Edgar and I hurried through the crowded tunnel that is Nats Park on Opening Day. He was a few lengths ahead. Every twenty feet, a line for nine dollar beer or thumb-size five dollar hotdogs. Somehow, I was still checking out price tags. I made a mental note to mention this to Edgar. He cleared a path for me, but Edgar managed to bump every human being en route to our seats. I had to play PR Rep. I felt like a douche by proxy.
“Pardon us,” I said to a man in an expensive suit. Too expensive to be sitting in the 200s. His mouth hung open and he spread his arms wide as if our crime was calling his mother a whore. I heard an Andrew Dice Clay ‘Ohhhh!’ and rushed onwards. Yankees fan. Fuck him.
“We’re gonna miss Thunderstruck!” Edgar yelled. Edgar tore between a hand-holding elderly couple who looked so old to me, I was afraid Edgar mashed their wrist bones into useless goo. The kind of old couple commonly referred to as ‘cute.’ “Sorry, s’cuze us.”
A gaggle of pretty girls with ponytails pulled through the hole in the back of their ball caps snapped five-person selfies. Highlighted heads squished together, full plastic cups raised. Edgar turned and gave me the thumbs-up. “Go Nats!” He cheered as he plowed through the selfie-girls. A wave of perfume made me simultaneously nauseous and horny. Plastic cups and one-hundred ounces of beer splashed to the cement, into curly highlights, everywhere. Two thin men wearing plastic ID badges on cords came out of nowhere, palms out. I saw a flapping trenchcoat and Edgar was gone. I gotta find a new time traveling friend.
Ten minutes later, top of the second, I plopped down next to Edgar in seat 213 L1. Aisle seats on the first base line. The field was an unnatural neon green. Edgar stared straight ahead chewing his lower lip. “I left you the aisle seat,” he said.
I glared at him.
“Soooo, what did you say to–”
“–A hundred dollar bill. Each.”
“Oh.” A long pause. Strasburg whipped the ball past the Marlins’ second baseman. Late swing. The crowd roared, drooled. “Well, money doesn’t even matt–”
“They wanted to call an usher and throw you out of the game. Or arrested.”
“Are you mad?” Edgar said, looking at his sneakers.
An old timey salesman voice shouted, “Get ya peanuts heee-ah! Peanuts hee-ah.”
Oh, hell. I hadn’t been to a game in years and was instantly glad to be here. Coming to the game was Edgar’s idea. “Buy me some peanuts, dick, and we’ll call it even.”
Edgar let out a huge breath. “Whew, forgiveness. Couldn’t pretend to care much longer. Two peanuts here!” Edgar handed the Peanut-Man a fifty and told him to keep it.
“Serious? Dang. Thank ye, sir.” the Peanut-Man showed surprisingly bright white teeth and handed Edgar two bags. “I’ll be totin’ these by erry innin’. You just wave and I’ll run em to ye.”
We were growing familiar with making easy friends by throwing cash around. Strasburg struck out the batter with another fastball and the crowd roared again. I could see the feeble beginnings of The Wave on the other side of the stadium.
“We have a time machine, you know,” I said. “We don’t need to rush to anything. Ever.”
“Sure, just turn the dial back and get here twenty minutes earlier. I keep forgetting that. Old habits.”
We settled in our seats and watched the game. Opening Day seats– not filthy yet.
“Goddam shells,” Edgar muttered. The man next to Edgar turned on him, then back to his son. The boy hadn’t heard. He munched away on a hot dog cradled in a baseball mitt. They both wore baseball mitts.
By the top of the ninth, our backs hurting and my entire face salty from white toothed Peanut-Man’s clockwork visits, I remembered why I stopped coming to the ballpark. “I coulda been an athlete,” Edgar said, hand down the front of his pants.
I covered my mouth with salty fingers and suppressed a giggle. “Really?”
“No shit, Marty. I had a scholarship. Second in state.”
The father of the boy leaned over to us. He hadn’t ordered a beer the entire game. “Hey guys,” he spoke softly and his smile was completely genuine. “Can you watch your language for just one more inning? My son’s first baseball game and all.”
“You got it, man. Sorry.” Edgar said. “Where was I?”
“Right, racquetball. I was godda– I was great. I never got tired. Fast. Quick.”
“Fast and quick are the same thing.”
“They’re not the same thing,” Edgar insisted, “and you’d know that if you ever trained for anything physical.”
“Well, how about now? Maybe you could get first in states.” This was getting interesting.
Edgar ground his teeth, thinking. Remembering. “It wouldn’t work. Not with racquetball. You can’t groundhog a game of racquetball. It would change the moment I hit the first z-serve.”
“We could do future training! We could train in 2200 for a year and come back here. Huge! We could break every basketball record. We could blow up Wilt Chamberlain’s hundred points in a single game.” I was being mostly silly. But mostly silly is still partially serious. I was surprised at Edgar’s lack of enthusiasm. Maybe it was because he once worked his ass off only to come in second. That kind of pain sticks with you.
Edgar shook his head. “Like future roids and pills? It’s still a lot of work, even with a time machine. Besides– we would hafta get scouted, sign with a team, fly to games. Too much bullshit, just to break some unbreakable records and get on ESPN Top-fuckin-Ten.”
The polite father jumped out of his seat. “Alright, goddammit!” A glob of spit clung to his lower lip and he grabbed a fistful of Edgar’s shirt. His mitt was squeezed tight.
The bat cracked loud. I hadn’t been watching the game the last ten minutes. Our entire section of two-hundred people stood up as a pop-fly was surely going to land near us. The aisle to my right swarmed with people. The people behind me jumped up and I felt popcorn spill down the back of my sweatpants.
“Daddy!” The little boy shouted. Cute and pathetic, the boy thrust his glove blindly into the air. His arm was three feet short of any hope of catching his first foul ball.
The father loosened his grip on Edgar’s shirt. Edgar slapped the man’s hand away and focused on the ball. His eyes narrowed at it. He drew in and exhaled a calming breath. The ball reached its apex one hundred above our heads and looked like it would drop right in the kid’s Little League glove if it weren’t for the jostling crowd. Edgar bent both knees, pushed the Earth away from him, and snatched the ball out of the air.
Thirty thousand people said “WHOA” as the Jumbo-Tron replayed Edgar’s barehanded grab. The ballplayers on the field watched the screen and applauded.
Edgar grinned hugely, tossing and catching his souvenir. He waved to the crowd. “I know what we’re gonna do,” he said.
The little boy squeaked, “I want it” and tugged at his father’s pants. Tears were beginning to form in the corners of his eyes.
The father held his glove out to Edgar. “Be a pal, man.”
Edgar wasn’t paying attention. His grin just grew larger and larger as he kept tossing and catching that ball. “I know exactly what we’re gonna do.” Edgar flipped the ball back on to the field and gave me a shove. “Let’s go!”
We charged up the stairs, exiting to a symphony of boos and at least one kid crying.
Good to see Marty back in action. Those of us without time machines thought he might have left us … gone off to the future forever.