Behind [the dish]
Say everything that you know about baseball. Start with Keith Hernandez. Don’t tell any jokes, or ask anyone about any new tricks they’ve developed. It’s certainly possible to be funny—just be prepared to ask a slew of questions whose answers you won’t want to know. What do you miss most about your hometown? Take your time. Someone being eaten by a gorilla, or someone struck by lightning—now that’s funny. There was once a point in human life where one could say, For the first time in history, a little boy held a felled branch & swung it at the rocks his friends hurled at him. You have to make a game of it. In the All-Star Slugger illusion, a playing card is selected & whisked into the folded deck. A small packet of baseball cards—preferably one with a semi-powdered stick of bubble gum—is ripped open. Each of the cards is different. One of them features the mustachioed face of a first baseman. The top of the deck illustrates a swing in action. The mind has a mind of its own. How often do you stop to listen to each laugh in the repetitive track that follows you around the basepaths? The assistant inserts the card in the middle of the deck. Before you pass
around the semi-circle for donations, promise: the image of the uniformed man will explore the deck & find whatever card was washed away. But promises burst too much like seasons, & the warning track sod & foul-line chalk are replaced by sounds of Danish electropop. It smooths out the field of hockey scores on the TV set. Your assistant looks at you in the uneasy & exposing orange glow & earnestly asks, Do you think I’m a child? There’s a huge difference between exuberance & youth. As you stand on the sidewalk—the rain pissing, a narrow rum bar upright on the island behind you—a stranger thanks you for your candid answer to a brand new question. It hasn’t become any less clear, has it? There’s a huge difference between fairness & justice, like & love. Everyone will be amazed when the card is flipped & the player in the picture holds the original card instead of a bat. You’d choose Bill Buckner over Keith Hernandez any day, despite the collapses & curses. You couldn’t have been born anywhere but where you were born. You couldn’t have been born into a peril other than the one that was yours, is yours, today, in the bright November offseason.
Kevin Walter lives in Brooklyn, NY and is a graduate of the MFA program at The New School. His writing has previously appeared in or is forthcoming from Forklift, Ohio, Sixth Finch, dislocate, Unshod Quills, and The Equalizer.