I was sat on the aluminum checker plate floor, my back leant against a corner of the fake wood panelling of the elevator car, legs stretched diagonally across the floor. On the floor by my side was a large pepperoni pizza and a can of Mirinda orange soda. I had to go down to get the pizza from the delivery guy because the buzzer thing wasn’t work properly. The elevator was on the ground floor so rather than waiting for it to come up, I ran down the stairs, opened the door, got the pizza, paid the guy, and hurried straight into the elevator.
The annoying, pompous music that the TV channel plays when it’s going to a commercial break was in my head. My hands were warm from the underside of the pizza box. And then there was clunk. The elevator stopped. Somewhere between the fourth and fifth floor. Rangers 7-5 Cardinals. Top of the ninth about to start. I pressed the 5 button, then the 4 button, then the ALARM button. Nothing happened. I pressed the ALARM button again. Nothing happened. Top of the ninth about to start, probably started. I took my phone out of my pocket and moved it around to see if there was a signal a few inches this way or that way. No phone signal. But low down, around sock level, there was a Wi-Fi signal. Not my Wi-Fi; a neighbor’s.
I bent my knees and slid down to a crouch, then sat on the aluminum checker plate floor. I tapped the At Bat application icon and went to the live game stream. One out, and Mike Napoli was at the plate. I opened the Mirinda and took a swig. Too big a swig, really. My throat got all fizzy and I burped. I lifted the lid of the pizza box and used both hands to break at the crust where it hadn’t be properly sliced. I bent the slice and held it in my right hand as I wiped my left hand on the side of my jeans and picked up the phone. Joe Buck talked about Derek Holland. Jason Motte pitched inside. 3-and-1. The video stream paused on a shot of Ryan Theroit’s back and my brain read his jersey as THE RIOT.
When the video restarted, David Murphy was at bat and there was a yellow dot at first base on the score bug. Mike Napoli had got on base somehow. I snapped awake in my brain. I had very quickly prioritized watching baseball on a tiny screen, when I should’ve been thinking about being stuck in an elevator. An elevator that has an ALARM button that seemed to do nothing particularly alarm-y. I looked up at the button panel above my head. I lifted one arse cheek and stretched my arm up and pushed the ALARM button again. Nothing.
I took another slice of pizza and watched David Murphy ground out to short. I figured that maybe I shouldn’t be eating the pizza so quickly. Hungry, yes. But I really had no idea how long I would be in the elevator. Maybe just five more minutes. Maybe half an hour. Maybe an hour. Maybe all night. Better ration the pizza, I thought somewhat over-dramatically, just in case. I took another gulp of Mirinda, and made a quick mental note to not squander all of my liquid rations, either. I stared at the NO SMOKING sign. Stuck in an elevator, with no sign of any help, I decided to ignore the sign and took the Camels and a pink Bic lighter out of my pocket. I put a cigarette between my lips and sang Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me and lit the cigarette. Shitty song, hate it.
Endy Chavez flies out to right. Flied out, not flies out. Endy Chavez flied out to right. Endy Chavez flieded out to right. Endy Chavez flewed out to right. Endy Chavez flying-ed out to right. Endy Chavez drove his ball to the airport. The ball checked in. They hugged, kissed, told each other they would miss each other, and Endy stood outside the security bit, as the ball took off its shoes and went through the metal detector. One last wave. Endy mouthed I love you, and the ball mouthed I love you, too. Endy went back to the parking lot. The ball bought an americano from Starbucks and looked at magazines in Hudson News. He sat down near gate 4 and glanced at the thigh of the woman on the seat opposite. A few moments later, the woman tugged at the hem of her skirt. The ball realised he’d been busted. Soon enough the plane started boarding. The ball took his seat, 6A, and absent-mindedly flicked through the airline’s magazine. A special magazine just for business class passengers. It’s the little details, thought the ball. A special magazine just for us. All strapped in, the captain welcomed the passengers to the flight and talked about the weather conditions. The plane taxied to the runway, sped up, and took off. Less that six seconds later, the captain was landing the plane and the flight attendant welcomed the passengers to Lance Berkman International Airport.
I stubbed the cigarette out on the floor and reached up and pressed the ALARM button again. Nothing. Bottom of the 9th. Thank you, neighbor-on-the-fourth-floor-who-leaves-his-Wi-Fi-unprotected. Thank you, whatever-your-name-is. The signal was weak. It fluctuated between the tiny spot and the second of the curved lines on the signal symbol in the top left corner of my phone. Hey, that icon kinda looks the shape of a baseball field. The image on the screen froze again, showing a graphic of the longest active World Series droughts. Cubs: 103 seasons. Cleveland’s team: 63 seasons. Texas and the Astros: 50 seasons each. Funny, really. In the history of baseball, the Rangers and the Astros feel like new teams. In my head, all expansion teams feel as new as each other. The Angels feel as new as the Diamondbacks. God, it’d be fun if there was a Cleveland-Cubs World Series soon. Two teams waiting forever against each other. One drought ending, the other continuing. The highest of highs versus the dashingest of hopes dashed.
Ryan The Riot took the second pitch. Pujols on deck. “Low. Ball two,” says Buck. Theriot fouled off the next pitch and swung and missed at the 2-2 pitch. Pujols hit a first pitch double to left center. Tim McCarver explained the no doubles defense. Neftali Feliz threw Berkman four straight balls. Two runs down, one out, runners on first and second. Cardinals fans waved their white rally towels. They looked like gulls at a landfill. The screen froze on the umpire pointing to his right after Allen Craig took the third pitch of the at bat. 2-1. C’mon Wi-Fi! Work, dammit.
The Wi-Fi was shitty. In and out. Two outs. David Freese at the plate. The broadcast showed nervous-looking Cardinals fans. Freese took the second pitch. 1-1. I reached to my side and lifted the pizza box lid without looking. I tugged at a slice. Strike two. “And now the Rangers are one strike away,” said Buck. I took a bite of pizza and a string of melted cheese stuck to my beard. I pulled it away and ate it. Feliz threw a 98mph fastball and David Freeze hit it into right field. Nelson Cruz moved back and to his left. The screen froze. Cruz just a gray, glitchy, blur with his glove held up. State Farm and Gulf advertisements behind him. The screen was frozen. The one dot of Wi-Fi disappeared. The screen was frozen. Nelson Cruz with his arm in the air ready to catch a ball. A ball that will end up in Cooperstown or whatever museum-y thing the Rangers have at their park. No Wi-Fi. The screen went black and a box popped up showing all the Wi-Fi sources nearby. The unprotected Wi-Fi wasn’t there. Everything else was protected. My own Wi-Fi wasn’t there. I was sat maybe 20 feet from the apartment, but my own Wi-Fi wasn’t there.
Well, Rangers fans must be happy. I closed the At Bat app, and looked at the Wi-Fi again in the Settings. Still nothing. I raised my arm and pressed the ALARM button again. Still nothing there, too. I lit another cigarette. My arse leant against the home plate corner of the elevator. My eyes ran over the pizza box to the first base corner. Then to second base, near my feet. Then to third, where I’d stubbed out the last cigarette. It always seems weird that the Rangers were the second team in Texas, yet felt the need to take the whole state in their name. I wonder if the Astros owners were pissed off about that.
I opened the Music app, scrolled down, tapped on Real Estate, then tapped on the album Days, then on the song “Municipality,” which I liked a lot. I whistled along to the guitar part until the chorus, then sang along with the words that I knew. I looked back at the third base corner of the elevator and stubbed out my cigarette next to the other butt. Two runners on third, Tim. Surely the umpires will have something to say about that. But they didn’t, Joe. They. Did. Not. This is elevator baseball. My baseball. Yes! Craig-jor League Baseball.
Craig, a giant. An actual giant, not a San Francisco Giant, is sat on home plate. The pitcher has to stand on Craig’s knees because his legs are covering the mound. He pitches and the ball hits Craig in the belly. The umpire cannot see where the pitch was because he’s behind Craig’s back. The umpire calls a strike. Craig moves and looks disapprovingly at the ump over his shoulder. The pitcher throws again, and with a flick of his finger, Craig pummels the ball and it bounces of the wall between second and third. In Craig’s mind he runs the bases, but he’s not actually moving. Two RBIs from the cigarette butt runners on third. Robinson with a triple!
I’d been in the elevator for over half an hour. Does nobody else in this damn building want to use the elevator? Having said that, when the elevator hasn’t worked before, I’d not thought that someone might be stuck in there, it’s just, fuck, I’ve gotta take the stairs. I played my elevator baseball some more. Man, my team was good. I batted for all of the players, because I couldn’t be bothered to move. We were winning 24-0, bases loaded with no outs in the bottom of the first. I took a bite of pizza. Only one bite, then put the rest of the slice back in the box. The Real Estate album ended. The battery on my phone was low, so I turned it off and put it back in my pocket. Might need that battery power. Rangers fans will be going nuts now. Buying shots in bars, singing, shouting, hugging, possibly fighting, too, all around the Dallas metropolitan area.
I stared at my feet. I wiggled my toes a bit. I sang the Mexican national anthem, but changed the words. “Let me out of the elevator, please” over and over again to the himno nacional tune. By the end I was singing loud. Shouting, really. LET ME OUT OF THE ELEVATOR, PLEASE. Must’ve been doing that for a good ten minutes. I smoked another cigarette. I traced letters of the alphabet on the thigh of my jeans with my left index finger. A, B, C, D, E, F, U, C, K, Y, O, U, V, W, X, Y, Z.
I’m not sure how soon it was that I fell asleep. I slept for ten hours. I can’t sleep that long even in the most comfortable bed in the world. But there in the elevator, back against the boney corner, my arse on a hard metal floor, I slept for ten hours. I think I slept straight through, anyway. I remembered having thoughts during the night. But I can’t remember if they were real thoughts or if they were in a dream. It was the future, not too far in the future, a few years, I think, and Nelson Cruz catching the ball to end the World Series was the last ever professional sports moment. After that, professional sport ended. The NFL season stopped after week seven. The NHL season only lasted a couple of weeks. Because of the lockout, the NBA season would never start. Nelson Cruz caught the ball, the crowd fell silent, then they and all of the players and staff simply walked out. In complete silence. The next day, the city officials across the land, the continent, and the world wondered why there were huge stadiums. Why do they exist? It was a mystery. We still enjoyed sports. We still watched them, but not on television. We went to the park and played with our friends. And if we didn’t play or couldn’t play, we watch our friends or people in our neighborhoods playing. Nelson Cruz had no idea why he was even in Arlington. He booked a flight to República Dominicana and went back to playing baseball with his friends. In a municipal park in New Jersey, Mike Trout was batting .898.
It was 10.44 a.m. Still nobody had come to fix the elevator. I shouted again. Nobody heard me. I knew it wouldn’t work, but I tried to pull the door open. It was possible that part of the elevator car was adjacent to the hole to the fourth floor and maybe I could crawl out. I tried a couple of times, but it didn’t open. I pressed the ALARM button again. Then I pressed 5 again. And again. I jabbed at it again and again, faster and faster, like I was playing the 100 Meter Dash on “Track & Field” in the arcade. There was a mechanical noise. A clunk. Then the car started moving upwards. A couple of seconds later, it stopped, and the door slid open. Excited, I leant down to pick up the pizza box and the Mirinda can full of urine, and stepped out onto the fifth floor. I put the box down and nipped back inside to pick up the cigarette butts. I dropped them in the can of piss, picked up the pizza box, and walked to my apartment. I opened the door, turned the lights and TV off, and sat on the couch. I took the phone out of my pocket, and tapped on the At Bat app. Fucking hell! Game seven, 7.05 p.m. tonight.
Craig Robinson is not a Child, a God, a Pilgrim, a Rock, the Forest, the Resurrection, the Cosmos, the Law, or Damo Suzuki. Nor is he trying to break your heart. He does have a Web site, though. It's called Flip Flop Flyin'.