Thursday, May 19, 2011

“A Town Called Disdain”, Episode 76: epiphanies

Our author Larry Winchester, never one to leave a plot thread untended for more than three or four months, now returns to the ongoing strange sagas of Lefty Schiessen -- living-legend minor-league fastballer and acid-head, still pitching a perfect game as it extends into the high double-digit innings -- and Doc Goldwasser, the sole general practitioner in a wretched little town in New Mexico called Disdain...

(Go here to read our previous episode; click here to return to the dimly-remembered beginning of this saga, now certified by the Commissariat of Homeland Insecurity as an Approved Patriotic Historical Epic.

The word of Lefty’s game had spread throughout the district, and the sunbleached sagging stands were almost full with drunken shouting people.

Doc Goldwasser had seen the lights of the Pat Garrett Athletic Field glowing unusually late against the nighttime sky as he drove back into town, and he also had stopped by to watch the game.

He sat in the dugout next to the Skipper. The Doc knew all the Browns well. If he wasn’t stitching up somebody’s calf after a spiking, or pumping liquor and drugs out of another one’s stomach after an OD, then he was writing someone a prescription for delaudid or pantopon or demerol or eukuodal or some other addictive drug. Half the guys on this club were hooked on dope, and the Doc didn’t have the heart to turn them down. Besides, the way the Doc figured it, if they didn’t get their drugs through him then they would get it from the Motorpsychos, who were notorious for cutting their product with formaldehyde, bleach, rat poison, Drano, and even Agent Orange.

The Doc had to admit he was almost enjoying watching the game. In his younger days he had loved to go to sporting events, but, after the war, sport became just one more of the many things -- like sex, like food, like wine, like any sort of physical exercise -- that he just didn’t give a fuck about any more. But now, at least during the moments when Lefty was on the mound, he could feel a faint echo of a certain joy he had felt long ago, sitting high in the bleachers at Shibe Park or Baker Bowl with some other Penn Med students, eating hot dogs and soft pretzels and drinking warm Ortlieb’s beer out of paper cups amidst the smells of sweat and cheap perfume and cigars and cigarettes, with the car exhaust and the smoke from the factories drifting up over the cool damp brick walls of the stadium from the dirty brown city outside; and down below, like a glimpse into another and better world, the bright sundrenched vivid green of the field.

Another epiphanous moment in a day that had already had two or three of them, which was two or three more than his days usually held -- Enid’s moist breasts in the coffee shop, the tinkling of her bracelets as she stirred his coffee, and her kind eyes; and Hope’s eyes, her disturbingly knowing dark eyes; and something else, a feeling that seemed somehow retroactively to have run through this whole day, something he couldn’t name. But so what. In the Doc’s admittedly sparse personal experience with epiphanies, they came and then they went and they left you hanging there the same pathetic son of a bitch you were before, if not worse. Like sex, like opium, the spiritual epiphany, like the human body, like life, was not built to last. He had learned this simple fact a long time ago at Omaha Beach, after those few blissful moments of discorporation, floating serenely above the carnage, when he had somehow been dumped back into his body and into the shit again.

There was only one epiphany you could count on, and that was junk, that brief but reliable dose of sweet nothingness.

And here came Big Jake, that epiphany of the non-epiphany, walking along inside the third base line with two sixpacks of Tree Frog beer under each arm and a stogie in his mouth. He came on over, heaved himself down into the dugout, shambled past the indifferent players and squeezed his fat ass in between the Doc and the Skipper before the Doc could work up the energy to get up and escape.


(Click here to read our next thrilling chapter.)


Letitia Coyne said...

Bravo!! My favourite. An epiphany.

I see the wonderful Richard Burton, but I'm hearing Bogie?

And that insidious agent orange. Still in our food chain, then?

Dan Leo said...

Letitia, our shot of Dick Burton came from a Life magazine article about the filming of "Night of the Iguana", one of my favorite movies...

Letitia Coyne said...

Ah. I will watch it. I have Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Streetcar in my collection of loved films.

Dan Leo said...

Y'know, Iguana as a play might not quite be up there with Glass Menagerie and Streetcar and Cat, but it's my absolute favorite movie adaptation of any Williams play. Brilliant performances from Burton and Deborah Kerr and Ava Gardner. (Although I wish I had been around to see Bette Davis in the play on Broadway...)

Letitia Coyne said...

I watched some clips. Looks intense. Burton is one of those actors who can be a pleasure to watch, and then next role - maybe he's not interested, maybe just pissed - but he does not always shine. I will definitely watch.