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Edward is doomed to live out his past life. He parks in the lot and strolls to the entrance, the lights over the stadium sparking into life. He buys general admission, stops for a beer and heads for the first-base bleachers, where the two Z’s used to sit.
This is a luxury he’s rarely had, the chance to watch the infielders take grounders, the pitchers warm up, and to not care about the general entertainment of small children. It’s also nice not to be inside the Gigante head, with its cave-like view of the world. The weather is perfect, banks of fog gathering at the far sides of the mountains like timid sheep.
The stands slowly fill up, a local opera singer performs the national anthem, and the game is under way. Edward sees Gigante working the kids in the lower seats: the high five/knucklebump gag, the cap-steal, the threat to swallow their little heads whole. Not much has changed. After the third out, Gigante scans the higher seats. Edward waves, just in case.
An inning later, after performing a boisterous James Brown shuffle to “I Feel Good,” Gigante climbs the steps, uses a little girl’s Reds cap to wipe his nose, then arrives at Edward’s row. Gigante adopts an expectant posture, hands on hips, staring. The fans, of course, think this is a gag, but Edward imagines that Gigante is experiencing an internal struggle: whether to kick this dude’s ass or stay employed. The big gorilla makes the gesture meaning “hand it over.” Edward reaches into his bag, pulls out a box of Red Vines and delivers it to his target. Gigante studies it, then gives Edward a thumbs-up and trots down the steps.
That’s it for a while. Edward doesn’t know whether to feel relieved or disappointed. The Giants string together a few hits and take a 3-0 lead. In the fifth, after the High Desert Mavericks get their leadoff man on, Gigante skulks behind the soda guy. Edward is curious to see if the gag has changed at all. Gigante grabs a cup and charges up the steps. The soda guy shakes a fist in his wake.
Edward is not terribly surprised when Gigante heads his way. He’s not completely surprised when what is deposited over his head is not the standard confetti but ice-cold Mountain Dew. The crowd roars in laughter. Gigante takes a bow, Edward shakes himself off like a wet dog. Gigante runs downstairs to lead the YMCA dance. Edward takes off his sweatshirt and wipes himself off. When he gets to his face, he smells something rancid, and realizes that it smells precisely like urine.
Fighting simultaneous waves of disgust and anger, Edward spies Gigante entering a tunnel behind the third-base dugout and quickly follows. He arrives just as the dressing-room door clicks shut. He bangs on it.
“Let me in!”
A voice comes through the door. “Gigante is currently unavailable.”
“Let me in, you cunt!”
The door clicks open. Edward opens it and finds Zelda on the couch, headless.
“Please close the door and stop swearing. You’ll scare the children.”
He applies all of his self-control to do as she asks, but turns quickly to make his point.
“You fucking bitch. That was criminal. I do not deserve…”
She hurls Gigante’s head at Edward’s head. He deflects it with his arm.
“You deserve to have your dick lopped off. Don’t tell me what you deserve.” She seems to tire and plops back onto the couch. “Use the shower.”
“And have you steal my clothes?”
“Use the goddamn shower!”
Edward catches a whiff of himself, and realizes that he has no choice. He takes off his clothes, muttering. “Crazy fucking… unbelievable… god… damn… I hope it was at least your piss.”
“Does it matter?”
“Good.” He starts the water and looks back. “Could I bother you to give my clothes a rinse?”
Edward settles under the spray, remembering the hot August nights when this shower was his personal savior. He hears Zelda working the sink, kneading his clothing into the water. He finds a bar of soap and indulges in a full lather. He rinses off, is about to step outside when Zelda steps in, naked, and grabs his dick.
“Can I make it up to you?”
Zelda recovers her breath and goes to the window. Edward is staying at the Toll House, a luxury hotel at the end of the Los Gatos strip. She looks across the highway and sees the creek trail.
“My God, Edward, you can almost see your old campground from here.”
Edward leans on an elbow. “Meaning?”
“You’re moving up. Is that what the disappearance was about? Making money?”
“So how did you make this money?”
“None of your damn business.”
She turns. “Illegal?”
“Rather not say.”
She bites her lip. “Okay.” Zelda sits at the edge of the bed and plays with his penis. “Does the money make you feel better?”
“What about ‘Money can’t buy happiness’?”
“A myth spread by rich people. Money buys freedom. Opportunity. It doesn’t buy happiness, but it gives you more chances to pursue it.”
“Any chance you could suck my dick?”
Zelda straightens up, jolted by a hybrid of revulsion and excitement. Edward’s penis gets harder. She bites her lip.
“Right now. I want it in my hand.”
Edward crosses to the dresser, opens his wallet and pulls out a bill. Zelda studies Franklin’s face, wondering if he has any idea the twisted transactions his likeness has effected.
“Why don’t you lie down?” she asks.
“No,” he says. “On your knees.”
A charge runs along her spine. She lowers herself to the carpet and gets to work, the bill tucked into her free hand.
Edward awakens to an erect cock, and there’s no way it’s his, because the thing is enormous. He blinks it into focus, and finds that it’s a page from a magazine, propped against a pillow. Next to a sheet of hotel letterhead.
Good morning! This is Johnny Sequoia. He performed at Zarita’s bachelorette party. Afterwards, he fucked me on the balcony. It was the best sex I ever had. Have a nice day, darling. XXOO – Z
Zelda pulls to a stop at the meridian and finds the usual grungy panhandler, the usual cardboard propaganda: God bless, veteran, wife and children. She rolls down the window and hands him a bill. Halfway into the intersection, she hears his cowboy whoop.
Photo by MJV