The young boy tossed and turned for about an hour before giving up. Sleep wasn’t coming tonight. He tore off his leafy sheet in frustration and stood up. Thwomp. Thwomp. He feet crashed onto the soft ground, crushing swathes of bushes and bracken. The boy got to his feet in the middle of the clearing in which he’d been lying down, slowly rising to tower above the forest canopy.
If he couldn’t sleep, he might as well try to get something from the old medicine woman. He set off, wading through trees that came up to his knees. He knew the forest well enough to avoid uprooting most of them, but every so often a loud CRACK would signal a misstep that sent birds scattering from their falling nests. After a five minute walk, he’d covered the three miles to the witch’s cave.
A huge tree signaled the entrance to the cave. He bent down and went inside.
“What is it, young one?” Based on the lack of surprise in her voice, she seemed to know he’d been coming. The boy supposed that he wasn’t the most stealthy.
“Baba. I’m sorry to bother you, but I can’t sleep. Do you have anything that might be able to help?”
The woman’s eyes crinkled. She was about half the boy’s size, but based on stories he’d heard, she’d used to be even smaller. “Nothing comes easy,” she said. “Not even sleep. There are no shortcuts. How about I tell you a story, instead?”
The boy knew it was pointless to argue, and said nothing. He had been hoping for some poppy, maybe. Whatever she said, that was a shortcut. He knew sleep wasn’t coming, though, and sat down on a huge tree stump at the mouth of the cave.
“Let me tell you of how we came to be. Of why you’re so big, and why we must live out here. Surely you’ve wondered.”
The boy rolled his massive eyes. He’d heard this story countless times. Still, maybe hearing it one more time would be boring enough to send him to sleep.
The woman lit a crackling fire, and began her tale. As she spoke, smoke rose up from the fire and formed shapes that seemed to show what she was saying.
“In the beginning,” she said. “Everything was dying. The soldiers were first, in the war. The citizens were next, in the plague. Even the balls were dead.” The rising smoke formed small balls and exploded with small Pops! “With all of this destruction, we needed something to bring us cheer. Something to love, and be loved by. And so we built great fields, at which everyone could forget their woes.
“When we were small, it was easy. We loved our heroes, and they loved us.”
The woman stopped for a moment. Unable to force himself to feel surly, the boy looked up at her. Her eyes were wet and sad, swimming with memories. “But then,” she said. “We lost our heroes. And the rage began to grow in us. At first it was constrained, and we laughed, and drank, and made jokes about it, and pretended it wasn’t dangerous.
“But then,” she rasped, and her voice grew harsh. “Though we pretended it didn’t exist, it grew in us. And unable to stop it, we began to grow as well. Eventually, we became larger than life. Larger than normal humans. Perhaps our rage was trying to end our curse.
“For a moment, it actually worked.”
She sighed. “We thought that would be the end of it. But our real curse was just beginning. We grew. And the world grew with us. Our park couldn’t contain us. Ours was a park made for dead things, and we were alive.
“What had been a park built as a shrine to jovialty, became a joke.” The woman spat on the ground. “The irony. It was a laughingstock. Those fools down in New York didn’t see it until it was too late. They built a park that was equally tiny. They were given the same curse as us. They weren’t used to the hair, though. They couldn’t handle it, and it was their downfall.”
“Then the curse showed its hand, and played its final song.” Her voice was sad again. The boy became aware of his surroundings again, and there were tears in his eyes. The woman continued. “If we wanted a park so comically tiny, a park for babies, and yet refused to change it... the world would change us. If we wanted to be too big for our park, we would be too big for the world. The world saw us for what we were, and cast us out.”
“And that,” she finished. “Is why we are here. That is why you cannot sleep.” The old woman rustled in the dark, behind the smoke, and suddenly the boy saw her holding a pair of bright red stockings above the fire. “Now sleep,” she breathed, and dropped the socks into the fire. The boy hit the ground, fast asleep.
The Mariners couldn’t keep up with the Red Sox tonight. It was in part because, while Wade LeBlanc is actually pretty decent, the Red Sox saw him less than a week ago. It was also in part because Nick Vincent and Juan Nicasio were bad. Part of the reason was that Scott Servais went to those guys instead of Edwin Díaz in what would turn out to be the highest leverage situation of the game. And a large contributing factor to all of those things is that the Red Sox play in what is essentially a ballpark for tiny children. Yeah, I’m salty. It might be the 310-foot left field porch and 302-foot right field line. Build an adult ballpark. No, not that kind of adult ballpark, get your mind out of the gutter.
Because I couldn’t do this game justice without including the two actual good things from the night, here they are. I love you, Nelson Cruz. Please never, ever, ever, leave us.