself available to Donny before and after games. Run errands, give him a ride from the Hotel Syracuse. If nothing else prevent any escapades that would make the papers. That Saturday was the first time he’d called. I’d left messages with Donny, but he never returned them. Everyone in the front office hoped, however naively, that he’d finally started to pace himself, think about his future. Even if he didn’t make it back to the big leagues that season he still had potential as off-season trade bait. There was a lot of talk about Donny. Baseball types like to present themselves as gruff, stoic types, men of few words but behind closed doors we cackle like hens. That goes for management and players. The latest was that Donny had worn out his welcome at the players’ bars and was in danger of losing his driver’s license. Rumor had it that even the cab companies were hanging up on him, so now he was holed up at the hotel, palling around with the cast of California Suite from Syracuse Stage. The guy who played Marvin Michaels—Walter Matthau’s role if you’ve seen the movie—later testified that Donny liked to buy drinks for everyone. Donny wanted to eat before the boat show. We went to Twin Trees, which surprised me. A lot of ballplayers went there and he’d been avoiding player hangouts. Twin Trees was a cozy place, a tiny split level restaurant with tables upstairs and booths and a bar downstairs. Autographed pictures of Yankees past and present lined the wood paneled walls. Lou Pinella. Thurman Munson. Reggie. Rick Cerone. The owner was a friend of Steinbrenner’s. We were sitting at a booth downstairs. Donny’s pepper and onion pie had just come out when I noticed him staring over my shoulder. I turned to see a couple walking down the stairs. He was vintage early ‘90s Syracuse, sleeveless tshirt, goatee, mullet. She looked like an old Tanya Tucker album cover, tough, weathered, and beautiful because of it. Sleeveless saw Donny first. “Donny Blackstone? The Donny Blackstone? “We Are Family?” Her face changed when she noticed Donny. She looked at him with daggers. “Sheila, it’s Donny Blackstone.” Donny and Sheila hadn’t seen each other since shortly after the cancer fundraiser. They met back in ’75. She was waiting tables at the Westwood Diner. Donny was in his second season with the Chiefs. He went all out trying to woo her. He contacted her family and got the recipes for her favorite childhood foods. Her mom’s ramen noodle casserole, her grandmother’s clam chowder, her aunt’s Moon Pies. He poured on the charm. He genuinely liked her. She may have felt the same way. They were both anxious to move on to the lives they were hearing about. Then Sheila was diagnosed with melanoma. She and Donny decided to have a fundraiser. They rented out the backroom of the Westwood. Hundreds of fans came out. They raised over ten grand. Exactly how much and who spent it depends on who you asked. Two weeks later he was called up to New York and she left for Florida. They stayed out of each other’s lives until Donny’s book came out in the mid-‘80s. He claimed that she lied about having cancer. She said it was a bad diagnosis. “You sack of dirt.” “Good to see you, Sheila.” “I burn every copy of your book that I see.” “Come out to the game tonight. I’ll put you on the list.” “I have better things to do. I’ll always have better things to do.” Sleeveless had this puppy dog look in his eyes, like he knew not to cross Sheila but was dying to ask Donny what it was like to pitch in Game 7 of a World Series. “Come on, Jerry, let’s go.” Sheila didn’t look at any of us when she turned and left. Just expected that we all knew our roles. Donny did. I did. Keep quiet, that was my part the whole day. But Sleeveless lingered for a moment. I thought about offering him tickets for the game but he snapped to before I could take down their names. To the casual fan Donny still had it. He could still ring up strikeouts and hit the mid-nineties with his fastball. But his ERA was climbing and he was losing his movement, running more full counts. Right-handed hitters were laying off his fastball, drawing more walks. Most guys in that situation would have doubled down with the pitching coach. Donny wasn’t worried about getting back to the big leagues but he should have been. After lunch Donny guided me to strip mall in North Syracuse Mall, a non-descript string of stores that lined Taft Road. On one side of the dentist’s office there was a hardware store, pet supplies on the other. When we arrived Donny asked me to call the first number on the list and leave a message for someone named Lou. “Let him know I’ll make the boat show.” I wondered why this needed confirmation when the actual event was so close. There was no answer so I left a message. “The boat show is supposed to be the only thing on today’s ‘to do’ list, no?” “Let’s just enjoy ourselves and make it to the park on time.” I was beginning to catch on. “And don’t answer if Lou calls?” “Slicker than hair on a trout, son.” The receptionist lit up when Donny walked into the waiting room. Sauntered, more like it. She came out from behind the desk. They hugged, groped a little. The dentist, Dr. Roland, entered and patted Donny on the back, showered him with accolades. Ass grabbing and ass kissing. The room was saturated with ass-related activity. They had just escorted Donny to the exam room when I heard a phone ringing. It took me a moment to place the sound. It was Donny’s cell phone. I answered. “Where the hell are you?” “Donny’s not here. May I take a message?” “What do you mean? It’s his phone. Of course, he’s there. Put him on.” The voice grew more intense. “This is Lou Zantini. You called me, remember? Tell Donny he’s late.”
“Mr. Blackstone has a dentist appointment.” “I knew this was a mistake.” Lou hung up. I looked at my watch. Lou was right about Donny being late. All I could do was wait. I flipped through a couple of issues of People, even tried the “What doesn’t belong?” page in a well-worn copy of Highlights but I couldn’t focus. Donny wasn’t a hero of mine, not by any stretch. I’d heard too much of the lore. But still, his face was always among the cards I collected and counted and sorted as a kid, and this day had been really unsettling. For the next hour no one else entered or left the office. Then I heard Dr. Roland’s voice. “Then we’ll use the hot tub.” Donny roared at what must have been a punch line. Dr. Roland turned to me and said that Donny needed rest. He spoke as if Donny were no longer in the room. He handed me a prescription for Tylenol with codeine. “Just in case.” Donny was already heading for the door. “Boat show. Quick stop on the way.” It was my second season with the Chiefs, the Triple A affiliate for the Toronto Blue Jays. My business card read “Assistant Director of Merchandising,” which sounded better than my actual job duties. I sold tickets. I stocked the concession stands. I could reach the back rows with the t-shirt cannon. I also turned on the sprinkler system during a sold-out, 4th of July game, stalling a rally with two-out in the bottom of the ninth. It was an accident. The general manager said he believed me but he had his doubts. I could see it in his eyes. I was young but I could tell. I’m pretty sure Donny duty was my reward for that mishap. Rumpy’s was Donny’s next stop. It was an old man bar from Syracuse’s factory era. Rumpy’s opened early and closed in the middle of the afternoon. Or at least that’s when the last bartender clocked out. The owners lived upstairs and most days they didn’t come down to lock up until after the six o’clock news. In the meantime, regulars poured their own drinks and left money in a jar beneath the counter. From an outsider’s point of view the place was abandoned. The windows were cloudy and cracked. The concrete steps were crumbling and the Utica Club sign that hung out front was obscured by rust. It had been years since one could make out the images of Schultz and Dooley, the cartoon beer steins. The sign read “Utica Club” but it said “Stay away.” I parked in front. Donny told me to stay put. I waited for half an hour before going in. I locked both doors but figured even in this part of town an ’84 Ford Escort was safe. As I stepped inside Rumpy’s I questioned my decision to major in sports marketing. It wouldn’t be the last time that day. Donny was hunched over a set of dominoes. Beside him were two empty pint glasses and a bowl of popcorn. Across from him was what I can only assume to be a typical Rumpy’s patron. The whiteness of his hair was striking but secondary to the uniformity of its curliness. It looked like it had been snapped into place. I think it was a wig. The look of concern on my face must have been more evident than I realized. “Don’t worry, kid. We’ll make the show. But don-imoes can get tense. Gotta take the edge off.” Donny laughed and clinked White Wig’s glass. I went to the bar and ordered a seltzer when Donny started outlining plans for an off-season fishing trip to Hudson Bay. Four years at BYU. Graduated with honors. Worked my way up to Triple A in three years. Now I was babysitting. “The funny part was the look on his face.” It was Donny. “He looked so damned confused.” He was talking about White Wig, pointing at him and laughing too, but he was looking at two older guys at the next table. “Womp! Pulled the door right into his face. Must have hurt like hell.” White Wig shook his head ever so slightly and got up from the table. Donny’s badgering trailed him. “Womp! Pulled the door into his face! Who does that?” A couple of minutes later a figure passed behind me. I assumed it was White Wig but the footsteps sounded different. They were heavier, slower, more purposeful. Donny’s laughter ceased. The song on the jukebox suddenly seemed too loud. “You heard me. Forty grand. Pay up. It’s simple.” The voice was loud and angry. “Are you listening to me?” If Donny responded, I didn’t hear him. By the time I turned around Donny’s table was upended and he was pinned to the wall, held a foot off the ground by a mountain range of a man. The papers would later dub him the Illiterate Assassin. Donny was confused. He insisted that he had no idea what the Illiterate Assassin was talking about. He was telling the truth. What none of us realized at the time was that the Illiterate Assassin was supposed to be in Cleveland, chasing down another portly relief pitcher, Chet Rollins. He was the one who owed forty grand. The Illiterate Assassin, true to his name, couldn’t read and he’d confused the Chiefs’ logo with the Indians’ logo, wound up in Syracuse rather than Cleveland. “Your word? No, shithead, I have your throat. I have your life in my hands. This is what your word gets you.” He lowered Donny to the ground. “You’ve got two days.” He declined Donny’s offer to have a drink. Donny dusted himself off and approached the bar. Having his life threatened hastened Donny’s stay at Rumpy’s and we finally made it to the boat show. Donny was beaming even before he saw the line of autograph seekers. He spotted the banner the moment we entered the State Fair stone.” pavilion: “Appearing today, 2-time Rolaids Fireman of the Year: Donny Black The place was packed with people and boats, new, used and demo’d. It was that kind of crowd. They moved aside for Donny, smiles and slaps on the back, as we made our way across the Astroturf covered floor. At the front of the line stood a set of twins decked out in matching Chiefs hats, t-shirts, and wristbands. Their father stood behind them, an arm around each boy. Donny sat down, opened an iced tea, and turned on the charm. He signed 8 x 10 glossies, baseball cards, and the occasional Sister Sledge album. He joked about his weight. He talked trash about the rest of the American League East. I spotted a man walking toward us. “In a huff” would be an apt description. I was about to meet Lou Zantini. I tried to defuse the situation. “Donny is glad to be here. He was just discussing an upcoming bass trip to Long Island Sound. Maybe that could lead to a sponsorship deal with the Sea Craft people.” I don’t think Lou heard me. Donny sipped his iced tea. “Very refreshing. Have one, Lou.” Neither iced tea nor fishing boats were on the forefront of Lou’s mind.
“The great Donny Blackstone has finally decided to grace us with his royal presence. How considerate. And I see you’ve taken the time to don the royal tank top and the royal flip flops. Let’s bow. Let’s grovel. Let’s beg for handshakes or a splotch of marker on an eight by ten or a baseball card or a goddamned program. You’re late, lard ass, over two hours late. Sign until your heart’s content. Sign away. Then ask to get paid. Please, Donny, please ask me to pay you.” The unspoken collective decision was to stare at Lou. Me. The kids. Their dad. The dozens of people in line behind them. It seemed like an inordinate amount of anger to direct toward a tardy ballplayer. I’d worked dozens of these events. Players never showed up on time. But there was more to the situation. As I was quickly learning there always was with Donny. At the trial I found out that Donny and Lou had been business partners. They’d met during Donny’s first time through Syracuse. Donny had the idea. Lou had the money. Ultra bowling. Ultra bowling didn’t exist but Donny convinced Lou that it was the sport of the future. He’d read an article in Sports Illustrated about the Western States Endurance, a 100-mile footrace that started in California in the ‘70s. Ultramarathons started popping up everywhere. Donny was amazed by the fact that people were willing to do so much of a thing that nobody really liked in the first place. People only went running because their doctor or their coach or their guilty conscience told them to go running. Bowling was different. People liked to bowl. Donny figured why not take something people enjoyed and do more of it. Hence, ultrabowling. If a few nutjobs were willing to run for days at a time, then a whole lot of people would love the chance to bowl around the clock. “Go ahead, Blackstone, ask me to give you more of my. I’m still booking boat shows because of you. It’s been over 15 years and I’m still doing boat shows because of you. The least you could do is show up on time. That’s the least you could do. ‘They’ll bowl for days, Lou, they really will. Some of ‘em will bowl for days! Keep it open 24 hours and they’ll bowl for days.’ I tried to intervene on Donny’s behalf. Lou told me to call his lawyer. At least that’s my translation. His choice of words was considerably more colorful. Donny went to the clubhouse when we got to the park. The skies had clouded over and the temperature must have dropped ten or fifteen degrees since the early afternoon. I chose to sit in the upper deck. I needed some distance, which was easy to find. With the chill and the threat of rain there were only 400 people in the stands. But what the stadium lacked in people it would soon make up for in sheer panic and mayhem. I found a seat between home and third. I couldn’t see Donny for most of the game. My view of the bullpen was obscured by the bullpen car. The Chiefs went up early but Rochester matched them run for run. After seven innings both bullpens were depleted and the game was tied at nine. A sac fly in the bottom of the eighth put Syracuse up 11-9. The Chiefs only had two pitchers left, Donny and Toby Corbett, a 19-year-old just up from Double A. Corbett got the nod and he walked the bases loaded. Twelve straight pitches. He wasn’t even close. They brought in Donny. When Lombardi, the catcher, started jogging out to the mound Donny sent him back behind the plate. Donny looked in for the signs. He waved off Lombardi several times. He stepped off the mound and picked up the rosin bag before coming set and throwing his final pitch. It seems odd but I think I noticed the infield dirt spraying up before I heard the gunshots. Most fans ducked down. Some ran. Players either dropped to the ground or froze, except Donny. He twisted hard to the left, then back to the right. Then he slumped to the ground. It wasn’t hard to figure out who killed Donny Blackstone. It wasn’t hard to apprehend any of them either. Sheila and Sleeveless were caught at the Canadian border. The border guard probably would have let them go but they were arguing about whether they were going to Ottawa or Toronto. The Illiterate Assassin was at the bus station asking someone to read the schedule to him. And Lou was having a beer at the stadium club. The trial was kind of screwy because everyone wanted to take credit for killing Donny but no one could say which bullet was lethal. The thing that gets me is that I’m pretty sure Donny’s last pitch was a change up.
Mike Faloon is the editor of Go Metric! and the author of “The Hanging Garden of Split Rock,” available now on Gorsky Press.
Poems by Rain Robertson Coffee Table My life has a little nick in it Like a smooth, wooden coffee table Either adds character And you simply go on having your daily coffee Or ruins the whole thing.
Penny Poem Have you ever rolled a jar of pennies? One by one clank, fifty more, clunk Count to 34 then lose count? Fill a roll too big? Folding in the little paper flaps To make a perfect, turgid log Fifteen minutes later, for One Whole Fifty cent piece. Heed these words: If you want to know how to lose Minutes of your precious life, Then please roll a jar of pennies, Or re-read this poem. Rain Robertson left her heart in the desert Southwest, her mind in New England, her tire tracks around the country, her soul in the woods. In one hand is a paintbrush, the other a pen, and around her neck is a camera, recording the simple bits of life which usually go unnoticed. She attended the SMFA Boston and lives in Somerville.
Cabildo Quarterly #1, May 2012. Michael T. Fournier, majordomo. Todd Dills, patron saint (I’m just ripping off --with his blessing, of course -- The 2nd Hand, his fantastic Nashville-based journal). Thanks to the contributors, and to Damian Adshead and Rob Gonnella for their wicked crucial contributions. Want to contribute? Hang? Throw down? Up? Send fiction up to 3500 words or three poems to email@example.com, or, if you’re old-fashioned, to PO Box 784, Belchertown MA 01007. Simultaneous submissions are fine, as long as you let (the royal) us know if your stuff is accepted elsewhere. Feel free to send along books and/or records along, too, though I’m not sure I’ll ever have time to do any reviews. Hopefully in the next issue I’ll have fiction and poetry editors. My web presence, for now, is cabildoquarterly.tumblr.com. Thanks for reading one (or more) of our initial press run of 1000 copies. Belchertown Rock City! Listen to Dead Trend.