The first insect dropped from the starred sky during the eighth inning. It fell straight down and landed between a father and his son.
This father had taken this son to Metro Bank Park in Harrisburg, PA. They went to watch a AA baseball game. It was a night game. They sat on cold metal bleachers with no backs. The cold of the seat shot down the son’s legs. His constantly sore back was hurting badly by the end of the first inning. His back was like this even though he was only 10.
The father bought a game program as they entered the stadium. He told his son, “You put this in a drawer for a couple years and then take it out. We’ll be watching All-Stars tonight without even knowing it”. The son actually did this. He had a cheap pine desk in his room where he shoved papers he thought may be useful in the future. Things like diaries he had written in for only a week, commemorative sports magazines, ticket stubs. One morning, years later, he cleaned out the desk drawers and found the program and scorecard. He read all the names but couldn’t recognize any Major Leaguers. There was an infielder named Bynum. He may have had a stint with Toronto, but that was it.
Between innings the father said, “I’m going to grab a beer. You want anything?”
“A hot dog and a Coke, please.”
They went to minor league games semi-frequently and this was always the dialogue. And like always, the son would proceed to take his eyes off the field and watch for his father to come back. Sometimes he would get up enough nerve to say, “I’m going to go get a hot dog”, and his father would give him money. Every time he would emerge from the concourse, though, he was sure he’d never find his father. There were always many more spectators than he had thought.
During the seventh inning, the boy looked up into the light towers. He saw thousands and thousands of bugs clouding around the lights. When he saw first saw them, the word mayfly came into his head. He didn’t actually know what they were, though, until a man seated behind him said, “Here come the mayflies.”
Mayfly. That word had some significance to the boy. At home, his bedroom was right next to his sister’s. She was 17. She would shut herself up in her room for long periods and play CDs. One song she played had lyrics about mayflies. So the boy thought of hearing that word come through his wall. He also used to hear her eating potato chips and then vomiting periodically into what sounded like trash bags, but he never mentioned this to anyone.
He looked up at the lights a few times in between pitches. Then all at once the mayflies began to die. They fell all over the fans and the metal bleachers. People brushed the tiny corpses off themselves and each other. The boy was shocked but no one else seemed too bothered. That shocked him further. Eventually, everything was coated several times over with the dead flies. “This is pretty weird, Dad.”
“I know. It is strange. The game’s almost over anyways.”
Then the man sitting behind them said, “This happens every night. This type of fly only lives for a few hours. That’s the way they are.”
The father half turned around and nodded. “Strange.”
The flies kept falling. They didn’t slow down at all and the eighth inning was taking a long time because the visiting team kept changing pitchers.“Here, why don’t we start heading out.”“Yeah, OK.”
Most of the other fans were starting to leave as well. As they walked toward the exits, everyone avoided looking down at their feet. When he was 16, the boy sat at his pine desk studying the vocabulary words for his English class. He went down the list and came to the word ephemeral. “Lasting one day only or lasting for a short time.” This is what the dictionary said. He internalized its meaning the same way he did with the other words. It was a nice sounding word, he thought. He went on down the list. He read until he was stopped by the legs on the girl who sat next to him in class. This was not the first time they interrupted him. A pale, rosy-cheeked girl. “Christ,” he mumbled out loud, “you can think about it later. Have to finish this.” She had a bit of cellulite but that was fine. It only humanized her. She was really a very nice looking girl. “For Christ’s sake.”
When he took his vocab test the next day, he knew he was doing pretty well. He had forgotten the definition of ephemeral, though.
(Note: the image is of Metro Bank Park – from flickr.com)