The Ballad Of Lonesome August Cola.

by Serge Bielanko

I was born lonesome.

I have a brother and we've always been tight, but other than that, I'd lose every buddy I had after a spell. Or they'd cut me loose. I wasn't a jerk or anything. It was just my fate. It just happened that way. Still does, I suppose. We'd be the best of friends for a time but then someone changed schools or someone moved on to more happening cliques or moved away after the divorce. Then, somebody got into very excellent Catholic school girls and meeting up in alleys to kiss after dinner while somebody else continued to gobble back-to-back bowls of mint chocolate chip in front of Punky Brewster. One of us went away to college/to ladies/to cold winter afternoons in pizza pubs with wings and pitchers while one of us slid over into a seldom visited corner to fill bongs with crushed ice and Listerine in peace.

By the time I hit eleven I was all up in my head. I was Rod Carew.

Muggy Saturday afternoons I'd chug ACME cola cans from my Mom-Mom's fridge and watch the Game of the Week. I loved Rod Carew, mostly because he was out in California. All that foreign sunshine glinting off his batting helmet as he twirled his bat slowly, methodically, like a ferris wheel of hits. After six innings or so I couldn't take any more. I'd walk out and stand in the dirt by my Pop-Pop's tomato garden and twirl my fat wooden bat that was too heavy. Around and around, much slower than I can write it for you: I would spin the bat/push the bat through the suburban August afternoon by myself, waiting for the right moment to cease the movement and await the next pitch.

The crowd would cheer for me. A husky kid from Conshy that no one even really knew who the hell he was on his own block; all of the sudden he's the greatest fucking hitter since Mantle. Lawnmowers would buzz six yards over like airplanes flying over the stadium advertising good bars to drink beer in after the game. I'd stare up at the flappy half dead leaves in the trees all around me and see many adoring faces, determination faces, on fans putting their thoughts into my head. HIT. THE. BALL. BIELANKO/CAREW/ROSE/SERGE/DAVE PARKER/BIELANKO/DAVE KINGMAN/LONESOME SERGE THOROGOOD: HIT THE GOTDAM BALL OUTTA THE PARK.

Cleo the asshole Chihuahua would bark halfway across the block and her arrogant chatter was just some dude in the visitor's dugout trying to get to me.

Then the day would just roll over onto its chubby-ass bloated sweaty self and just smother all the ridiculous noise into its hot fat rolls so that the whole afternoon just fell quietly beautiful/beautifully quiet.

And just like that: I'd stop twirling the bat. Dig in. Zoned.

I am in my lonesome batting position now. But I have to pitch also. So I throw up my hard rubber ball in slow motion with my left hand; I begin to step into the pitch; a car passes behind me on Forrest Street but I don't hear it; my left hand releases the pitch/slow fastball (again); my left hand hurries back to the bat; my eyes pick out the aspirin tablet hurdling at me through the majestic California afternoon sunshine; I am so very alive; I am so very alone; I am so very happy.


The fake baseball pops off my bat hard and line drives directly into the back of my grandfather's house just below the window that I will soon stand in while listening to my Uncle's Genesis Three Sides Live 8-track and falling in love with music. The fake baseball line drives into the wall and leaves another dirt mark on the white paint and falls back into the yard twenty yards away. In life: it'd be a line drive straight into the second baseman's mitt.

Here in Pop-Pop's yard, it's a stand-up double.

I adjust my batting glove. It's petrified stiff from wearing it in the rain. It's actually useless now.

Then I drop the bat into the dirt and walk through the yard to where the hard rubber ball lays in the tall un-mowed grass. I pick it up. Hear the crowd. I wave inconspicuously. A little tip of my lonesome cap to the people in the stands, in the trees.

I love them. And they love me.

I pick up the ball and walk back towards the bat.