Thank God for Aristotle
By ice rivers
A stinken Lincoln
One hundredth of a dollar.
One gazillionth of a phantom five hundred dollars.
Several bottles of ouzo disappeared from Ari's brainpan, along with a dozen roses for Diana and a trip to the racino to feed Cleopatra's slot fifteen lines of nickels at a time as the Queen of the Nile whispers "Explore your fantasy. Enjoy your rewards".
A rent payment and a tank load of gas also vanished.
What appeared was the usual, rage, self-pity and persecution complex. Also appearing was the reality that Ari had no gas in his car, no pay check for two days, no beer in the fridge and maxed out plastic in the wallet.
"I just lost five hundred bucks Dee"
"How could you lose five hundred bucks on a one dollar scratch off card?"
Ari told Dee the whole story.
Dee understood, sort of.
"When will I ever learn, Dee?"
"My friend, what we have to learn to do, we learn by doing" answered the owner of the deli.
"Can you lend me twenty bucks for two days?" asked the erstwhile coin scratcher.
"I can do better than that" said Dee. "I can pay you twenty five bucks right now if you'll do a job for me tonight. I need an umpire for a Little league game over at the field"
"I wouldn't call the pitches at that nuthouse for fifty bucks, even as busted as I am" declared Legeer.
"I'll be the one working the plate. I need somebody to ump the bases. You want the job? I'll even throw in a forty ounce Bud and souvlavki after the game"
Dee's offer was too good for the desperate, deflated Legeer to refuse.
"Why not" answered Legeer.
Dee reached into the cash register. He grabbed two tens and a five. He slipped the three bills over the counter.
The old friends shook hands.
And with that, the problem of umpiring was solved.
Six hundred thirty minutes later, as Dingfeldt was bringing Frog into the game, Mr. Jordan wasn't exactly whistlin' Dixie while waiting for the bus. Jordan had ideas of his own, equal and opposite.
Jordan was no longer concerned with victory, he had that in the bag. Jordan was concerned with style, a notion that appeals to most men only after victory and justification have been assurred. Jordan knew he had the game wrapped up if he wanted to go the paper tiger forfeit route. He also knew that if he told the rest of the batters (like he had instructed the three already on base) to "take all the way" and never move the bat from their shoulders, the inevitable parade of free passes in the dark would spell passive-aggressive victory.
Passive victory was not the style of the Braves. The Braves were not paper tigers. The Braves were a championship team who won the old fashioned way. They ran. They threw. They fielded their positions. They hit. They hit with power. They executed the fundamentals. They sacrificed. They played as a team. They took advantage of opportunities.
They had great mitts.
They swung their bats.
In Jordan's mind, Little League was, above and beyond anything else, an opportunity for a series of life lessons. If the Braves were going to win and they were going to win, it was important that they won in a fashion that would stay with the young boys for the rest of their lives and help them to become better men.
Nobility so often hinges upon guaranteed triumph.
Jordan went to every baserunner, all three of them. "On the first pitch that Frog throws, I want you to take off to the next base You got that? As soon as he goes into his windup, you run like hell"
The runner at first, Glenn French asked "What if he throws over to first base Coach. I don' want to get picked off"
"Throw to first, Glenn? He can barely see first base and the first basemen can barely see him. Do what you're told. Run your ass off"
With the hit and run in place, Jordan coached Chico.
"Chico, You're gonna swing at the first pitch. It's gonna be over the plate somewhere. It's not gonna get any lighter. If we're gonna swing, we gotta swing now. We're gonna swing. You're gonna swing. You're gonna tie up this ballgame with a grand salami. You got me, son? First pitch. Take a rip. You're the best hitter in this league. We gotta shine the light where the money is"
"Gotcha, Coach" said Chico as he stepped to the plate.
Frog toed the rubber.
Chico dug in and tapped his bat on the outside corner.
Nick got in his crouch behind the plate.He didn't bother to send a signal to the mound. The signal would have been invisible anyway.
Everybody knew what was coming.
With the bases loaded, Frog went into his full wind up as there was no need to use the stretch. As he reached back and down to load some nasty swamp shit on swamp ball, all the runners took off.
Five minutes earlier, when Dingfeldt was leaving the mound after replacing Nick with Frog and Skip with Nick, Otto realized he still had a dog in the forfeiture fight and his dog might have some bite if it came to red tape.
Since Nick had walked the first three men that he faced in the sixth inning, which means he didn't get anybody out, he would only be credited with pitching five innings according to the official scoring rules of baseball. Furthermore, the runners on base had all walked and according to the scoring rules of baseball a walk does not count as an offical at bat. In other words the current situation was based on the statsitical abnormality of the bases being loaded with three hitters none of whom had officially been at bat who got on base because of the free passess issued to them by a pitcher who had not statistically pitched in the inning.
Nick couldn't lose the game. If the Pirates won, Nick would get the win not because of his pitching in the sixth, he officially had not appeared in that inning, but rather because he had pitched the fifth and was the pitcher of record when the Pirates went ahead in their half of the inning. If the Pirates lost the game, the loss would be charged to Frog because the three runners on the base would be charged to Nick if they scored. Chico was the tying run and he was Frog's responsibility.
Otto had found his justification.
If Jordan wanted to argue this one out, Dingfeldt thought to himself, let's have at it. In some ways, the statstop, the weird little Glove, had got through to the Coach. As he returned to the bench, Dingfeldt fired an appreciative vibe down the bench to Glove, who immersed in loyalty abandonment, contemplation of courage and the difference between resignation and faith, missed the vibe entirely.
Glove was occupied in hoping that Chico would come through for the Braves like he always did. Glove had played a whole season for the Pirates and hadn't made a single friend. The only time that he might have contributed to the team, he was ignored by the Coach who Arthur knew would blame for the loss.
Arthur had never prayed before, never learned how, but this was getting close. He was trying to make a bargain with somebody or something somewhere. If the Braves won, he would never again play on a team that didn't respect him or love anyone that didn't love him or back down from a boss who was cheating.
Dingfeldt looked out at the field as Frog delivered the first pitch to Chico. As the pitch left Frog's hand, Dingfedlt yelled "Courage" to his Pirates who couldn't see him but could damn well hear him.