A Face in the Crowd
The summer after his wife died, Dean Evers started watching a lot of baseball. Like so many snowbirds from New England, he was a Red Sox fan who’d fled the nor’easters for the Gulf Coast of Florida and magnanimously adopted the Devil Rays, then perennial punching bags, as his second team. While he’d coached Little League, he’d never been a big fan—never obsessed, the way his son Pat was—but, night after night, as the gaudy sunset colored the West, he found himself turning on the Rays game to fill his empty condo.
He knew it was just a way of passing time. He and Ellie had been married forty-six years, through the good and the bad, and now he had no one who remembered any of it. She was the one who’d lobbied him to move to St. Pete, and then, not five years after they packed up the house, she had her stroke. The terrible thing was that she was in great shape. They’d just played a bracing set of tennis at the club. She’d beat him again, meaning he bought the drinks. They were sitting under an umbrella, sipping chilled gin-and-tonics, when she winced and pressed a hand over one eye.
“Brain freeze?” he asked.
She didn’t move, sat there stuck, her other eye fixed, staring far beyond him.
“El,” he said, reaching to touch her bare shoulder. Later, though the doctor said it was impossible, he would remember her skin being cold.
She folded face first onto the table, scattering their glasses, bringing the waiters and the manager and the lifeguard from the pool, who gently laid her head on a folded towel and knelt beside her, monitoring her pulse until the EMTs arrived. She lost everything on her right side, but she was alive, that was what mattered, except, quickly, not a month after she finished her PT and came home from the rehab, she had a second, fatal stroke while he was giving her a shower, a scene which replayed in his mind so often that he decided he had to move to a new place, which brought him here, to a bayside high-rise where he knew no one, and anything that helped pass the time was welcome.
He ate while he watched the game. He made his own dinner now, having tired of eating alone in restaurants and ordering expensive takeout. He was still learning the basics. He could make pasta and grill a steak, cut up a red pepper to crown a bag salad. He had no finesse, and too often was discouraged at the results, taking little pleasure in them. Tonight was a pre seasoned pork chop he’d picked up at the Publix. Just stick it in a hot pan and go, except he could never tell when meat was done. He got the chop crackling, threw a salad together, and set a place at the coffee table, facing the TV. The fat at the bottom of the pan was beginning to char. He poked the meat with a finger, testing for squishiness, but couldn’t be sure. He took a knife and cut into it, revealing a pocket of blood. The pan was going to be hell to clean.
And then, when he finally sat down and took his first bite, the chop was tough. “Terrible,” he heckled himself. “Chef Ramsay you ain’t.”
The Rays were playing the Mariners, meaning the stands were empty. When the Sox or Yanks were in town, the Trop was packed, otherwise the place was deserted. In the bad old days it made sense, but now the club was a serious contender. As David Price breezed through the lineup, Evers noted with dismay several fans in the padded captain’s chairs behind the plate talking on their cell phones. Inevitably, one teenager began waving like a castaway, presumably to the person on the other end, watching at home.
“Look at me,” Evers said. “I’m on TV, therefore I exist.”
The kid waved for several pitches. He was right over the umpire’s shoulder, and when Price dropped in a backdoor curve, the replay zoomed on the Met Life strike zone, magnifying the kid’s idiotic grin as he waved in slow motion. Two rows behind him, sitting alone in his white sanitary smock with his thin, pomaded hair slicked back, solid and stoic as a tiki god, was Evers’s old dentist from Shrewsbury, Dr. Young.
Young Dr. Young, his mother had called him, because even when Evers was a child, he’d been old. He’d been a Marine in the Pacific, had come back from Tarawa missing part of a leg and all of his hope. He’d spent the rest of his life exacting his revenge not on the Japanese but on the children of Shrewsbury, finding soft spots in their enamel with the pitiless point of his stainless steel hook and plunging needles into their
Weitere Kostenlose Bücher