At the Old Ball Game

James Wade

It wouldn’t have been our national pastime if I didn’t get to eat some peanuts and see an octopus throw a whirly-wowzer. That’s all I could think about. I had taken care of the peanuts early on. I’m a good planner. “Always thinking ahead,” that’s what my birth mother probably could have said once.

While the fellas and the redfish were taking turns swinging the sticks and getting loose, I dodged a few soul-suckers who were prowling around above the mezzanine on my way to buy somewhere between one and thirty-seven pounds of peanuts — unshelled.

I was pretty happy with myself when I made it back to my seat with at least one shoe and a foam finger that said “we’re #4.” Problem was, the baby on the pitcher’s mound was fooling all the batters on the home team with his dribble ball, and I was getting worried the octopus wouldn’t be needed.

After twenty-four innings, it looked like the tables might turn. Slammin’ Sammy Magoo drew a walk on eight straight pitches, and I thought maybe the baby needed a nap or his bah-bah.

Turned out it was a con job.

As soon as Sammy took his lead off the first-base beanbag chair, the horned-monster playing second opened its jowls and swallowed him whole. I was outraged, but fair is fair. Although, I’m pretty sure I saw that cocky fucking baby wink at the girl that would’ve been my girlfriend if a lot of things had happened differently or at all.

I don’t bite my nails anymore, maybe you’ve heard. Instead, nervous as I was, I freed the peanuts from their casing and gnawed on the shells. I couldn’t breathe, and I wasn’t sure if it was because the peanut pile was moving past my neck, or because the corporation that sponsored the seats in the left field had gone belly up and demolished the grandstand in the thirty-second inning with those poor bastards still sitting there. I was down the third-base line, obviously, but now the whole ballpark was filled with dust and screams.

People were losing their shit. The Commissioner himself had to bring out the nine-fingered glove worn by Digits Donaldson during the epic Series to End All Series. That pretty much restored order.

My father passed away sometime before the thirty-seventh-inning-stretch, which was a disappointment because I can’t drive stick and we were in his truck. We had a small funeral near the cotton-candy machine. Many of the people in our section came for a minute or two, but they left again after they got their cotton candy.

The crowd roared when the baby turned two-years-old and was thereby ineligible to continue pitching. We were all thinking the same thing: octopus time, and are those the good Russians or the bad ones?

They were the good ones, so the teams put their broken bats away and continued the game.

Unfortunately, the octopus didn’t crawl in from the bullpen.

Instead, the hot dog vendor changed uniforms and became the new ace. It was a true rags-to-riches story, played out in about twelve minutes, so the crowd cheered and someone made a movie that won all the awards a few innings later.

I didn’t pay to see it on the jumbotron. I was here for two things and two things only: peanut shells and the octopus. And it looked like I was running low on shells.

JAMES WADE lives in Austin, Texas, where he writes fiction for his wife and two dogs. His wife is encouraging, but the dogs remain unimpressed. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Skylark Review, Bartleby Snopes, After the Pause, Potluck Magazine, Through the Gaps, Yellow Chair Review, Typehouse Magazine, and The J.J. Outré Review. Visit him at