Carl didn’t know what to think. The messages were all wrong but he didn’t think he was misreading them. By all indications, Lila and JJ weren’t clicking and hadn’t been for awhile. Too much time together on their road trip, too much history. Maybe they had never clicked. There were reasons why they could never stick together. But he, Carl, was clicking with Lila. He knew it. Lila knew it. And JJ knew it, but didn’t seem to care. In fact, JJ seemed strangely expansive after being shamed by the guards at the art museum. Something was amiss, but Carl would just step back and let it happen. One thing about being friends with these two- they were going to do what they were going to do and there was nothing you could do about it. So, he sat back in a comfy chair in a comfy suite in a quaint and comfy Berkshires hotel watching playoff baseball on the tube and ignoring the whispered conversation coming from the bedroom.
The game, Mets vs. Cubs, two mostly hapless teams, one with sporadic success (Mets), the other with occasional glimpses of mediocrity (Cubs). The Cubs’ stars are an intensely bearded pitcher and an ivy-covered stadium filled with frat boys and tourists. But, they were good this year and baseball geeks were all in a tizzy about the Cubs maybe getting to the World Series. Joe Buck is on the broadcast. There’s a guy, growing up, who was never told he wasn’t funny and adorable. Hence, he has grown insufferable and obnoxious, incredibly pleased with himself. Carl hated him.
The Mets had two men on and the shortstop, Flores, who looked like a sheepish teenager, was coming up to bat.
Joe Buck: “To think he was almost traded at the deadline. He cried when he thought he was traded.”
Harold Reynolds: “And he’s produced for the Mets, stepping up after Tejada was injured.”
Buck: “And here he is, with a chance to be a New York hero.”
Reynolds: “Not as good a fielder as Tejada…”
Buck: “The Mets are the only team he’s known, and now he can make the near-trade a laughable memory, turning those tears to joy.”
Reynolds: “I expect Strop to bust him inside. He’s been much too comfortable up there.”
Buck: “After being nearly traded, it’s an honor to be busted inside with a chance to go to the World Series. The crying is in the past.”
Flores flew out to end the inning.
An inning later JJ came out of the bedroom. “I’m headed out for a bit. Do you need anything?”
“Where are you going?”
Carl and JJ just looked at each other and the moment hung there, something passing between them, an understanding of what might happen if JJ walked out the door. Lila was still in the bedroom, a presence unseen, the crux of the matter.
“Don’t go,” Carl said. “Watch the game with me. Or, go to a meeting.”
JJ hesitated, looking toward the TV. “That’s none of your business.”
“Please don’t drink,” Carl said.
“Please, don’t sleep with Lila,” JJ said and left.
In the end, they both did what had to be done.
(The Mets went on to the World Series, only to be destroyed by the Kansas City Royals. Flores, the shortstop, hit .059.)