The Padded Cell: Wait of the World (part 2 of 2)

Wednesday morning:

After days of lumbering aimlessly on the north end of the city good personality, the local fan, an internet chieftain, heads back to his office at the dumping grounds. The permapiss stench has taken a toll on the finicky master, years of burning nostrils and lightheadedness to go with his thankless efforts to disguise indisputable failure. A mold and rot problem at home means he mostly sleeps in or around the Grounds, his ogre of a companion happy to see his bombast out the door. It's less of an escape from anything than what is rapidly becoming a life sentence. A mass of heat has descended on the city, drenching the die-hard fan in sweat. The antiquated facility has no running water, and the only solvent happens to be leftover urine.

The office, as he likes to frequently joke, is actually the bleachers in left. Even when his team is out of town, there he is, sitting in his assigned spot, watching the scoreboard, specially operated for him. He does his best, deepest thinking on the crap-strewn metal benches. Management has told him that they're the best seats in the house for observing the nuances of such a beautiful pastime, even more so when the team is in front of him. It's a more elite version of a pressbox, he was told. He eats it up; he's on the inside.

Somehow it's not enough. The common fans are not appreciative, and the loosely-termed "team" is struggling. The online thesaurus only has three alternatives for "shitstain." Since the new front office has drafted unconventionally, the field is filled with seagulls and hot dog wrappers. They do a good job out there, they hustle, they grind. The fans support their gulls through thick and thin. Sometimes a toast is raised to them and sometimes wondrous articles are written about them on the internet. Occasionally, a sane voice will point out the the truth of the swirling refuse, the naked emperor. The locals break down completely when you point out that they're actually watching the wind-tossed garbage, and commenting on that refuse, and no, it's not The Most Beautiful Thing in the World. A lifetime of following organized depression invariably leads to personal depression and anxiety and nit-picking on a level par with quarks. It's delusionary and deceptive, and that's how you end up having arguments about which hot dog wrapper has flown the farthest today, or which seagull actually has reverse platoon splits. It's all trash. Paying close attention warps the mind, the focus clouding everything out. It's a police chase, but the perp made off with a pen cap, and no one knows the true owner. Decades are lost this way. Lives are changed for the worse because the grass is well-kept. Children go unloved because some guy says that Old Style tastes better at the dump. Logic and common sense, long the mistreated guardians of justifiable civilization, disappear under distortions of self-promotion and the guise of "analysis." The Golden Rule is skewed and smashed on the griddle of popularity. Things are different in this enclave on the northern part of the city I'd hit that but not with my dick. Tribal leaders celebrate the dump, and the dump pays them back with followers, in a separate, yet still endless, trash gyre.

With a game in the evening, the bumbling, droopy-faced chieftain quietly starts the inevitable recap as the gulls take batting practice.

Wednesday evening:

The international summit has come to an end, and the city had brokered a weary but lasting peace. Normalcy returns, but not before some parading. The mighty social-networking philosopher king stands in the south side's media booth, congratulated and enveloped by both broadcasters. He claps for the first time in his life, and approves of the bourgeois' approval. He should show that appreciation, at least according to his team of advisors. A swell of good feelings warshes over the crowd, small celebrations of success in trying times. The news is all positive, including around the ballpark housing good. It has been reported that Brent Morel will not need surgery to correct his granite-laden back. His offensive production remains a question, but drastic measures are thankfully ruled out. The rock, a token of good luck, remains attached.

All over the globe, internet-wired fans of goodness allow themselves to Appreciate the Game, the result being a crushing defeat of a division rival from the land of boredom and winter wheat. The win erases memories of Tuesday entirely. News arrives that a funny dad from San Francisco is waiting in the wings to preach the righteous word to the saved. Good things are happening to the right people.

Early Thursday morning:

Another debilitating loss, the ninth in a row, sends the north side writer to the brink. A failed attempt at early death resulted in the hapless goof landing in a chain-link basket, breaking his fall and saving his life. Resigned, he completes the recap, but pens a note to his bosses: he is stepping down. Too many heartaches, he explains. Too many headaches, dealing with asshole commenters, folks that can't even watch their fucking language on his site. Folks that insist on breaking the rules. Trolls.

With a heavy heart, he slips the letter under Todd Ricketts' door. He loved his job, but it has not been fun lately. He's losing it, snapping off at every perceived insult, which is 80% of his daily social interaction. Now he faces a future of trying to enjoy the games for what they are, as a fan, a return to childlike enthusiasm, to cheering when his team doesn't perform terribly. Salvage the dignity and class that he had known not so long ago.

Down the ramp he goes, every step a reminder of a time before modern inventions, like stairs. Ten losses would be too much. This is the right time for him. The editor is selling low, but he's becoming a real human again, able to be partial, to support his team in the way they need him. Of course, he'll have to buy tickets now, but it's a small price to pay. Actually, it's a hefty price to pay; it's like five fucking grand a year.

At the bottom of the ramp, the galoot pauses. In front of him is the iron grate where he saw witnessed unbridled joy from fans of the other team in town, and only two nights before. Behind him are memories, but also a new beginning. He's a changed man; the former chieftain is at peace with the team, with his body of work, with his direction. One last look at the dumping ground as a real, hard-analyzing, in-depth, completely unbiased member of the mainstream media.

His hand perched on the rail, a single tear falls to the concrete floor. It's enough to loosen a large chunk of the ceiling, more unreinforced concrete, and it comes crashing down. A later investigation will prove that the money allotted for safety netting was instead used for race-baiting and a seagull that locals call Alfonso Soriano. Another die-hard fan of the gulls and the grass and the atmosphere is gone, a journalistic martyr, a fan's fan, although one of the first responders would note, ironically, that the blood on the pavement was quite red.

Saturday, 3:10 pm:

In a ceremony attended by dozens, an appreciative north side fanbase bows their heads in silence. A coffin passes, slowly headed to a plot at Wunder's. A blue flag is tightly draped over the lid, the white ‘L' impossible to mistake.

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