he's back in yankee stadium, the green grass-brown earth memory dome of 1956, back when mickey mantle's triple crown was the greatest thing a long island jew boy could worship, before jfk was shot, the vietnam war took off america's rose-colored glasses, and mantle became just another oklahoma dolt who drank too much and embarrassed himself in public. he's standing there – right next to mantle - who's there in the on deck circle. maybe he's the bat boy, but he's standing there next to number seven, "the mick", and he's sporting his own bronx bomber uniform, the glorious white flannel with the navy blue pinstripes. or maybe he's on the pitcher mound. the fans are glaring… howling… and he's supposed to do – something. what? he doesn't know. he's just standing there on the mound, his arms dangling like two broken propellers, hanging hopelessly from his scrawny frame. or maybe he's just frozen there on the mound. clueless. certainly he's no ralph terry or whitey ford, and the fans are getting antsy… ugly; they're starting to throw garbage at him.
then he's in the dugout – but it's more like an army barrack – or a long brown bomb shelter tunnel. mantle is standing there next to him, shirtless, his sculpted torso slightly damp with sweat, but the mick doesn't even see him. in fact, nobody does. he's invisible. he's shoved, or maybe spun, from one player to the next – none of them see him – until he's at the near end of the dugout/tunnel and the players are leaving one by one. kubek, richardson, skowron, the moose – they're all passing him by – but he's just stuck there in limbo. in some gum, or marshmallow. somehow he's just stuck. he knows he's supposed to do something – but again – he doesn't know what. maybe eat something. or go on a picnic with the team. "hey, it's me," he says, but the players ridicule him. he's just a nosy little twat. a skinny little invisible twat.
now he's getting stuck in the gum – or marshmallow – whatever it is – his arms, his legs, and he wants to get out and run. but one player is still left in the dugout/tunnel with him. he has to stay. but the gum is overwhelming him. it's in his nostrils, in his mouth; he can't breathe.
then he's running. running through a field. not a baseball field. not yankee stadium. no, it's a battlefield. somewhere. maybe the middle east. maybe afghanistan. malaysia. there are lethal landmines exploding all around him. but this time he's running. he's not stuck. he ducks low to avoid an explosion. kppchhh! has he lost an arm? a leg? there are twelve foot tall men running all around him. giant men in long, striped caftans. dirty white caftans. or bajus. they're muslim men. they're his enemies. he has to keep running to avoid them.
he's ducking and sprinting, his face covered with blood and mud. and they hate him, these giant caftaned muslim people. they
really hate him. why? he doesn't know. but now he's crawling. on his belly. in the dirt. and he's pulling stuff out of his mouth. stuff. long rope-like stuff. he keeps pulling and pulling. and there is more and more of it.
what did he do wrong? why do they hate him? and what is this stuff? it's long and stringy. and white. like the roots of some nasty vegetable. long and white. with delicate hairy feelers along every dirty white inch of it. like the roots of a tenacious fennel plant. the kind of roots that are angry and stubborn and never want to leave the soil. he's pulling and pulling them out of his mouth. from deep in his stomach. from his bowels. they're endless. interminable. then he gets hold of a good one. he wretches it out of his mouth and he can grab it with both hands. one hand over the other. this long white raddishy root. out of his mouth. out of his bowels. it's the middle east. it's the other. the ones who hate him. he's pulling and pulling, and he finally has it out. in both hands. a long, fresh, white, tuberous root.
he looks at it. breaks it once in half. a crisp crack. then again……