TOP OF THE SEVENTH: INDIANS 7 (4) – 1 CUBS
With no outs: Coco Crisp doubles to center. Rajai Davis hit by a pitch. Jason Kipnis sends a three-run homer soaring into the bleachers in right. The score’s 7-1.
Things. Go. Quiet. Your head falls into your lap. You close your eyes.
IN A DREAM—YOU ENTER WHAMMY BURGER, APPROACH THE COUNTER.
Sheila: Hi, can I help you?
YOU: Yes, I’d like a two-run single and a rally starter.
Sheila: I’m sorry, we’ve stopped serving Cubs but we are on the Indians menu now.
YOU: But I want offense.
Sheila: You can’t have it, we’re not serving it.
YOU: So you said. Is that the manager?
Sheila: (sighs) Yeah.
YOU: Could I speak to him please?
Sheila: Sure. Rick, there’s a customer who would like to speak with you.
[a young man with a happy smile walks up to the counter]
Rick: Yes, sir?
YOU: Hi. I’d like some Cubs runs.
Rick: We stopped serving those.
YOU: I know you stopped serving those Rick, Sheila told me that you… I just want a little offense.
Rick: We stopped serving that on October 22nd.
[You look at your watch to find it’s one week past the deadline. You place your gym bag full of guns on the counter.]
YOU: Sir, have you ever heard the expression “The Cub fan is always right”?
Rick: (sighs) Yeah.
YOU: Well, here I am. The Cub fan.
Rick: (still smiling) That’s not our policy. You’ll have to order something from the loss menu.
YOU: I don’t want loss. I want runs.
Rick: Yeah, well hey, I’m really sorry.
YOU: (smiles back) Yeah, well hey, I’m real sorry too. [pulls out a TEC-9]
You open your eyes, perk back up into reality.
The end of a five-minute health pause, mandated by Major League Baseball—umpires going aisle to aisle to make sure everyone’s alright. Taking pulses, checking for life.
Then, somehow, bits of crowd energy on the way back, the survivors of nuclear winter poking their heads up out of shelters. Pockets in the upper decks, cheering “Lettt’s Gooo Cuuub-bies!”—like the desperate, never-say-never wails of a kid that’s never grown up. As if the Tooth Fairy and Easter Bunny might combine to bring Wrigley Field a win.
It had to be Kipnis, didn’t it? Son of Chicagoland. Childhood neighbor of He Who Shall Not Be Named. Bartman, Thy spirit remains among us…
He’d stood there in the box, the bat level on a flat line pointing to the backstop, holding it steady as if weighing the scales of justice—do you save the hometown, do you bury the hometown?
He’d brought the bat up onto his shoulder. Travis Wood delivered a weak fastball on the inside half of the plate. Kipnis swung easy at it. The ball sent on a rope to the right-field bleachers, the crowd too stunned to reach out and catch it.
Quiet. You can hear the Wrigley Field PA announcer, at full volume. And nearly nothing else. Kipnis raised like a prom king in the dugout. “Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey!”
Cub fans looking down at the price on their tickets. Feeling vomitous. Counting the months on their fingers. We’ll be good next year. But… and they tap their pointer finger. The next finger: November. Then December. Then January… eventually spring. And a whole ‘nother season. Then—maybe… We’ll be back in this spot. But Christ. What. Happened.
You glance at your neighbor. You glance out at the field.
Did he really hit that?
Is this a dagger which I see before me?
Or art thou but a dagger of the mind, a false creation,
Proceeding from the depressèd brain?
You look around and think—is there some chance? Vince Vaughn comes out for the 7th-inning stretch. Some kind of a hope. Maybe. If can crash a wedding, you can crash a funeral.
Well here we are!! he says before the song. Let’s do this!!
He wraps up, and the Cubs come up for the bottom half of the inning.
Heyward grounds out.
Baez pops out.
Almora lines out to right.
YOU HANG YOUR HEAD AGAIN, CLOSE YOUR EYES. RETURN TO WHAMMYBURGER. OPEN YOUR DUFFEL BAG.
You just. Want. Your breakfast offense. You reach into your bag.
“He’s got a gun!”
“Just calm down, everybody. Sit down!”
“Everybody just relax and take it ea—
“It was an accident! It’s the trigger.”
“It’s sensitive. It’s okay! It’s a sensitive trigger.”
“Could I please just have my offense?”