KELSO'S SWING [CHAPTER 26]
At high noon of a Saturday that was the hottest day of the year, Kelso and Marstrulavich scuffled along the strand, headed to the south end of Manhattan Beach, where Ross, the bartender at Ryan's, lived and had set up a wiffle ball court. Don Proctor and his partner, Buzz, awaited them, baseball gloves in hand as they warmed up, along with several LAPD and their women who sat in beach chairs against the sea wall separating the strand from the sand. All the two coaches brought was a softball bat. They wore bathing trunks, tank-tops and flip-flops. On the way, they had passed the wood-frame home on 6th street where Jill and Jay Norton lived and where parties were held for the extended group. They were preparing the keg and bar b cue and invited their two coaches to drop by later on.
When they arrived, stepping off a strand swarming with joggers, cyclists, skate-boarders, strollers, they spotted Penny standing near Don, who glistened in suntan oil, in baggy shorts and tank-top, muscular, tan, sporting Raban sunglasses and an LAPD ball cap. His partner could have been his twin in appearance and attire. Their handshakes were brief and iron-like as both regarded their ragtag opponents with longhair and beards as more or less the enemy.
Ross had rigged up a net facing north, a home plate, established foul lines, and placed sandbags marking the distance for singles, doubles, triples and homeruns that were not caught by the player in the field. Ross, a large shapeless man, was already half in the bag and had bet over $500 on the cops, who claimed nobody could beat them at any sport down at headquarters and throughout the police culture of athletic competition in all of LA.
Kelso told them they could be home team if they desired. Don insisted Ross flip a coin. The cops won. They were home team. Already, the pretty girls in bikinis and the rugged, buffed men in baggy trunks began rooting them on. Kelso and Marstrulavich had no supporters.
Kelso led off. Hitting right-handed (one of the cops called balls and strikes behind the net) he watched a couple sweeping, dropping curves for strikes, turned to hit left-handed and promptly homered, a line drive that kept soaring. Rules were, you hit until they got you out. Kelso drove in eight runs before they got him out on a line drive. Marstrulavich drove in another, struck out, and then Kelso drove in four more, and it was 12-0 when the cops, right-handed hitters, came up to try and hit Kelso's side-arm, three-quarters-arm, over-hand curves, drops and risers, all thrown at various speeds.
He struck them both out.
By the second inning, the cops were down 18-0 and in the air hung a stunned silence. No more comments or rooting. Pitchers had to alternate, and the cops were further befuddled by Marstrulavich's assortment of knuckle balls and floaters after Kelso's heat. Ross sat holding his face and started in on the Johnny walker Red. By the fourth inning it was 28-0 and a growing crowd of passers-by, including a few bar denizens of the Tides and Sunset, hung around to root Kelso and Marstrulavich on. Penny headed to the 6th street party to report the drubbing. The cops threw in the towel just as their competition grew bored. They were grim-faced and hard-pressed to shake their conqueror's hands. But they did, quickly, seething with anger.
Marstrulavich said, “So, we were playing for a case of Heinikens and a quart of Cuervo Gold, right?”
“We'll have to go to the store,” muttered Don.
“Wanna do a shot with us.”
“No, we'll pass.”
Later, they hauled their booty to Marstrulavich's and wandered over to Ryan's, where Flanagan bear-hugged the victors, slipped Marstrulavich a century. bought he and Kelso shots, and then bought a round for the house. The victors wandered around the corner to the Tides, had a round, crossed the street to the Sunset, where regulars bought them beers and shots to rousing cheers, and sent them down the strand to the party on 6th, where Penny tearfully informed Jill she would not be coming back for the next season and felt terribly guilty about switching to go play for Callahan's.
Kelso was too drunk to care. They had quick beers and headed on foot to Hermosa beach, a mile and a half south, stopping at a bar on the way and two more along the strand before heading back. On the way, they scarfed enormous burritos at El Pacarito, and at dusk found themselves in the Tides, where somebody put something in their noses in the head. They were on the patio, then in the Sunset, then back at Ryan's, where Ross, drunk behind the bar, had to absorb their abuse, then at a nightclub around the corner with a band, where they were told to leave for billy-goating each other.
Still in their trunks and tank-tops, a little chilled and sandy from a couple excursions into the surf to supposedly sober up, they were refused last call at the Tides, Sunset and Ryan's, and so returned to Marstrulavich's after some more of the good stuff was forced down their noses in the Sunset restroom, where they indulged in perhaps their tenth piss of the day.
On the strand they found a bench and drank beer and exchanged the bottle of Cuervo and commenced arguing, possibly because there was little else to do. They argued politics, though they agreed on everything in politics. They argued sports and movies and literature and who between them was the best cook (Marstrulavich in a walk). They accused each other of vileness, cowardice, stupidity, pettiness, hypocrisy, and whose life was the most meaningful AND meaningless in the “great realm of things.”
By the time neighbors called the cops, they lost their voices, and the MBPD found them passed out, both propped against the seal wall on the strand, half drank bottles of beer in their laps, a Basset hound nestled in Kelso's arms. The cops nearly ran them over at 3 in the morning as they cruised and would have if they hadn't had their spot-light on, scouring the strand for disturbers of the peace. They were laughing too hard to throw them in jail. They wanted to know how they ended up in such pathetic condition. Of course, as cops, they were well acquainted with local bartenders and ex bartenders.
Kelso told them, “We're celebrating a big wiffle ball victory over the cream of the crop of the LAPD. They hadda pay us off in beer and booze. Haw!”
“Go on home, both of you, before we book you for drunk in public and disturbing the peace.”
They went off in opposite directions toward their shacks. The Basset hound waddled off.
PLEASE HELP KEEP DELLFRANKLIN.COM ALIVE WITH A $5.00 DONATION