Well, our St. Louis Cardinals lost the World Series today, falling to the Tigers in Detroit in the sixth game. Unquestionably, this was all my fault. Oh, not because I play for the Cardinals. Shoot, the only team jersey I’ve ever had on is one I bought at a gift shop downtown. But I caused them to lose the game just as if I, myself, had let an easy grounder slip under my glove with a runner on third base. Let me lay it out for you.
Friday night – 11 PM. I wasn’t really sleepy yet. Oh, nothing a warm glass of milk and a little bit of television couldn’t fix, but I didn’t want to go to bed and just toss and turn for an hour. So, with cup in hand, I surfed the streaming channels for something to watch for a while. I finally narrowed it down to two candidate programs. It was between an old episode of Ozzie and Harriet (you know, the one where Ricky has to find a date for the prom at the last minute), or the movie version of Inherit the Wind. I had seen both many times before, and my decision could easily have gone either way. Unfortunately, I chose the wrong one. I went with Inherit the Wind, knowing full well I wouldn’t be able to stop watching until Spencer Tracy was walking out of the courtroom with the Holy Bible stacked on top of a copy of Darwin’s Origin of the Species, while some lady sang “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” in the background. Ozzie and Harriet would have ended by 11:30. The movie didn’t finish until after 1 AM. By this time, I was almost too sleepy to walk to the bedroom.
Saturday morning – 7:25. “Dad! Wake up! You slept through the alarm! You’re supposed to drive me over to the middle school today for Band Camp! Remember?”
Immediate panic. “What! Oh…yeah…right. Let me get dressed. I’ll meet you downstairs. What time do we need to be there?”
“8 AM.” Well, crap.
Grabbing a pair of walking shorts, a tee shirt, and my sneakers, I got dressed and hustled down to the kitchen. The ten-year-old was sitting at the table. “Okay, so what’s for breakfast?” I asked. “Toast okay?”
“Mom always fixes scrambled eggs on Saturdays.”
“Mom’s still out of town. Remember? No time for that. It will have to be toast.”
“Mom doesn’t sleep in.”
“Don’t be a smart aleck.”
While Michael was spreading grape jelly on the bread, he asked about lunch. “Can you make me a sandwich to take with me?”
“Oh…well…no. Actually, those were the last two slices of bread in the pantry.” I had to think quick. “Not to worry. I’ll grab a sub at the food truck and bring it to you before lunch time. Is noon okay?”
“Nope. We break at 11:30.”
“I’ll get it done.” Disaster averted for the time being.
Still Saturday morning. After dropping off the young one at school (on time), I finished up a hectic morning at the florist shop I own. Then, I swung by Harvey’s Food Wheelie for a sandwich, making sure Michael had food for his break. I checked my watch. It was 11:27. Just enough time to rush back to the store, drink a cup of coffee, and then line up my drivers’ assignments for the afternoon deliveries.
The plan was working well until I got to the corner of Fourth and Oak. I rolled down my window.
“License and registration, please.” His check for outstanding warrants seemed to take forever.
“Mr. Oliver, is it? I’m Officer Finley. Do you know how fast you were going, Sir?”
“Evidently too fast, I guess.”
“Yes, Sir. Probably about $112 worth of too fast.”
Ticket in hand, I proceeded on to the flower shop. By now, there was no time for coffee. There was barely enough time to gather the team, double check the contents of all the vans, and send the eight drivers out to the streets. The one problem was that, in order to meet all the deadlines, I would now have to call on Carl, my wife’s brother, to be a driver. He is generally good at sweeping floors and washing windows, but his delivery van experiences have never ended well.
“Carl, you have the last van. Listen carefully. You have order numbers 1036 and 1038. They both go to addresses on Kelly Street. Should be easy. Don’t waste any time.”
“Got it covered, Boss.”
Saturday afternoon – 1:49. The first of two bad phone calls came in.
“Hello. Is this Oliver’s Flowers?”
“Yes. Henry speaking.”
“This is Mrs. Carson!” She was angry, right? “The flowers just showed up here at Kelly Street Baptist Church for my daughter’s wedding, which starts in an hour. What should have been a bridal bouquet, six corsages, and six boutonnieres ended up being what looks like a casket spray with a ribbon that says “You will be missed.” Is this some sort of sick joke?”
“No, Ma’am. I know what happened. I will get it straightened out right now.”
After that, the next call was completely expected. “Henry, this is Paul down at the mortuary. The flowers for that Abernathy funeral look like they are for a wedding. That funeral starts in…”
“I know, Paul. I already heard from the bride’s mom. I am on my way to switch things out”
Thank you, idiot brother-in-law. Both deliveries were lovely. Both deliveries featured yellow roses…but they were hardly interchangeable.
My buddy Paul, down at the funeral home, was trying to help. “Listen, Henry. If you want to get these wedding flowers first, then grab the arrangement for the casket, you could meet us over at the cemetery, and I’ll just drape the flowers on the coffin before we unload. I normally drive the hearse about 20 miles per hour in the procession, but I can slow it down to about half that to buy you some time.”
“Paul, you’re the greatest. I’m on my way out the door right now.”
I got as far as the turn-off on Briggs Avenue before the next interruption.
“Oh…hello, Officer Finley.”
“Not having a good day, are you, Mr. Oliver?”
So…let’s get back to discussing baseball. The Cardinals’ ace reliever this year was a rookie…Junior Reed. The kid was amazing. His “games saved” record was the best in the league. Not only did he have a dependable 95 miles per hour fast ball, he had taken a page out of the Moe Hrabosky play book, and used intimidation to rattle the batters at the plate. He stared them down, slammed the ball in his glove, sneered as if he knew how things would turn out, and then would launch the old “blazer ball” over a corner of the plate. He could do this consistently for…oh, say…four or five batters. By that time, with every pitch being a hard-as-you-can-throw-it fast ball, he would have exhausted most of his energy. So, he wasn’t usually called out the bullpen until the opposing team was down to the last few batters, but this process had been a recipe for success throughout the entire season.
Junior Reed lost the crown off one of his molars on Friday. He was unable to get it repaired until Saturday morning, which meant that he was not available to travel with the rest of the Redbirds on the team plane on Friday night. This was mostly just an inconvenience. The team owner arranged for him to be flown by private jet to Detroit on Saturday afternoon, as soon as his dental work had been completed.
On the way to the airport, however, Junior’s driver came up behind a funeral procession. It wasn’t just moving slow. It was dead-stopped in the road (no pun intended). You see, about ten minutes earlier, some maniac had grown tired of following the long line of limousines and the would-be mourners that followed, and had decided to jet past them on the right shoulder of the road. Before completing this maneuver, however, he plowed into a truck hauling a whole load of railroad timbers, scattering broken boards all across the intersection. It would end up taking an hour for the city’s emergency crew to clear the debris and allow for normal traffic. Until then, unless you were the last car in the caravan, and could turn around to find a detour, you were not moving.
Junior Reed eventually made it to the airport, and was flown to Detroit, but not in time to participate in the last inning of the game, where the Tigers loaded the bases and scored two runs on a looping single into right field, winning 6 to 5, and dashing the Cardinals’ hopes for another championship.
You can see why I blame myself. Next time, I’m going with Ozzie and Harriet. Watching Spencer Tracy causes too much trouble.