Honorable Mention: Flash 405, August 2016: “Connect”
The morning after, he lays in bed and thinks his memory is coated in pine tar. He just can’t let go of some shit. The game the night before is at the top of that list, but other memories too. The stuff that piles up on you. Two months out of work in a town where even the buildings slouch in shame. The dollar in change he brought to the game and the ten ice cold Stroh’s it bought him. The brawl the Rangers started with the Indians the week before. Manager Billy Martin and his smug goddamn smile. The feeling that this game was a chance to get even.
He went with friends to the game, but as beer after bitter beer went down, it was like everyone in the stadium knew each other. As the game went on, mutterings of, “Goddamn Rangers,” and, “Fuck Billy Martin,” grew to shouts. People shoved each other in angry excitement. The beer made something hot flare inside everyone like a chemical fire spreading over the surface of the Cuyahoga. So when that kid ran onto the field and stole the center fielder’s hat, and when Billy Martin and his thug Rangers took a run at him, everyone saw their signal.
He doesn’t remember making a decision to charge the field, but rather that all of them, all of Cleveland, silently agreed to storm the diamond, to make a stand. Hundreds of them poured over the wall. He was hit with a bat, a seat cushion, a fist. At first, he looked for anyone in a Rangers jersey, then he just looked for anyone. When the hand from behind took hold of his shoulder, he turned and swung.
This memory floats above the rest. How when his fist met cheekbone, knocking the Indians cap from the man’s head, what he thought as he looked in the man’s stunned eyes was, We’re all in this together. Then someone shoved him and he landed out of the fray, on his own near first base. Now, lying in bed, he feels not togetherness but only the pulsing ache of cracked knuckles, a hand too swollen to make a fist, a middle finger gone L-shaped, popped loose from its joint and just hanging there. The paper says the Indians forfeited, another loss the city can squint at and see victory.
Matthew Fiander received his MFA from UNC-Greensboro. His work has appeared in the Yalobusha Review, Waccamaw Journal, Our State Magazine, StorySouth, and elsewhere. He is a regular contributor to PopMatters online magazine. He teaches English at High Point University in High Point, NC.