Nine Innings in Baltimore: Bottom of the Third

Bats and gloves photo by Frank Klein.
(This is the continuation of the serial novel Nine Innings in Baltimore. Read the previous chapter here.)
A new creature – Basilio without booze, the artist sans sativa – walked from Miss Bonnie’s toward the ballfields in Patterson Park as Billy Ripken came to the plate. Basilio glimpsed the game playing silently behind the parlor glass of rowhouses along the way.  “Good ’ole fuck face,” chuckled Basilio as the lesser Ripken fouled off a pitch, surprised at how comforting his laughter was.

The painter had been living on Macon Street for almost two years, the last year of Grandpop’s life and alone for the past 10 months. Tonight, after a barroom revelation that would vibrate until (and perhaps long after) he joined his grandparents on the hill at Holy Redeemer, he was took his first unwitting steps toward adulthood, north on Milton Avenue.

On the other side of the front windows, where the seal of air-conditioning kept most folks from realizing someone was at their sill, men in La-Z-boys drank beer from water tumblers, a bowl of pretzels at hand. Wives in matching easy chairs (itchy brown fabric, plaid and butterscotch) sat alongside them in housecoats, crocheting or reading a magazine with a glance now and then at the game.

Billy popped out to the shortstop and Brady Anderson did the same to the Yankee third baseman.

Basilio knew that Trudy and India were at the game and looked to see if he could spot them in the crowd of 24,589, staring until the people inside caught him and he moved away.

It was India’s birthday tomorrow – number 9, number 9, number 9 – and he hadn’t decided what to do. That morning, Trudy had asked him – nicely – to take the kid somewhere other than Miss Bonnie’s for toaster oven pizza and all the soda she could drink, a place a kid would like.

Deeply offended, Basilio told his ex: “My father took me to bars when I was a kid.”

Waiting to cross Eastern Avenue, the tiers of the Pagoda in the near distance, Basilio remembered the night he walked around the city with a young doctor named Katherine, not long after Trudy had had her fill..

The night had been magical, one of those nights, and he was sure the friendship would quell the trouble in his heart. But the magic was brief. Far from a prude, the doctor didn’t like Basilio when he was high, which meant she didn’t like Basilio all that often. On the first scent of reefer, she’d slam the kissing window shut but Basilio kept getting high anyway, having learned nothing from his years with Trudy.

“You know what I love?” he’d said to Katherine on that first long walk from Johns Hopkins Hospital back to Grandpop’s house in Highlandtown, an evening fueled by snowballs and intrigue – one that ended on a cot beneath the hole Basilio had cut in the roof, precious fun he assumed could be made better the next time with a little of this and a little of that.

“I love to walk through the alleys and look in peoples’ houses,” he’d said. “Especially at night when the lights are on and the shades are up. You can look right in and see people eating and watching TV, talking to each other, you know, just living.”

Joe Orsulak grounded out to the second baseman and the inning was over.

Three up and three down.

to be continued…