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A Cruel Reality
By Staff Writer

Been blowing my top a lot lately. Little things set me off. Bad drivers. Bad wedge shots. A ruptured spinal disc. It all just ticks me off. All fall golfers complained about hearing me swear, "I'm gonna blow . . . I'm gonna blow. . ." And then I do.

This time it started with a mop. I was mopping the floor at Target. No, I'm not moonlighting, although I wouldn't mind getting an employee discount on one of those nice Cherokee dress shirts. I was doing community service. Not the usual location to serve out a sentence, but I guess the judge thought since it started in Target, it should end in Target.

It started with a pair of Harry Potter underwear. They weren't for me. They were for my godson's grandchild. I know. I'm really old. My godson doesn't just have kids—his kids have kids, and one of them loves Harry Potter. I saw this three-pack of Gryffindor boxers for $6.49 and I stuck it in my coat pocket because my hands were full carrying the bats and helmets I was buying for the Domeball team that EFQ sponsors.

For those of you who live in a warm place, you should know it gets cold in Minnesota. There's snow on the ground and there's no place to play baseball after October, except in a dome. They have these domes here—not just the Metrodome, but other domes where kids can lose flyballs in the ceiling and watch a grounder bounce twenty feet over their heads and tear up their knees on cheap Astroturf just like the Twins. These places are in demand. Really. They play hour-long games—start a clock and play for an hour. Stop wherever you are when the timer goes off. Dome time's expensive. EFQ feels it's important to give our children a chance to be miserable as long as they want, so we sponsor a team. We named it the General Mills Special K's —pitching and fiber is our strength—and I personally hoped to get free cereal out of the deal, but when we asked General Mills, they pointed out that Kellogg's makes Special K, so there you are. Back to the Metamucil.

Anyway, there I was, with a bat, two helmets, and a pair of Harry Potter underwear in my pocket, which I'd totally forgotten about at the checkout, and I guess I didn't hear the alarm go off as I passed through that security system thing they have by the exit doors. I was walking to the parking lot when two security guys threw me against the side of a minivan.

"Give it up, old-timer. We got it all on tape."

They reached into my coat pocket and pulled out the underwear. They looked at me in disgust. "Jesus."

"Wait a second," I said. "I'm no priest. I don't even believe in God." I looked at the guard's badge too late—"O'Malley." Well, you'd have thought I was Winona Ryder. I suppose it didn't help that I called the judge a pencil-necked geek and then looked over in the jury box to see an Ethiopian juror who had tribal rings around her neck stacked up like the metal end of a number two. She glared at me.

"Didn't mean you, ma'am. Love your food. Nothing like eating the insides of a burrito with your hands." My attorney would have told me to shut up then, but I was defending myself. I enjoy defending myself. Other than throwing a tight slider, it's what I do best.

They let me keep the bat and helmets. Hell, I'd paid for them. While I was awaiting trial I went to see the Special K's a couple of times. I gave them some tips on hitting a Baltimore Chop. By the end of the second game, they were all swinging down on the ball, driving it into the Astroturf, and scooting around the bases while the ball dang near bounced up to the roof. It's a cheap win, but we don't want EFQ associated with losers. One's enough for any magazine. That would be me. At least I didn't wear my old Davenport Recliners T-shirt when I was mopping at Target. No, I just lowered my head and tried to do my job.

It was hard. I'm so old, everybody assumed I'm a greeter. I had to keep telling them I didn't know where the hell kitchenwares were. I was about to blow my top all the time. And then here came a mop. Nice. Right under my feet. I tripped on it and there went the spinal disc. "GoddamnÖ" Was that my own mop? Was I developing some sort of physical Alzheimer's where my leg doesn't remember what my arm is doing?

I spun around, looked up, and there's the Ethiopian broad. Wearing a red vest! She worked at Target!

"You? You from the jury?"

"You're surprised I'm not biting the head off a chicken?"

"You can't work here. How could you get on that jury if you work at Target?"

"What you don't know won't hurt you."

"I'm already hurting." My back was killing me. I started to cut loose. "God . . . Son of a . . . This is . . . "

I was building up a head of steam. Fast. "I'm gonna blow. I'm gonna blow—"

That's when she flattened me against the end cap of Harry Potter Lego castles and threw the cuffs on me.

"You're under arrest."

"For what?"

"Making terrorist threats."

She works for the Department of Homeland Security. I was their first bust. Because they took my threat of "blowing" literally. The good news is that I'm used to defending myself. Which comes in kind of handy, since I'm being held without a charge and without bond and without benefit of a lawyer.

I've got another thing going for me. There's a horned owl that nests in my barred window. I'm smuggling this letter out via owl post. Writing it on a shred of boxer shorts. Hope it reaches civilization. Someplace I vaguely remember where kids sled in the winter and when spring comes they play baseball outside and hit flyballs that sail off into a blue sky and when they come down, land on green grass. And somewhere in that America I remember, they give old guys a break when they end up with underwear in their coat pockets.

I'd sign off like usual, but I'm out of boxer.



As STAFF WRITER languishes in prison, he wonders how Bud Selig, the master of threats, continues to roam the countryside as a free man, spreading economic terror wherever he goes. But in a world where a guy can be defeated by a dead man in a senate race and still end up as attorney general of the United States, anything is possible.

© 2003 Elysian Fields Quarterly


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