KELSO'S SWING, CHAPTER 5
BY DELL FRANKLIN
“The asshole makes fun of us,” Beth fumed. “He called us tit monsters. I find that insulting and…gross.”
The girls were in the Tampico Tides, an old stucco affair, narrow, with sawdust covered cobblestone floors. A poolroom, with a single table, was in the rear. Up front, by the entrance and 3-step stairway leading to a patio in back, was the dartboard. The softball team huddled just off the poolroom and back door, at a ledge where they could set their drinks by a long window looking out at the pier and ocean. The husbands and men hovered in the poolroom.
“I’m not insulted at all,” Bobbi disagreed, flashing her ever present sunshine smile reserved for all, even enemies. “I think it’s kind of cute. Let’s face it, if yah got big boobs, everybody’s lookin’, and they all got somethin’ to say.”
Claire said, “There’s no limit to what the guy’ll do or say. I mean, he makes fun of our bodies like we’re…ugly freaks.”
“He practically called me a pig!” Beth snorted.
“He didn’t call you a pig,” Jill Norton corrected her.
“He called us monkeys and ducks,” said Lacey. “He’s kind of funny, in a weird way. What’s an aardvark?”
“I don’t think it’s personal,” Bobbi defended.
Monica took a big quaff of beer. “Kelso makes fun of everybody,” she explained. “He’s just that way. It’s a guy thing, the way they show affection.”
“Affection!” cried Claire. “Bulll-shiii-it.”
Maria said, “I learned something, though. He already improved my fielding. He’s right about the guys who coached us. They don’t know anything. He does. I already have more confidence in my fielding.”
Annie said, “He taught me to catch right. I think I can catch the ball now. And his friend, Mar…whatever his name is, he’s nice. I like him.
“He’s got a nice ass,” said Penny, the shortstop.
“You’re married,” Jill reminded her.
“So? I can look. They look. HE’S looking. He was looking Lacey over pretty good. He’s a man. They were both looking.”
“I think we should find a woman with softball experience and pay her to coach us,” Beth said.
“No,” Jill said. “We need a man. We have nothing but problems with women. What we need is what we got in Kelso—a man we can’t walk all over, because we don’t have a relationship with him, and he’s such an asshole he doesn’t care if we hate him.”
Claire said, “The man doesn’t exist we can’t walk all over, if we put our collective minds to it.”
Bobbi giggled. “It’s almost a challenge.”
“He didn’t even let us hit,” Penny groused, looking sour.
“That’s next,” Jill said. “He wants to make sure we can catch the ball first.”
“How do you know?” Beth asked.
“I heard him talking to Marstrulavich.”
“Mar..stroola..vich? What kind of name is that?” asked Lacey.
“It’s Polish,” Claire explained. “I heard him call Marstrulavich a dumb Polock.”
“They don’t even have cars,” said Becki, a lanky blond girl with pigtails. “Can you believe that? How can you live in LA and not have a car? What kind of weirdo’s are they. Jill? What possessed you to take these guys on?”
“I heard Kelso was a great player and knows the game, so we have to listen to him. Let’s face it—we stink!”
Just then, Kelso and Marstrulavich entered the bar from up front and sat down on stools by the dartboard area. Kelso lit up a cigar stub and ignored them. Marstrulavich lit up a cigarette. They ordered drinks—Marstrulavich a Cutty/water, Kelso a Stoli rocks. After a puff and a sip, Kelso aimed a narrow, forbidding glance at the girls, cigar clenched in his teeth. Bobbi waved, wiggling her fingers, smiling broadly.
“Make her captain,” Marstrulavich advised.
Kelso ignored her and Bobbi turned back to the girls. “We’ll see,” Kelso said, as the girls, en masse, husbands and companions behind them, headed through the bar, on the way across the street to the Sunset. The sinewy husband who’d flashed Kelso the filthy look at the ball diamond, flashed him another stink-eye. Kelso ignored him, and said to Marstrulavich, “That Penny, she told me, ‘I’m shortstop,’ laying claim. Well, we’ll see about that.”
“Maria has the stronger arm,” Marastrulavich pointed out.
Kelso nodded. “That Penny, she doesn’t have the mental make-up to play short. Too jittery. I think she might be a head case, married to that pretty boy with the muscles.”
“The Mexican girl’s much more stable,” Marstrulavich added.
Kelso puffed. “I’m moving her to short. Penny’s at third.”
“That husband of hers, he hangs out at Ryan’s, where Flanagan hangs out. Lotta LAPD. They all bet the football cards. Some of ‘em play rugby. That muscle boy, he might not like it if you move his wife to third. He might have something to say about it.”
Marstrulavich took a drag, exhaled smoke; watched the smoke waft away to enter the smoke cloud hovering in the busy bar, the juke cranking out rock ‘n roll. “They’re both gonna push you, test you. She’s the kind wantsa get her way, and if she doesn’t, he comes to her rescue. He’s in control.”
“We’ll see about that.” Kelso ordered another round. “Anyway, I’ve decided to make Bobbi captain. She’s head tit monster, got a positive attitude. I don’t normally approve of or accept happy people who smile all the time, but I think she’ll be a beneficial influence on morale, and she’s not a damn religious nut, either, so that helps. I won’t have a born-again on my team, especially as my captain. They all wanna give sappy pep talks and pray, for Chrissake!”
“Yeh, well, somebody’s gotta lead ‘em in prayer if they’re gonna play for you. They’re gonna need all the help they can get.”
The drinks came. Money was extracted from their pile. “We’ve gotta mold these women, Stroolo, turn ‘em into something they’re not.” He puffed, sipped. “We’ll turn ‘em into something they never imagined they could be. That’s the secret.”
“We?” Marstrulavich snickered.
“That’s right…we. You got your role, and I got mine.”
He lifted his glass to clink. Marstrulavich, without looking at him, clinked and drank.