His Own Paranoia
The sun barely leaked through the chipped, vinyl shade in the cinder-block hotel room just outside of Anaheim. Night game vs. the Angels. Four-nothing win. Figueroa tossed eight, then Lyle in the ninth. A manager barely had to show up for one like that. Nothing to fight for. No one to kick. Just a damn lineup card. Shit, why waste two and a half hours in fucking A.L. Disneyland watching Grich fan three times when there’s plenty of blondes and bourbon waiting to be tasted?
His dirty little secret (all the other ones were dirty, but not secrets), was that he hated to drive. Whitey loved to drive that Ford truck of his he’d won at that golf tournament, the one where he’d met that girl serving drinks at the Bottom’s Up Lounge near Tahoe, the one that he’d had his eye on first, but Whitey was a sneak and a pervert, and he always got what he wanted. A three-two curve on the outside corner; always got the call. You’d think the ump got paid off, or something.
Wrong end of the bed, his balls itched, and his neck had stiffened up a bit from the awkward angle he’d crashed onto the bed, out cold now for nearly fourteen hours. He knew the shower was a good place to start, but dumps like this always had lukewarm water, and those shitty little pieces of soap the size of a condom wrapper. Christ, why did everything need to be so hard?
As he lay sprawled on the double-bed, the T.V. tuned to an afternoon rerun of Wheel of Fortune, a commercial came on with that damn kid singing the Oscar Mayer song, “My bologna has a first name….” and on and on. This caused him to remember, with a start, that today was Father’s Day, and his own boy, Billy Joe, was probably going to be in the locker room, waiting for him.
God, he felt like a fraud. He’d never even played a single game of catch with little Billy in around six years. The kid was growing up, what twelve, thirteen years old this year? By now, he’d had to know what a dick his dad was.
Still, at least he had a father. He thought again as he slowly sat up, head pounding, that if he’d ever found out who his own real father was, he might just kick his ass. Who the hell was he to abandon him! Not to mention mom. Grandma practically fucking raised him, too. “Bella, apparecchia la tavola.” And to his mother, “Gira il sugo, gira il sugo.”
These words would come to him at the oddest of times in random places. Comiskey Park, 4th-inning, second game of a doubleheader, “Bella, apparecchia la tavola.” Not now, grandma. We gotta strike out Melton, first.
The cracked, plastic alarm clock he always took with him on the road dripped minutes like a sieve, now only three hours to game-time. He ran a hand over the stubble on his gaunt face, and thought of Jill, his girlfriend who he kept promising he’d marry if he ever got another divorce. There had been plenty of each — girlfriends and divorces — in his life, but like a ship’s captain who knew where the hidden reefs were, he’d managed to steer clear of any major shipwrecks, at least up to this point.
Finally in the shower, his head becoming clearer, like the dissipating fog on a battlefield at first light, he let the water run down his back as he thought of how they’d all fight over his money when he was gone. All those ex-wives, girlfriends, hangers-on and has-beens would want a piece of the action.
Well, it was all George’s doing anyway. That rich bastard may have fired him about as many times as Billy’d been married, but he paid well, and, in his own way, he was a generous old Kraut, even if he did have his henchman following Billy around “for his own good.”
His driver showed up at the motel at 4:30 p.m. sharp, just as Billy’d finished dressing in his tan pants and blue, v-neck shirt. Nowhere to go but to the ballpark, same as so many other nights in his life since he got his first call to The Show back in ’50. Gotta call The Mick again soon. Maybe hit the town tonight if he was around. Might go over to Mulroney’s Pool Room, down a few, just to take the edge off. Maybe all the edges, and the corners, too.
And anyway, who was going to stop him? The best way to keep them guessing was to not stay in one place too long. If you did, they could finally pin you down. Isn’t that what he’d learned his whole life, since he was a kid? “Bella, apparecchia la tavola!”
Just don’t get pinned down, ’cause then they own you.
Then there’s no more running, not even from yourself.
“Just like anybody else, he had his own paranoias about things,” Billy Joe said. “I think he got bored very easy, almost manufactured trouble at times in his life. Because of his boredom. He had to be out there on the edge. In the middle of the action.” – Billy Joe Martin, on his dad, Billy Martin.
This song’s for you, Billy: