“Oooooooo, Son!” Not just a term, most of his peers know him as Son. Son’s face hurts, the strain of keeping it deceptively cool proving difficult. He succumbs and a large smile appears and why not, with 14 years of bouncing around various pro baseball levels. A shot: His shot, is now.
“Motherfucker that hurt, thanks though. I guess we know now how much better than all of you I really am,” That pinch, dream waking, declares reality. Chuckles root from a bittersweet mixture of happiness and jealously all around. Sonny is a different story; a blind man could sense: He’s a kid getting a sizeable inheritance from an uncle he never knew. He is the long-term boyfriend of the daughter in the Hickster Powerball family. The dream has been out-pacing Sonny; all it took was one rotator cuff to go PoP, the ultimate Karma balance shifts to allow one slain dream form a revival, one guy’s Big League dream, born years before many big leaguers themselves.
Taking it in, allowing the wholeness of this situation to envelop, Sonny seeds a first of a lifetime -complete bliss from his sweat and endurance. What better than a natural top of the world bliss never to be duplicated, not even by synthetics.
Short of being carried in on other’s shoulders, his entrance and the rest of the night is all Sonny’s, his fastball is celebrated; the 16 strikeout game’s homage would have killed any amateur. There became an underlying contest between the parishioners to shout stats, moments, milestones and follies; the more they know about the man, relevant to the point or not, the more they justify their celebration!
He’s on top; his vision, created early in childhood include a pinnacle with no fantastical thoughts of curing the incurable, balancing world hunger or capturing fame on an international level -baseball, acting, or any other lime light dream contents. His top was here, he was here. He has never pondered the ‘what next?’ and still, he refuses to acknowledge that annoying certainty, there is a next.
Back home, only the true friends (the true drinkers) kept straggling in for whatever is next on this most unusual celebration. Keg stands, boilermakers, margaritas made right in the mouths of the celebrators. Others too, this elation of mission complete was a pandemic engrossing anyone brave, foolish or curious enough to venture close. Those willing souls accompany this Man of the Hour to Casa de Sonny, a little shack on the outskirts of Hope Mills, North Carolina. Sonny rents from the landowner, a baseball fan and regular at the Fayetville Badger games and he never misses a Thirsty Thursday promotion. Ken, that landowner and classic hillbilly from his gut on to that down home smack-your-wife way of running a household, arrives curious and ready to assert his faux authority as landowner. His chest held high(er) than usual, he waddles steps into Sonny’s lean-to home. His baritone announces his arrival, the pandemic takes hold, infecting him immediately.
The hours pass, different hours for everyone present. A complete account of the night and all of its memorable points in chronological order, a futile thought that would require a psychic, authority of the law and direct information from a ubiquitous presence with an aversion to alcohol and mind altering substances of all kinds. Settling for things blatant and obvious and some safe assumptions from those close in life and in proximity to ground zero at the time the celebration ended.
The chemicals have their firm grip on this crowd, the odd mixture leads to a more organized salute of Sonny’s achievement. Instead of a moment more chaotic than the norm of chaos following a memory or statistic, Sonny has the floor for a few seconds of opining.
“Talk about the National Championship Game!” And he did, with a smile and contentment never to be matched. Memory after memory, drink after drink, line after line, shouts, hoorahs, and roars from the diaphragms of proud lions, for hours . These moments of nostalgia orated by Sonny became slurred, accentuated with drooping eyes and the tell-tale signs of a party on its last legs. In this, the self-proclaimed Hillbilly haven of North Carolina, you do not want to be the first. Everyone fights the fatigue in their own way; chemically, with a new tune, or symbolic discharge of a weapon.
That very symbol, meant to ascend and fall somewhere of no concern, jolts upon leaving the barrel, its direction poetically transforms the right hand of Sonny the Traveler Kirkpatrick. His right hand now an unrecognizable show of bloody ribbons, resembling a tool Jackson Pollock might use to throw paint. A sober, ubiquitous, presence would be the only method of deciphering the complete picture.
Facts that are undeniable can’t be told with couth. The Hick, as if at a costume contest, wears a straw sunhat and old hand-me-down boots, missing the quintessential by a pair of suspenders and a wheat grain stuck between his teeth. So caught up in this celebration he only vaguely understands, he emits a screech-yelp and a discharge of birdshot into the sky. The Hick, caught up in the uproar following a soliloquy designed to be the culmination of the festivities, lifts his old Remington to the sky with intention of adding certainty and intensity to the finale, pulls the trigger as the landlord’s two hundred and eighty pounds fell at him square. A couple of inches to either side and we would be recalling a humorous close call. The barrel does not discharge and then move from the collision, the collision does not prevent Hick’s finger from tugging that trigger. At least one of those small metal beads we call bird-shot concludes Sonny’s celebration.
In the weeks after the incident Sonny receives gifts. He receives consolation in every imaginable way. Everyone he knew and some that he only knew of, visited him. The oddity of this travesty, every visitor leaving to go back to their lives, is struck with curiosity about how Sonny could be so happy. One teammate while leaving the hospital, is asked for a comment by a journalist. “Sonny told me, ‘Your pinch, dream waking, it proves it happened man, these scars a reminder of the reason for celebration: my completion. I couldn’t be happier man.’”
That journalist is called late that night while constructing his article on the Oddly Optimistic Sonny, the Major Leaguer, and found a complete new angle for the story. Sonny, Oddly Optimistic Major Leaguer Completes Life.