Sunday, September 27, 2015

Mascot, Chapter Twenty-Five: The Two Z's

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The Two Z’s

Zarita arrives at noon, and takes a moment to study the opening-day banners, humongous images of former San Jose players – Joe Panik, Madison Bumgarner, Buster Posey – who recently helped the big-league club to another championship. She enters the tunnel past the churro stand and immediately runs into Gigante. She grabs him by the arm, but realizes that this Gigante is too tall. Joe gives her a cartoonish wave.

“Hi,” she says. “Is Zelda here?”

Gigante raises a finger, faces the third-base end of the tunnel and outlines a route: straight, a left, a right, another right. Then he lifts an imaginary stein and takes a drink.

“Oh. Past the beer stands?”

He places a finger on his nose.

“Thanks, Joe…gante.”

Gigante belly laughs and ruffles Zarita’s hair.

“Aigh! Silly.”

She takes the prescribed route and finds Zelda at a picnic table, her legs propped against a low fence bordering the field. A cluster of players are taking grounders near shortstop. Zelda’s hair is a ragged mop. She wears a brown tank-top with bleach stains. A roll of flab spills over her waistband. There’s an empty Budweiser on the table, another in her hand. She pops a handful of sunflower seeds into her mouth and spits the shells onto the grass. Zarita takes a breath.

“Hi, Z.”

Zelda takes a glance, her eyes covered by dark glasses. “Hey. ‘Sup.” She turns back toward the field.

“I’ve been trying to get a hold of you, but…”

“No response? Yeah, I know the feeling. Coulda used a friendly voice myself, back around Edward’s accident.”

Zarita bites her lip. “I saw the video.”

Zelda takes a swig of beer and belches. “They do some amazing shit with videos these days.”

The delusions are piling up, and Zelda realizes it’s useless to argue.

“Z, I miss you.”

Zelda says nothing.

“Z? I’m pregnant.”

Zelda stares into center, where the outfielders are shagging flies. “Bitch stole my boyfriend. Got her ex-husband in on it, how the fuck does that work?”

“Zelda! I’m pregnant.”

Zelda lowers her sunglasses to reveal bloodshot eyes and day-old mascara. “Glad to know the plumbing works. Bring the kid to a game and I’ll buy him a churro. Meanwhile, let me know when you can help me get my boyfriend back.” She turns back to the field and mutters in a rumbling meander. “Fucking cunt and her fucking ex-husband, bitch has superpowers give me the restraining order like I’m the problem get a fucking lawyer myself take these assholes for all they’re…”

Zarita slams both hands against the table. The aluminum produces a surprising amount of noise.

“Stop it, Z! Stop it! Goddammit!”

Zelda half-turns. Zarita clears her throat.

“Edward and Roxy are getting married. In July. Jackson’s the best man.”

Zelda turns away and tosses more seeds into her mouth.

“It’s over, Zelda. It’s over. Now please come back. I can’t stand this. I need you. My baby needs you. You need to start over. I’ll help you start over.”

Zelda spits her seeds, finishes her beer, stares at second base. The groundskeeper comes out to drag the infield. Zarita stares into the back of Zelda’s head, tears tracking her face.

“Zelda? Please?”

She waits a long time, but nothing’s coming. The air is split by the sound of a bat striking a ball.

“Goodbye, Zelda.”

Zelda listens to Zarita’s footsteps, fading away, and whispers. “Later, bitch.”

The second inning ends. Zelda reports to the dressing room. Joe’s on the couch, headless, talking to his wife on the phone. Putting on the costume is something Zelda has been looking forward to for months, the chance, finally, to disappear. She pulls on the head, the familiar cave, the stale smell, and checks herself in the mirror. Gigante gives her a goofy smile.

The second she’s out the door, she feels a tug, and turns to find a little fire hydrant of a girl, hair so white-blonde it looks like vanilla ice cream. She looks up at the monster with wide blue eyes.

Zelda kneels and offers a fist-bump. The little girl goes in with her knuckles and finds that the gorilla has switched to a high-five. She changes to a high-five, but now the gorilla has returned to the knuckle-bump. The joke swims around in the little girl’s eyes but finally lands. She explodes with a squeal of laughter. Zelda wants to smile, but she knows that Gigante will do it for her.

Photo by MJV (painting by MJV)

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