Episode 8 — Chapter 7
Sitting on a bar stool, Chase Ripley hunched over his third vodka and tonic—or, was it his fourth? He couldn’t remember for sure, nor did he really care.
“We should get goin’, friend. I’ll take you home,” Mace did his best to sound sober. “It’s nearly 2 a.m.” Chase had met Mace for the first time, two bars before. Mace was a rabid baseball fan, who had recognized Chase from the Fall College World Series and offered to buy him a drink, ten drinks ago.
“In a few minutes,” Chase responded, confused why his tongue seemed so heavy.
“You’ve been saying that for the past hour.”
“Go ahead,” Chase nodded to his new friend. “I’ll help ‘em close up.”
“How you gonna get home?”
Chase held up his phone, while staring at his drink, “Uber.”
“Okay. See you around,” Mason stood and gave Chase a friendly pat on the back. In response, Chase held up his hand, but kept his head forward.
Over the next twenty minutes, the crowd began to thin. Chase felt so comfortable and content that he just wanted to remain glued to the chair. He pulled out the sliver of lime in his drink and began sucking it. He then grabbed the glass and took another sip. He was descending further and further into a deep, care-free abyss.
None of it mattered anymore.
A half hour later, the bartender informed Chase it was time to go.
“In a few minutes,” Chase replied.
“Five more minutes and the front door will be locked.”
Chase nodded, as he placed both hands protectively around his drink; he wasn’t about to let anyone take it away until he was finished. He took another sip, but left enough behind to keep him at the counter for another ten minutes.
“Times up, friend,” the barkeep announced.
“In a few minutes,” Chase responded without looking up. “Ain’t finished yet.”
“Sorry, friend. I’m lockin’ up now.”
“Just a little longer.”
“Hey man, I’m closin’ shop and I can’t leave you inside. Let’s go.”
The bartender came from behind the bar and placed a hand on Chase’s right arm.
“Get your freakin’ hands off me,” Chase swung his hand wildly at the bartender, and in doing so, slipped off the bar stool and fell hard onto the hardwood floor.
“Now look what you did!” Chase said in a heavily slurred voice.
The bartender bent down, extending a hand to help Chase off the floor.
“Outta my way, retard!” Chase swung his arm outward, then raised to his knees and placed a hand on the stool. He struggled to lift himself onto his feet and finally balanced himself against the bar counter.
“Front door’s over there,” the bartender pointed.
“Don’t need your help.”
Chase shuffled slowly to the door and the bartender pushed it open.
“Ain’t never comin’ back here!”
Chase stumbled onto the sidewalk and heard the door lock behind him. His mind was numb. It had been two weeks since the suicide. A stroke had caused his father to lose his eyesight three months earlier. After losing his sight, his father had told Chase that he didn’t want to keep living if he couldn’t watch his son play ball; apparently, it hadn’t been idle conversation.
Chase didn’t know whether to mourn or celebrate his father’s passing. One thing he did know; there was no more need to live his father’s dream. Baseball had simply been the wrong sport. Even the best hitters in college make an out more than half of the time. Unfortunately, the only time his father ever gave him praise was when he had a perfect day at the plate.
A few days after his father’s death, Chase deserted the University of Georgia’s baseball team and stopped attending classes altogether. Second highest batting average in Division One, Team M.V.P. of the Fall College World Series. Sure-fire first-round draft pick once he declared.
With his father dead, there was no longer any reason to play the game. Before he turned eight, Chase had already developed hatred toward baseball—two hours a day in batting cages can do that to you. The routine had continued through high school, not stopping until Chase escaped to the University of Georgia baseball team.
It was nearly pitch black on the street, except for the dim light emanating from the bar’s neon sign. The surroundings were totally unfamiliar to him. Chase looked up at the sign, Peach Street Bar. He’d never heard of the place. How the hell had he ended up there and where in the hell was he?
Chase pulled out his cell phone.
The phone was dead. Chase walked back to the front door of the bar and pushed hard. It was locked. He erupted in a barrage of verbal obscenities as he pounded on the door.
How the hell was he going to get home? Chase trudged down the alley to the rear of the bar, hoping to catch someone leaving. He heard a car’s engine rev up, but before he could shout for help, the car disappeared from view.
Chase stumbled back up the alley, hoping to hail a cab. But there was no traffic at all on the dark street.
Maybe his father was right. Maybe life wasn’t worth living. How Chase despised that man. Apparently so had his mother, though he remembered little of her, since she had left them both after his tenth birthday. Chase had inherited his father’s weakness for alcohol and he seemed to be on the same destructive path as his old man.
At first, Chase had felt liberated at his father’s passing, but the liberation soon disintegrated into a suffocating loneliness. After all, his father was the only family he’d ever had; it had been years since he’d heard from his mother, and he wondered if she was even still alive. There were no brothers or sisters and Chase only had a vague recollection of relatives from his early years. He didn’t even remember their names or where they lived.
Two for one, he thought. I lost my old man and the most hated man in baseball at the same time. Good riddance to them both!
The thought of going home to a lonely, dark apartment held little appeal. Chase felt tired, but he had sense enough to know that the neighborhood was not one to linger in long. He figured if he walked down the middle of the street that he could hail a car for a ride or ask someone to call a cab.
He stumbled down the street erratically, waiting for the glare of headlights.