2961 words (11 minute read)

15                       Melted into Mush

15

 

         "I should have taken a cab! I knew it. I should have taken a cab." Cole Kelly had unknowingly complained so loudly that a rattled mother juggling triplets in the car was struck hard with the idea to skedaddle with her girls at the next train stop. The train was a northbound BART, Bay Area Rapid Transit. Once he had emerged from SFO Terminal 4 into the crisp, night-time cocktail of San Francisco evening breezes stirring moist the fog, Cool Cole had spent considerable time pondering his next mode of transport. But he could not be sure where he was headed. Kuni was at AT&T, so was Ming’s hot-shot salesman-husband, friggin’ Bobby G, who had told Cole that he customarily drove his custom, orange on black ’56 Chevy to the park. Might she head home with him? But who even said she was going directly to Ming’s and Mister Hot Shot’s Tiburon home? Cole would be unable to get anywhere near the ball field, much less inside it, so he had no reason to hurry. Did he want to wait in order to tell her in person or call her right then?

         Dang it. He could no longer hold the news. So he had called her. And called her again. Then, called a third time. He couldn’t bring himself to say what he had to say to a recorder, so he had settled for recording messages that told little of the real tale.

         Alas, he had reached Bumper’s phone right when Barry Bonds was shuffling around home plate and Penny Platinum was shaking Bumper Morgan for a hot dog, so he had no chance to hear Bobby Darin, The Association nor Simon and Garfunkel sound from his pocket. It had been the sound of silence, if you will.

         Now, when Bumper handed his cell to Kuni, she edged out and away from the boisterous suite and now, beside the glassed-in fire hose on the hallway wall, she paused to play Cole’s messages. A fuzzy, green #3 blinked in the left lower corner of Bumper’s phone. The first message had assured her that he had arrived safely and was on his way. "On my way to somewhere."

         His next message was rather like a plea, a plea for her to pick up. "I’ll call you right back." The third was more of the same, then he had closed by telling her he would train north to the BART terminal at the foot of Market.

         Kuni walked further down the hall and punched in Cole’s number. That’s when she learned what he had learned only moments earlier: no cell service in the metal BART train zooming beneath the San Francisco bay. Sound of silence.

          "Looks like someone woke up the sleeping Giants. Eh-eh.  Fog time," chuckled Vinny Hodges. "The bases are F-O-G. Full of Giants. Eh-eh. Let’s see if Miguel Cabrera can push across a few runs for the home team. He gained enough weight over the winter that he may have to knock one all the way out of the yard to reach beyond first base. Eh-eh."

         "Roids," complained Izzy. "Cabrera looks more like Jose Canseco, than Jose Canseco looks like Jose Canseco." Canseco had been forced out of the game beneath a steroid cloud. Over time, he said he would play for any team, any team, anywhere, just to get back to the big leagues. Any line-up for any team. Too bad he had gone from hitting home runs to hitting people. He had even dusted up a couple times with the police.

         "If Canseco keeps getting arrested," joshed Sammy the Seat. "He may soon get his wish... find himself back in a lineup."

         "Brmmm bum." The Pistol, who else?

         "He would climb a mountain to punch an echo."

         "Canseco, Phil?"

         "No, Izzy. That was how a sports writer once described Ty Cobb."

         Sammy saw his opening: "Not everyone knows that Cobb was an original shareholder in the Coca-Cola Company. It was the company’s formative days when something akin, or more than just akin, to cocaine was still the key buzz ingredient in America’s favorite soft drink. You reminded me because Canseco sniffed anything that was shoved under his nose and eagerly puckered up to welcome anything injected into his rear."

         "Yowsa," exclaimed the youngest seat. "Seems Senor Sammy has been inhaling too much Miami Vice."

         "Sammy," concluded Izzy. "Canseco couldn’t tie Ty Cobb’s shoelaces."

         Phil needed less than a micro-second to think about that.

          Young Vin Hodges had only just noticed her. He didn’t have the faintest clue who she was. But the foursome of seats immediately recognized her. Recognized her, and her father too, when they had been ushered below to the long vacant Jack Nicholson and Spike Lee seats. The head usher had taken the man’s crutch, after he had helped ensconce him into 92 directly in front of Penny Platinum. His daughter had been ticketed for 91 in front of Roger Butler. Dad had a heck of a time swinging his swollen and heavily braced right knee in from the aisle steps. The usher laid his crutch parallel to the steps, smiled broadly and said, "my pleasure, sir. Welcome to the seats. First time?" he had asked.

         "Yes," smiled the gentleman. "Believe it or not, my first time in the seats."

         She looked to be Vin’s age, perhaps a year older. When he did notice her, he was struck first by her hair. Unfurled, it must run down past her waist. Indeed it did, but not tonight. Shiny, thick and a color that re-defined raven, it was woven this night into a half-up braided crown that somehow appeared both as tight as a boson knot, and loose enough to make her appear... appear... "saucy," decided the young broadcaster.

          With that Renee Zellweger face, she could have been a model or a child movie star. Except, she didn’t sport Zellweger’s endearing uptick to her lips. Hers seemed to him to faintly spread downward, the look your mom had always warned befalls you when you think too hard.

         But she no longer had a mom. She had lived out in the Avenues all her life, just her and dad. She and dad had been so much in the news the past two weeks, that even Phil and his mates knew most of their story. Dad and daughter could have sat upon any seat inside AT&T that night. Would have been welcome in the Giants dugout, for that matter. But the young Miss Saucy had never before sat in the Cheaters Throwback Seat Section. And when it came to pleasing his daughter’s whims, the man known as good ’ol Vic was as sappy as any other proud pop.

 

         Unlike salespeople’s constant scuffling with air talent within their own stations, there was little rivalry between sportscasters and their opposite number at competing stations. When Ken Sutherland came across Giants TV vet Mike Krukow signing a ball for the son of one of the station’s advertisers, he asked if he had seen Fanny Hill.

         Kruk told Ken that he had just missed her. During last station break, he and Kuiper had popped into the Dodger booth to confirm that all the goodies that they had arranged to deliver had indeed arrived. "No sign of your girl. But her boss Smoky had been in there, as well as a pimply intern and some guy named Al or Bert or Albert. Kruk was joshing Ken Sutherland. "No, his name was Al! Yeah, that’s it, the guy was named Al, uh, Al Michaels."

         Ken look at him quizzically. Krukow might have offered long odds that the guy didn’t know Al Michaels from Al Hirt. He would have lost, for Ken Sutherland was not only a news director who had taken feeds throughout Michaels’ earthquake coverage, he was a Twin-Cities boy and a life-long hockey fan. Wild, huh? Go North Stars!

 

         Olive Oil was back at it. She struggled Fanny’s route down the steep steps with more or less half of her cups still topped off when Phil wondered if that cupcake tray, with or without beers, actually outweighed Fanny’s replacement.

         "Yo, Slim Jim!" The gangly fellow across the aisle with the Wally Cleaver flat top, dressed in what looked like a turn of the twentieth century Cal Berkeley letterman sweater, had been razzing Fanny’s replacement pretty aggressively ever since, when she had first appeared, she stumbled before splashing a foamy spray of San Francisco’s finest into a blue-haired season ticket holder’s lap.

         (Don’t ask Bumper Morgan about San Francisco’s finest) )

         Olive Oil’s return was only going to be worse.

         Sammy the Seat saw it coming. "Oh, no!" he yelped.

         The poor lass should have looked before spinning quickly around, then she wouldn’t have absorbed the full impact of Roger Butler’s elbow. Penny Platinum had excused herself, risen, withdrawn a wad of grubby bills from her glittery bag, tossed the orb toward Butler and said, "that’s it. I’m famished. I have to get my hands around a hotdog. Take this, please. And don’t go anywhere, Sweetie. That bag doesn’t go with the color of your crew neck at all."

         Penny didn’t possess the strongest arm in any league, so Butler had to scramble like LeBron to save her gunnysack-shaped bag from grazing the foul footrest area before he made a truly impressive one-handed catch. But when he raised up in a celebratory jump-shot stance like he had caught a pass shoveled from Dwayne Wade, he launched Olive Oil off her feet as if she had taken the nasty end of an Evander Holyfield left hook.

         Hard to imagine any fan who would hanker for a drenched letterman sweater. It’s hard to imagine a guy in this century who would wear a letterman sweater. The second string doubles player looked down. He was simply horrified. Yes, horrified. He had taken the sudsy end of the Anchor Steam that had cascaded toward him like a trick yo-yo in its high, overhead trajectory. The shocked beer girl really didn’t notice him because, with her hands free now to count, she began to tally how much she would owe for the spillage, but she needn’t worry, it happened all the time. But when the letterman began his revengeful lunge toward her over the captain of Cal’s sculling team-- who also sported a Cal sweater-- he quickly took notice of the gargantuan guy in the ancient pastel crew neck, who had put one arm around Miss Oil to comfort her.

         Amidst all the confusion, no one seemed to notice that the late-coming lass seated right in front of Butler, had also taken a wet hit. Looked like two pints of beer rolling down from her braided hair into the folds of her sunflowered summer dress. But keen-eyed Vinny Hodges had sure noticed.

 

         "Scrreeeeeeech, wah, wah wahzzzzzzzzz! ’I am a victim of the science age!’"  David Lee Roth was trying to squeeze off decipherable lyrics any which way he might over Eddie Van Halen’s custom Trankenstrat guitar on the intro to Atomic Punk.

         Boomer Boudin reached for his cell but after he missed his second swipe at it, Rocky Ocean back-handed it along the bar to him. They had returned to their original bar stools. Nothing like a double Gran Marnier to top off a fine meal. Or in Rocky’s case, to wash away the last of the nagging calamari taste from his palate.

         "Hey, guess who? Thought my old man would have retired for the evening. What’s your tee time tomorrow, anyway?"

         "O’dark thirty, or some time close to that. The sound of the starter’s gun will sound like a Dirty Harry shoot out." If humanly possible, Dana Boudin sounded as though he might be more sauced than his son. "Might lose your radio station tonight, as cold as my cards are."

         "You’re playing hold ’em? Not the best idea. I’ve heard enough stories to know that anything we own might come into play."

         "Two-dollar limit. No worries. Now, care to learn why I called?"

         "Do I want to know?"

         "Oh maybe. Just maybe. Maybe even put a small bump into your frequent flier mileage."

         "Oh my! There is a God. You are buying your loving son new Nike irons and flying him first class to Saint Andrews!"

         "My son, Adam Sandler. Listen up. Good group of guys here around the table: the singer Ho, appears he might even be sober. Tolley and his friend, a charter boat captain. That up-country attorney, what’s his name? And some fellow named Tom. I know this fellow Tom, from somewhere."

         "So you’re for real, pop. You lost our stations to a Captain Ho and his mate named Tom?"

         This brought Rocky Ocean to attention.

         "Au contraire, oh yee of little faith in your dear loving dad. You know Tom, Tom the Brahmin? Tom Mick? The Boston Brahmin of Bishop Street?"

         "I know Tom Mick. What about him?"

         "He can’t hit ’em worth Boston beans, but we like to make him think he’s competitive. Guess what he’s doing day after tomorrow? It’s his passion!"

         "Flying to Atlanta. You two and Tiger have a tee time at Augusta National early Tuesday morning." Tom Mick might be president of Bank of Hawaii but no way he could pull strings that long. Wait a minute. Maybe Ellie was somehow involved.

         Boomer reached for his empty snifter, aired it, then flashed two fingers at the bartender.

         Rocky Ocean, at ease now, nodded approval at one of the three heads he saw, pretty sure the head that nodded back indeed belonged to the bartender.

         "Monday," pop slurred. "He and I are going deep sea fishing, his passion."

         "And?"

         "It’s his passion."

         "Say pop, does Tom have any particular passion?"

         "Abbot and Costello, now? Anyway, it’s his treat. His way of apologizing for the inconvenience that his bank dealt me. Hey, dealt me. Good one. Poker. Deck.  Get it?" Pause for a sip. "Moreover, he knows his bank almost ramrodded you."

         "Me? I hardly know the guy. He’s your guy. I always work with Silver."

         "Right-o. But good ’ol Tom was unaware what happened to young Silver, his top, top, top young"... pause... "thrainmake" sip... "rainmaker." Tough to say rainmaker after your sixteen frozen rainbow Michael Jackson daquiri.

         "Do go on." Boomer raised his brow toward Rocky.

         "I clued Tom in on the contrasting news from each of your chats tonight with Mr. Silver. Like I said, your Silver has become a thrain... a thrr... a big hitter. Tom Mick does not appreciate gentlemen "up the line" overruling decisions decided by his big hitters, fellows who actually put their boots on the streets."

         "Okay, Big boots. Yo comprendo. Go on."

         "Well, Milton Berle. Monday, while I’m out hooking trophy fish, you will be working."

         "Hey," jabbed Boomer, "there’s something different."

         "Monday, I’ll be fishing while you’re at the bank sorting and signing papers with Senor Silver. We’re back to where we were earlier."

         "And where was that?"

         "Your words, son, in your words. ’Green grass and high tides.’"

         Boomer Boudin stared into the back bar mirror. At the lit up reflection there of Rocky Ocean, he mouthed, "green grass and high tides."

         Rocky Ocean had caught the reflection, but he didn’t dare to hope what it might mean. Besides, there were three Boomers staring from that mirror. But, a Kauai second later, he perked up like a child on Christmas morning when Boomer turned to him, elbowed him in the rib and said, "green grass and high tides, baby! Guess what, mate? You have another phone call to make."

 

         Vin Hodges didn’t really need to carry a comb, but since his Santa Cruz days, he thought he looked rather cool with one riding up from a back pocket. In what he was sure was quite the dapper Rhett Butler move, he had tapped Roger Butler on his shoulder to ask him to hand Shirley Ward his comb. That was her name, Shirley Ward.

         Two compadres had pushed aside the new usher to hurry down to present young Shirley towels that were always at hand on a shelf behind each first-aid station. She had taken one to pat at her hair while dad used two others to rub at her dress and to sponge her back. Penny Platinum reached to help with her hair.

         Vinny’s mouth hung open. He stared down at this spectacle like his dad had stared all night at Turbo’s mostly bare back. Vic Ward had done his best, then wrapped an arm around Shirley. Her head was cradled at an angle in the crook of that arm when she caught sight of the young broadcaster. She held up his comb and mouthed, "thank you." Then she melted him into mush with her best Renee Zellweger smile.