Where was that at?
Sheeeeeeee, wasn’t no ball one, that was my sickest, most filthiest Lord Charles, man, completely unhittable pitch, kisses the corner then drops to the dirt—come on, Har-vold.
Okay okay, just ball one, suck it up, suck it up, like Head Doctor says, demeanor on the mound, no flouncin’ around flinging daggers like that freak-job Freddy…. Confidence. Arm is supercharged and look at that twink Gonzales jerkin’ his bat around like he’s trying to swat a fly. Scared, bro? You should be.
Morales’s throwin’ down two-seamer, away. You think, catcher-man? Cuz if that tick-shit Gonzales barrels up on a two-seamer it’ll be gone.
Oh, shit, Skip. Looking like a nickel at the rail—is it Skip’s call? Oh man, that’s what it is, your own Skipper don’t trust your number one pitch. Well why’d he run you out here in the rubber game then? Dude, bottom of the ninth in the goddamn one-run rubber game? Because Bobo couldn’t get it done, that’s why, two blown saves in a row and now this—two on, two out—now you are supposed to try to pull it out with Gonzales, Cedeno, and Davis coming up, Jesus H. Christ—
Wait wait wait. Head Doc says nothin’ negative. Confidence.
I will destroy that pussy Albert Gonzales.
Two seamer, away.
I got it. Right, my man, got it, love a challenge, two-seamer away it is.
But what is that? Down the right field line—is it a cloud? Frickin’ lights, can’t see nothin’, oh man, now zzzzzzzzzzzzz, like a goddamn mosquito in my ear, can’t get at it—Oh crap. Can you go to your ear? You can’t go to your mouth but what about the ear? Do they even got ears in the rule book?
Morales’s showin’ again, dude’s about to blow, okay, I can see, man: two seamer away, fine, but you do realize—
No no no no no. Confidence. Let it go, blow it out, allow your shoulders to grow warm and soft—Head Doc is such a fruitball—and now feel-up that little cowhide behind your back, sweet, small, smooth like Jamie’s little titties—not supposed to think about that, either, whoof whoof—focus.
Find your seams…come set…into the wind-up…and a rocket to the plate, strike one, yeah!
Ball two? Mister Har-vold, Umpire, sir—are you shitting me? That pitch did not even catch any of the black? Who throws meatballs down the chute, man, come on, get yourself some eyewear. Blind old Porkster with a two-inch strike zone to go with his two-inch pecker.
And Morales did not frame that pitch at all, not even close. Stupid bastard.
Wait. Do not approach, do not come out here, goddamn it Morales, do not say…
You okay, kid? And he hands you the ball.
Stone face, like you’re workin’ it in your mind.
Morales says, not the curve.
Right. Your own damn catcher don’t trust your best damn pitch either.
Morales says, Bust him in. That conyo don’t take his bat off the shoulder—bust that pinchero. He grins a wicked grin, pats butt—homo—and trots back to the plate.
Wo. Two ball count and you bust him? Morales is some serious meat. You look at Skip but he’s granite. He spits.
Okay, okay, now: mow ’em down, mo-fo.
Well, yeah, but worth it, deep-fried twinkie diving to the dirt like he was ducking monkey shit. Maybe it is time to swing the wood, Al-bert. What kind of name is Albert, anyhow?
What? What’s that, Morales-my-man? I can’t…it’s the lights, this old park is one sad sack, but I can’t see, sweat in my eyes—what’d Granny used to say, sweatin’ like a whore in church?—dust or something in my face, zzzzzzzz in both ears now, I can’t see what you’re putting down. Shouldn’t of wasted that last pitch, goddamn it, now I’m gonna walk frickin’ Gonzo and set the table for frickin’ Cedeno—Confidence. Dawg-boy, yakker-man, you are the world’s baddest—wait, you’re moving your lips.
It looks bad, bro, talking to yourself on the mound. Just grab the rosin, dab the hand…
Now Dirt-bag Gonzales holds up his hand and steps out to fuss with his gloves and now the Porkster’s sweeping, busier’n a cat covering crap on a marble floor.
Take your time, gentlemen.
Morales throws the sign.
High heat? Oh shit oh lord. High heat down the middle? Oh man, but it’s the Lord Charles they can’t hit, that 12-6 curve drops right out of sight, it is a thing of beauty, I been foolin’ batters with that pitch since I was frickin’ ten-years-old. No. Gonzales catches up with a heater he will send it to Mars, three-run dinger, all she wrote, game over, series done, we go home.
Morales shows again, no mistake, high heat, middle, and he pounds his fist in his glove.
Shit, shit-crap, okay. Gotta settle now, can’t lose this, not like last time, little prayer, chin up, little man, rosin up, grip up—sheeeeeee. I get it. Albert’s taking. Course he is; Morales knows Albert don’t swing on a three-oh count. Well okay, why didn’t you just say so, my man, no problemo, just gotta keep it simple, just rifle one over the plate, simple, simple simple, simple, and we roll.
Oh, goddamn it, Mr. Snappy, goddamn it, got away from me, I’m lucky Morales blocked it and now we got ducks on a pond, no place to put another one and Cedeno’s stepping up and oh, shit, now we got Mazzone coming at me, Captain Hook himself hiking up his saggy-ass britches. Okay, get yourself straight, little buddy, take off your hat, it’s all good, pitcher-man, Yakker-dawg, wipe your brow and do not look at the scoreboard, it’s okay, baby, just even out the dirt, kick a little rubber, …while Hook takes his sweet time from the dugout, two up in the pen now, and what is that zzzzzzzzz? and crap in the eye, goddamn it, some bug or something, shit’s everywhere, here he is, goddamn it, Mazzone, do not ask…
Whatchya got, kid?
Harvold’s squeezing me pretty good, coach.
Gotta play the hand you’re dealt, kid.
Little shrug. Toe the mound. Please please, for god’s sake, puh-leeeeze do not say…
Just throw strikes. Kid? You’ll be okay. Throw strikes.
I knew it. Like they think pitchers come out of the bullpen with a plan, no, with a god damn sacred mission to throw nothing but balls. Christ.
Throw strikes, he says again—Oh, okay, didn’t hear you the first two times, Coach, good thing you repeated yourself, right on, Captain Brilliant, sure will throw strikes, why didn’t anyone tell me that was the plan?
And he pats butt—homo—and starts back to the dugout.
…but the thing is, can I even throw a damn strike? Because when the arm’s this strong I got no control. That’s the truth. Oh mommy, but I do not want to lose this battle with myself.
Oh lordy, sweat, lights, buzzing and Cedeno leering at me, the bastard—but what the hell is this? The cloud-thing again, Jesus, it’s moving in, is it a duster? Now what’s the Pork doing? Waving his arms at something and Cedeno’s bent over slapping himself on the helmet and damn, now I can’t hardly see the plate, can’t hardly see nothin’ through this dust or whatever the hell—aaaghh, it’s bugs, in my mouth, up my nose, in my ears, and the little fuckers bite, too. Now Garcia’s headed in through the bug cloud slappin’ and jerkin’ like a kid with cooties, Sorel’s running, Gonzales is off…wait. Harvold’s waving in the field.
We’re suspending play?
Hoodoo, Mama, wishes really do come true.
All quiet in the dugout. Skip’s standing at the rail staring at the field like he’s hypnotized, Mazzone too, giant cloud swarming out there, thing reminds me of one of those magnet dealies with steel specks for hair except this one’s millions and millions of specks, all shimmery, so big it’d have to be Dolly Parton’s hair. Black shit on my towel, Morales’s wiping out his helmet, leg jumping the way he does and I ain’t sayin’ nothin’ and no one talks to me, neither, not when I’m pitching—but am I still pitching? Are we going back out?
You all ever seen anything like this? Junior says in that gentle voice to no one in particular. Of course it’s Junior breaks the silence.
Naw. Nope. Dios mio. Umm-mm. Malo. Crazy. Yo.
Gnats, Bones says. I love Mr. Bones. Bench coach, one of the best, been around baseball all his life.
Them’s gnats, he says again.
More mumbling: Gnats? Ay que la verga. No shit. Zat right?
Bunch of horny bastards, Bones says, and he snorts a fat lugie. He spits. Someone laughs and Bones says, All them’s males—it’s a mating swarm.
Moto conjero? Crazy, all over that. Wo, horn-dawgs…A mating swarm?
I can’t hardly believe that shit.
Bones says, Called a ghost. He snorts again, spits, grins like some crazy bastard and looks me right in the eye. He says, I’d call it the Holy Ghost, son, wouldn’t you?
I kinda nod. But—does he mean we’re done? Game called, we win? Or what.
Guys all stare out, not sayin’. They know. I’m the frickin’ rookie.
Way I see it, you got yourself a little breather, Bones says, watching the ghost.
So let me give you a piece of advice.
Cedeno? That hacker’ll swing at anything in his area code, boy, sucker can not lay off. So when you go back out there, just go ahead and throw—
—that nasty, nasty curveball. Just give it to him three times.
Okay. Damn straight. Throw the yakker, mow ’em down. That’s what I do.
And that is what I did.
Holy Ghost first appeared in Stymie, A Journal of Sport and Literature, Winter, 2011