By West Coast Craig
The bunting lines the fences, a Tide commercial of bright light and shimmering primary colors in the noonday sunshine. It lines the overhangs along the upper decks, an undulating red white and blue wave. The upper reserve seats, hanging hundreds of feet in the air above the green field, are not quite dark blue, and complement the solid color of the sky. Theyâ€™re punctuated every other section with the dark rectangles of the tunnel entrances, leading in from the outside world. From one of these up above third, a lone figure steps from the blackness and into the light, the sun hitting his straw boater with a phosphorescent glow. He steps down to the railing, and smoothly paces across the front row. With a breeze rolling through the bunting, he surfs that red white and blue wave, over the shadowy chasms and green field, and surveys his domain.
The van came in through the Stadium off ramp off Hill Street by Chinatown, slowly made its way through the maze of directions from gesticulating attendants, and parked in the lot out back by the 76 Station. The back doors swung open, revealing The Three Dudes. All in blue body paint. Two have blue and white afro wigs, the third has fake Manny dreads. Theyâ€™re handling gear in black canvas bags, adjusting straps, fastening clips, filling pockets, all in precise, practiced movements. In one motion Manny Dreads stands up with an exaggerated shrug while the Afros slip a blue windbreaker on him. â€œHey looky youse guys! Whooooooooooooo!â€ The Drunk staggered out from behind the tricked up truck next door, zipping up his pants. â€œYeahhhhh, awesome! Up here.â€ He raised his moist hand for a high five. â€œUp here!â€ The Three Dudes were inscrutable behind their oversized sunglasses. â€œDonâ€™t leave me hanging here, brah!â€ One of the Afros stepped forward, the slap reverberated between the parked cars, followed by the Drunkâ€™s girlish squeal as Afro held the hand still, crushing the fingers and forcing him to the hot concrete as the other two covered the ground between them in two steps and stomped the savaged sap. They tossed his inert form over the guardrail and down into the Elysian Park hills.
From where the van was parked, the stroll around to the far side of the stadium, to the upper, upper deck behind home plate, requires a two mile hike across pavement, around white cement pylons, cutting through the cars circling the lots. The Three Dudes rode the escalator cut into the hillside that takes you up through the bright flowers and tropical plants of the landscaping, and stood quietly in line. The guard at the table in front of the gate glanced at fanny packs on the Afro Brothers, the windbreaker on Manny Dreads. The temperature had climbed to eighty this afternoon and beads of sweat were on his forehead, but the bare legs and Speedos they all wore only made the man chuckle as he waved the Dudes through. They bypassed the garlic fries and margarita stand and went to their seats, in very back row of the upper upper deck. The game was starting on the field, which looked like it was a mile below, with four tiers of seating between them, slowly filling up. Behind them the glass skyscrapers of downtown gleamed in the overhead sun, and cars were still filing in the various entrances and snaking about for elusive spots in the asphalt fields of parking spread out like feudal pastures below.
It was time. With a quick but unhurried routine that belied the hours of practice in Manny Dreadsâ€™ garage, the Afro Brothers began removing small, folded pieces of plastic from their fanny packs. The windbreaker was unzipped and pulled open, revealing a tight vest beneath, with six elastic straps holding six cans—marked Ajax Tire Inflator—two of which were immediately slipped into Manny Dreadsâ€™s hands and spun like a gunslinger to shake them up as the Afros held up their cargo on each side of him. Manny Dreads pulled the triggers, and with a steady whooooosh, whooooooosh, whhooooooosh, the pieces of plastic instantly inflated into 99 Cent Store balloons. The Afros quickly tossed the full balloons down into the seats below with one hand, reaching down and grabbing another while already filling up the next with the other. They switched hands back and forth, quickly got into their groove, faster and faster, they seemed to have a never ending supply. The balloons started cascading down the upper deck and spilling over the side to the Reserved section below like Niagara Falls. When they hit the Reserved fans, they started getting batted about in every direction. It looked like a popcorn machine up there, and the balls made their way down past the loge and onto the field level. One ball made its way down, pulling ahead of the rest, bopping back and forth before finally, inevitably, sailing up and over the railing and out towards the field. Time suspended as it slowly rotated, its backspin lifting it up, up, up and out towards the on-deck circleâ€¦when with a pfffft, it popped and blew wildly about before heading back over the dugout and into the stands.
Lowering his blowgun while lifting his straw boater to reveal his sparkling eyes, the Bad Usher looked at the awestruck little boy next to him. â€œLittle something I picked up from the Yagua Tribe of the Amazon,â€ he says. As he turns around a surf of balls approaches him over a beach of fans. The little boy looks eager, getting ready to give one a good smack, but the Bad Usher slashes upwards with a mysteriously produced switchblade, and the ball explodes. â€œNot today,â€ he growls. â€œNot on my watch.â€ From a chest pocket he pulls a plastic vial, uncaps it with his teeth, his burly mustache grazing the top as he pours a mouthful of BBs. Lighting fast, a stream of the pellets machine gun out the business end of the blow gun, and balls start exploding like flashbulbs going off during an historic at bat. Never wavering, the Bad Usher climbs over the seats, working his way back up. He hits with deadly accuracyâ€¦though unfortunately he also takes out a dozen beers, four Dodger dogs, and a little girlâ€™s bubble gum in mid-bubble. The first wave is turned back, and the Bad Usher lifts his arm and unleashes his Usher Grappling Hook, catching the railing of the Loge section and zipping himself up. Running across the seats now, a parkour style belying his pear shaped physique, the Bad Usher flips his way up to the Reserved section and continues his onslaught. The balls burstâ€¦but they keep coming. Pffft, Pffft, Ffft, ffft, ffft, fooooo, the blowgun suddenly fell silent as the Bad Usherâ€™s mouth finally exhausted its ammunition.
Fortunately, sitting next to him was another little boy with a bowl of Dippinâ€™ Dots. â€œSorry kid,â€ the Usher says, â€œofficial Usher business.â€ He confiscates the snack, loads up, and begins firing anew. The little, frozen, sweet mouse turds spewed out, striking the next wave of balls, penetrating the cheap plasticâ€¦where the faux ice cream breaks up into molecules that interact with the chemicals in the aerosol flat fixer concentrated inside. Thereâ€™s a loud POPPING sound as the first few balls become balls of fire. It quickly sets off a chain reaction of explosions that blow their way through the rest of the balls, burning its way quickly up the tide to the source, causing the fans to scramble and spill beers and sodas over themselves to put out the little fires left in its blackened wake. Manny Dreads is the first to see whatâ€™s happening, and tosses the last two cans to the two Afro Brothers, who catch them just in time to look up and register surprise. Fffoooomâ€¦they are blown forty feet in opposite directions as Manny Dreads races to the end of the row, but the Bad Usher arrives at the top, surveying the damage. Manny Dreads sees him and quickly turns the other way, climbing down until he runs out of room, soon trapped at the railing down at the bottom of the section, a hundred feet above the Reserved section. Heâ€™s cornered, and the Bad Usher sees it. Grinning, he snaps open his switch blade, fingers something dangling around his neck, and slowly closes in on his preyâ€¦
â€¦but the Manny Dreads has another card up his sleeve. â€œOkay everybody,â€ he yells to the people around him,â€ weâ€™re gonna start a wave!â€ The Bad Usher canâ€™t hear what heâ€™s saying, but he sees the punk count to three and raise his hands, and a small group of people stand and cheer. Oh no. The Bad Usher quickens his pace, but Manny Dreads is already counting again, and this time it catches bigger, with the whole section standing. He smiles up at his pursuer as he counts down again, the section standing and roaring in rhythm. The Bad Usher is knocked down by a large family. The wave jumps the Upper Deck and takes hold in the Reserve Section, slowly moves its way up the first base side, making the leap across the visitor’s bullpen but sputtering in the All You Can Eat Pavilion section, picking up steam again in the Left Field Pavilion, then roaring strong again as it comes around and down the left field line. The Bad Usher has righted himself and chargesâ€¦but Manny Dreads has stepped up on the railing, times it, and waves with a smile as he steps off backwards, just out of the Bad Usherâ€™s reach and into the outstretched arms of the wave passing below. The Bad Usher can only watch impotently as Manny Dreads is carried around the stadium again and gets off at the far end, where he races out the back.
The Bad Usher watches with a steely gaze. â€œYou just made the list, buddy.â€