It is the middle of the seventh inning when fans at Dodgers Stadium stand up to sing “God Bless America” and the baseball diamond below becomes only dirt and grass. Energy travels up, past rows of people stuffing popcorn bags and Pepsi bottles under their seats, biting the last bits of pretzel—in thirst—and as they reach for the notes to send “land of the free,” two young boys do not stand. Two teenage fans will not get up from their seats, even as their rehab counselor, Mr. Seismore, throws a peanut shell at them. They will not budge from their Dodger blue seats.
Miles Kim, rolling a shirt sleeve up and down, thinks to himself: Is there a God worth blessing? His best friend Bogdon dumps the rest of his Diet Coke on the concrete steps of Row 34, Section D, and the ice cubes quickly melt; and though it’s a brisk April night, the crystalline blocks turn to guitar pics: wedge slivers glistening from stadium lights—before getting crushed. A tan Timberland boot has arrived, and it kicks the base of Bogdon’s seat.
“Get up and sing, God dammit!” says the man in Tims.
Bogdon looks down; he looks back at the face; and he hears the fans singing around him; cat-eye-clocking the mild commotion are dozens of people with peripheral glares. All murmurs and head-bobs in the boys’ direction. They are singing: “From the mountains…to the prairies” and Bogdon wonders if a ravine is closer to a prarie or amountain; whether he should’ve paid more attention in geology. Is it too late to jump off a Chavez Ravine?
Bogdon stands up and removes his Dodgers hat—opens his mouth, in time to sing the last refrain: “My home… Sweet… home.”
The man in Tims nods and smacks his lips, cluck, and for a moment, he’s satisfied. Then he turns down to Miles, who is still sitting next to Bogdon, still fidgeting with his left sleeve, oblivious to the baseball diamond and the organ music.
“And you. What’s your excuse!?!” says the man.
Miles looks up.
Toilet brush bristles for hair, Miles thinks, and the man looming above does have spiky white hair, serrated forehead with wrinkles jagged toward the brow—encased in a stare. He’s an older man of 65, and his pinkish face has a fast steam rising.
“We died for your kind, boy. Now stand!”
“I was just pledging allegiance to the flag. Wanna see?” Miles unrolls his left sleeve. He stretches out his arm to reveal the cauterized letters he spent Innings One through Seven carving into his forearm: God Bless Am—the serrated end of his house-keys bloody.
“Jesus, fucking Christ! You sick little fuck!” the man squeals, shimmying past popcorn, past peanuts and cracker jacks. Dozens of stadium eyes agape at first, then turning away. It’s the top of the eighth inning, and the dirt and the grass have returned to a diamond.
And the Braves’ turn at bat.
Jamez Chang’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Underground Voices, Bartleby Snopes, FRiGG, Prime Number, Melusine, and Gone Lawn. After graduating from Bard College, Jamez went on to become the first Korean-American to release a hip-hop album,Z-Bonics (1998), in the United States. Visit: www.jamezchang.com