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D. E. Fredd

Ayn Rand and the Cleveland Indians

The week before my thirtieth birthday, I decided to treat myself to a baseball vacation. I'd been obsessed with the sport for years and never seen a game outside New England. I spent several enjoyable hours mapping out the excursion. I was going to drive across New York State seeing minor league games in Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo. I would cross the Canadian border and catch the Toronto Blue Jays, then follow route 401 back into the US at Detroit for a night game. There would be short trips to Cleveland, Pittsburgh and, to cap things off, Triple A Wilkes-Barre, a Philadelphia affiliate. Two weeks of leisurely morning drives listening to Mozart and Mahler, afternoons of reading Conrad and Thackeray and sultry, late summer evenings of baseball. All this punctuated by concession stand food, roadside hoagies and locally brewed beer.

At the time I was working for Fidelity and seeing a Boston University intern, Carla Bauer. She was assigned to my research division for six months or so, and I cannot remember how we first hooked up. I may have asked her to double check figures for me. The next thing I knew she invited me out for a drink.

I found her attractive enough. There is a time honored rule one should never date anyone in the workplace. Since she was an intern whose tenure was soon going to be up, I saw no harm in asking her out for a bite to eat and a roll in the hay every now and again. Little did I know management was going to take her on full time. We established a Friday night dinner routine which usually led to alternating apartment sleepovers and a late Saturday brunch before returning to our respective weekend schedules. One day I casually mentioned my baseball excursion, in an informational way, just to let her know where I would be from August 18 until after Labor Day. It was obvious that I had offended her. After three days of the cold shoulder, I asked what I'd done.

"If you don't know, I'm not going to tell you."

"I really haven't any idea."

"Just how embarrassed do you think I feel when my boyfriend goes on vacation alone? Not to mention how weird that is."

"Lots of people go away by themselves."

"Well, I certainly never did and no one I know does."

"I didn't know I was your boyfriend."

New Line Cinema or Miramax Studios should have had their cameras rolling here for the body language if nothing else. "Not my boyfriend! We've been screwing for three straight months. I know your social security number, your mother's maiden name and the fact that garlic gives you the runs. We're practically married. For Christ's sake, get a clue!"

"I thought we were just, you know, friends."

"Friends don't fuck every weekend and do things in the Xerox room after hours which I'm too much of a lady to mention."

"It was your idea to incorporate the laser copier into our doing it, not mine."

"You know what, go! Just go on your little baseball jaunt. Pick up whores and puke beer in every city if you want. I really don't care."

I spent the next two days thinking it over. A few people stopped by to offer condolences on our break up. Ted Arroyo asked if I minded his giving her a call. I did like her; it's just that -- well, I didn't really know what the matter was, so I just caved. I sent her an e-mail, which led to us meeting for coffee, which led to sex which, post coitus, evolved into my asking her to go with me which proved a disaster of the first magnitude.

She took over and became the trip Nazi. Rather than drive across New York State, why not go to Pittsburgh? She had relatives there. We could stay with them. Forget Triple A baseball, they weren't even real professional players, were they? And who wanted to go to Toronto anyway? Wasn't that where people got quarantined with SARS or something? We could rent a car and drive to Cleveland if I wanted to see more than one baseball game, but what about Niagara Falls? Now, wouldn't that be romantic!

We flew to Pittsburgh. I met Uncle Roy and Aunt Sandy. I was pumped about when I was going to pop the question, make an honest woman out of their favorite niece. We were having such a nice time sitting around listening to Roy's exploits in 1954 with the army signal corps in Korea that, darn, we missed getting to the Pirates-Dodger game that evening. And, later that night, after sexually sating ourselves in the rump sprung, guest room twin bed, and after she had slipped back downstairs to the pull out couch, I was able to catch the tail end of the Pirates "Wrap Up Show" on my Walkman. The reception from KDKA was clear as a bell.

The next morning we were up early and on the road before eight. By eleven we were cozily ensconced in downtown Cleveland at the Hyatt Regency, just five minutes walk from Jacobs Field. We christened the king-sized bed, took a quick nap, and by two that afternoon I was sitting in the room's velour recliner, Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged on my lap just begging to be read. Carla emerged from the shower toweling her hair.

"I'll be ready in ten minutes."

I was immersed in Nathaniel Brandon's "Preface" to my anniversary edition and vicariously wondering what he and Ayn might have been like in the sack.

"I said I'd be ready to roll in a few minutes. Do you know anything about the weather? I'm thinking shorts, but if we're doing a lot of walking, my Nikes go better with jeans. Are you listening?"

"The weather's fine, in the low eighties."

"But you're not dressed yet. Did you even shower?"

"I thought I'd read a bit."

"But we're on vacation. You can read at home."

"I feel like reading now. We only have a few hours anyway."

"I thought the stupid game was at 7:00 tonight."

"It is, but I like to get there around 4:30."

"What is it -- first-come, first-served seating?"

"No, I like to watch them hit and take infield. You can pick up some good info doing that."

"So where do we eat dinner?"

"We'll get something at the park. The hot dogs are average, but the mustard, Bertman's, is terrific. I once bought a dozen jars online for Christmas gifts at work, must be a secret spice or something."

"Let me get this right. You're going to sit here and read until 4:30 and then go watch them practice batting while eating fast food crap. Then we come back here, screw, sleep, and then recommence the cycle all over again tomorrow."

"Pretty much, although I will probably take a shower tomorrow."

"And what do I do?"

"I only brought one other book, Conrad's Arrow of Gold, not his best work, but you're welcome to it."

"You know, you're not much of a host. If I had known that when you invited me on this trip, I would have reconsidered."

"If I hadn't invited you, I probably would have found a slip of paper with a black dot on it in my desk drawer."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"It's a Treasure Island reference. It's a death notice from pirates. Billy Bones gets one from Black Dog early on and dies of a stroke brought on by fear."

"So you're saying that I forced myself on you."

"I'm saying that my original concept was sort of a baseball odyssey, and that was aborted yesterday in Pittsburgh."

"Well, you don't come from a close-knit family, and it's your loss. People are more important than books or some stupid kid's game played with a stick. When was the last time you did anything with your family?"

"I guess it was last year when my older sister, Leslie, came into Boston for the weekend. We went to Kendall Square and saw three foreign films on Saturday and then spent Sunday in the Widener Library looking up stuff. She's doing her PhD dissertation."

"Wow, that must have been a blast!"

"We both like movies, and I've always enjoyed looking stuff up, so, yes, it was fun in a strange sort of way."

"But don't you see my point. You can read at home anytime, and they have baseball in Boston. The company even has free seats. "We're on vacation in Cleveland, not a city I'd ever come to on my own, mind you, so why not make the most of it?"

"By doing what?"

"Good, see, you're compromising; that's a good start in any relationship if it's going to grow. Okay, this magazine the hotel gave us recommends a quaint little bistro in the older section of the city which has gaslights and everything."

"'Quaint' usually means no air conditioning, outrageous prices, and some unctuous waiter armed with a pepper mill."

"But it sounds so romantic and it's a quick cab ride away. I think it was written up in Gourmet Magazine."

"That means we can't make the game."

"But there's another game tomorrow; there's always another game."

"You know I hate to say this, but I really just want to read for a while and then go to Jacobs Field."

"Why everybody in the office thinks you're such a great catch is beyond me. You're really a very selfish person."

"How am I selfish?"

"Oh God, the list is as long as my arm. First, you picked the time we were going to leave this morning. My family loves to eat breakfast out. It's almost our most important meal, but we couldn't do that because you had to leave at 7:50 s.m. so we could beat the traffic. Who leaves for anywhere at such an odd time! And then you hogged the music in the car. For two hours I had to put up with the boring racket of all your CD's."

"That was Brahms' boring racket No. 4 in E minor to be precise."

"But we're driving on the Ohio turnpike at eight o'clock in the morning. I'm trying to get to know you. You could tell me things."

"I like baseball, Brahms, and Ayn Rand. That's it for today."

"You know what. This isn't going to work. I thought I could make it work, but boy was I wrong. I'm going to pack my bag, get a cab, and have a nice late dinner back in Boston. And, when you get back, there'll be a huge bill for the plane and cab fare on your desk. And, at work tomorrow, I'll make sure everyone knows how you treated me."

It took her a good, slam-banging half hour to finally leave. I could have saved the day, but I chose to continue grappling with some introductory material on Rand's philosophy. I did hear the word "asshole," which broke my concentration somewhat and, as her last hurrah, she stood in the doorway and yelled, "I suppose you're going to tell all your jock buddies what kind of birth control I use?"

I will admit the female condom was a bit unusual, but imagining the Brandon-Rand sexual escapades were of more prurient interest to me at that moment, so I just waved her off, but not before snidely asking her who John Galt was, just to send her into a further tailspin.

I mention all this to illustrate that, from my perspective, baseball and women do not fit well together. If there are other females in my life, I need to make certain they are compartmentalized from the sport I care so deeply for. I don't know if I have it in me to handle future situations as adroitly as I did this one.

©2005 by D. E. Fredd

D. E. Fredd lives in Townsend, Massachusetts. He has had poetry appear in The Paris Review, Café Review, and The Paumanok Review. His short fiction has or will soon appear in The Southern Humanities Review, Rosebud, The Armchair Aesthete, Word Riot, Prose Toad, SNReveiw, Tribal Soul Kitchen, Writethis, Verb Sap, LitVision, JMWW, Grasslands Review, and The 13th Warrior Review.

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