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Authors: Josh Wilker

Cardboard Gods (36 page)

BOOK: Cardboard Gods
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I don't know who we all are to one another exactly, but at least I can mow a fucking lawn.
Eventually the sound of mowing receded to a faraway moaning and hacking and then finally went silent, and the therapist asked me how I would characterize my childhood. A word came out of my mouth, followed by others. I had a thought partway through:
What the fuck am I saying?
Speech suddenly resembled my recurring dream of having to parallel park a semi: huge, unwieldy, impossible. My voice finally sputtered to a stop, and I sat there with no firm idea of what I'd said beyond the first word. Even the first word confounded me. It didn't seem like something I'd say. But I'd felt the need to explain that those years, my childhood, our childhood, weren't only the roots of destructive need. Those years weren't only pain. Those years were the opposite of pain. Pain was that ache in my chest. Pain was the slow severing of one voice into two.
“Happy,” I'd said.
Afterward, we played miniature golf. Around the turn to the back nine, as we were waiting for a big family with a lot of laughing kids to finish the tenth hole, Ian and Kelsey stepped over to the snack counter to get ice cream and my mom walked behind a miniature church and started weeping.
“What's wrong?” I said. She waved her putter vaguely.
“All the other normal families here and then . . . us,” she said.
 
We parted saying it had been good and helpful, but I still don't know what to make of it. The thing I carried away in one piece was a moment when I watched my brother and Kelsey walking together, each with an ice-cream cone in one hand and a putter in the other. I knew my brother had been going through a tough time, and something about the way they leaned their heads toward one another as they walked and talked looked like the opposite of that. Here was something still beginning.
 
My brother and I had vowed during the family therapy session to keep talking, and for a while we stuck to the plan to speak at least once a week on the phone. But the conversations had hitches in them. We were trying to figure out what came after the end of two boys with one voice.
I didn't mention the Yaz cap, even though I kept feeling like, in the new era of hashing everything out in therapy, I should. But a thorough inventory of hurt and blame and every last entanglement wasn't what we needed, even if it had been possible, which it wasn't.
What we needed was a win.
 
I wore the Yaz cap to a Red Sox bar in Chicago to watch Game 4 of the 2004 World Series with Abby, the Red Sox one win away. When Keith Foulke lobbed a throw to Doug Mientkiewicz for the final out, Abby looked up at me and started crying and we hugged in the middle of a beer-raining mosh pit. I wanted to run through the streets. I wanted to call my brother. But what I needed to do more than all of that was relieve the tremendous pressure that had built up through the course of the game in my bladder. As I wriggled through the packed bar to go take my first piss as a champion, arms reached out from the crowd to pat the top of my Yaz-capped head.
“Yaz!”
“Way to go, Yaz!”
“We finally fucking did it, Yaz!”
It was a great moment, but since it was my brother's cap, it should have been my brother's moment. I tried to assuage my guilt with the hope that I'd soon be handing the cap back to him. There had always been the idea, at least in my mind, that we'd meet in Boston if there was ever a parade.
 
Even as I got my plane ticket I didn't know if it was going to work out. I didn't know if it meant as much to Ian as it meant to me. But when I got off the plane the day of the parade, there he was: my goddamn brother.
As we were walking into the parking garage I reached into my backpack.
“Here, man,” I said. I handed him the Yaz cap.
“Yaz!” he said, beaming. He took off his regular Red Sox cap and put the yellowed painter's cap on. He had a bulging bag hanging from his shoulder, as always, and he stuffed the Red Sox cap in there.
I looked up at the Yaz cap that I'd taken from him and clung to for all those years.
“Look, I just want to say I'm sor—” I mumbled.
“I present to you,” my brother said as we rounded a corner, “Yazmobile!”
His outstretched hand indicated a gray sedan with a big homemade flag hanging from the antenna and red and blue banners all over the sides and back. The flag announced that the driver of the car was a member of “the Church of Yaz.” The banner on the back said, in Red Sox lettering, “We Won!” Big banners on both sides of the car also used Red Sox lettering to declare the vehicle's name. Later, as we were driving around, smiling, a driver passing us on the right lay on his horn and leaned his shining face out the window. He was about our age.
“Yazmobile!” he shouted.
 
I still have the largest Yazmobile banner from my brother's car, folded up and stored in a plastic container with other keepsakes. I try to hold on to things like that, especially now that I have had so many things like that disappear that it makes me wonder if I would even still have Carl Yastrzemski's autograph had he ever written back.
My brother's first child, a daughter, was born in October 2005, on the very last day of the Red Sox' championship reign. His second child shares a first name with the general manager who had overseen the victory. As for me, I sent an invitation to my wedding to every member of the Red Sox, who were scheduled to play an afternoon road game against the White Sox just a few miles south of the evening ceremony. Like Yaz, they never replied. But Tom was there, standing with me alongside my two closest friends, and my mother and father were there, sitting side by side in seats up front, and my brother stood closer to me than anyone, holding the rings, as Abby walked toward me down the aisle.
 
On the day of the parade, my brother and I joined a mob a few blocks up from Faneuil Hall and cheered our throats hoarse as the champs rolled by. After all the duckboats passed, we walked around dazed for a while. It had happened. Every coin ever chucked in a fountain. Every candle on every birthday cake. Every scattered dandelion seed. Every wishbone. It had happened.
A pack of shirtless teenaged boys staggered past with a crudely rendered cardboard sign that read “Show us your boobs!” I bought a championship T-shirt from some guy with a garbage bag full of them. We passed a big guy in a Pedro Martinez jersey and an Afro wig saying into his cell phone, “So you get the bail money yet?”
Eventually my brother and I found ourselves packed in with a crowd on a bridge stretching over the Charles River. The parade was still going on. It had moved to the water. We sacrificed our frayed voices some more as the duckboats floated by beneath us. They continued to move up the shore, a continual roar following them from the throng at the water's edge and echoing across the river and up into the cold gray sky. Winter was on its way, but for the first time in our lives my brother and I were going into it side by side as champions, and the roar rippling up the shore sounded exactly like the first crowd prayer I'd ever heard, as a seven-year-old at Fenway, that one long unbroken syllable, as if the whole world were yelling as loud as humanly possible for Yaz.
Deepest thanks to Mac Squires, J. Andrew Squires, Lillian Wilker, Charles Wilker, Joe Wilker, Helen Pepperman, Sam Pepperman, Dave Wilker, Paulina Wilker, Bob Squires, Ellen Drysdale, Anne Squires, Conrad Squires, Bonnie Bishop, Dana Wentworth, Barbara Ernst, Bill Ziegler, Matt Pavoni, Tony Whedon, Neil Shepard, Frank Iovino, Pete Millerman, Charles Bender, Morton Gaber, Terrance Dolan, Sean Dolan, Mark Rifkin, Ellen Scordato, Akim Reinhardt, Ofer Rind, Jim Cotter, Rose Ortiz, Kelsey Goss, Leslie Daniels, Susanne Byrne, Rick Zand, Chris Noel, David Ebenbach, Carol Anshaw, Fay Dillof, Phyllis Barber, François Camoin, Ellen Lesser, Dory Adams, Patty Theuring, Skip Theuring, Samantha Theuring, Evan Wilker, Theo Wilker, Darren Viola, Jon Daly, Ken Arneson, Bob Timmermann, Scott Long, Alex Belth, Jon Weisman, Craig Calcaterra, Rob Neyer, Kate McKean, Laura Downhour, David Gomberg, Robert Kempe, Junko Miyakoshi, and Peter Thomas Fornatale.
 
 
Thanks to everyone who has ever joined the conversation at
cardboardgods.blogspot.com
,
cardboardgods.baseballtoaster.com
, and
cardboardgods.net
.
 
 
Special thanks to Travis Peterson at
punkrockpaint.com
for his card-doctoring wizardry.
Goodnight, Johnny Wockenfuss, wherever you are.
Published by Seven Footer Press
247 West 30th Street, 11th Floor
New York, NY. 10001
 
First Printing, March 2010
 
© Copyright 2010 by Josh Wilker
All Rights Reserved
 
 
eISBN : 978-1-934-73473-5
 
Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.
 
The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law.
 
BOOK: Cardboard Gods
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